Marketing Week (MW): Our manifesto focuses on the accountability of marketing and its strategic function. Does the philosophy translate into reality today?
Jeremy Bevan (JB): The word ‘accountability’ is very important. Marketing is accountable for a lot of what Cisco is doing. We take on revenue goals. It’s less about the marketing function telling the board to take more notice of what it’s doing and more about simply showing it. There are always decisions to be made about budgets and we want to show what we’re doing about it.
Barnaby Dawe (BD): It depends on the individual company but the marketing function sits as an engine in the organisation. It’s becoming more of a central ‘plank’ in strategy. Chief executives are much more fluent in marketing parlance and understand its value. It’s becoming easier to have conversations.
Philippa Snare (PS): The heritage of a company has a massive part to play in how marketing is held accountable. In some cases, the board knows what to expect but in others it’s looking to be educated. If you have a commercial outcome that you are trying to achieve, you need to get creative thinkers to figure out how to arrive there. Marketing is about creative problem solving.
Nina Bibby (NB): I don’t think it’s always been the case but over time the board has learned what to expect and what marketing can deliver. It is up to the marketer to understand how the cause and effect of marketing feeds back into the business. Digital is providing increased rigour.
Pete Markey (PM): I’ve always been of the view that marketers have got to be accountable, and especially now. Above all, we must be accountable to the customer and how we spend money.
PS: Chief marketing officers are starting to realise that they can be another sales arm. There is an exciting shift in the role from being seen as a cost centre to a profit centre. Marketing needs to be seen as the group that makes money, not just spends it.
MW: Customer-centricity is identified as a core element of the manifesto. In your opinion is this being addressed sufficiently by CMOs?
PM: For some businesses, such as John Lewis, customer centricity has always been part of its DNA. Financial services is a good example where that hasn’t been the case. Banks were geared around profits and branches around units sold. We can now see that this was a short-term gain strategy. There is now one hell of a pendulum swing and culturally it’s a difficult change. If a business is going to make the change to customer-centricity, it has to come from the top. The CEO has to be centre stage. That said, the CMO and the marketing function is best placed to understand the customer.
BD: Some boards are more consumer-focused than others but most now realise the connection between consumer-centric strategies and long-term profitability.
JB: You have to think outside in. It is tempting when you have new products just to focus on how to get them out, and that doesn’t help. Customer-centricity is separate from what you are selling. If you focus on the buyer’s journey, you can identify their pain points and it helps you to be much more specific in determining what you have to offer.
MW: How are you ensuring that digital becomes an integrated part of your strategy?
BD: We have digital marketers embedded in every division and we have a ‘digital first’ strategy as our customers move online to read books. Digital allows brands to use content to explore new relationships that stretch far beyond the products they market.
NB: Digital has been a separate function but I don’t think it has stood as a silo. There is no distinction between digital and other marketing functions in a new business designed from scratch, so in existing structures you may have to flip how it’s organised. Integration is entirely possible but it’s a journey.
PM: Customers don’t think of how you do business as silos such as digital or direct marketing – they think of you as a business. Digital is just part of that service. Digital has been like the early days of direct marketing. When you start on the journey you want to keep it separate so you can nurture it through testing and learning, but after a time it needs to collapse in to become part of the marketing whole. You can still have specialists because there is no point in trying to pretend that one person can do social, search, email and direct mail, for example.
MW: The manifesto states that “To be a modern marketer, you must be excited by data?” What does this statement mean to you?
NB: I’m excited by the opportunity that data presents. It is fascinating. A marketer should understand the customer’s needs and that is what is exciting. It also allows us to measure what we deliver. We’re always in hype cycles of one type or another. The hype around data will calm down but the potential in data is energising.
PS: If data is thought about in the wrong way, it can bring up the wrong emotions. I’m excited by the potential that comes from managing data in the right way. Doing that, we can give customers exceptional service that makes them go ‘wow’ – a hotel that remembers me and bases its service on it, that’s the insight. That’s what excites me. That said, I get very frustrated if we can’t get the systems connected to make them work.
JB: Data is vital. It predicts future behaviour. You need to have an analytical mindset. But there is so much data it’s down to what you do with it.
PM: I wonder if this is CRM [customer relationship management] rebadged. I look at my role as part politician, part artist and part scientist. Underneath it all is the need to understand the customer. We can build massive customer databases but is that just technology looking for a home? If we want to build deeper relationships with the customer it has to be through strategy – you have to know what question you are trying to answer with data.
BD: The more you understand your consumer, the easier it is to give them what they want. It’s about how you use that data. Unless you make it meaningful it won’t deliver what you need. Marketers don’t need to be statisticians but they do need to understand the data, interpret it and know how it can help deliver on all forms of communication.
NB: Of course you need to have clarity of brand purpose underneath but it’s about anticipating what the customer wants. You have to be able to connect with them and data helps you understand what customers need.
MW: As CMO, is it your responsibility to drive integration between all departments of the business?
BD: You can use the customer as a tool to help integration. The customer is a common aim that all divisions share. But ultimately you need the buy-in of fellow board members and the CEO to effect change.
PS: In the same way that the CEO should set the tone, values and direction of the organisation, the CMO should be the one setting the strategic initiatives and the way the organisation talks to customers. It’s part of the role to be the galvanising force.
JB: It feels like there is a lot of change going on at the moment and it’s part of my role to be that change agent. For Cisco it’s a case of rethinking how we plan teams. In some cases, we lock all of our teams together in a virtual office – and in some cases a real one – to work on targeted, integrated programmes. Planning all together is not easy; it can be daunting and slow, but if everyone adopts the method, then there is a unified strategy that the teams can refragment and execute.
MW: What does authenticity mean to the modern marketer?
JB: For me it boils down to what we are here to do. For the past 20 years we have had the mantra to change the way people work, live and learn. It’s our rudder and every customer interaction we have has to be true to that philosophy.
PM: Consumers are discerning and you can’t say you’re innovating for customers if you’re not authentic. To understand why we are here, brand authenticity is critical. But it’s also about accountability. There is a whole generation of recruits coming up who want to know what the organisation stands for and what it gives back.
BD: Quite simply, practice what you preach. If you screw up, ‘fess up!
MW: Does our Modern Marketing Manifesto reflect the needs and strategic direction of today’s marketers?
BD: Things changes so rapidly, it’s difficult to say if the manifesto covers everything but it’s certainly a good effort. Each job and each brand is different – the beauty of marketing is that it’s so difficult to pin down. You’ve got to use a bit of gut feeling as well, otherwise the world would be a very grey place.
PM: It’s an ongoing balancing act. You have to look at the stakeholders: shareholders, customers and employees. A business wouldn’t last long if you said “to hell with profit”, but now we need to find a way that delivers shareholders profit while still delighting the customer. Making money isn’t evil.
JB: The manifesto needs to push the focus on accountability. Clarity on what marketers are accountable for resonates well with me.
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The modern marketing manifesto
Marketers should sit at the board table and help set strategy. If you do not believe that your understanding of markets, products, customers and positioning plays a vital role in shaping strategy, then you are not a modern marketer.
Modern marketers have to be commercial. This means knowing the profit and loss statements backwards. It means knowing where money is being made and why. It means knowing how to measure and optimise key commercial metrics.
Improving the customer experience must be the relentless focus of modern marketing. Customer experience is about customer-centricity as shown by the service or product that we provide across all channels.
The mobile revolution is just beginning. Modern marketers think about the whole customer experience and the multiple screens and touchpoints that control it and mediate it.
Brands no longer control the message, consumers do. This loss of control means businesses must communicate authentically and this requires a clear sense of self to which they can be true. In a digital age, modern marketers need a strong brand most of all.
Data must be turned into insight and action to be a source of customer, competitive and marketing advantage. Data is the bedrock upon which successful research, segmentation, marketing automation, targeting and personalisation are built.
In the quest to deliver outstanding brand experiences across channels, we believe personalisation offers the greatest opportunity to transform what customers get.
Technology is not a solution in itself, it is an enabler. But modern marketers must be comfortable and adept at procuring and using technology to their best advantage.
We need creativity just as much as we need technology. We need storytelling just as much as we need data. We believe in the power of emotions and the irrational just as much as the rational.
We believe that content marketing and the focus on owned and earned media represents a major shift in marketing that is more than a fad. Content is more than just words, pictures or video.
Social media is about changing our business culture; the way we work and engage with our colleagues and customers. It is about creating businesses that have social in their DNA.
What does it mean to be a modern marketer? How do we behave and what defines us as professionals? We believe there are several key characteristics, among them being ethical, accountable, passionate and collaborative.
The next generation
Listening to customers
In responding to the Modern Marketing Manifesto, the CMOs we questioned all acknowledged that they were responsible for keeping their business abreast of constantly changing customer attitudes. They noted that central to their success was the ability to remain agile, to take on new philosophies and integrate new skill sets into the marketing department.
“The best marketers will always be the ones that understand the commercial imperative of the business but they also have to go back to basics to understand the customer need,” explains Barclaycard CMO Nina Bibby, who will shortly leave for O2. “The people who are coming into marketing now have an innate understanding of digital and social but instead of looking at the specialisms it’s about customers.”
Pete Markey, CMO of RSA Group, adds: “We need to develop marketers’ skills in a different way than we have done in the past. Capabilities have been discipline-specific but the onus now is on how to develop people and have different conversations.”
But how do those just beginning their career in marketing feel about the Modern Marketing Manifesto? Arron Child, marketing manager for Microsoft Internet Explorer and scholar at The Marketing Academy suggests: “The principles of marketing today have not changed from yesteryear; rather, the way we deliver marketing has evolved due to technological advancements.
“I believe the only way for an individual to adopt the Modern Marketing Manifesto approach is to have a curious mind about trends and marketing techniques and then to apply them to their marketing with a ‘fail forward’ approach [where even unsuccessful experiments are regarded as progress].”
Amy Holland, advertising manager for British Gas and fellow Marketing Academy scholar adds: “The key principles outlined in the manifesto are critical to successful marketing today. Although each of the headings in the manifesto are valid, I would suggest taking this further, with the core overarching principle being to start with the customer. As modern marketers we should look to frame everything we do with the customer need; from initial proposition development through to talking to customers on their terms in the evolving ways they wish to engage with our brands.”
Fox’s biscuits brand manager Alastair Johns, who also joins Child and Holland as a Marketing Academy scholar this year, suggests that the manifesto has room to grow: “It could go a little further in challenging marketers to get in front of retail customers more regularly. As bravery and innovation become more crucial in stationary or declining categories, there should be an emphasis on marketers building relationships with retail buying teams. Involvement in customer meetings is great exposure, especially to help build the commercial awareness of younger marketers.”