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Get To Know Yasir Yousuff, Head Of Marketing, Commvault APAC

You can either choose to be comfortable or to step out of your comfort zone and make an impact

Could you please share with our readers more about Commvault, Yasir?

Commvault was formed in 1988 as a development group within Bell Labs and later designated as a strategic business unit of AT&T Network Systems. In 1996, it was incorporated as an independent company. In the 20 years since, we’ve experienced tremendous growth, pioneered numerous industry-shaping innovations, and established ourselves as a respected leader in data and information management.

Today, Commvault is a worldwide leader in delivering backup and recovery for the progressive enterprise. Commvault enables you to protect, manage, and use your data while managing it in a consistent, compliant way. Our automated solutions work on-prem and in the cloud, and work with the digital tools and procedures you’re already using. Keep your data accessible and actionable with a single solution that ensures your data is always available — no matter what.

With so much change in the industry, innovation has never been more necessary, we have over 800 issued patents with our customers entrusting us with 1/2 Exabyte data in the Cloud. Commvault prides itself on its ability to anticipate and deliver on the needs of customers. Forrester ranked Commvault the highest in its Current Offering category, while the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Center Backup and Recovery Solutions puts Commvault in the Leaders quadrant for the 8th consecutive year. Successful organisations need to know, move, manage, recover and use their data, Commvault makes this possible. 

Everything today is predominantly digital. What can your customers expect in this environment?

Commvault believes that there are five market drivers that are transforming the market; it is what our CEO Sanjay termed the seismic shifts: 

Multi-cloud. Companies are looking for ways to move from their complex and constraining infrastructures into more flexible, scalable multi-cloud environments. 

  • Different cloud providers can offer value to businesses for different needs, and with limited lock-in, businesses have more choices to choose from. 
  • Successful multi-cloud businesses will be better able to resist the onslaught of disruption and maintain market leadership (84% of enterprises say they have a multi-cloud strategy).

Cloud native. The movement towards more applications being built on containers and microservices is driving the convergence of storage, multi-cloud and cloud native technologies. 

  • Application modernisation is all about adapting to the consumers’ wants, needs, and behaviours. It is imperative for businesses to innovate, or they will cease to exist.
  • This requires a solid multi-cloud strategy that delivers cloud native applications built through containers and microservices for incredibly agile and robust development. 

Automation. Modern, dynamic IT environments must scale faster than ever. IT automation across on-premises and multi-cloud environments are vital to meeting the challenges of the business. The creation of an agile DevOps team is necessary to meet changing market and customer demands.

DevOps. Businesses are starting to embrace DevOps for faster, more agile development, and building cloud native, containerised applications is essential to meeting a company’s dynamic needs.

  • Next-generation applications are being created to drive businesses for tomorrow’s success. 

Buying economics. Customers are faced with business and time-to-market pressures, especially with increasing regulatory, compliance and security demands. 

  • The economics of how customers acquire technology is essentially changing. Businesses today look for providers to offer the level of utility and subscription offerings without massive capital overhead. 
  • New technology must be put in place to capture customer revenue streams while giving them the choice to select what they need while keeping their data secure and meeting regulatory requirements. 

You are a passionate and seasoned marketing man, Yasir. Your experience spans around 22 years and a good chunk of these years were spent with heavyweights like Intel and Microsoft – amongst others. Walk us a little to when you first started and how you have come to where you are now.

I began my career in Marketing during the 90s, a time when the PC evolution was making desktop computing easy, affordable and pervasive for both the office and home. The key focus for technology companies then was to raise awareness and communicate the benefits of computerisation and automation. Product was a hero and central to marketing in those days.

With the advent of micro-processing power, the focus in the industry shifted towards the use of graphics, music and availability of applications like HTML. The emergence of unique architectures also drove down the cost of computing further. It’s interesting to note that some of the earliest forms of Marketing communications I worked on during this time are the basis of what we do today – driving the message that a strong infrastructure is the foundation of enabling more advanced technologies such as the cloud. 

Five years before I had joined Commvault, I led Marketing globally at Dell EMC, which was where I gained my expertise in storage and incubation products. My position at one of the largest technology brands gave me a good prelude to my role at Commvault, leading Marketing for the diverse Asia Pacific region. 

I love technology and am fortunate to have worked with some of the greatest IT brands and experience the IT computing power transformation from mainframe to PC, and now to the ubiquitous handphone. From my perspective, it is telling the story of how IT has impacted the daily lives of people. I’ve always believed that technology is an enabler. In itself, IT is not a business strategy – but an enabler to drive businesses to the next level of success.

As a leader, I value and focus on driving impact. I’ve always believed that you can do one of two things – you can choose to be comfortable or choose to step out of your comfort zone and make an impact. Of course, I’ve always chosen the latter, and that’s what I encourage my teams to do every day. 

With the emergence of this digital era and of course, with Millennials and those younger coming into the scene, we often see new titles like Chief Brand Officer, Chief Growth Officer and a couple of other mouthful titles. What is the actual role and responsibilities of a company’s top marketer?

In an era where convenience, speed and personalisation across multiple channels – both physical and digital – drive brand loyalty, the traditional CMOs who worry about ROI through advertising and nothing else wear horse blinders. 

Marketing has evolved to be a vehicle of sustainable business growth. Hyper-personalisation will be a crucial element, in which marketers employ new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to engage customers on a more personal level. A successful marketer – no matter the title – needs to be capable of using data-driven insights to better understand and analyse the customers’ needs and influence purchasing decisions. 

Today’s marketers will be challenged to create a personalised customer experience rated above its industry peers. In pre-2K, data research comprised mostly of demographic information mined from focus groups and mailed surveys. Today, there is a greater volume of customer data available across multiple digital touchpoints. Not to mention, the explosion of social media also gives customers a louder voice. Successful marketers will adopt technologies to crunch this data in real-time and in more sophisticated ways to provide a more personalised customer journey.  

Adding to the complexity of the Marketing landscape is the democratisation of technology. Technology is no longer just an IT function; technology is now more accessible beyond the IT community. Marketing teams today have a lot more say in what technology they should use to drive success, and how they should use it. For example, to better target the Millennials, Marketers need to ensure that the customer experience is as seamless, interactive and personalised as possible across all touchpoints, especially digital and social media. The strategy is first created by the Marketers before it gets passed on to an IT specialist for technical development.  Marketers will continue to play an increasingly vital role in the application of technology in their fields. 

The CMO as a subject matter expert is a given; to succeed in this new environment, I believe the crucial role of an effective CMO is to be a change agent – to lead the transformational organisation through its wave of changes, understand how customers are changing and help build new capabilities within the team.

Forrester recently predicted that in 2020, smart CMOs will need to strike a balance between employee experience, customer experience, brand purpose, creativity and technology. You, however, have a unique take on this. Tell us your perspective, Yasir.

Circling back to the Forrester 2020 Predictions first, it is true that all these – employee experience, customer experience, brand purpose, creativity and technology – are important to drive consistent, successful communications with prospects and existing customers. 

That said, the most important component of this formula is customer experience. In fact, customer experience is at the core of everything else. Brand purpose, creativity, technology and even the employee experience will be vital factors that mould customer experiences.  

What links these areas, which is also what is usually lacking or highly inadequate, is the data required to build the fabled 360-degree view of a customer. For many organisations, this data is still locked in corporate silos today: yes, you can have marketing’s data, but you also need data from sales, tech support, training, and so forth – everywhere and anywhere the brand and customer intersect. The smart CMOs will drive enterprise-wide efforts to dig into customer data across all business departments and functions to build a profile of a potential lead and reduce the likelihood of at-risk customers lost in the digital cracks. 

Once the fundamental foundations are laid, the other important element for great success as seen in strong, world-class brands is the ability to constantly adapt and change to be relevant with today’s fast-paced savvy digital natives. For instance, at Commvault, we had to find ways to disseminate our message in order to target new audiences and influencers as the company evolved from a pure backup player to be a unified data management solutions provider. 

We changed our story and our point of view, employed a warmer colour palette, a more conversational tone, and engaged new social media channels and influencers. We are refreshing a brand message and visual identity to match the future of our company. This is not a marketing exercise, the key role is to amplify and drive a company-wide effort, including partner engagement, to evolve a changing and new brand voice. 

Let’s talk about marketing innovation; can you name me top three game changers we can expect to see in this next frontier? How should companies leverage these marketing innovations to drive impactful campaigns?

2019 was a landmark year for data breaches with the number of compromised records exposed hitting 4.1 billion in the first six months alone. As we see increased customer awareness about what data privacy means, and how it is applied, companies should be intentional when asking for data and communicate exactly how that data will be used ahead of time. Instead of being a hindrance, new privacy regulations offer the opportunity for companies to build and strengthen customer trust by being transparent over how their data is (or is not) being used. Trust is the currency in a digital economy, and organisations will need to leverage the right data management tools that offer governance, protection and visibility into all data environments to build their credibility. 

Gartner also recently predicted that by 2023, around 40 per cent of professional workers will assemble their own applications to meet job and personal requirements – like how they curate their music streaming experience. With the growth of the subscription economy, SaaS marketers will be challenged not only to acquire new users but also persuade paying customers to stick around. Understanding customer workflow is essential for any SaaS solution in the subscription economy; marketers doubling down on the interpretation of data for greater personalised interactions and placing the customer first through data-driven analytics driving real intelligence in customer experience will achieve growth. 

Perhaps you can share with our readers, how is Commvault bringing its brand to life?

Whether the organisation is a Fortune 500 company or a company with 500 employees, we believe the future belongs to the Data Ready, that is, businesses equipped with data management solutions which give the innovation, freedom and choice needed to protect, control, manage and use data – no matter where it resides. 

We recently launched Metallic Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering for the enterprise mid-market which delivers simple, intelligent Software-as-a-Service solution for backup and recovery of on-premise, public cloud and SaaS applications and workloads. 

Commvault also acquired Hedvig in 2019, the first ever acquisition in the company’s history. By integrating Hedvig’s software-defined storage capabilities with Commvault’s industry-leading data management products, we intend to create an industry standard solution for both passive and active data management in the cloud.  

With the company evolving, we knew we had to break away from the past, and yet develop a narrative that represented our rich heritage of innovation and top-notch customer support to reflect our future direction. This means we had to find ways to disseminate our message targeting both existing loyal customers and partners, and new, younger M-gen audiences, influencers and the evolving partner ecosystem. 

Our refreshed branding aims to illustrate the vision of a future that belongs to the data ready. To deliver data readiness is now our brand promise. Data is constantly moving, changing and growing. This also means that risk becomes pervasive, especially one single data incident can threaten the bottom line. Ensuring that you are ready to protect, to comply, to recover and to use data is the essence of our brand promise.

We launched our new website, which reflects our new branding, new tone and new ways of engagement. We are changing the conversation. 

Our colours bring our brand to life, the dominant colours peacoat and raspberry are thoughtfully adopted, and the consistent use of these tones are key to making it memorable.  

Our tone of voice is also crucial to creating a brand that’s relevant, emotional, and differentiated. We reworked the tone, keeping things simple, amplifying the customer-centricity, and injecting a little bit of fun. A brand-new series of videos were curated to demonstrate this shift in our tone of voice.

We know that today’s audience craves authenticity, transparency, and entertainment — so recently, at two key events in the USA, we made use of our exhibition space and brought in our Data Therapy Dog Park. We replicated this in Australia, too, and the response to the park has been, well, just adorable. This signals Commvault’s new approach in engaging our customers in a more personal, approachable way. 

Yasir – for a man with your depth of experience, which is more important; branding or marketing?

Branding and Marketing are equally important. In fact, they go hand-in-hand. Marketing plays a crucial role in amplifying the brand as part of the overall business strategy, while branding is often larger than life and serves to communicate the essence and values of the company. An organisation’s customers, employees and partners live and touch the brand every day, whether it’s online or through live interaction. It is important to first define a brand value clearly, then deliver a brand experience that is consistent and concise. Marketing serves to reinforce and uplift the brand values, which is an integral part of a marketing strategy for customer acquisition and retention. 

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Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen is a certified Image Branding & Lifestyle Consultant. Born in Singapore and blessed to have lived in a couple of other amazing cities in the world, Anjalika is currently expatriating in Kuala Lumpur. Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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