Sriram Venkitachalam a Brand Strategist comfortable with the complexity of the unknown Education VCU Brandcenter | Creative Brand Management (CBM) Master of Science | May ‘09 | GPA 3.47
Work Experience PassionForCinema.com | Freelance | Sep 09 – present Social Media Strategist (Intern)
VCU Brandcenter, considered the nation’s #1 AdSchool (AdAge Creativity magazine) and one of the top 60 design schools worldwide (Businessweek) offers the CBM graduate program that marries the rigor of business school marketing education with the creative pursuit of design schools, and cross-functional collaborative styles of modern marketing agencies. Projects Online Realty: Bloomkey.com Bloomkey.com was trapped in the commoditized segment of Flat Fee MLS in the For Sale By Owner market. After thorough data analysis, competency analysis, competitive analysis, and customer research formulated a brand position akin to ‘Realtor on Call’ that better exploited the company’s core competency. Read to Them “One School One Book” Reading Program Principals had closed their ears to 9 million reading programs. Inspection revealed the brand truth that One School One Book was a local community development movement and not just a reading program. Web strategy refocused fund raising from huge corporations to individuals. + Google & Peace One Day, Jane Goodall Institute, Muhammad Ali Center, X-Games, Toys R’ Us, Hamilton Beach Mumbai University | Bachelor of Mass Media | Advertising major | 2005 | GPA: 3.7 804.501.8427
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Engage Web site's communities on Twitter and Facebook. Track social media traffic. Research and report using Google Analytics. Develop advertising sales opportunities.
Tata Interactive Systems | Mumbai, India | May–Dec 2006 Branding Content Developer •
Created marketing content for software products and services such as management simulations and enterprise application platform for global markets including US, UK, Australia, and India. Volunteered with web development skills and learned CSS, web Accessibility design, and search engine optimization (SEO) to help rebuild corporate website that resulted in a 50% rise in traffic
Cogito Media | Mumbai, India | July 05 – March 2006 Assistant Director •
Multitasked as a quiz researcher, proofreader, and a production assistant to cinematography and editing crews on a daily TV quiz show broadcast live to over 10 million viewers
Passions Learning web technology (self taught html, css), blogging, cinema (made two short films), cooking,
SriramVenkitachalam@gmail.com New York City
Popularizing Bocce Ball Developed a business model to aid the transition of a lethargic game played whilst sipping wine to an aggressive social game played while chugging beer. Created Bocce Battlegrounds, online and offline, as the stage to settle all arguments, inspired by the insight that public challenges are strong human motivators: be it western duels, arm wrestling or the phenomenon of “getting served”. I enjoyed this work because: It involved creating a structure where none existed. The Problem: No one knew the face of Bocce Ball. The Truth: Bocce Ball, a game played by older Italian Americans had been adopted by their grandchildren. They revolutionized the game by playing open bocce: bocce outside the traditional clay court, on lawns, and beaches. A good example of this revolution is Dominic Bernacchi’s Beach Bocce League. The Personality: Bocce is now played with beer and not wine. While Bocce has a low skill barrier to enter the game, players in the new leagues were being tested not so much by their accuracy but their mental capacity to deal with competitive “banter”. The People: It became evident that the ones picking up Bocce were mostly what we traditionally know as the “creative types”, found in the advertising and media industries. One could say, a few hundred were taking to Bocce as if to indifferently declare, “if we played golf, this is how we would do it.”
The Solution: •
Spreadable Strategy: Open bocce was cool. We just needed a device to give impetus to its growth, inject a viral element. The banter-fueled mental battles reminded us of public duels of the Old West or even of the “You got Served” phenomenon. When challenged in public no one worth his salt likes to back out. We wanted to take the competition from individuals to organizations that larger pools of people connect with. What if a few guys who play Bocce from one advertising agency set a date and place, and challenged its rival in the same city? A small grass roots initiative that slowly builds momentum; we could start with the advertising industry and slowly grow as per the hierarchy of industry coolness.
Business Plan Our business plan had two horns: •
We realized that if we could gather pools of people within their professional niches, there are always dependent businesses interested to communicate/ network/market/hang out with them. For the advertising industry it could be media and production companies. The second part was Bocce Battlegrounds online: a Web site that allowed people to throw down a Bocce battle to their friends or adversaries. They could buy the bocce set right from the web site, choosing from various manufacturers. This helped establish a business platform to benefit bocce ball manufacturers in exchange for the marketing dollars
they would be providing for popularizing Bocce. •
The Pilot The strategy was manifested as a summer bocce tournament for the ad industry. Marketing material for the same follows.
Blue Sky Ideas Bocce would be the game one played to settle any trivial argument: that was our brand plan. We thought why not settle some classic arguments over annual Bocce competitions (a bit like Red Bull Flugtag)
Read to Them “One School One Book” Reading Program Principals had closed their ears to 9 million reading programs. Inspection revealed the brand truth that One School One Book was a local community development movement and not just a reading program. Web strategy refocused fund raising from huge corporations to individuals. I enjoyed this work because: I don’t remember being read to as a child. I never enjoyed reading till college. I know the effects, because I experience the world of difference reading brings. This was personal. Besides, I made an animation film for this project. The Objective: Enroll several schools to participate. Raise funds for a fledgling organization. The Barrier: Principals didn’t wish to hear about yet another reading program. Insight: Talking to schools who had tried One School One Book before we realized this was more of a community builder. As a whole school — students, staff, parents, even bus drivers read one book; the story brought everyone close. It brought the parents
and teachers working together. The Strategy: •
Changed the conversation from “reading program” to “community building initiative”
Suggested a new brand name “WeBook”: more contemporary, actionable, and involving
A web site that articulated the organization’s mission in a quick 2 minute animation
Web site that showed how each party: teachers, parents, principals, corporations had a role in the ambition
Communication campaign expressing the involvement students and the school enjoy during One School One Book
Fund raising focussed on individual donations through web site and blog widgets rather than big corporations. Also, refocussed fund raising from national corporations to local small business.
Creative Brand Management Independent Brand Study: Bloomkey.com The MLS is the holy grail of the real estate business: the database home sellers want to list their property on because 80% of sale happens off the MLS. For years real estate agents guarded their 6% commissions by restricting common folks’ access to the database. Then came the renegade agents who listed sellers for a flat fee on the MLS for just $300. Lawrence Bunnell is one such renegade, a visionary in the transition of real estate business to the internet. But then, a Google search for flat fee MLS brings up hundreds of such companies. Bloomkey is selling commodity. 30 charts, tables and concentric circles later, Bloomkey was repositioned from “flat fee MLS vendor” to “convenient realty intelligence online”. My knowledge of the real estate industry was limited to the cliche, “location, location, location”. I was attracted to the project because it was a web site and internet is my favorite medium. I thought I would come out the other end with search engine optimization and search engine marketing: the only two terms showing an uptrend in indeed.com for 2009. How wrong I was.
Key Insights Business: Conversion rates are considerably low. In a commoditized market where the product is the bread winner, business needs to make up with the three other Ps, place, promotion, and price. Where home selling and buying is a once in a 5 year event, and typically users only made single orders, higher cost of marketing could not be justified. Hence, investment must be directed towards product development Consumer: Consumers were looking to save on commission fees, but were not comfortable lacking realty agent’s marketing knowledge. Competitive Landscape: Technological innovation is being brought about by companies with over $30 million investments. Realty information was being perfected, with Zillow.com, Trulia.com and others but a big gap still existed in the space where high tech met realty intelligence. Competency: Bloomkey has its roots in founder Lawrence Bunnell’s two decades as a realty agent. Solutions: A Realty Intelligence Delivery Device was developed that allowed sellers to provide information about
their homes to Bloomkey, online, and enabled Bloomkey to revert back with a customized marketing strategy. •
Since contractual paper work is a constant technical chase for Bloomkey, suggested insourcing SureClose, a technology platform that delivered realty contracts online and allowed streamlined transaction online for all parties involved.
Immediate steps involved an information architecture that guided users through the steps of the “for sale by owner” concept juxtaposed with relevant products.
Thank you for your time.
Published on Sep 29, 2009
Sriram Venkit is a Brand Strategist and a 2009 MS graduate of the VCU Brandcenter. This is his resume with a few work case studies.