I recently gave a keynote at this year’s DMNews Marketing Technology and Innovation Summit in NY around what it meant to build global marketing technology and digital capabilities in a Fortune 100 and the notion of marketing technology disruption itself. As a prelude to the event, I had a great discussion with the lead editor at DMNews – Alan Urbanski, here is a short extract from that conversation:
Alan: Mayur, there’s lots of musing about the birth of the “marketing technologist.” Is that realistic given legacy administrative and educational systems?
Mayur: Well, the musing is REAL but whether the desired outcome is realistic, only time will tell because there are a few fundamental challenges that exist. Firstly, the marketing technologists role itself has evolved in the last 5 years itself. The name could be misleading as it limits the thinking to a convergence of marketing and technology but I strongly believe that this reflects the need for a modern marketer, who is a technologist, an analyst, a creative, a storyteller and also understands nuances of P&Ls. Now, that is realistic but challenging because our academia is still very T shaped, the machinery only focuses on isolated verticals while the consumer and the industry is in need for these UNICORNS, the PI Shaped or Multi-PI Shaped professionals; going deep in many verticals.
THE PRESENT SITUATION: In a way, It’s the same old situation. We want to be consumer obsessed, but we’re still channel obsessed.
Alan: Mayur, does the advent of digital technology and communications make it easier or more difficult for marketers to meld with consumer wants and needs?
Mayur: See, technology has always been a 2 edged sword, on one hand it has put the consumer in full control, given her a lot of options and choices that she can exercise at a time, place and touchpoint of her choice. This on the other hand has raised the bar for the brands and marketers to market in a digital world and engage a fully digital consumer which is an opportunity but a huge challenge at the same time. The same technology also provides means to drive that consumer engagement but technology is overwhelming, it comes with shiny disco balls which ultimately overshadows the consumer perspective. So yes the advent of technology does make it easier theoretically, the ground reality is very different because we always put the cart in front of the horse, we are focused on channels and building new technology capabilities instead of changing consumer behavior that prevent us from moving forward. We are channel and capability obsessed as an industry, and consumer obsessed only in decks not in execution.
For instance, how many of us here have invested millions in building marketing automation platforms, mobile experiences, social capabilities because we should, because we would like to drive personalized and more relevant experiences as opposed to really solving brand challenges related to perhaps trust, penetration, loyalty, perception, advocacy?
This technology evolution is a curse and a blessing at the same time
You can watch the video of the post event interview here:
Alan: You deal with several brand directors, who are in charge of huge businesses and that are active in several channels. The competition’s fierce, the margins are in some cases slim, and the stakes are high. When it comes to taking maximum advantage of what technology has to offer them, where do they need to concentrate their efforts. Where are they lacking?
Mayur: No single answer, at Kimberly Clark, we build brands that provide essentials for a better life across the spectrum and consumer segments, from baby and child care to adult care and fem care and so on. The lesson that we have learned is to steer our technology approach through the lens of the consumer and the brand challenges, identifying key consumer behavior that need to be changed and evolved. In some cases this requires innovative data solutions that gives us an ultimate view of the consumer across channels and touchpoints to some brands where the key is delivering the right content to the right mom at the right time & touchpoint, with a goal to maximize her life time value, both from a category as well as from an enterprise perspective. At times we will bring technologies to build new business models and channels especially within eCommerce, while that is exciting for Fem Care and Child Care, may not be that conducive for Adult Care, at least not in exactly the same way.
Alan: Internal Politics and challenges in a global organization, expanding on the thinking around the silos?
Mayur: Yes, that’s massive but the key is to drive INFLUENCE. Transform Technology in plain English and use the art of StoryTelling, ultimately tying technology back into business challenges and consumer behaviors that need to be changed. I have always kept this quote from Albert Einstein very close to our efforts:
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know if well enough” – Albert Einstein
Alan: Are they aware of technology’s potential? Do they have a handle on what’s available?
Mayur: Awareness is super critical especially at the top most level, with the Presidents and Brand Leadership teams as well but does not stop here. Ongoing evolution and process is equally important as you start to scale globally. Invest in raising the Digital IQ of the organization, starts with top leadership. Awareness will inspire influence and will ultimately get to alignment and decisions. No short cuts here.
Alan: WORKING WITH YOU? (Is there a right and a wrong way to approach someone in your position for help?)
Mayur: There are many things but ultimate it all boils down to CONSUMER OBSESSION. Understanding behaviors and finding ways you can change them, delivering seamless experiences for the consumer which ultimately drives change and adoption, addressing consumer’s emotional and functional needs and desires. Everything should be in the service of that single motive. If that happens, you ll end up building Legendary Brands as well as drive Category Growth.