BT’s CMO says brands have ‘forgotten how to connect’ with customers

BT’s chief brand marketing officer Zaid Al-Qassab warns that a digital focus will result in marketers chasing clicks and forgetting how to connect with consumers on an emotional level.

BT’s chief brand marketing officer Zaid Al-Qassab believes marketing is having an “existential crisis” and the industry will end up “poorer” if it does not respond.

Speaking to Marketing Week at ISBA’s annual conference in London yesterday (8 March), he said the challenge is the “struggle as a profession to move from the traditional world to the digital world”, which is creating a huge gap between the skillsets of marketers that sit in these two camps.

He said: “If we don’t respond and create whole-brained marketers who understand both sides of things we will end up much the poorer. We will end up chasing clicks in a never ending world of rising costs of acquiring customers because we’ve forgotten how to truly connect with them on an emotional and brand level.”

The marketing chief warned that the “whole profession” and businesses generally “will be worse for it” if the problem is not addressed. He said there is “no escaping that we have to get brilliant at using digital channels and the world of data”, but if marketers focus on that without understanding customers it will end up costing brands dearly as they won’t be able to connect with customers properly.

Responding to criticism

However, digital is helping BT communicate with its customers in ways it couldn’t before, which is particularly useful at a time when it is having to respond to criticism.

BT has made headlines this week after reports suggested customers could end up footing the bill for the £1.2bn it paid for the broadcasting rights to the UEFA Champions League. It also made headlines in January after an accounting scandal in Italy wiped £8bn off the stock market value of the company, while the quality of the BT OpenReach service was called into question in Ofcom’s Digital Communications Review (DCR) in 2016.

READ MORE: BT CEO admits brand trust has taken a hit after ‘turbulent’ few months

Al-Qassab said the array of channels open to the brand today means it “can talk to [consumers] instantly to reassure them if they have heard something that might have worried them”.

He added: “You can react fast to positive and negative stories and it is expected these days. People have lots of means of accessing news – not all of it accurate – and as a brand, if you have a good relationship with customers, have to work out what they’re thinking about, talking about, enjoying or worrying about and be able to communicate really fast.”