Digital transformation, brand purpose, marketers in the boardroom: Festival of Marketing day two round-up

From the reasons why digital transformation is “made up” to the struggles with brand purpose, we round-up all the big news from the second day of the Festival of Marketing.

Digital transformation ‘doesn’t exist’

Digital transformation is just a buzz word made up by consultants, according to Hiyacar’s CMO Sarah Kilmartin.

Speaking at the Festival of Marketing today (11 October) Kilmartin explained that digital transformation doesn’t exist and that transforming a business, whether that is online or offline, is about human connectivity.

“Digital is just an enabler, it’s actually about people not tech and tools. If you don’t bring people on a journey that’s where digital transformation fails,” she said. “The reason digital is what it is, is because consumers are moving so quickly and want things to be more efficient in their lives.”

Kilmartin added that “tech systems” such as digital transformation are simply slowing things down.

“We’ve said there’s no such things as digital, it’s just a way we live our lives. And consumers will always move faster than brands on this,” she stated.

“It’s really hard because we’ve come through an industrial education system so we have to get ourselves out of this mindset and realise this is life. But Hiyacar is as physical as it gets, it’s people meeting up to hand a car over to another person.”

Why sharing an ad with the board is ‘the kiss of death’

With more marketers than ever fighting to get a seat in the C-suite, the question of how to be taken seriously by the board continues to be a challenge.

Direct Line Group marketing director, Mark Evans, argues that if you want a seat at the top table it is the “kiss of death” to show the board your advert.

“There is a caricature in marketing that it’s colouring in, but many marketers fulfil that caricature. I was told a golden rule a few years ago. Never share an advert in the boardroom, that’s the kiss of death, because that will cement that caricature. The advert is the thing you show your mum, not the board, big distinction. What you want to bring to the board is commerciality,” he advised.

Speaking on the same stage, David Kassler, group CEO of marketing communications agency Williams Lea Tag, argued that as ROI is what the boardroom is all about, if a marketer cannot demonstrate that they won’t be welcome in the boardroom.

“To be relevant in the boardroom you have to own the whole customer journey, own the results at every stage of the customer journey,” Kassler stated. “You have to be driving conversion and results at every stage of the customer lifecycle. That’s what I look for from a CMO, someone who’s really accountable for results.”

Sherilyn Shackell, founder and CEO of The Marketing Academy, recognised that getting marketers onto boards is a two-way street. CEOs need to recognise that if you want to put the customer at the heart of every decision then CMOs should have a seat in the room.

However, CMOs have to be prepared to “walk in the shoes” of the people across the wider business and find out what’s on the CFO’s mind or what’s keeping the CEO up at night in order to understand the key drivers in the boardroom.

“If you don’t feel like you need to step up and learn all of those different things that do not sit in your domain then you don’t earn the right to be there and you cannot bring influence to bear,” she added.

Is brand purpose ‘exaggerated’?

brand purpose

The debate around the effectiveness of brand purpose is too often characterised by opinion, according to Marketing Week columnist and head of behavioural science at Manning Gottlieb OMD, Richard Shotton.

He argued that marketers are guilty of not probing the data rigorously enough, which is a “worrying example of wishful thinking”. Shotton pointed out that in order to analyse the success of brand purpose it is important not to just look at great performing brands, but to take into account the poor performers too.

While it is the case that brands should stand for something, Shotton claimed that this is all covered by brand positioning and so should be held to the same criteria.

“Do your customers want this? Is it distinctive? And the worry is that statements become completely interchangeable. You show someone 10 different brand mission statements and they all ladder up to the same priorities,” argued Shotton.

“You’ve got to have credibility. Can you deliver it now? Some brands fall down there. That is what brand positioning means. Brand purpose is where it moves beyond that and starts trying to have a higher order benefit and there are some big differences here. We can end up coming across as a bit manipulative. By going out and saying how good and worthy you are, that’s not necessarily what the consumer takes out of it.”

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