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Raj Subramaniam

Raj Subramaniam


Marketing and Technology


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Trendsetters:  FedEx's Raj Subramaniam Proves How a Single, Positive Idea Can Resonate with All the World

Rajesh Subramaniam is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for the FedEx Corporation and oversees all aspects of the company's marketing and communications efforts globally-- including advertising, brand and reputation, product and business development, digital access, e-commerce, retail marketing, and corporate strategy. Speaking last week at the ANA's Annual Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando, he shared the insights behind the company's first-ever global brand campaign, while emphasizing how a deep understanding of brand purpose was essential in reflecting and honoring the FedEx culture.

The concept of "purpose" certainly emerged as a common theme at this year's Masters of Marketing.  However, it was also clear that delivering on the promise of brand purpose-- so that it can meaningfully resonate with key stakeholders and "make a difference"-- is no easy task.  

Raj Subramaniam recognized that the fundamentals of the extraordinary FedEx culture and the changing dynamics of today's service business were critical to finding a positive idea that would resonate worldwide and break through the clutter. He emphasized that the brand statement says it all: "We connect people and possibilities around the world."  According to Subramaniam, "FedEx is more than just packages shipped; it's what we deliver that matters." 

In other words, FedEx delivers hope when shipping relief supplies after a disaster, or comfort when shipping a lost item to its owner, or joy at the holidays, or dreams when a startup sends out its first packages.  It is these emotional connections that "are rooted in the physical world," says Raj Subramaniam, that bring FedEx to life when most customers rarely think about the logistics and transport behind their packages in the growing $4.5 trillion e-commerce economy.  "We are making the invisible visible in a powerful, meaningful way."

This move represented a huge shift in the company's marketing, particularly when their time-tested advertising focus on memorable customer solutions was working. According to Subramaniam, "It was hard to move away, but the world keeps changing and customers demand faster, better service. Our audience has changed.  It's a different audience due to the ubiquity of e-commerce.  Yet, the core of FedEx has not changed at all. We have an extraordinary culture."

Despite living in a digital age when customers could be targeted individually, Raj Subramaniam recognized: "We were looking for a universal idea, and then realized we just had to look inside. We just had to reflect our extraordinary culture. As different as it is to do business around the world, it is amazing how similar the FedEx experience is.  We just had to showcase our respect for people and the value of what we deliver."

FedEx is a company that acknowledges the importance of its "front-lines" or customer-facing employees and delivery teams. All take a pledge—the Purple Promise—to make every FedEx experience outstanding.  Many of the company's leaders started in these roles, while Founder Fred Smith's ethos of bringing the world closer together and operating with the energy of a startup still rings true for employees today.

As a result, Possibilities is not merely a new campaign but serves to better express the brand's character and tone. Subramaniam adds, "The team is proud to see how they are honored to champion people and possibilities."  He also told stories that exemplify the FedEx culture—from a delivery employee tracking the resting place of plaque made for a veteran's grave to a small business that connects saffron farmers worldwide. 

Among the spots shown was “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the story of a child who lost a cherished stuffed animal and the joy of seeing it delivered. "FedEx has earned the right to tell these stories," says Subramaniam, "because they are authentic to our purpose, and the work must have integrity to be believable."

We connect people and possibilities... and also understand that today's micro businesses can have the scale to lift millions of people to the middle class.  We haven't told this story yet.  We are only beginning to unlock purpose and culture through great stories that show how our team members do the extraordinary.  And we have learned that their going above and beyond represents billions in market cap, while doing good in the world.

My advice to marketers?  Think deep.  Find your culture.  Manifest your purpose."

Raj Subramaniam has a rich history at FedEx. After joining the marketing team in Memphis in 1991, his leadership skills took him to Hong Kong, where he oversaw marketing in Asia Pacific. Subramaniam then took over as president of FedEx Express in Canada before moving back to the U.S. as senior vice president of marketing and communications for FedEx Services.

His international leadership experience, keen business insights, and focus on globalization have contributed to the success of FedEx and continue to provide a road map for future growth initiatives. He champions what is often referred to as the "FedEx Access Effect," the idea that FedEx stands at the intersection of the physical and virtual infrastructure required for global commerce, therefore helping businesses to flourish, economies to prosper, and standards of living to improve.

Born in Trivandrum, India, Subramaniam received an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. He earned two post-graduate degrees: a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from Syracuse University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.