Editor’s Notebook: Want to make a marketing splash? Send your CMO to the South Pole

Sir Robert Swan (left) and Commvault CMO Chris Powell "seal the deal" at Commvault Go.

Sir Robert Swan (left) and Commvault CMO Chris Powell “seal the deal” at Commvault Go.

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — A big part of my role as editor of ChannelBuzz.ca is attending industry trade shows. It’s an opportunity to get the news, to get “embedded” in the community we serve with this site, and gain insights.

As such, I’ve become quite used to the way keynote sessions generally go — the company’s brass does their talks first. And then, sometimes, out comes the guest or motivational speaker.

So it was a bit of a surprise this morning when Commvault’s second annual Go conference here kicked off with just such a speaker taking the stage.  In this case, it was British explorer and environmental activist Sir Robert Swan, who claims the distinct honour of being the only person to have walked to both the North and South Poles of this planet.

It checked all the boxes for such a presentation — a unique individual with unique experiences and fascinating stories, recounting what he’s learned along the way. Appropriate jokes were made. Leadership advice was interwoven. And a message — one of protecting the planet’s environment — was woven throughout. But why was this “batting leadoff” ahead of the vision presentation from CEO Bob Hammer? It was a bit puzzling, but Swan is an engaging and entertaining speaker, so I didn’t dwell on it too long.

And then, wrapping up his presentation, Swan made the announcement that made it all make sense.

He would, he announced, be going straight from GO here in the DC area, back to the Antarctica, where he would be making the 600-mile walk to the South Pole for the second time, again in support of his 2041 ClimateForce group, which has spent almost 25 years on building awareness around climate change, and doing supporting projects including cleaning up abandoned Soviet-era facilities in Antarctica.

This time, Swan said, he would be going to the Pole with his son, making them the first father-and-son duo to make the trip. And it would be the first such journey powered entirely by renewable energy, including a rather fascinating solar-powered ice melter that promises to transform that oh-so-abundant ice into hot water in just 40 minutes.

And it would also be the first such expedition to include a technology CMO.

Wait… what?

Yep. Swan announced that he would be joined on the venture by Commvault chief marketing officer Chris Powell.

Now to be fair, Powell will only be joining Swan et al for the final 10 per cent of the trip. But then, Swan called the last bit “the hardest part” of what is without a doubt not an easy trip to begin with.

Powell’s presence on the trip is because Commvault has signed on to be the expedition’s data partner, providing data storage and management for voyage in the cloud as a managed service — with is fairly remarkable when one considers the nearest centre of human population in numbers higher than single digits is some 3,000 miles away from the destination of the journey.

It’s a pretty cool scenario to be sure, but it also gives the company a chance to present its social consciousness and corporate citizenship to the world in a pretty high-profile event. And while he said the company is early in its relationship with Swan and his team, Commvault channel chief Ralph Nimergood said that focus will permeate the company’s marketing efforts with customers and prospects.

“We’ll find creative ways to bring our partners into the fold,” Nimergood said.

And on top of it all, if all goes well, Commvault gets its flag raised at the South Pole. And really, how many data platform companies can claim that particular honour?

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Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at ChannelBuzz.ca. He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997. 

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