One of the most influential CMOs worldwide, Netflix's Bozoma Saint John wants to throw out some old ways of doing business and is instead pushing her team, peers and wannabe marketers to rethink the way they approach everything from consumers to creative.
The former Pepsi and Uber marketer, for starters, wants to dispense with age-old ways of mass-marketing products and services and instead promote a sharper focus on personalisation and nuance in marketing campaigns.
"I often tell my teams there is a focus group of one," she told attendees at Adobe Experience Makers Asia 2021. "We have been taught that we should talk to the middle and get your point across to the most people on the most platforms.... I am here to tell you that doesn't work."
Instead, Saint John, who joined Netflix in July 2020, has pushed and continues to drive her teams to personalise their marketing by assimilating their own life experiences and those of their families and friends to build more nuanced strategies. "I think it is really important to ... use that nuance to connect to your audience," she said.
While marketers may have been taught to maintain a healthy distance from their work—and campaigns—Saint John contends they should do just the opposite. "Sometimes we think our own experiences are not so integral to work," she said. "No, no, no, no, no. You should have your fingerprints all over it."
However, rather than running wild with one marketer's life experiences, she added that marketers should be "informed and curious" since "what others have experienced also matters (and) that can also go into your work."
If marketers are to relearn some rules of engagement, Saint John said rather than a "stagnation" of their ideas for a brand or marketing, they need to evolve their thinking. "Instead you can aim for evolution," she said. "So you have your experiences, you are [also] informed by others experiences, and you put that into the work. That is going to make you different...it will make you magical and powerful."
As marketers transform from catering to the masses to focussing on the individual, they may need to unlearn some other ideas, Saint John added. For one the mantra of 'location, location, location' may be replaced quickly by 'connection, connection, connection'.
Saint John contended that this may be hard for marketers to do, since "as marketers we want legacy, we want to create the campaign that spans time, that goes into annals of history." However, she added that this is often too big of a goal. "If we focus on just making connections we probably have a better chance, rather than hoping for one big-bang campaign," she said. "Or, as Maya Angelou said 'People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel'."
As she pushes marketers to go from mass focus to being more personalised with their plans, Saint John stressed two other facets that she believes need to change. For one, marketers need to use a magic potion of science, art and magic to not just forecast an immediately related purchase, but also foretell a consumer's future consumption path to more precisely target them. "Some of this will take magic and some of it will take data learning, but I think we will get there," she added.
And, finally, it all comes together with creativity. "If there's magic anywhere it is creativity, being continuously curious about culture and people and the way they are interacting is what makes a real difference."
At the end of her session at the Adobe event, Saint John answered a series of rapid-fire questions.
What do you do to switch off?
I sleep a good eight hours a night. I turn everything off and it's on schedule.
Who is your biggest female role model?
My mother, she's awesome.
What's been your most exciting connection on LinkedIn
My fourth grade teacher—out of nowhere!
Uber, Lyft or raised hand?
Since I contributed to the business, it has got to be Uber.
Deliveroo or dine-in?
I'm a homebody, so it has got to be Deliveroo.