JoJo Cheung
Feb 26, 2014

Tackle 2014’s challenges with technology to differentiate your brand

The top issue in 2014 for Asia’s marketers is delivering a differentiated customer experience.

JoJo Cheung
JoJo Cheung

To realize a differentiated customer experience at IBM, we have three core elements in our “Market to the individual” strategy: treat clients as individuals, create a cross-channel system of engagement and convey our brand message in an authentic manner. Data-driven marketing is the foundation of all three. We concentrate on developing marketing automation and analytics that help us understand our clients and create predictive campaigns.

1) Treat clients as individuals: Through greater use of technology, particularly cross-channel technology to deliver differentiated customer experiences

Change is inevitable but the speed and type of change in the marketing landscape has increased, especially in the past three years. In the IBM State of Marketing 2013 survey, we found leading companies are placing increasing emphasis on technology to deliver differentiating customer experiences.

The IBM survey—which covered more than 500 marketing practitioners from 15 industries globally with 82 per cent of respondents working for organisations with 1,000 or more employees— further revealed that leading marketers differed from their peers in several areas. They are 2.6 times more likely to use real-time technologies to adjust communications based on the context and behaviour of individual customers; two times more likely to measure the customer experience on their website and apps and systematically act on these insights; and 5.6 times more likely to adopt cross-channel technologies. They see these capabilities enabled by technology as essential elements of a differentiated customer experience.

In short, CMOs and CIOs must work together to re-imagine ways to build unique customer experiences and engagements through use of technology.

Here at IBM, we are leveraging technology to transform to data-driven marketing, building an end-to-end system of engagement that deepens our understanding of our client buying behaviour and applying that insight to predict need and engage our clients as individuals. 

For example, we will deploy our own full suite of Enterprise Market Management technologies—including content management and brand experience design—to drive consistent engagement across all our marketing channels. The goal is to create an experience that optimizes each client touch point.

2) Create a cross-channel system of engagement: To maximize value creation at every touch point

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By its very nature, the customer experience extends to every customer touch point within an enterprise, from the call centre to a mobile app to the store floor. Marketing must create a system of engagement that maximises value creation at every touch.

Inherent in this system of engagement is the selection of, first, who to market to (i.e know your customer); second, the offerings and the best type of service; and third, how to effectively market products and services to existing and new customers. 

To do these well, digital channels are central and must be integrated to ensure the effectiveness of the engagement system. 

At IBM, we mainly leverage digital marketing in three ways: building our brand and reputation; strengthening our social activation in social media; and enhancing our response and lead management. 

For example, we deployed our Unica Marketing Automation system to accelerate our ability to connect with customers at every touch point. We have reached our own differentiating phase where we dynamically deliver offers based on what is known about a web visitor; we then plan and execute workflow between worldwide, regional and country centres; and develop insights to predict client behaviour.

3) Convey brand messages in an authentic manner: Design corporate culture and brand so they are authentically one

Brand authenticity should augment the goals of treating clients as individuals and creating cross-channel experiences. This is an imperative that marketing departments must champion, in addition to other roles.   

Social media and digital channels allow companies to understand customers and likewise, these platforms allow customers to know and comment about brands. Thus it’s critical for us to deliver the IBM brand promise at every interaction. 

Marketing leaders must develop an acute understanding of a company’s reputation by actively listening to and engaging in social media—and then proactively working within an organisa­tion to share those perceptions and champion processes and systems changes to take advantage of social media insights.

How does IBM do this across the three core elements outlined above?

The foundation is data-driven but there is a need to first, capture and structure the data. By this I mean forming all interactions to build a complete picture of a client as an individual. Second, deliver an integrated and personalized journey (system of engagement) to guide the desired outcome. We apply analytics to predict buying behaviour and prescribe next best actions.  Additionally, we deploy a full suite of technologies—including content management and brand experience design—to drive consistent engagement across all our marketing channels.

Thirdly, be authentic. Marketing must manage any gaps between the brand promise and the brand experience delivered by the company. In today’s socially connected world, virtually every interaction tests the corporate brand. Marketers must enable their organisations to have real, open conversations with cus­tomers. Technology that allows for real-time monitoring of sentiment about products & services, customer satisfaction and reputation is the first step to a proactive response to client needs and queries.

Looking ahead

Over the next 12 months, the convergence of data/analytics, social, and mobile is likely to open up new marketing possibilities for all organisations including tech companies like IBM. Marketing that is data-driven and infused with real-time and predictive analytics can help organisations anticipate customer behaviour, segment at the individual level, create advocacy at scale, intercept demand with automated triggers, create a consistent experience across multiple channels and deliver on their brand promise.

JoJo Cheung is IBM's director of marketing and communications for ASEAN

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