Digital Leaders Q&A: Sandeep Menon, global marketing director for Google Play

Sandeep_Menon Google webSandeep Menon, based in California, is global marketing director for Google Play, the app and digital content store for Android users that offers apps, games, a music subscription service, TV and films on demand, and ebooks.

We caught up with him to find out about his business priorities, how the marketing function is evolving, and the key skills and tools marketers need to excel at Google.

Broadly speaking, what are your key business goals? And what are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

In the Google Play ecosystem, there are three main entities that we focus on – our users, our developers, and our content partners (music labels, artists, movie studios, etc). One of our main business goals is keeping these three parties happy with the service we offer.

As for KPIs, I care a lot about the number of engaged users on our platform. We keep an eye on metrics like the number of people using our music service, the number of people using our video service, and then also other key metrics, such as revenue from our apps and games business, and from our digital content businesses.

What would you say are the biggest challenges in your role?

One of our main challenges is ensuring our teams are constantly innovating to keep up with the pace of change in the technology arena.

Another interesting challenge is ensuring that everything we do can be scaled globally, while catering to the needs of each of the 130+ countries that is supported by Google Play.

How would you say the marketing function is evolving within your organisation?

At its core, the role of marketing in an organisation has not changed, but how we go about doing it has been completely disrupted by digital.

It’s worth remembering that basic emotions, and the core things people care about, do not change. People still want to go out with friends and have fun, they still care about their families, they still get angry about things. What does change is how we express that.

For example, just 15 to 20 years ago, when you went on holiday what you would probably do is send a postcard from there to share how wonderful the holiday was. Right now, you could share that same experience of “hey I’m having a great time”, and “this is a beautiful place” in so many different ways.

At Google our focus has always been on connecting our users with the great products we develop.

Which tools or software do you find most useful in your role?

Following on from what we said about challenges earlier, one of our biggest challenges is ensuring the flow of information. How do you make sure that ideas are shared quickly, and that the collaborative nature of the organisation is preserved, even though you are thousands of miles apart?

The most powerful tools we have are simple platforms like Google Docs, which allow me to share an idea and get input from people in 40 countries within 24 hours.

One of the things we are passionate about at Google is giving everyone the opportunity to come up and try out ideas, whether you’re a junior marketer who started six months ago, or a seasoned veteran.

What do you see as the most significant trends in digital marketing over the coming years that might have an impact on the marketing function?

Marketers are spending a lot of money on getting the message out, but even now, we’re still not completely sure of how precisely targeted those messages are. There’s still a lot to do in the field of measurement, and that is one significant change that I see coming. I think that over the years we’ve had great progress in the area of measuring campaign effectiveness but there’s still a lot to do.

The second trend is getting better intelligence. As processing power improves, the kind of insight we could get is going to be fundamentally different from what we had before.

While we still do a lot of consumer surveys and similar studies, there are a lot of smart tools coming that can accurately predict the key consumer insights that we need to be focusing on.

What kind of skills do you need to be effective in a senior marketing role at Google?

During my time at Google, I’ve observed that in both marketing and in other functions, the people who have been most successful are those who are passionate about technology.

At heart we are a technology company, and no matter what your background you should be genuinely excited about technology and the power of technology to change things for the better. Passion is core for being effective in any role in Google – especially a marketing role.

The second thing we talk about a lot is our very collaborative culture that’s less “top-down”. As a marketer, you should be very effective in cross-functional collaboration. Some of the best people I have seen are those who can work with everyone – from engineers to comms people.

You might say that generally for an organisation to be successful you need a cross-functional leader, but I see it much more pertinent in a company like Google.

If there is such a thing, how does the typical working day look for you?

I start most days talking to my colleagues in EMEA, spend the middle part of the day with my team in the US, then towards the evening, when APAC wakes up, start my interactions with them.

I spend most of my time in discussing our plans, campaigns and actions with my team members, but wish I spent more time around consumers – that’s one area I wish I could do more of.

Finally, do you have any advice for people who want to work in the digital industry?

In digital, we see new trends and technologies emerging constantly. This at times can be confusing.

These trends keep changing – what’s important for those who want to be creative marketers is that they understand the power of data and how data can influence thinking and they develop the ability to combine these insights with great storytelling.

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