Shyam Ananthnarayan

Chief Marketing Officer at ITC Infotech

Decoding the Evolution of Content Marketing with Shyam Ananthnarayan

Explore the captivating evolution of content marketing through the eyes of industry expert Shyam Ananthnarayan. Step into this comprehensive conversation that uncovers his remarkable journey spanning decades, tracing the shift from conventional to digital and AI-driven marketing landscapes.

Ananthnarayan illuminates essential industry trends, advancements in B2B marketing, the rising significance of content as a potent tool, and the nuances of content curation in the AI era. He navigates the challenge of effective communication amidst evolving content formats.

This conversation between Agam Mathur, Director of Sales, and Shyam Ananthnarayan, Chief Marketing Officer at ITC Infotech, is valuable for those intrigued by the ever-changing marketing realm and the emerging AI role.

1. Can you please share your journey with us?

My journey in marketing has been fascinating, starting in a time without a digital presence and evolving into today's social media convenience. Communication was one-sided then. But my journey began two decades ago with roles at Wipro, Hewlett Packard, Nest, Tata, Marlabs, and now ID C's Protect division.

I've embraced diverse roles, including marketing and sales oversight, yet marketing remains my passion. It has given me a front-row seat to the IT industry's transformation. From reactive demand response, my role evolved to proactive content generation and ecosystem influence.

This journey has been thrilling and satisfying, witnessing substantial changes in marketing. Amidst the changes, one constant is creating focused, distinct brands that deliver unique value to specific niches.

I firmly believe there's no better role and a better time for marketing to be done than today.

2. Could you provide insights on current marketing trends and their implications for future strategies?

Reflecting on the past three decades, the evolution of marketing has emerged as a prominent theme. Waves of change have defined this journey, with each era leaving an indelible mark. Conversations with our managing director, Sudeep, often delve into this captivating trajectory.

The initial wave centered on traditional methods, influenced by luminaries like Philip Kotler, extending globally. Post-World War II, content gained significance, coinciding with the rise of service industries and B2B technology.

The 70s and 80s ushered in a substantial wave, coupling computing giants with product-driven services. Technological adoption surged, favoring products. The 90s brought Y2K and digitization, pivoting to outsourcing. Content became pivotal, steering marketing towards B2B contexts—a transformative shift.

The third wave (2005-2015) saw cloud-driven digital transformation. Social media flourished, websites evolved, and marketing evolved into content curation. Presently, the fourth wave is dawning—the AI era. AI's proliferation challenges content marketers, urging adaptation.

Observing 25 years of evolution, embracing change fuels growth amid this cycle of creative destruction. The dynamic marketing landscape promises exhilarating possibilities, rewarding those who seize the moment.

3. Can you discuss AI's current and future impact on marketing, including upcoming trends?

In my perspective, before delving into AI, let's address an essential aspect—the content format. This aspect holds paramount significance, given how content is consumed globally. The evolution of content consumption and the content explosion from various waves has brought about a transformative shift. Take, for instance, how people watch movies. The days of lengthy sit-down movie sessions have evolved into quick, compact content consumption. This alteration echoes the evolution of formats across different domains.

Transitioning to AI holds incredible potential. I recently found an article discussing AI's prospects, even chatting with GPT's CEO about its usage models. A vital point is that AI is like a powerful car, like a Ferrari. Having the vehicle is not enough; it's about skillfully operating it. AI's prowess resembles Ferrari's potential but requires skilled content marketers to navigate its power effectively.

However, there are two dangers tied to this power. First, the risk of misuse, like crashing the Ferrari due to inexperience. Second, underutilization, akin to parking the car out of fear. This balance hinges on leveraging AI sensibly—recognizing its use cases while relying on human intelligence where needed.

The challenge lies in steering AI's capabilities judiciously. This requires product management skills to discern whether AI fits or doesn't. The future's focus is on this strategic selection process. Yet, it's more profound. As AI scales like a mobile phone, ethical concerns amplify. AI-generated content brings forth liability questions, echoing the ethical considerations of autonomous driving.

Intriguingly, a multidisciplinary approach becomes pivotal. Content professionals must fuse marketing with AI understanding, cyber law, and ethics. Traditional degrees might fall short in preparing individuals for this dynamic landscape. To navigate AI's potential, companies must intertwine ethics, governance, and adept handling to avoid pitfalls. This confluence of multidisciplinary skills sets the stage for an intriguing future—forging the path of AI, content marketing, and the evolving content ecosystem.

4. Could you outline your ideal content stack in light of the shift from traditional to AI-driven marketing? Which tools have played a significant role in your journey?

From my perspective, the concept of a marketing stack has evolved significantly. Today, while discussing a marketing stack, we utilize tools such as RFs, SEMrush for ACO auditing, and HubSpot. However, the issue often encountered is an overwhelming abundance of tools, leaving many perplexed about their integration.

Before we delve into the specifics of the content stack, a necessary prerequisite is a well-defined content strategy. Without a solid plan, heading into the content stack is akin to moving fast in the wrong direction. Akin to the Ferrari analogy, a content stack serves as a roadmap for the journey ahead. This roadmap requires a clear understanding of where one is going and what lies ahead.

To craft an effective content stack, one must align it with the broader content strategy. This involves identifying the goals, target audience, and critical elements shaping the content journey. For instance, a B2B company's content stack will differ from that of a B2C entity. The pile should be molded to meet specific objectives: targeted marketing or volume-driven campaigns.

The essential components of the content stack encompass defense and offense. The protection entails benchmarking, SEO monitoring, maintaining visibility, and safeguarding rankings. On the other hand, the offense comprises campaign management, demand generation, and user outreach.

However, the content journey doesn't conclude with assembling a robust stack. It's crucial to continuously evaluate whether the chosen path aligns with the overarching content strategy. While rapid progress is essential, ensuring that you're climbing the right tree takes precedence. A well-structured content strategy should dictate the content stack's components rather than vice versa to prevent getting lost amid the myriad of tools.

5. Could you share what challenges marketers face in creating new brands, refining positioning, and shaping customer perceptions?

Understanding the nature of the marketing function is crucial. Marketers often struggle with straddling the right-brain creativity and left-brain logic. Creating something unique while measuring its impact can be vexing, akin to being in two minds. This dilemma was brought up in a conversation with my CEO, Sudeep, where the question was, "How do we measure your function?"

Marketing, like HR and other roles, combines creativity and data-driven strategies. It involves constant change and innovation while keeping the core engine running. This can be likened to a Formula 1 pit stop, where the car's tire must be changed without halting its motion. Real-time adaptation is critical, but it must be balanced with stability.

The marketer's challenge lies in standing out while following industry trends. Striking this balance requires a mix of curiosity, a willingness to be different, and a calculated approach. Being different is pivotal, but the execution must remain consistent. This paradox defines the marketer's role.

Furthermore, marketers often face the pressure to please everyone, yet not everyone will be satisfied. The job is not just about pleasing; it's about innovating, sometimes in ways that might appear unusual. A marketer's ability to navigate subjectivity and make real-time decisions while balancing art and science shapes their success. Ultimately, the marketer's journey demands the capacity to be unique, analytical, emotionally aware, and persistent in goals. The ideal marketer marries these elements to create a harmonious symphony of creativity and strategic prowess.

You've got to be in touch with the times. A millennial is not going to consume a long format, they are more likely to consume a one-minute audio-visual capsule.

6. What defines excellent brand content, and how do you envision your brand's content journey?

Great content is subjective and lies in the viewer's perception. Its content that resonates with them is user-driven and serves a purpose. Content should be more than just aesthetically pleasing or ego-satisfying; it should be practical and positively impact people's lives. The key is creating usable and enjoyable content, an experience in itself.

Regarding the content journey for my brand, ITC Infotech, we're focused on communicating the depth of our industry knowledge and expertise while keeping it simple and relatable. As a technology services provider, our challenge is to strike the right balance between showcasing our in-depth understanding of various industries and presenting it as approachable. We aim to deliver content that combines depth and simplicity, whether it's through videos, articles, or other formats, to convey our value to our audience effectively.

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