Robert Sawatzky
Nov 4, 2016

CMOs flex data muscles: Marketing Innovation

Advanced data is giving more CMOs access to key corporate decisions, but now they must live up to higher expectations.

L-R: Faaez Samadi, Wendy Walker, Jolaine Boyd and Sanjeev Kapur
L-R: Faaez Samadi, Wendy Walker, Jolaine Boyd and Sanjeev Kapur

SINGAPORE - They’re not quite strutting yet, but there was a bit more swagger among top marketers at Campaign Asia-Pacific's Marketing Innovation Summit in Singapore this year.

That’s because technology isn’t merely helping marketers do their jobs more effectively. It’s also bringing new-found respect from corporate decision-makers.

There has been plenty of chatter about whether the CMO role was, or even still is, necessary (see "CMOs first in the firing line if business targets not met: Accenture Strategy"). But Wendy Walker, senior vice-president and CMO at Manulife Singapore feels the discussion is coming full circle.

“Now with the data analytics we have at our fingertips and their real-time recording, it gives us more of a powerful role in the business and a stronger seat at the table in terms of driving business strategy,” she said.

But to keep the trust of the top brass, many CMOs are now expected to return the favour by increasingly aligning their roles with business growth.

Walker took part in a panel discussion, with Jolaine Boyd, Microsoft APAC CMO, and Sanjeev Kapur, Citi's CMO for APAC and EMEA, about how to integrate marketing with overall business goals. Campaign’s Faaez Samadi moderated the session.

Here are some key takeaways:

CMOs must get on board with growth objectives

Marketers need to align themselves with revenue and growth goals. That means becoming more familiar with the sales side, and working more closely together to drive results.

“With marketing and sales coming together, having much more hands-on experience on some facets of sales becomes important because that’s the outcome the business is expecting you to achieve,” Kapur said.

Data is now allowing marketers to optimise products in real time, which gives them the ability to go back to the company and merge their goals with revenue targets. 

“That allows you to come back to the business and say this is the accountability we’re actually holding,“ Boyd said.

Marketing is becoming a science

There will sadly always be business leaders who view CMOs as dealing in the area of ‘arts and crafts,’ Walker said. But data is changing that.

The more pragmatic view has long been that marketing is a combination of science and art. Yet Kapur noted “with digital becoming the dominant channel I think the science of marketing is beginning to trump the art.“

It means CMOs increasingly need to focus on procuring the right technologies. Kapur cited a recent Gartner study that predicts CMO technology investment spending will surpass that of the CIO by as early as next year.

“If you’re making the biggest technology investments in the company, you better understand technology very well,” he said. “If it’s uncomfortable for you, you have to re-evaluate that if you’re to stay current and relevant in five years from now, and if you don’t understand technology now, you will go out of date.”

Armed with analytics, Walker predicted CMOs will need to stay a step ahead of incoming technolgies. "We can have our finger on the pulse in terms of seeing the effects of disruption in our categories and then be a key part of strategy in counter that," she said.

CMOs need to be educators

It’s not just chief marketers who need to step up. They need to bring their teams up to speed as well. That’s not always easy at large firms, even if it’s a technology heavyweight like Microsoft. 

“What is the role of the CMO? It’s education,” said Boyd. “I always say 30 percent of my remit is change management.”

Boyd’s advice is to focus teams on the customer lens. Look at why customers are doing what they are—where they’re looking for information, what platforms they’re using. That will help teams working together for 20 years to avoid just looking at the ‘how’, and the problems of implementation.

Kapur said that instilling a culture of technological savvy within a marketing team always “starts from the top”, and that senior marketers who are not up to date have to at least give the impression they are while getting up to speed. 

“Even if you are not comfortable with technology, you’ve got to fake it,” he joked. 

He suggested finding the top two members of your team who will be technology evangelists, who will bring a new language and way of doing things that the rest will soon want to emulate.

Play your ROI card carefully

Data may be turning marketing into more of a science, but it still has limitations.

"What we have to be careful of is when we say that this particular activity drove this, or didn’t drive this,” Boyd said.

Microsoft may have a variety of approaches to educating customers on why cloud services and security are important, she added. So with a variety of measurement engines running at once, it’s still hard to figure out exactly when and why a customer makes a decision to invest.

“We do not have the right attribution tools in place to actually know why what happened,” Kapur said.

Search may be working, he said, but searches can be fueled by print ads or other media at the top of the funnel.

So pushing money further down the funnel into digital is pushing up costs, when a key part of ROI is convincing management why other media is important too.

Make agency partnerships effective

Brands will continue to rely on creative and media agencies for their respective skills, and value their work, the CMOs said.

But the need for complex technology-driven marketing solutions are putting agencies to the test, and straining relationships.

Kapur said the rise of digital marketing specialty agencies in areas like social media, influencers and data lured away a lot of strong talent from the big firms.

“If some of the larger agencies were embracing this innovation and actually nurturing it within their organisations,” he said, “they wouldn’t have seen so many of these people leave.”

Brands, which now have to pull the same people from four or five different places, are paying the price.

“You’re pushing your inefficiencies of not being able to nurture these skillsets to the client,” he said.  “Give us an integrated solution.”

In this environment, Citi is experimenting with smaller task-oriented teams of specialists pulled from different agencies to tackle specific problems.

But Microsoft's Boyd said bringing in five agencies just doesn’t work. She wants deep-seated partners with a solid connection into what a business wants to achieve—not sporadic, campaign-driven, on-off relationships.

“If you don’t have that fundamental understanding of how to service your business and then a strong figurehead at both,” she said, “in an environment of big global retainers, it can get pretty messy.”

Look for more coverage of yesterday's Marketing Innovation summit in the December issue of Campaign Asia-Pacific.

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