I had the privilege earlier this month to spend an hour with Laura McLellan, VP, Marketing Strategies @ Gartner and Angelia Herrin, Editor @ HBR (Harvard Business Review) on the topic of the “Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist” and the need for the industry to raise Unicorns, who live and breathe at the intersection of marketing, technology and storytelling – this is a topic that was covered in a prior post on HBR earlier this year with the same title. It was a wonderful experience for me, for I have utmost regard for Laura’s incredible research work that she has done over the last so many years many of which has shaped the industry, very evident from one of her most famous quotes where she said “by 2017, CMOs will have more technology budget than the CIOs”, whether that was accurate or not is arguable but that single statement opened up the industry and a collaboration model between the CMOs and CIOs that had never existed before.
You can view the entire recording of the webinar on HBR’s site, just click here.
Here is my summarized perspective on some of the topics we had discussed during the session:
How has customer buying behavior changed? It has changed to the extent that I don’t know if there is any set pattern any more. From the days of the funnel that would continue to shrink as you move from awareness to consideration and post purchase, that behavior is completely out of the window because the consumer now has tremendous choice, control pretty much at any point of time, location of her choice and she knows how to exercise it. It’s an omni-channel consumer who only cares about the best product, at the best price at a location & time of her choice because she knows she can get it thanks to the evolution of data and technology. It’s a far more complex, fast paced process lead by the consumer and no longer by the brands
What are the implications of changing customer behavior? — Implications are massive, positive from a consumer standpoint because she is in control and knows she can exercise her choice but challenging from a brand standpoint. Brands now need the agility and speed to respond to this consumer behavior and expectations, have the ability to predict the behavior so they can get her what she needs before even she knows she needs it; brands have to learn how to drive stronger engagement through seamless or frictionless consumer experiences, the consumers don’t see channels or care about, brands and marketers do and that’s a big gap that needs to be filled fairly quickly. The brands that are able to respond to this change will succeed rest will perish
Management’s expectations of marketing have increased. Why? — Very simple, 2 reasons for me, first marketing is more measurable that it has ever been before — DATA has been a game changer where you re not just able to measure but optimize and maximize your return, you can move your investment around where its working, things that you were never able todo before. SECOND — It is no longer the Mad Men days where it was all about “advertising”, now marketing is about brand building as well as driving category growth which is the 2nd reason, marketing is not just supporting or influencing ROI, it is driving ROI and impacting the bottom line. The traditional mindset that was product focused, build the product, put it on the shelf and launch a TV commercial and the consumers will buy is DEAD. Driving your consumer through that journey where she decides to make the purchase requires immersive experiences, storytelling and story building that will inspire consumer behavior, will inspire consumers to create their own stories on a canvas that the brands will provide. Today its no longer about sales and marketing or sales vs marketing, you cannot take brand building out of sales or revenue and growth out of marketing.
Marketing in the digital age is dependent on technology and data. What has made marketing dependent on technology and data? How big of a problem is this? — I would say it’s an opportunity, it’s a blessing because it has brought marketing to the table. Simplest way to think about it is that marketing is responding to consumer behavior. Today’s consumer is now just tech savvy but tech dependent, for marketing to be successful, it needs to absorb and master that technology that the consumer is using and engaging with and use the data that measures and predict past, present and future behaviors. Marketing and technology are no longer isolated, in fact I often say that technology is the interface of marketing, technology is the new experience. You could argue that a lot of this is credited to the way technology has evolved, it is no longer a commodity, technology is inspiring creativity, inspiring ideas and along with data, it’s allowing brands to add value to the consumer, give them what they need before they know they need it. Technology & data has made marketing more relevant, measurable and transparent.
Who is capable of leading the company’s customer-focused technology and data strategy, while maintaining focus on growing profitable revenue and building customer advocacy? — That’s debatable and very company specific but without naming what the role may be called, it’s a person sitting in the CMO’s organization for the most part. It is someone who is a marketer, a technologist, a data analyst, storyteller, should understand the nuances of P&L
How many choices do marketers have? — In terms of technology it’s massive and it’s growing and disrupting each day with all the innovation and acquisitions. Technology is clearly growing exponentially but the challenge is that organizations and brands cannot move at that speed, they are still moving algorithmically. In the world of marketing technology, it;s the marketing technology management which is a bigger challenge than the technologies themselves. How do you build a connected ecosystem and not end up stacking technologies one on top of each other. I have always maintained that the real power of technology & data is when it’s connected, wired into a machinery and not running in isolation within various channel focused silos. We at Kimberly Clark are starting to build a new paradigm for looking at the marketing technologies not by channel or the traditional categories but more from a consumer experience and business opportunity standpoint.
What options do marketers have (build applications, buy software, purchase a service)? It’s always going to be difficult to draw a line in the sand. However, our growing thinking has been to lean on and leverage all the innovation that is happening around us. Especially in the world marking or consumer experiences which is moving at an insane speed, by the time we end up building global solutions and platforms, the world would have changed a few times again with new capabilities, expectations, channels and devices. I often say that the need for speed supersedes the desire for perfection in this space, the key is to move with agility and speed, tap into the disruption and focus on your core strengths. Unelss you are a technology provider or a product shop.
How do companies rationalize new vs. existing technologies? — I was recently at an advisory board meeting for one of the top 10 technology companies. This was the hot topic, it’s a lot easer today to start from scratch. By the time you have figured out a technology, you have 5 more within the same category. It’s funny of you take a step back and look at whats happening, technology consolidation and diversification is happening all at the same time. The big 4s are trying to create a marketing operating system but at the same time there are new technologies & start ups emerging every single day. For brands, the only way to create some cadence around this chaos has to be through an agile mindset, strong focus on elastic de-coupled models and architectures that rely on APIs & data integration as opposed to tightly coupled and integrated systems.
Budget & complexity rise as functions other than marketing are involved. How much money are we talking about? — Very company specific but technology is a reasonable %age of the marketing spend. Still in single digits if you compare an overall advertising spend but in context to just digital, it has a reasonable chunk.
Why has marketing taken the lead in customer-focused technology strategy? — Because you cannot isolate technology from consumer experience, technology is the new customer experience. So if marketing is responsible for building brands which implicitly is doing through driving seamless immersive consumer experiences, it only makes sense for marketing to play a leading role in strategizing these nuances. Now whether the people sit inside marketing or in any other part of the organization is debatable, there is a lot behind that decision making but regardless, marketing is still accountable for data & technology at least from a vision, strategy and ROI standpoint
Where are the points of collaboration between marketing and internal IT? — It;’s across the board. As an organization if you are still drawing lines and boundaries, you have a challenge. I think marketing and IT are now working more closely than ever before at least in organizations that are thinking about this strategically, we for instance have been massively fortunate in having great leaders in our CMO & CIO both of who have established the platform on both the marketing and IT side to respond to the disruption. We have established our own unique model that leverages the strengths of our marketing technology group as well as IT specialists — it’s a combination of art & science in many ways, building world class experiences and legendary brands by building world class technology solutions. It’s not either or.
Why are speed and innovation essential? — Sometimes when you re running behind, you have to run as fast as the moving train if you want to catch it. Today’s consumer is that moving train and as brands we are all behind honestly. We need to move fast if we want to have a shot at getting on that train —it’s that simple. At times if that means I rather carry and travel with one bag and not the entire luggage, may be that’s what you do. Stay lean, light to get speed & agility and most importantly, get to where your consumer is otherwise you ll have all bags but no train to travel.
Appointing the equivalent of Chief Marketing Technologists (CMTs). What does a CMT do? — I am still trying to figure that one out. It could be anything from defining the vision, strategy and roadmap for the company from a marketing technology standpoint, which obviously also includes your data management and analytics strategy. The entire marketing technology landscape within an organization which for me is a 3X3 grid — enterprise and global capabilities, emerging tech & innovation — Content, Commerce & Data on the other axis. Defining that landscape, driving and optimizing tech investments and maximizing ROI