TFAR Podcast Transcript – Episode with Jesh Sukhwani, Global In-Housing Media & COE Director at Lenovo

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Episode hosted by: Nick King, Global Practices Lead at CvE

Nick King – 00:00:02: Welcome to the Time for a Reset podcast, where we interview senior marketers on the big issues of the day and how they’re dealing with those challenges in an ever changing landscape. We deep dive into the latest trends, strategies, and tactics that will help you stay ahead of the curve and stand out in a crowded marketplace. This episode is hosted by me, Nick King, Global Practices Lead at CvE. Let’s get into it. Welcome to Jesh Sukhwani, an Executive and Digital Enthusiast who is the Global In-Housing, Media, Ad-Tech, and Data COE Director at Lenovo. He’s passionate about game changing innovation and disruption of established industries with data. Having worked in AdTech at Adform, an agency side at GroupM, where he was the founder of Xaxis in China, Jesh has worked across the globe in technology and digital transformation and has grown digital first businesses and helped companies combine technology, media and data to facilitate measurable growth. Welcome, Jesh.

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:00:57: Thank you, Nick. Thank you for having me on the program today. Pleasure.

Nick King – 00:01:00: So, opening question is always, if you were to hit reset on anything in digital marketing, what would it be?

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:01:05: I would say if I have a great big red reset button, I would like to have had diversity, inclusion and ethnicity involved at the grassroots levels a lot early on than what we have today. From a Lenovo’s perspective, our vision is to deliver smarter technology for all, which means access to technology to be able to transform and improve lives, quality of lives for those across the globe. This requires a lot of diversity within marketing itself. And when we speak about diversity, equity, and inclusion, these are values which are embedded across our full marketing organization from which we work from from the planning of media to considering where our investments are going to how teams are built, working with our partners, integrated within our teams and our contracts that we have. It all includes leads to an all of inclusive environment in which we work with our partners. And I would have loved to have seen that a lot more integrated at a grassroots level than what we have today.

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Nick King – 00:02:02: Amazing. So it sounds like it’s something that’s there, but I’d love to know what attracted you to Lenovo in the first place.

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:02:08: It’s quite a story, actually. I was contacted by Lenovo a couple of months, a few months before we actually met each other. At a time, the Chief Marketing Officer of Europe, Alberto Spinelli, and also at the same time the Global Head of Paid Media Advertising at Lenovo popped me an email which actually fell into my spam box for a good couple of months. And I wasn’t aware that that actually was sitting there until I was clearing out my junk mail and I saw this email coming in from Lenovo inviting me for a chat. So that really kicked off the entire conversation and it took another couple of months until we actually met face to face. We were coming out of the end of the Pandemic in Europe and I flew to Milan to meet Alberto, where he’s based, where I’m based now as well and to have a chat and understand better what are the challenges that the company is facing in terms of transforming the marketing and where the journey and the direction of travel that they have thought of is heading towards. And everything that I heard from all the changes that were listed, we discussed, from better understanding the user journey to having much more transparency, to future proofing, the business from a marketing perspective was just an opportunity that I couldn’t ignore I would want to let go of very easily.

Nick King – 00:03:18: It sounds like an amazing opportunity and thank goodness you check that junk folder. I certainly don’t check mine enough. But you started off as a consultant, I’d love to say what made you go, no, this is my home. I’m going to go full time and really make this the key role for me.

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:03:31: It was a fairly easy transition, I would say. Working as a consultant within a big corporate elephant organization as Lenovo, a global organization, is by no means an easy feat. There are many different pieces that you have to collect together to be able to understand and create and suggest and recommend the best foot forward strategy for the company in achieving its objectives. And once you’re that deep into understanding how the company’s strategy is working, what is working, what’s not working, and you’ve made recommendations, it only then leaves the door open as to ensuring then the execution of that strategy and the recommendations are effectively put into place. And since we have worked as a team at that time very, very closely together, it only made sense when the opportunity came up that what we had collectively, collaboratively, as a team put together that I joined the company on a full time basis to work with the team that I was engaged with, to see that we execute and roll out what we recommended and suggested that we should be doing.

Nick King – 00:04:32: Awesome. Yeah, I touched on it at the beginning that you have a very diverse background in terms of you’ve worked on the agency side, you’ve worked with an Ad-tech and so many marketers have just worked in marketing. From being probably a grad assistant and working the way to the top, I’d love to hear a little bit about your approach and philosophy to digital marketing. You talked about that team, but I’d love to hear about how did you approach and what did you bring to Lenovo in terms of your philosophy.

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:04:57: Having the agency experience and also understanding how technology works really, really helped shape and form the crossroads of the core areas of what the Media Center of Excellence and the In-housing Project, which we began at Lenovo as a team, helped me a lot to put those skill sets together. A strong value of exchange, of being able to use those experience, of joining and connecting the dots between the audience and the content quality of advertising of what we’re doing with our agency partners was very important. We were bringing different work streams together from marketing, from finance, from using advertising technology to its maximum and ultimately working towards future proofing our marketing organization. And that’s what we really set out to deliver and we are delivering on those processes. So we’re on track of what we initially planned of achieving.

Nick King- 00:05:47: Brilliant. So you talk a little bit about the ad-tech piece there. I’d love to sort of delve into a little bit about that transformation disruption process. What does it mean to you as a digital marketer and how has it sort of manifested itself at Lenovo?

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:06:00: It’s a really good question. I don’t think that there is a single blueprint for every marketing organization, every advertiser, every brand, every advertiser has its individual nuances which have to be addressed. Identifying the building blocks that drives growth through marketing is the initial step and being able to then shape the pillars of what transformation means for the organization is critical to the success. Transformation is a continuous state of change through innovation. And this can be from the talent that you have within the company, through the engagements that you have with your partnerships, through to understanding what your customer user journey is all about and to be able to take those data streams and the number of those data streams to be joined together and drive the company’s. Transformation process is what is all about. Disrupting what the status quo would say within the company and transforming the marketing. Because transformation per se is the number of different pillars and building blocks put together to be able to achieve an objective rather than having a single objective to be able to define what transformation for a company would look like.

Nick King – 00:07:03: That’s an amazing sort of framework to give yourself. Have you got an example of one particular area you touched on? Everything from music, journey, the technology. Could you give an example of that transformation that you’ve executed in the role? And I’d love to hear a bit about the outcomes of that.

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:07:17: I’ve referred to identifying what your building blocks should be for the company and this is very individual from industry, from advertise, from brand, from your own culture, from internally as well. Within Lenovo, we earlier on identified five pillars for the center of Excellence when it comes to media and those five pillars collaboratively then joined together, delivered the promise of transformation of the marketing, starting off by having a North Star of understanding how do we actually future proof the business for future. As we continue in working in the digital industry at Lenovo and within the industry, our industry is in continuous state of change where we need to be up to date with technology and the use of data and understand how data is collected and in a very user privacy manner to be able to future proof the business. But more importantly as well is to really have a direct relationship with your partners, whether they may be the media vendors that you’re working with and understanding how their business are being driven and what are they experiencing. From attracting users onto their site, from advertising formats through to ad format, through to content, but also sitting with your advertising technology partners and understanding what is transforming their business and what are they experiencing and seeing across the industry and how this may be adopted for your business and help transform and achieve your marketing objectives but also working very closely with your media agency as well. We believe very strongly at the Media COE on partnerships and the importance then that partnerships bring to the business as a whole. And that includes having a very close working relationship with those agency folks that are developing and producing your media plans for you, understanding your brand and your brand objectives so that they deliver results and setting them up for success ensures that we set up for success. So, from the Media COE perspective, we changed agencies. We had a pitch at the end of 2021, worked with a new agency onboarded them, assembly from The Stagwell Group and from day one installed the sense of partnership and the collaborative approach of our businesses together. Because just having a transactional relationship can only achieve so much, but really sharing the key KPIs and the statistics and the results of what we are looking for from positioning our brand across the globe in LN Markets is very, very crucial for the agency to be set up for success and that’s what we’ve achieved.

Nick King – 00:09:47: I think that’s so important in the modern world is that relationship. I think too often relationships can be very transactional and I think that’s really inspiring to hear. I guess touching on that. You’ve talked a little bit about culture and what you’d like to see as a reset. I’d love to hear about it, Lenovo, how that really sort of underpins what you guys are doing and the whole diversity challenge that I think too many companies pay lip service to. I’d love to hear what Lenovo are doing around that area.

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:10:15: I’m very fortunate that Lenovo is truly a global company. We have an immense amount of investment and presence in North America, in Europe, in Asia Pacific and also Latin America, where through our brands, whether it may be our Intelligent Devices Group, through the laptops, through to Motorola, which is the market leading mobile handset brand on the Latin American market in Brazil in particular, we incorporate a lot of what we see as diversity in our working processes. This starts off from having a commitment to diversity, ethnicity and inclusion from the top down and at every stage of the company, where we look at culture, where we look at including our partners, and being able to understand where we can truly bring in that input from a team or an individual, from their contribution drives towards being a truly diverse company. I myself for example am based in Milan in Italy working very closely with my colleagues in North America. We also have regular engagement and calls and meetings with our colleagues in Asia Pacific also impacting how we are working in Latin America. This all drives towards how we bring ideas and solutions to the table within the marketing organization. But more importantly as well, is that something that we design by default or we strategize by default? This is then automatically developed for our global audience with taking into account how we are able to localize our advertising campaigns through to including nuances and inclusion of the wide range of people that we are working with within the marketing on a daily basis.

Nick King – 00:12:02: I think that sort of diverse group of people will always give you much better sorts group think, ultimately. I’m always interested to know what sort of traditional marketing tactics that you’d like to see reimagined. We’re so obsessed with all the latest everything’s an algorithm, everything’s optimized but what is it that you guys do that takes it back to that traditional planning piece?

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:12:24: I think there has to be a stronger value exchange at the center of between audiences who are consuming that content on the website to the quality of the content and advertising that is displayed to that specific user. I would say the alarming rate at which ad blocking software has increased over the years is a confirmation that there is a mismatch in value being delivered to the audience from what they’re looking to consume and what they’re looking to see through giving their consent in being able to see personalized advertising and content. And I think this is a collaborative approach. We’re definitely not yet there. But as an industry, I think we really need to look at how we’re able to build a stronger exchange of value that encourages the user to be able to engage with your brand and to be able to build also through content and advertising, a level of brand loyalty and perception. And this is something which it’s not an entire onus and doesn’t fall onto the shoulders of a brand itself but we work closely with our media partners and our agency to better understand how we able to define and shape that value exchange. I would like to see that increase a lot more but that’s also a part of the transformation of how we are working today.

Nick King – 00:13:41: Yeah, I think that’s so important. I remember when I started out in the industry some of my first roles were in media owner side and we used to talk about the implicit exchange between user, media owner and advertiser. I think if I told my children about that explicit exchange they’d look at me like I was mad and I think we’ve got so much work to do to explain what the value we’re giving and how each party interacts on that sort of shifting gears a little bit. There’s so many exciting opportunities out there in the market. What for you and for Lenovo is the sort of the next frontier for the digital marketing space?

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:14:15: For us and generally for the industry as well. I think we really need to better stand and look at how our user journey is defined and shaped, what is influencing the path to purchase and understanding where is our advertising media being consumed by our target audience. And I think we have to look at it from a much broader perspective versus them being hyper targeted. To identify what the user journey is, is paramount. I think to be able to understand how you want to shape your media strategy and your advertising and the content that you have, but also be able to then on the back of understanding how your users are engaging, with your brand online is to be able to then be relevant with media, messaging and delivering content. Whether it may be an educational on one of our solutions and our products which we offer at Lenovo or on a handset through to understanding how that content is consumed, but also building trust through informing the users on the brand and leading them to building a level of trust with us online. And I think those are very, very key of building that engagement between a brand, a publisher, a media owner and the audiences on which they’re consuming content.

Nick King – 00:15:28: Brilliant. I love how you talk about that. You’ve had so many sort of great concepts that you’ve talked about, but if you had one piece of advice that you could give to other marketers that would be sort of your call to answer the industry, what would it be?

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:15:41: Place privacy and data protection within the center of everything that you do to be able to strengthen your value of exchange. A part of your objectives would be to drive traffic to your own websites, to engage with your brand and product and lead to your marketing. KPIs so building that level of trust through your partners being informative, through the advertising of placing the correct messages is I think what my recommendation to other marketers will be, is to build that trust online to encourage users. To be able to follow your brand and understand your brand and that eventually will redeem itself in loyalty and following for your brand and your products.

Nick King – 00:16:20: Hugely inspiring, Jesh. I just love how you talk about what you can do for the consumer rather than how you can force them to do something the other way. It’s absolutely how I love to think. So thank you so much for your time today. It’s been absolutely brilliant to talk to you, Jesh. Thank you very much. 

Jesh Sukhwani – 00:16:36: Thank you.

Nick King – 00:16:39: We hope you enjoyed this episode of Time for Reset. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll be back talking to another Senior Marketer very soon. Make sure to leave a review and catch you next time.

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