Ten commandments for the modern marketer

Recession, the rise of digital and the emphasis on media neutrality are just some developments making new demands on marketers and changing marketing’s role in the company structure. Here we glean the ten best ideas from the world’s foremost marketers for embracing this change and steering your brand for the future.


Who can predict the future of marketing? Executives from brands such as Google, Facebook, Zurich and Novartis and a range of academics have come up with definitive predictions for how to steer marketing into 2010 and beyond.

At the European Chief Marketing Officer Conference in Zurich earlier this month, the brand guardians (some are pictured above) laid out their vision for the future of the industry, which Marketing Week has compiled into “ten commandments” for the modern marketer (see description of the modern marketer’s mindset, below).

Marketing roles are evolving – with some in the industry even talking about how job titles are likely to change away from “marketing” to terms that reflect the bigger scope of the role. As such, chief marketing officers have been forced to rethink their strategies and adopt new tactics to get their messages across to consumers.

These ten commandments are inspired by what the world’s most powerful marketers think their peers need to embrace in order to spot opportunities within crises and set up their businesses to flourish both next year and in future decades.

1 2010 is about dialogue, not marketing

The traditional working practice of marketers of moving from campaign to campaign needs to shift to maintaining ongoing conversations with everyone involved with or connected to the brand.

CMOs must make sure that everyone within the business understands the brand in depth. The company’s ideas must be firmly embedded in employees’ minds – all based on the insights that customers have given them in the first place.

Scott Davis, senior partner at Prophet, explains: “It’s important that you show how a good dialogue can directly affect stakeholder value through transparent conversations with your customers and your board. Maximising ways of doing that is essential. It’s not enough to be the person in charge of advertising any more.”

Arun Sinha, chief marketing and communications officer at Zurich Financial Services, agrees that maintaining a dialogue makes a huge difference.

“You have to reflect the cultural shifts that are going on outside the walls of your own company,” he notes. He says that within his own business, this meant creating a new brand entirely – “HelpPoint” – that would help Zurich give its customers somewhere to focus their conversation.

Sinha says it was vital to “create a dialogue reminding customers that we put them first and that they are at the heart of everything we do.”

Online, user-generated content is helping to make customers feel a part of the brand. Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and founder of My.BarackObama.com, the official presidential campaign social networking website for President Obama, stresses: “It’s so important that brands focus on the idea of sharing and giving people a voice. We made every single member feel that they had a role in the presidential campaign and that they knew Obama was listening to them. This sort of dialogue is essential to a brand’s success.”

Ely Dahan, professor of marketing at University of California, agrees. “In the highly interactive world of web 2.0, consumers suggest new product options and sometimes even develop their own products and services. Consumer involvement could revolutionise marketing.”

However, this doesn’t mean marketers can sit back and let consumers do all the hard work. Real dialogue and participation is about taking consumer insights and then using marketing skill to shape them for the brand. “Companies need filtering mechanisms to identify those options with the greatest potential,” Dahan admits.

2 Think like the ‘brand architect’ of your company

Marketers need to think about their roles in the context of other professions. Philippe Zell, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer of Novartis Consumer Health, explains: “Taking lessons from other sectors can be a worthwhile experiment.”

Christine Nordhielm, professor of marketing at the University of Michigan, suggests that too many marketers are currently acting like “anaesthetists” – sending consumers to sleep with their predictable communications. She warns that they are using “ordinary techniques, which may lack competitive advantage,” adding that: “The greatest challenge facing CMOs is to keep up with the mindset of the modern consumer and continue to engage with them in the way they desire.”

The best role model for the modern marketer is the architect, suggests Andy Stefanovich, a senior partner at agency Prophet. Architects constantly focus on innovation and creativity, yet within rigorous, measured parameters. That makes a good model for marketers to follow.

Stefanovich recommends that all companies use a five-point checklist (see The Five Ms, below) to help them remember all the different elements that can make a difference in how they approach their work.

3 Make sure you talk to staff as well as customers

All staff within a business should feel like they have been given a voice and have the ability to shape perceptions of the company. They should feel they have a role in co-creating a culture that resonates with them, because they are being listened to and therefore feel attached to the brand.

Zurich’s Sinha says marketing should begin internally and then be followed externally. The only way to do this is to get buy-in from the very top. He explains: “You have to get the board to support your new mantra first and then follow it through across the company.”

It is vital to make sure people inside the business understand the company’s vision and identity long before they try to translate it to those outside. “Ensure that every staff member understands,” says Sinha. “They have to drive and create the momentum internally, so that must be prepared first.”

By communicating the marketing internally, it also helps brands to avoid simply shouting a message they think people want to hear and instead create something that staff are happy to talk about with customers. Doing this effectively, says Facebook’s Hughes, is what creates the dialogue necessary with potential customers.

He says: “It’s about getting staff to understand how to work well with their supporters and build fruitful relationships. Opportunities like this means that people want to be involved as much as the staff do. For instance, we raised $500m (£313m) of the $800m (£500m) of Obama’s presidential campaign funds online.”

4 Become the ‘chief brand officer’ on the board

In tricky economic times, it would be easy for marketers to keep their heads down in order to avoid being noticed spending too much of the board’s money. But Martin Roll, business and brand strategist at Venture Republic, and the conference chair, argues: “Marketing and branding must be elevated to boardroom level across corporations and become more strategic with a top-management driven agenda.”

This will require a shift, warns Prophet’s Davis. While most boards would claim that they understand the value of marketing, this is still not entirely the case. “The majority of CEOs and boards don’t get what marketing is. To change this, marketers need to gain their recognition,” he says.

To do this effectively, Davis claims there will need to be a radical rethink of exactly what the role of a modern marketer should be. “There needs to be a much tighter way of working by being responsible for more than just marketing. Marketers have every right to co-own other departments. [Marketers] should get themselves in a position where they are driving business strategy board-level discussions.”

Novartis’ Zell says the challenge is to convince boards that their brand positioning will funda­mentally make a difference to the bottom line.

“Modern CMOs have to show that they are forward-thinking all the time,” he claims. “For me, it means challenging science and building marketing based on consumer insight. This way, I can encourage the board to launch new variants, and show them that we are putting the consumer first and are innovating to stay ahead of the competition.”

At Zurich, Sinha says he took the approach of encouraging the board to adopt a “looking outside” their traditional philosophy of business to launch his HelpPoint campaign. “Changing a frame of mind is not easy, nor does it happen overnight. What I took upon myself to do was remind the board that they wanted to stand out more, and ensure that they knew that everything we do is for the benefit of the customer.”

Asking the board to be brave and step away from the familiar areas where it was comfortable paid off, he claims, saying that it helped develop the “brand’s lasting message, still being celebrated today.”

5 Personalise, personalise, personalise

Marketers need to target people effectively by ensuring they treat their potential customers as individuals. Michael Conrad, president of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, says: “Marketing should work under an ethos of inspiration for chosen audiences. Brands should use the insight to gather a psychographical perspective of who they should be looking to target with ads in the first place. Targeting and personalisation will be core to retention and acquisition in the future.”

Online brands such as Facebook and Google are leading the way with this service. Facebook’s Hughes says that consumers “are increasingly overwhelmed” and looking for the “personal touch to build trust and loyalty”. If you can get this right, he adds, “eventually a deep relationship forms.”

Google sales manager Dr Beat Bühlmann argues: “Personalisation will be the future of marketing. By stimulating interest based on people’s online habits, consumers will respond better to marketing and will feel connected to the brand, in a different way to more traditional media formats.”

Companies such as InfoPrint Solutions Company, a joint venture between IBM and Ricoh, are already practising this in their marketing. Allen Thrasher, marketing principal at InfoPrint Solutions EMEA, says she thinks that no marketing campaign should be considered without thought on how best to make it personal.

“Moving to personalisation presents the CMO with more opportunities to interact with the consumer,” she says.

Marketers should be responsible for more than just marketing, they have every right to co-own other departments. Marketers should get themselves in a position where they are driving board-level business strategy discussions. Scott Davis, Prophet

6 ‘Media neutral’ needs to be more than a catchphrase

Budgets should be spread across all media. It’s no use brands just claiming to be media neutral and then failing to consider any but the most traditional options. Part of the CMO’s job is to ensure that their brand is wherever the consumer is.

Google’s Dr Bühlmann explains: “There is no wall between online and offline, but CMOs must realise that, used correctly, online can be a huge generator for sales because it reaches the audience at the time when their interest is peaked.”

People simply don’t live in an “online” or “offline” world these days; consumers mix their media and brands must do the same, says Dr Bühlmann. “We live in a culture of research online, purchase offline. It’s important that CMOs think in a much more integrated way plotting their marketing across disciplines so information can be found at all the peak interest moments.”

At InfoPrint Solutions, the company is calling on marketers to think about accurate targeting both on paper and online. Combining these elements is what can make a campaign work even harder. Thrasher says: “Technology is increasingly becoming sophisticated enough to make cross-media promotions more possible.”

Facebook is one company trying to introduce these cross-media opportunities. It not only encourages brands to publicise their fan pages on offline material, but also allows users to purchase ads to appear at the same time as other media might be being digested.

Facebook’s Hughes explains: “We’re just beginning to see the start of an information revolution, enabling greater transparency and openness. Brands have to adopt this same model across media. The more meat in the pot, the better the stew.”

Allen Thrasher, marketing principal at InfoPrint Solutions EMEA


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