Marketing at a turning point, but which way?

It has most definitely been a week of two halves. It started with a low but most certainly it has ended on a high, full of optimism and hope for the future of both marketing as well as society.

So how did the week start? Well I came across an advertisement for a Chief Marketing Officer. I have attached a screenshot below (pardon the typos but not my doing). They are obviously not looking for accuracy and a strong communicator. Please however take note of the last sentence.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 09.06.43

So we have now reached the point where senior executives and recruiters are reducing the role of marketing to numbers. It is a simple science, the more people we get our message in front of, the more people we will convert. It seems acceptable to engage with 1000 people and only have 2 convert at best. Yes, with the use of analytics and programmatic marketing you will increase response rates but how do you use this science to create emotional connections and generate loyalty? This requires the so called MAGIC and the reality is that it requires both art and science in equal measure to build strong, sustainable businesses. So it looks like I will be receiving more annoying emails, irritating banner ads and general junk for the foreseeable future. Mental opt-out is most definitely in play.

I then came across an interesting article from David Edelman, who is a McKinsey partner leading the Digital Marketing Practice and someone for whom I have a great deal of admiration. He recently wrote an article titled “Marketing’s New Math: 3C’s and 5 Blindspots”. He starts this article by saying:

“I sometimes wonder what people who look back at the 2010’s will say about this time. Though there’s a lot to comment on about the world in general, when it comes to the business world I think people will realize that this is the time when profound change happened – changes in how companies operated, changes in how they “sold” to customers, changes in what business meant.”

I worry that we have become caught up in the age of digital communication and see this as being profound to mankind. Thankfully some in the marketing community recognise the bigger picture such as Bryan Kramer with his book Human2Human.

This brings me to the highlight of the week. Sustainia, which is an innovation (media) platform that enables all forms of stakeholders to share information and provide support to create a more sustainable world, announced their 100 winners for 2014. This is an inspirational list and provides real hope for the planet. I saw that both Pharrell Williams and Melinda Gates both tweeted but where were the brands?


On closer inspection, I eventually found that Virgin was sponsoring one of the initiatives, school boats in Bangladesh, but where oh where is the marketing behind this? So how many people would know this?

Surely this is an opportunity for the best marketers and brands on the planet to step up and show what the power of great marketing can achieve? Innovative, socially responsible companies need to take the lead and build caring brands that create great businesses but also make the world a better place. It sounds like a true win:win to me with the added upside that senior executives may no longer think of marketers as only data scientists.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and do feel free to download my free book; “Marketing Undressed”.


Choosing the White Tuxedo

Have you ever been to a black tie event wearing a white tuxedo or an outfit that was different from everyone else? You end up with that uncomfortable feeling. You made the decision to wear the outfit as you wanted to express yourself, mix it up, change the status quo. On the other hand you have become ever more visible. This is very much the life of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

It reminds me of Steve Jobs and the TV campaign he inspired by Think Different. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Changing how people think is one of the hardest things to do, to enable people to see the world from a different viewpoint but that is in essence the new charter for any executive, especially in marketing.


I am constantly surprised by job advertisements that are seeking a CMO who is a digital disrupter. Digital disruption is fundamentally changing the commercial model of the company. There is a clear difference between delivering fundamental changes and making brands more relevant. Making fundamental changes means we have to go back to the basics in creating human relationships and realizing this part is not just about a brand promise but rather it is about building a business. So many times, I see that management (rather than leadership) never really gets to know their people, truly get to know their team. It’s this fundamental that helps you identify what each individual is passionate about and what they are really good at and then aligning this to the needs of both the business and the customer.

We’re living in the dawn of technology and a social marketing revolution that has been forcing organizations to be ever more transparent, focused and relevant. The only way we can keep up is by putting the customer at the top of our organisation chart. When the customer is at the heart of what we are doing we can begin to see the challenges we need to meet and what outcomes we are seeking. This means that to be successful executives need to provide clear guidance on where the organisation is going but more importantly support and empower their teams, especially those that are on the front-line and engaging with customers every day.

Creating fundamental change doesn’t start with planning your team structure. Does your organization structure have dotted lines, direct lines and every other type of line? When you have dotted lines and dashed lines in a certain sequence in Morse Code, it means SOS (Save our Souls). The big challenge is that you don’t need dotted lines if you align the organization around the same customer goals. Get your planning right and the organizational structure will take care of itself.

Is your marketing plan defined by a budget in a spreadsheet?
If the first question being asked is what investment budget do you need next year, you have lost already. A plan should start with desired outcomes and then identify what resources are required to deliver on them. This then becomes a prioritization exercise based on customer needs and not a financial numbers game.

Do you take every network meeting or call?
I have an open door to everyone. You never know where the next great idea will come from. In addition, the world is changing so fast that to keep pace you have to remain connected. And always remember that someone who is willing to start a company and put everything on the line sincerely believes they have seen something that no one else has. Don’t you want to know what that is?

Does everyone complain that you have too many initiatives at the same time?
Changing people’s perceptions and priorities has to happen if you want the business to change. This means executives need to be the catalysts for change by constantly changing the status quo with initiatives that build motivation, passion and innovation. Try and test new things; some may not work perfectly but if they have contributed to how people think, what they know and what skills they have acquired, then there is still enormous benefit to be accrued.

KEY TAKEAWAY: When deciding which tuxedo or outfit to wear to the party, ask yourself whether you are prepared to stand out and be different. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Business transformation; the increased expectations of the connected consumer (Part 2)

Following on from my initial post, here are my five remaining pillars as to how the marketing function can support business transformation in the age of the consumer.

Agility is important as it enables an organization to respond more rapidly to changing market conditions. Creating an agile environment helps support creativity and innovation and can reduce the constraints imposed by the usual planning and execution boundaries. The foundation to be able to adopt an agile approach is to ensure that you set clear objectives and always focus these on defined market outcomes. This empowers execution to take its own path.
Marketing considerations; adopt a flexible organization structure, introduce project teams, take every network meeting you can to learn what is new in the market, deploy a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach and test, test and test.

It is simple and that is that your customers expect an organization to be connected. Their expectation is that however they engage or are engaged, the organization should act as one and to be able to recognize the full relationship that they have with the company.
Marketing considerations; provide a consistent customer view to all functions, establish a single preference center, introduce customer governance with rules on engagement & frequency of interaction and set outside-in customer metrics.

Customer engagement is becoming more complex every day as more data sources become available and there are more ways and channels by which a customer can engage an organization. Technology is crucial to help connect customer insights with engagement, improve response times, enable efficiency and provide organizations with wisdom for improved decision making.
Marketing considerations; always start with process and once defined then look at technology enablement, deploy a test, learn, adapt approach, fully commit don’t half bake and involve everyone who is a stakeholder throughout entire process.

Marketing has always been local. People have connections and ties to the local community, to their home town, to where they live which influence their beliefs, needs and areas of interest. Location is key to understanding context and understanding context is what helps marketing ensure offerings are relevant.
Marketing considerations; segment by geography, adopt a geo-cluster approach that combines demographic data with geographic data, assess impact of environmental conditions such as seasons & weather and ignite word of mouth marketing in key geographic / community / tribal clusters.

In today’s modern era successful companies are those that take a Market-In approach and focus on the customer first and foremost. The real trick is therefore to always ask yourself the following before making any investment or running any activity; will they care, is it important to them and do they benefit?
Marketing considerations; consider introducing a Customer Officer, develop a customer advocacy program where there is a mutual exchange of benefit, establish a communities portal and only engage with customers when there is value for them.

success concept

What are your TOP TEN and do you have any examples as to why they are important?

Can marketing do more to help society?

I was very fortunate to be invited by Pete Krainik (@cmoclub), who is the founder and CEO of The CMO Club, to a recent charity event in New York to support K9forwarriers (@k9sforwarriors). I was not expected to be so emotionally affected as I was, especially at 9am on a Monday morning, but when you see what this charity does, there is only one possible reaction and that is to be blown away. I will leave it to you to go to their website to better understand what they do, as you really need to hear this from the people who have been helped, in fact saved, by man’s best friend. I can’t even start to do this justice in writing.


So what does this have to do with marketing?
Well how many of you have heard of this cause? Not many I imagine and this is because they don’t do marketing, they spend 96% of their proceeds on helping the people that matter. So here I am writing a blog and now hopefully (well if anyone reads this) we now have more people that are aware of this wonderful charity. This makes me think, is there more that we as marketers can do to help these worthwhile causes? We have the networks and we know how to engage consumers so why wouldn’t we dedicate some of our time to worthwhile causes.

I am a great admirer of Marc Benioff (@Benioff) and the Salesforce foundation 1/1/1 (@SFDCFoundation) that he created. He is now in the process of asking other companies to make the same pledge and he describes it as ”The 1/1/1 Pledge is an effort to invite technology entrepreneurs and their companies to commit resources (time, equity, product) and integrate philanthropy into their business”. The 1/1/1 refers to 1% of employee time, 1% of equity and 1% of product to be made available to help worthwhile causes.

So how can marketers help? Pete Krainik gave a very emotional address at the event and taking inspiration from his words I think we as marketers can help in the following ways:

Donate time
Time is precious, we are all so incredibly busy with our hectic lives but perhaps we need to take a short breather every now and then and look at the bigger picture. Surely we can find 15 minutes or more to help create a better world.

Activate networks
Many marketers have extensive networks with tens of thousands of followers on Twitter etc. Can we activate our networks to help these organizations raise their profile and perhaps lay the foundation for them to receive more assistance from companies, brands and consumers? We could even help embed a social purpose back into our own organizations and build stronger more valuable brands. A win-win for everyone.

Change perspectives
We are creative people at heart and who better to help the wider world gain a better perspective on things that really matter, than us. We can help create messaging and content that enables these worthwhile causes to better convey the incredible impact they are having on people who need help the most.

I am writing this from a patio overlooking Long Island Sound and realizing just how lucky I am. Thanks again to Pete for the invite and for the chance to reflect on what is truly important.

Left Brain Right Brain, Art & Science; what does this all mean?

There is a lot of commentary at the moment about the role of the left side of the brain and the right side of the brain. Here’s a great example from our friends at Marketo. In psychology the theory of left-brain or right-brain dominance is based on the premise that each side of the brain controls different types of thinking.

The left-side of the brain is considered to be your verbal and logical brain and is often described as being better at language, logic, critical thinking, numbers and reasoning. It’s the analytical, objective side.

Whereas the right-side of the brain is considered to be your non-verbal and intuitive brain and best at expressive and creative tasks such as the ability to recognize faces, convey emotion, reading, color, intuition and creativity. It’s the subjective and holistic side.

So which way do you think? Please try this test; left-brain right-brain test 

I always see the image turning anti-clockwise initially and then it changes to a clockwise rotation. Bizarre. Perhaps I may have found the answer to Scott’s question of what does it take to be a marketing technologist; you need to be able to see life in both ways and have the ability to combine both creativity and logic.

This brings me to a great story and one that always amuses me. The correlation to the theme of this blog, the ability to combine creativity with logic, is frankly pretty weak but the story is fun none the less. I also have to own up that I borrowed it from The Art of Living Blog, so thanks to the folks there for letting me repost it

One day during a speaking tour, Albert Einstein’s driver, who often sat at the back of the hall during his lectures, remarked that he could probably give the lecture himself, having heard it so many times. Sure enough, at the next stop on the tour, Einstein and the driver switched places, with Einstein sitting at the back in his driver’s uniform.

Having delivered a flawless lecture, the driver was asked a difficult question by a member of the audience. “Well, the answer to that question is quite simple,” he casually replied. “I bet my driver, sitting up at the back there, could answer it!”

So finally getting to the point what does all this mean for a CMO?

  • Recognize that your team members will have different skill sets, some more creative, others more logical.
  • Organize your teams to reflect creative excellence as well as analytical excellence.
  • Always ensure that you balance the creative and the logical. Great marketing requires both.
  • Finally don’t take life too seriously and have fun. A happy motivated team will deliver more outstanding work.

So in signing off and borrowing from the old joke of how to tell a pessimist from an optimist.

So what’s the difference between a left-brain dominant (logical) and a right-brain dominant (creative) individual. Well a right-brain dominant individual will say that the glass is half full whereas the left-brain dominant individual will say that the glass is twice the size it should be.

Till next time.

The role of art and science in customer satisfaction and loyalty

There is significant talk nowadays of marketing being first and foremost a science and that the CMOs of the future will be data scientists.  In fact some editorials and opinions go so far as to say that unless you have a background in data and analytics you will not have a future in marketing.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) defines marketing as: “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”, but does this really catch it all? Yes, it is extremely important to create satisfied customers but does this in itself evoke brand loyalty?

Take the example of an individual coming to the end of their mobile contract. They may well have been satisfied with the product and service but perhaps they are looking for a change, to try something new. On the other hand there might be an individual who is also coming to the end of their mobile contract and has suffered some issues but remains fiercely loyal due to the emotional connection they have established with the brand. Satisfaction does not necessarily infer loyalty.

I see customer satisfaction as the outcome of applying the science of marketing. It is the ability to understand the customer, to recognize their needs and wants and to provide them with the right offer or response depending how the interaction took place. This is almost becoming a given, an expectation of every consumer interaction. However, customer loyalty is dependent on the art of marketing, creating an experience that forms an emotional connection, where empathy is established by reflecting the values, thoughts and aspirations of the individual. This takes creativity and innovation.

Jonathan Mildenhall, the creative genius at Coca-Cola best sums it up when he says, “Creativity is behind every leap in science and marketing”.


Finally, here is a link to a performance on Britain’s Got Talent. It is clever, great science at work but how do you feel when you watch it?  Does it light up your life, pull your heart strings and create a lasting memory? For me, this is creative genius, it is art at its very best and why great marketing will always require both art and science in equal measure.




If brands are reflections of people then who are the characters?

In Brain Solis’s new book, What’s the Future, he quotes “We live in a time where brands are people and people are brands.” So, if this is the case then which people do you believe would best exemplify the successful characteristics of a brand?

Here are my choices:

Nelson Mandela. He has many great qualities but the one that stands out for me is his unwavering commitment to a single cause. A vision that was so compelling and so important that nothing would distract him. Brands also need to take the long road and to have a purpose greater than just commercial achievement.

Andy Ripley. This is very much a personal choice as very few people reading this blog will know him but there was no one more authentic than Andy. An English rugby player, a character larger than life who wore his heart on his sleeve, always approached everything with passion and gave it his all. Brands need to follow in the footsteps of this colorful character and be honest and authentic at all times.

Steven Spielberg. If every brand were a reflection of people stories then Steven would have to be on this list as one of the greatest storytellers of all time. He has that uncanny knack of being able to help an audience experience the feelings, thoughts and attitudes of other people and to build emotional bonds and connections. He has that remarkable ability to create empathy.

Diana, Princess of Wales. A brand needs to be able to engage and there is no one who could do this like the Princess of Wales could. Everyone was important, nothing was too much trouble and everyone who met her went away with a smile on their face and a spring in their step. Every engagement lifted the soul.

Susan Boyle. Every brand needs that wow factor, that ability to do the unexpected. Brands are all about the experience, not what you say or what the potential promise is, they are all about the delivery. I have a dream, we should all dream shouldn’t we? Has anyone ever done this better?

Robert Downey Jr. Well, there is only one word: swagger. Everyone wants it, that confidence, that joy for life and the ability to never take anything too seriously. Successful brands are always those that find the “cool” factor.

People talking

This is my list; who would you choose?