The world of business is a marvellous atmosphere – it is fast paced and full of challenges but it is an environment that keeps the planet's economies in check. The ribbon that ties business together and threads the loops into a single packaged product is marketing. Establishing, placing and promoting a product or system that a business offers needs to create not just an overall representation, but a ‘buy-in’ as well.
“It is not an easy process and nor should it be…it is (marketing a brand) a challenge that needs to be carefully executed but in a creative manner,” says Joe Kumar Gross the Head of Group Market Management for Allianz SE.
It is a statement that Joe makes in the middle of a very entertaining chat. I had already been engaged with him about his career and how he has gone about managing his career. From the Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany to the University of California, Berkley – Joe has ventured from continent to continent in search of both a practical and theoretical understanding of the mechanics of the system of marketing.
Joe continues: “I have always been fond of numbers and calculation which I wanted to apply to my studies towards marketing. I found at university in Germany my professors never provided the answers I was looking for hence I had to search for solutions.”
A self funded trip to Berkley and the solutions he was seeking came through in droves. “California proved to be an energised and fresh thinking environment which served as the icing on top of my academic career,” states Joe.
Born in India, Joe moved to Germany at a young age and grew up in solid German surroundings. His career was not a formulated equation written down and handed to him on a silver platter but one that he had built through trying various ideas and concepts. By the time he had graduated with a Degree in Business Administration, he had already travelled, worked, studied and finally understood what he wanted to do with his qualification.
He wanted to focus on the concepts of marketing and the business science behind it – never losing that analytical appetite that he initially had. It was however the satisfying of this appetite that he now yearned…
“I had applied to a number of companies, however it was Procter & Gamble (P&G) that interviewed me and made an offer that I accepted without hesitation. For the better part of 11 years I cut my teeth in this fast moving consumer goods giant where I was able to hone my skills as a marketing executive,” Joe excitingly expresses.
He speaks about his time at P&G with such a fondness that one forgets that he has broken the trend of marketing executives, many of whom spend short periods at a company before moving onto the next big thing. Instead Joe spent his time at P&G, creating, reworking and managing the next big things.
His work didn’t go unnoticed and he was soon approached to help redirect the Allianz SE group. He was challenged to unify its products under one ‘umbrella’ brand. Focussing the concepts of Allianz SE as a global brand with a mixture of hype and understanding…
“Putting together a marketing mix is necessary and creating a hype around a brand is just as important. However making sure people understand what a brand offers and does is the key to have a buy-in into a product that is being offered.” explains Joe.
‘Buy-in’ does not simply derive from customers but also from a company’s board and a willing CEO. Joe explains that at Allianz SE, he has a finance company that not only fast tracked itself into Formula 1 but also helped power the Paralympics Games in London 2012. Thus taking an international finance company that was established in Germany and harnessing a global centre stage! With the benchmark of German engineering in terms of motor racing and the inspirational athleticism of the less able - an example of the balance of risk is provided - which fittingly works in the financial services industry.
This is a holistic approach to setting an international footprint for a company looking to be recognised globally. His projects with Allianz SE have not only been a single set of challenges but a diverse set: the digitisation of the brand, its products and operations is an example of traditional business moving into new technology. A transformation which Joe admits has to handled by building trust with all parties involved in the Allianz SE business.
Furthermore, Joe states: “When I arrived at Allianz SE, there was a need for change in direction, so my approach was radical but it was substantiated. It all goes back to the balance behind researched creativity and analytical results. Therefore exercising credibility, a shared vision and of course data/facts (not just a belief). Underlying you can have outlandish ideas but there needs to be a justification of those – not easy with a financial company but definitely we have proved it is doable!”
His time at Allianz SE has stemmed twelve years and he has become an example for marketing executives worldwide - showing them that to understand a brand, a business and a market, you need to be able to put in the time that would be required to manage any set of challenges.
With young individuals looking to enter into an industry that is fast paced and exciting, the lesson of being able to steady things in the present to achieve long term goals seems to be the recipe for success. Which in this case has taken the financial industry by storm and is epitomised in the objectives of both Allianz SE and the energies of one Joe Kumar Gross.
And in that, the aforementioned appetite for success has been successfully quenched!