Subramanyeswar, better known as Subbu, is the Chief Strategy officer – Asia Pacific & Head of Global Planning Council of MullenLowe Group.
He has spent two-and-a-half decades in advertising and marketing, having worked at Wipro, Publics, Rediffusion Y&R, and Saatchi & Saatchi in the markets of India, US and UK.
Some of the businesses/brands he anchored include Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Colgate, Citibank, General Mills, Samsung, Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Tata Tea, Tanishq, Idea Cellular, Britannia, Google, Flipkart, Fastrack, Swiggy, ZEE, TVS and so on.
Subbu has been awarded ‘South Asia Planner of the Year’ twice by the world-renowned Campaign magazine.
Subbu has authored and won 142 awards at India Effies, APAC Effies, Global Effies, Asian Marketing Effectiveness, WARC and the globally distinguished Jay Chiat by 4A’s – American Association of Advertising Agencies. He has also been Jury Chair at Jay Chiat Awards for Strategic Excellence in 2021 and 2022 and judged the coveted IPA Effectiveness Awards 2022 in UK, APAC Effies, AME, WARC, and India Effies.
He has played a leading role in MullenLowe Lintas Group (MLLG) becoming the No.1 agency in India and APAC, and No.2 globally on the Effie Index ranking. MLLG was also awarded ‘Agency of the year’ several times at India and APAC Effies, and by Tambuli, Campaign South Asia, Ad Age, and WARC with Subbu helming the leadership from the strategy end.
A regular columnist and passionate educationalist, he is also a visiting faculty at top business schools IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Nagpur in India and delivered talks at the distinguished Kellogg School of Management, Illinois and MIT Sloan, Boston in US. He also addressed several business and marketing forums across the globe including SXSW in Austin, Texas.
Subbu is the author of ‘Brands to Stands,’ a groundbreaking book that celebrates the authentic and highly captivating stories of how 25 of India’s leading brands have created brand marketing history by adopting a point of view, taking a stand, and spearheading purposeful action.
He lives in Mumbai with his wife Avanti and son Arman. He is an avid reader, sports enthusiast and enjoys travelling.
His articles, speeches, and interviews have been widely published and here are links to some of them:
MullenLowe Lintas Group’s ‘Brands to Stands’ book provides the future direction of brand strategy in creating inspiring brands that take a stand: “Our book ‘Brands to Stands’ is a path-breaking compendium, based more on proven empirical insights rather than theoretical constructs, helping leaders unlock their brand’s true potential by reminding them of who they really are. There is no better time to do that than now.”
Great advertising starts with a story: Stories are passages to the past, portraits of the present, or peeks into the future. The evolution of technology has in fact amplified (rather than change) the power of stories and storytelling making them accessible through multiple platforms to anyone who wants to create a world of their own in their unique way or form – be it written, visual or oral. Digital universe in fact, thrives on stories and not specks. .
Brands to Stands on CNBC: “This book is not a celebration of mere brands. It is an ode to those brands that went well beyond the call of duty. To become the identity of individuals. The soul of a society. The conscience of a nation.”
Stand Up. Stand Out. Stand Firm: Graduation Day address to the students of Miami Ad School of Ideas on the 29th of June 2022.
Take a stand. History will stand by it: Indian brands have been way too complicit in toeing the official line and are very wary of taking the establishment on publicly.
Live like a planner in 2022: We are in an era where the past has not much relevance, the present is riddled with confusion and the future is uncertain and unpredictable. Planning for anything in life, under these circumstances, is fraught with pitfalls and the danger of failure. The solution in democratising planning as a way of life, is not to prescribe how to plan for specific situations, but rather imbibe and inculcate certain characteristics and qualities of planning that will help people live and plan for life like a professional planner.
The touchstone of emotion: The absence of touch during Covid-19 does not just negatively impact social interactions but also has tremendous potential to disrupt the world of brands.
Cohesive brand experiences for accelerated growth: why should brands evolve into an ecosystem?
Political stands – the new mantra for brands: Increasingly, corporate entities and brands are not afraid to take a very strong and public stance.
Questions are the best way to answer: Questions do not just provide an answer but unravel many hidden layers in those answers. They can generate new areas of enquiry and lead to changes in the way of thinking. Answers, on the other hand, often end the process of discovery, abruptly and maybe even unconvincingly.
Distinctive advantage is the new competitive advantage: Distinctive advantage is not something that is exclusively derived from point of difference. Rather, it comes from taking a point of view. A ‘Stand.’
Tomorrow is overdue: If media AoR can command greater premium by adding new value, why not a separate AoR for integrated strategic planning.
Every wish is a command: A wish is one of the most primal, instinctive and ubiquitous elements of human existence, and all forms of wish fulfilment are attempts by the subconscious to resolve a deeper, untold emotion, whether that is something of recent origin or from the recesses of the past.
Get out of the way: Kids will always be one step ahead of adults and adults will always be kids in disguise. If 60 is the new 40 – then 12 is the new 18.
‘Good and Service,’ the new ‘Goods and Services.’: Purpose is the catalyst that can reinvigorate and empower capitalism. Every business will need a purpose for itself. A purpose that will not just define its existence in the most holistic sense, but also liberate it to be the change it wants to see in the world.
Once upon a strategy: As old as civilization itself, the art of storytelling is often seen as a purely creative pursuit, yet to deliver the most effective results it relies as much on strategy and logic as it does pure emotion.
Discovering the unknown: At heart, as a strategist, I love being an explorer. Discovering the unknown rather than planning with the known. Essentially, leaving no answer unquestioned always stimulates me.
Lowe Lintas and Axis Bank – An open-heart relationship: Our relationship has been banking on the axis of openness for more than a decade now. A relationship that started with a zero brand balance has been characterised by trust, respect and candidness with one another in advancing the brand, business and partnership, every day in the last ten years.
Planning for the best – The joy of problem solving: Business problems don’t exist to beat us down, they help us grow. I look at every problem as an opportunity to make things better. When you connect people and opportunities together in thoughtful ways, you can generate tremendous business impact. When you solve a brand/business problem, you invariably solve consumer, or even people’s problems. Just remember to leave no answer unquestioned.
Dancing with data – Numerical data + Human data: Inaugural address to the students of Post-Graduation Certificate Programme in Digital Strategy and Marketing Analytics at IIM Nagpur on the 18th of July 2021.
Anatomy of a compelling brand – Beyond the ‘er’ factor: Address to the NASSCOM International SME Conclave at Kolkata.