While they seek to deliver marketing that is both meaningful for consumers and profitable for brands, today’s marketers are working within a discipline undergoing a fundamental transformation. As marketing’s traditional creative skills merge with technology to meet the needs of an always-on, tech-savvy consumer, those two areas of expertise need to combine. When they do that well, they unlock the promise of data for business.
Senior brand leaders gathered at a recent roundtable event, hosted by Marketing Week and sponsored by Salesforce, to discuss their own particular data challenges and opportunities; how key stakeholders can be better aligned; the new demand for a different marketing skillset; and what the future marketing department looks like as it continues to strive for speed, relevance and reach.
Spencer Clarke, director of member and B2B marketing, Nationwide
Alessandra Di Lorenzo, chief commercial officer, media and partnerships, Lastminute.com
Enrico Nonino, head of UK marketing, Lastminute.com
John Veichmanis, CMO, Farfetch
Sanjeevan Bala, head of data planning and analytics, Channel 4
Steve Monaghan, vice-president of IT, Sony Interactive Entertainment
Ashling Kearns, vice-president, UK and Ireland marketing, Salesforce
Eileen O’Mara, EMEA CMO, Salesforce
Adam Spearing, chief technology officer EMEA, Salesforce
Getting smarter with data
The increase in available data has undoubtedly provided brands with more opportunities to serve customers with an improved, more personal experience. At the same time, consumers are more empowered now than ever before. There is an increasing need to create communication that really resonates with the customer.
“I as a consumer expect more of a brand and for it to give me what I need,” said Enrico Nonino, head of UK marketing at Lastminute.com. “Therefore we need to deliver a very compelling story in that precise moment.”
Many brands would agree that the opportunities presented by data are far from being realised within their business, though. Lastminute.com’s chief commercial officer for media and partnerships, Alessandra di Lorenzo, believes having a unique view of the customer is the primary obstacle.
“If you look at the customer, they can be a credit card, a device ID, a cookie, an email address, a postcode, god knows – so that’s the biggest challenge,” she said. “Once you have managed to get a unique view of the customer it is about activation. The problem is almost everything that is going on in the market is about activation but there is very little technology around creating that unique view of the customer, and often companies are left to their own devices to create that.”
John Veichmanis, CMO at Farfetch highlights why putting an emphasis on management of data is fundamental to the success of its luxury marketplace. “Our business is really built upon the fluidity of that data to listen in and understand the performance of our investments,” he said. “Ultimately the biggest challenge for us is having all of the data consistently available in one place so we can use it to make decisions very quickly.”
Marketing was historically a creative and intuitive process, while the skilful handling of data, technology tools and data strategies requires strengths in statistics and computing. Poor collaboration and communication between the different marketing and tech teams within an organisation poses a threat to the valuable opportunity that data offers marketing. How can these two areas work together effectively?
Spencer Clarke, director of member and B2B marketing at Nationwide admits to structural and cultural challenges within his brand: “That alignment behind common strategy and common goals is something that is happening but has been a bit of a barrier to date,” he says.
Similarly, at Lastminute.com, Di Lorenzo considers how different goals and a lack of integration around data present an obstacle: “Our technology department needs to make sure that people who come to our site are capable of buying tickets, and to get them through the funnel as quickly as possible,” she explains.
“Marketing, on the other hand, is talking to an ecosystem of lots of different players. We are organised in a way where our technology team owns the data piece but they don’t own the cookie-related data piece or the marketing-related data piece. We are in a position of fragmentation at the moment.”
At Channel 4, head of data science Sanjeevan Bala believes that fundamental differences in an attitude to risk stand in the way of alignment between marketing and tech functions. “Our marketing function is very experimental, very innovative in terms of how it operates and very much represents our content proposition, whereas [the technology function] is incentivised to make sure everything gets de-risked. How do you create and permeate that attitude to risk and experimentation and almost allow technology to fail?”
Within the detailed landscape of modern marketing, the complexities of a siloed ecosystem present their own challenges. Data is often kept in different places and by different departments, functions are segmented, communication is not always straightforward.
Using data effectively is hampered by working in silos, argues Adam Spearing, chief technology officer EMEA at Salesforce. “I see this within organisations of all sizes, where there are two classifications of data: the data we keep in the basement, controlled by the governance of IT, which is well protected; and then the data that is out in the business, which is there for reasons of agility.”
Farfetch’s Veichmanis explains how the luxury online marketplace has decentralised both data science and analytics into its teams so it can put those capabilities and skills at the heart of its problem-solving. “We have a common infrastructure that we all use so that we are all using the same signals and the same data layer…we think about audiences not silos,” he says.
“There are so many organisations where you create this schizophrenic experience because different marketing teams are touching the same people by accident, ultimately, and we have really tried to organise ourselves to avoid doing that.”
In order to deliver fast-moving and highly relevant campaigns, marketing needs skills other than the creative ones the profession was traditionally built on. There is an increasing demand for marketers to be more data-literate and skilled at data storytelling.
“The skill set of those coming out of universities 20 years ago is not the skill set that I need today,” comments Ashling Kearns, vice president of UK and Ireland marketing at Salesforce. “We need good translators of data into business impact.” A lot of marketers haven’t evolved with digital and data says Kearns.
Steve Monaghan, VP of IT at Sony Interactive Entertainment, also sees a challenge in a lack of capability around truly turning data into insight. “There is a lot of data, lots of analytics and lots of charts and you sit in meetings wondering ‘Am I the only person thinking, what is the point of that?’,” he comments. “We have almost gone from a place of making a lot of gut instinct or hierarchical decisions to a place where everyone says it has got to be data-driven and it has almost become an excuse to throw loads of data at anything.”
With a huge amount of change anticipated within the convergence of marketing and technology – everything from multiple applications of AI to the impact of voice recognition technology – the roundtable panel predicted further radical change for marketers to wrap their brains around.
In the words of Salesforce’s CMO for EMEA, Eileen O’Mara, trust and speed will be the future watchwords within the disciplines of marketing and technology. Channel 4’s Bala believes the increased commoditisation of the technology component of marketing will make things much easier for marketers.
Future challenges also include facilitating teams working well together, keeping up with the pace of technological change and staying curious. What’s clear is that significant change lies ahead and talent needs to be adaptable. Monaghan at Sony believes future success is hinged principally on how well teams operate together.
Lastminute.com’s Nonino believes a fusion of teams and skill sets will come to the forefront: “Marketing will flow towards tech and [we] will need to create more hybrid models and a very mixed environment.”