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.

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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?

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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”.

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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.

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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.

Business transformation; the increased expectations of the connected consumer

Many companies are facing significant challenges due to the rise of the connected consumer. As the needs and aspirations of the consumer have increased so has the need for organizations to respond to these increased demands and to transform themselves.

There are numerous articles and books on this topic and I have consolidated the leading thinking in this area into my top 10 list. This list reflects the key pillars that I believe are fundamental for how the marketing function can support business transformation in the age of the consumer.

Here are the first five. I will share the remaining five in a follow-up post.

1.) LEADERSHIP
Leadership is about defining the long-term direction of the company and providing a working environment that enables and empowers the organization to successfully achieve their goals. Key qualities include; a very clear definition of the long-term goals of the organization and the journey it will take to get there, consistency in how this is expressed and a very transparent and pragmatic approach to how company progress is shared both internally as well as externally.
Marketing considerations; employ a journalist who can help craft the story, position your vision as a journey and share progress through employee and client stories that bring it to life.

2.) SOCIAL PURPOSE
An organization’s social purpose is becoming increasingly influential and needs to be part of the overall brand promise. This is important both internally as well as externally and will become a growing part of a customer’s decision process in the future.
Marketing considerations; ensure brand / company values reflect a social purpose, develop a specific social program by which all employees can participate and implement initiatives that enable the social purpose to be embedded in day to day working,

3.) CULTURE
A brand promise is no longer enough to convince an audience of the values and merits of an organization’s product or service offering. Consumers are now relying very heavily on the experience of other users to determine the viability of a brand. A wealth of information is available as individuals share their experiences through social and e-commerce channels. Brand reputation is now the cornerstone for future commercial success and every organization needs to recognize that how it acts is now more important than what it says.
Marketing considerations: start with employees and build a culture that can successfully deliver the brand proposition by focusing on the 4 S’s of play to people strengths, keep it simple, give people space to express themselves and provide a support system.

4.) INSIGHT
Consumer understanding is imperative for an organization to be able to deliver an experience that meets the needs and expectations of each and every customer at every touch point. This is now the basis for securing customer satisfaction and for building long-term customer loyalty.
Marketing considerations: always start with data, establish a marketing sciences team, ensure that every decision is informed by insights and make reporting very easy to consume and act on at all levels in an organization.

5.) EXPERIENCE DESIGN
It is all about the customer and the experiences that they take away after every interaction or touch point with your company or brand. This is where the rubber hits the road. Think customer, think experience and then work backwards from there.
Marketing considerations; employ UX designers in marketing, map-out the customer journeys, put yourself in the shoes of the customer and experience what they experience and always focus on delivering the right outcome rather than on the activity or process that underpins it.

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These five pillars are focusing on the business transformation strategy, which are all about defining the destination. Next week we will focus on the actual journey.

The new connected society; what it means for brands?

I had the privilege this summer to take a weeks vacation in Bermuda, which is a glorious place. I wholeheartedly recommend it so if you ever have the opportunity to visit then you should not hesitate and go.

The reason for mentioning Bermuda is that when you are there you realize just how well connected everyone is. Everyone seems to know everyone else which is not so surprising when you consider that the country is 27 miles long and only 1 mile across at its widest part. But what is surprising is just how friendly and caring everyone is. My initial observation is that they live in this wonderful country so why wouldn’t they be?

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However having spent a few days there I started to realize that there is a sense of collective here. It is as though no one wants to let the other side down. It is more than peer pressure; there is an embedded and heartfelt belief in the value of contributing to a wider community and upholding values that are commonly shared. Everyone takes pride in contributing to a greater cause even when it requires the individual to go out of his or her own way.

There was a terrific post recently by Arianna Huffington related to this topic. It was titled “How to Immediately Improve Your Life (Hint: It Starts With Improving the Lives of Others)”. I will not try and distill this down, as everyone should read the entire article. However my take on this is that in a faster paced, complex, stressful and more unforgiving world people can cope better, be happier and healthier if you care and contribute to others.

Bermuda it seems is a great example of this and you feel that the physical boundaries of the country have created an environment where people are naturally better connected and this has resulted in a more caring society where compassionate empathy is normal.

So a key question is to ask if this is starting to happen in the virtual world? It is interesting to note that the fastest growing news site is Upworthy whose mantra is “Things that matter. Pass ‘em on.” Is this a sign?

One of the most obvious outcomes of our love affair with social media is that we are becoming more and more connected with the broader world about us and not just the community in which we live and work. Will this influence our brand choice? Certainly this is the viewpoint of Simon Mainwaring in his article “Purpose-Driven Social Brands Will Win Marketing 3.0″. Another good read is from Edelman.

So in summary today’s consumer is better educated, informed and connected than ever before and is now more conscious of the world around them. This enlightenment is starting to influence consumer priorities and decisions. Are consumers really that selfish that only their needs and expectations matter? I don’t think so, and increasing connectivity may well change this forever.

Image a Starbucks where you can see a live feed from the coffee growers or in a Burberry store you can hear about some of the community initiatives taking place to support the factory workers. Would we pay more, wait longer or take a less packaged product if we knew that our actions would make a positive difference to the people we impact.

It is an interesting world we live in and I believe global connectivity will influence consumers to support companies that “make a difference” rather than just satisfy their needs. It is already not just about the customer. So how should we respond as CMOs:

  • Understand the impact your company has on the environment and society in general.
  • Identify and establish a social purpose for the company.
  • Embed this social purpose into the brand values that you wish the company to portray and live by.
  • Identify how you can develop a culture that reflects and supports this social purpose.
  • Help employees bring the social purpose to life and to be able to demonstrate the commitment and passion of the organization through acts not just words.
  • Be transparent and honest in everything you do.

The future of brand marketing is almost upon us.

Why Jiminy Cricket is important for companies

I have always liked the character Jiminy Cricket, who is the fictional character that served as Pinocchio’s official conscience. I think we all sometimes desire a soundboard, a personal helper who can guide us in making the right decisions both personally and at work.

For two very valuable reasons, I don’t think there has been a more important time for organizations to develop a conscience and to consider the decisions they make.

1.)  Short-termism; in many cases organizations make decisions for short-term gains without considering the long-term consequences. This is especially prevalent in the way that organizations manage their relationships with their clients. Too often decisions are made which hold the best interests of the company above that of the client. This may provide short-term revenue benefit but it erodes trust and reduces the longer-term opportunity that is available.

2.)  Social purpose; corporate transparency is now changing the way that consumers think about companies. Consumers are now taking an interest in the social responsibility of the organization from which they are buying. Companies that put shareholder return above the needs of society as a whole are slowly being discarded by consumers who are putting community needs above their own individual needs.

As a marketer I believe that we have a fundamental role to act as the Jiminy Cricket of the organization. We need to help the organization make decisions that best serve the interests of its clients / customers as well as society as a whole rather than putting the emphasis on short-term revenue gains. We need to help companies see the longer-term vision and the road ahead.

There was a great article by Matthew Bishop on this topic that is well worth the read.

Following on from Mathew’s viewpoint, I like to think that the essence of the brand promise has gone from a product promise to an consumer promise and is now leading to a social promise. In my mind, successful brands of the future will be those that convey and live by a set of social ideals that resonate with the savvy, conscientious and informed consumers of today.

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As Marc Benioff of Salesforce said at a recent event, the one thing that he is most proud of is the creation of the 1/1/1 salesforce.com Foundation. One day not only can he be proud of this as a great social contribution but it will also be a major factor in the continuing success of the company.