The Futurist CMO Conference, 2011 was organized by Paul Writer. You can read more about the speakers and agenda of the conference on their website. Briefly, the conference brought together senior and mid-level marketing experts from various well-known companies and brands from not only India, but abroad as well.

The first panel on Day One : from left to right : Jessie Paul, CEO, Paul Writer; Nita Kapoor, EVP Marketing & Corporate Affairs, Godfrey Phillips India; Rahul Saighal, CMO, Aircel; Mohit Hira [ @mohitoz ], CMO, Career Building Solutions, NIIT and Sanjeev Kapur, CMO, Citi India. The discussion subject was “Crystal Ball – What are the big changes for marketeers embracing innovative media in addition to legacy channels.” One of the more interesting things mentioned during this discussion was by Rahul, “… important to seduce, not sell and sales follow…” where “seduction” was described as “engagement”. Sanjeev mentioned a few Group M stats, which further highlighted how we are all almost drowning in a sea of advertising. One of the things that stuck with me was the statement, [ I don’t remember who made it ], “…Instead of just focusing on being unique, marketing needs to present a remarkable proposition. People should remark on it.” In the photograph above, they are all taking a look at the Futurist CMO Magazine, which has been created by Paul Writer and was unveiled at the conference.

Asha Gupta, MD, Tupperware, India speaking about “Creating a 100,000-strong opt-in salesforce. One of the many interesting facts about Tupperware is that more than 90% of it’s salesforce in India comprises only of women! Fascinating. Another take away was a cute pink 500ml Tupperware bottle for each of the attendees at the conference.

IBM was the principal sponsor of the event and they had an interesting setup right outside the conference hall. Other sponsors included Dell, Vdopia and Unmetric.

The conference was held at The Oberoi Gurgaon, @OberoiGroup being the Twitter handle of the Oberoi Group and @OberoiGurgaon specific to the Gurgaon property. On the second day of the conference, after hearing similar laments from a few other attendees, I tweeted complaining about the air-conditioning freezing me to my seat and within a matter of minutes the temperature was adjusted and a staffer walked up to my seat to ask me if I was still freezing. Impressive. The event was organized by Experia and I had the pleasure of a brief chat with Prem Jain. Their @ExperiaEvents unfortunately is not active.

This was the second panel of the day. From left to right, Mohit Gupta, @mohitcharu CMO,; Monappa N, Head Digital Marketing, Citibank and Harjiv Singh, Co-Founder and CEO International, Gutenberg Communications. The subject of discussion was “Managing Churn and profitability in a transparent market place.”

Lakshmanan (Lux) Narayan, founder of Unmetric descibing the product. It was also the launch of the Unmetric product and I’ve already requested a 5-day free trial on their website. If you are in the social media space, it is an interesting product to look at. They call it “Competitive social media intelligence for established brands”.

Senjam Raj Sekhar, Director and Head of Group Global Communications, Vedanta conducting a superb quiz round, which was sponsored by Dell. It was open to the entire audience and the winner walked away with a Dell Streak.

Ajaay Gupta, MD, Capital Foods [ brand owners of Chings Secret and Smith & Jones ], speaking about “Success Spotlight : Digital media as the secret weapon for challenger brands”. One of the more interesting presentations, and not only because @chingssecret has, in the past sent me a bunch of goodies when I tweeted that I hadn’t tasted Ching’s yet. Capital Foods uses Twitter to replenish supplies in stores if a consumer / customer has complained on Twitter – and almost immediately instead of the longer days and weeks that other brands take to resolve customer complaints.

Left to right : Mitali Prakash of Frog Design and Garima Sinha, Head Corporate Marketing, Ramco in conversation during a networking break.

The three final participants of the quiz on-stage answering a round of quick-fire questions. From left to right Haroon @Bijli, @Akshatk and @GautamGhosh. Akshat won the quiz round.

Vikrant chowdhary, GM Software Solutions Group, IBM India / South Asia on stage, speaking about “Best practices for leveraging marketing automation and analytics”. He mentioned from some analysis of stats that while there are 100 million people in India who are online, their mobile and digital usage is high but their internet usage is low. He also mentioned something that I believe is applicable to anyone, whether a person / individual brand or a large corporation : “The ability to nurture a response should be manual.”

One of the projector screens displaying a panel discussion.

Govindraj Ethiraj, Head-Industry & Workforce Outreach, UIDAI speaking about “Aadhar – financial inclusivity that expands the addressable market by millions. Are you ready?” He didn’t want any numbers to be tweeted / disclosed so there was almost no tweeting of snippets during his talk. I did learn, however, that getting a UID is not mandatory – it is optional. The necessity will only be felt once the Goverment and other private sector entities [ maybe ], link UIDs with services provided, etc.

Prashant Rao, @prashy74 asking a question. The Aadhar session was definitely one of the more interesting ones to me personally. This brought Day One of The Futurist CMO 2011 to a close.

Day Two of the conference saw some animated discussions prior to the start of the panels. On the right is Sanjay Jain of Reliance Capital just before the beginning of the panel, where he was one of the speakers.

Jessie Paul, CEO, Paul Writer giving a brief introduction on Day Two of the conference.

First panel of Day Two. From left to right : Sumit Virmani, AVP & global Head, corporate & Product Marketing, Infosys; Shravani Dang, VP and Group Head Corporate Communications, Avantha Group; Sanjay Jain, Reliance Capital and Manoj Chandra, VP, Marketing & customer Loyalty, Bata. This was called the “Power Panel : How will emerging technology change the way we market?” I have not been to many conferences but I have never encountered a more articulate and poised panel-facilitator as Sumit Virmani. Brilliantly done. Some of my thoughts and observations from this discussion : 1. You don’t “give” power to the customer by inviting them to link with your brand using “technology”. They will bitch about you anyway using tools that are freely available. Embrace technology and tools instead of seeing as a threat that can be used by vocal customers to complain. 2. Do people research more online for reviews and references before buying / investing in a brand / product because Word-Of-Mouth is on the decline as people do not have the time anymore? [ owing to increased commute times, traffic jams, etc. ] 3. Each time I hear the word “crowdsourcing”, my stomach turns. Too many brands misuse the term while asking for contributions to speculative work.

Tim Leberecht, CMO, Aricent Group & Frog Design, USA, speaking about “Building Smart Brands”. He is @timleberecht on Twitter. A much-awaited session. And Tim rocked it. While he admitted that his talk was “provocative”, it definitely was though-producing. I don’t think it was provocative at all but then I am a one-person-CMO and lot more agile than large corporations with millions of employees – the latter definitely would have found it provocative. Tim mentioned “hyper-connectivity” and mentioned that “…strategy is ok as long as you can give it up because smart marketers don’t have a plan…”. Tim was speaking about the 4 myths of marketing : Strategy, Control, Consistency and Data. I still haven’t understood his statement of “…weaker network leading to a better awareness…” when he as talking about “giving up control” in marketing. “Allow others to get in to your brand. the more control you give up, the more influence you gain.” There were too many great nuggets, phrases and quotable quotes from Tim’s presentation! “…consumers are not data drive…intuition is faster than knowledge…gather empathy and social intelligence…”. Tim also mentioned that case studies should not be the basis of learning as they talk about events in the past.

Jamshed Wadia, Interactive Marketing, Intel APAC, Singapore, on stage speaking about “Channels 2.0 – how digital marketing can help OEMs”. @JamshedWadia mentioned, “We are going where the consumers have gone.” He also gave examples of tools that people and brands are using to analyze their social reach. Tools like EmpireAvenues, Klout, PeerIndex and TweetLevel. He mentioned that “Content delivery models take away control from the marketeer and give more control to the consumer.” One thing that stuck with me was, “Website numbers are crashing and social numbers are increasing.”

Tim was attracting conversations like moths to a flame post his session. With statements like, “Good marketing does not smell like marketing” and “Immediately wrong might be long term right”, he attracted a lot of questions and casual discussions during the coffee break.

K Ramakrishnan, President Marketing, Cafe Coffee Day, speaking about “Anytime Sales & Marketing – the Minibar Effect, Mobile Marketing, QR Codes, WiFi, Location Based”. He notably said, “We are not in the business of coffee, we are in the business of timepass.”

At left, Anil Pillai of Terragni consulting, in conversation with Tim Leberecht of Frog Design.

My copy of the Futurist CMO magazine with a shot of the double page spread below.

Teaming up to setup the next panel/presentation. Left to right, Prem from Experia, Parvathi @parvathiom from Paul Writer, Lovnish and Debadatta from Vdopia.

From, left to right : Jessie Paul, Paul Writer; Virginia Sharma, VP Marketing & Communications, IBM; Debadatta Upadhyaya, VP APAC, Vdopia and Shivnath Thukral [ @shivithukral ], Group President – Corporate Branding & Strategic Initiatives, Essar group. They were on a panel to discuss “Is a video worth a 1000 words?”

An intelligent and enthralled audience. Most of the time anyway.

The presentation to end the day was delivered by Karthik Padmanabhan, Country Manager IBM Social Business & Collaboration Solution, who spoke about “What should the futurist CMO’s scorecard look like?” While the presentation had good content, the 50+ slides infected the audience with ADD.

Day two of the conference ended with the Futurist Marketing Hall of Fame Awards. Above : Sanjeev Kapur, CMO, Citi India receiving the award from @jessie_paul.

Senthil Nathan, ABIBA Systems, receiving the award from Jessie.

Vikram Datta, VP Marketing & Sales, Unitech receiving his award from Jessie. That wrapped up the conference and below you will find portraits of some of the people I met over the two days.

Sonali from Gutenberg.

Revathi Raghunath aka @lorsophy1

Anil Pillai, Terragni

John Premkumar, OLT Group

Sameer Kaul, Lal Path Labs, VP-marketing

Nita Menezes aka @Nita_Menezes

A student from IIM Ranchi.

Jamshed Wadia, Intel aka @jamshed_wadia

Tim Leberecht, Frog Design aka @timleberecht

Shivnath Thukral, Essar Group aka @shivithukral If you know who the others are – names / companies, please leave a comment and let me know so that I can add the details to the photographs!

Mohit Hira, NIIT aka @mohitoz

Ashish, Exchange4Media

Padmaja Nagrur, Paul Writer aka @padmaja_nagrur

Nirmal John, Fortune Magazine aka @utopiandevil

Sujatha Kumar, VP Marketing & Communications, RBS

Nidhi Bhasin, Cafe Coffee Day aka @nidhibhasin

Virginia Sharma, IBM

Debadatta, Vdopia

K. Ramakrishnan, Cafe Coffee Day

Vishal Jhunjhunwala, Tata Consultancy Services aka @vj2w

Congratulations to @jessie_paul, @padmaja_nagrur, @sasha1087 and @parvathiom on the successful launch of The Futurist CMO Conference, 2011. I loved the people, the atmosphere, the content, the venue and … everything really. The feedback forms asked pertinent questions too. Fantastic job! Thanks for having me! [ If you would like to read the tweets from the conference, search for #cmo2011 on Twitter – that was the official hashtag for the event. ] And many thanks to Jyoti Ballabh @jballabh for helping me with some of the names!