In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Drew Neisser’s complete interview with CMO Award Winner Mayur Gupta, click here.
Programmatic is about as nerdy as it gets in the world of marketing. It’s the kind of thing you think you “get” after a cursory explanation, but only after some first-hand experience could you really grasp it. Whether you’re a programmatic know-it-all or novice, let me introduce you to Mayur Gupta, who, up until recently, was the Global Head of Marketing Technology & Innovation at consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark and helped drive the brands’ success through, you guessed it, technology and innovation.
Gupta and I had the chance to chat following last year’s CMO Awards, where he won a Programmatic Award, and I’ll share a few of the gems from that conversation below. In truth, Gupta sounds more like the master architect of the world’s most futuristic city than a mere marketing mastermind, but in today’s world, maybe they’re not so different. Here are a few ways that Gupta was helping Kimberly-Clark to construct the next marketing mecca, programmatic being just one among many tools at his disposal.
Thinking Above the Channel
Among the brands in the Kimberly-Clark dominion are paper giants Kleenex, Scott and Huggies. When building a brand, says Gupta, too often marketers look at digital marketing as just one “silo” of the experience. In reality, it’s marketing that needs to be integrated into the framework of a digital world, wise words once spoken by Kimberly-Clark’s own CMO Clive Sirkin.
“It’s quite simple if you think about it,” Gupta says. “We’re engaging a consumer who is living in a massively digital world, she’s dependent on digital technology, which is now part of her daily life. She no longer differentiates between the analog and the digital world in her expectations from brands and how they engage. She expects the same value and experience seamlessly across the board.” Through our conversation, it’s clear that this ‘seamless-ness’ is a recurring theme, and it’s this thinking that drove Gupta and his colleagues to seek convergence across the moving parts of each brand. “It’s a shift from being ‘multi-channel’ (channel-focused) to truly becoming ‘omni-channel’ (consumer focused),” he says.
Innovating, Innovating, Innovating
So how exactly does one get past a channel fixation to create a more seamless brand experience for the consumer? At Kimberly-Clark, it’s a combination of several factors – eight, actually. Gupta’s former company promotes eight principles of innovation in the corporate system that help foster creative solutions, and Gupta shared several of them with me.
First: being consumer-obsessed. “For marketing and innovation to be successful, it needs to be consumer-driven and consumer-obsessed, solving consumer needs and desires,” Gupta says. “And when you do that, you organically break the channel silos and drive seamless…consumer experiences.” Second, by not “killing the butterfly”. In Gupta’s words: “Innovation is about letting the ideas fly, which can be challenging in a corporate world that’s increasingly driven by ROI from day one.” And the principle he says is most important: identifying diverse problems, but moreover finding what unites them. “I strongly believe that creativity and innovation is all about connecting the dots,” he says. “Most times, it’s all out there; all it needs is wiring.”
Building, Not Telling
You can see these principles at work in the way Kimberly-Clark’s brands speak to consumers. It’s a gut reflex in advertising, of course, to want your brands to “sell, sell, sell,” but smart marketing requires a gentler approach and some insight into the human psyche. Most of us by now have figured out that storytelling makes for compelling content, but Gupta says that Kimberly-Clark’s brands realized that it’s more effective to also let the consumers participate in the narrative. ‘Storybuilding’, he calls it. “As brands, we share stories that are connected to our brand promise; these stories inspire consumer behavior and participation, where eventually our consumers end up creating their own stories on a canvas and foundation that we provide.”
To bring this conversation full circle, let’s loop back to programmatic. Kimberly-Clark was among the first out of the gates with this kind of marketing, and Gupta says it’s been of immeasurable value to the company. “It’s helped us become smarter as well as more relevant and personalized from a media buying and consumer engagement standpoint across paid channels,” he says. The next step? Applying this edge to the rest of Kimberly-Clark’s “ecosystem”, its owned and earned channels and with retailer partnerships, “driving stronger consumer engagement and inspiring behavior across the board.” The challenge then, he says, will be to take this success and apply it on a global level.
Looking ahead, Gupta hoped to continue working on his favorite initiative: data convergence – weaving the diverse parts of Kimberly-Clark’s data ecosystem across 1st, 2nd and 3rd party data as the consumer travels the digital landscape, so to speak. “In order for us to drive relevant, personalized and frictionless consumer experiences across channels and touch points, we need this universal data set… and the ability to make decisions and predictions relevant to our consumer as she hops from one touch point to the other,” Gupta says. “This is more critical for us than ‘big data’ – in fact, we put ‘big test’ and ‘big learning’ far ahead of big data.”
Leading by Innovating
While innovation in consumer-facing marketing is no small feat, at the time of our interview, Gupta felt that helping Kimberly-Clark become a technology leader within its industry was his best achievement to date. “Personally, I’m most proud of innovating how we drive and orchestrate the complex data and technology ecosystem across marketing,” he says. “We’ve established a global marketing technology organization within marketing, reporting into our CMO, while working very closely with our CIO and her organization.”
Marketing and IT, working hand-in-hand—welcome to the future.