Faaez Samadi
Aug 3, 2017

VMware CMO: Embrace AI, don’t fear it

It’s laughable for marketers to worry about artificial intelligence, as it will make people’s jobs easier and more fulfilling, according to marketer Robin Matlock.

Robin Matlock
Robin Matlock

Marketers should be welcoming advancements in artificial intelligence, not fearing them, according to VMware CMO Robin Matlock, because the better it gets, the better people will be at their jobs.

Speaking as CMO of a technology company that more or less invented compute virtualisation, is making big moves into cloud, and has a market capitalisation of US$38 billion, it may not seem surprising that Matlock is trumpeting technological advancement.

But, speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific in Singapore, she is excited for the whole marketing industry, which is “the tip of the spearhead” for digital transformation across business. As such, it must be ready to embrace what is likely to be one of the biggest transformations to date across all industries.

“What machine learning and AI do for us is give us more opportunities to automate and refine the calibre and quality of our work,” she says. “We’re already doing it; it’s just a little more manually intensive than it’ll have to be to drive scale. We’re just scratching the surface of the intelligence we can put together from disparate bits of data. But we have a long way to go.”

As such, Matlock says she “laughs at that kind of attitude” when she hears the doomsayers who predict the end of the human marketing function once AI takes a greater role.

“You’ve got to evolve with your capabilities, and there’s always a higher place to put your energy and effort,” she explains. “If you can automate low-level tasks, then you can drive something else more strategic, like figuring out how to get into markets sooner or faster.

“There are a thousand places to put human capital. I’ve got 25 projects on the go, if I can take two off my list, I’ve still got 23 to do. There’s just no shortage of opportunity, so don’t be afraid of this stuff.”

As a marketer, being the last person resistant to change is the worst position to be in, Matlock says, given the speed at which new technology is reshaping the industry.

For VMware and other B2B brands, the picture regarding AI is even more complex, Matlock says, because of the nature of the sales process.

“B2C is a much simpler sales process; a one-to-one engagement, [with a] short decision-making process,” she says. “Our world has highly complex decision-making, with potentially 20 stakeholders and 18 months of sales cycle.”

For Matlock, the current benefit from AI and machine learning is automation and intelligence.

“Right now, big data and our analytics are enabling us to be more targeted and personal, which matters,” she explains. “The more we can become intelligent about who’s engaging with us and what they care about, the more we can serve relevant content.”

Embracing change is only too well known to Matlock and VMware, as the brand has sought to evolve after its core strength also became something of a weakness.

“We were wildly successful based on fundamentally one core product. The world knew us as the industry leader in compute virtualisation,” she says. “But like any brand, when you’re entering new markets and you are so well known for one thing, it’s very hard to open up people’s minds to the full spectrum of what you do.

“As CMO, that’s my number one charter. It’s a challenge and an opportunity.”

With this new proposition in mind, and following extensive consultation with stakeholders over their IT business needs, Matlock and her team, together with agency support, created VMware’s ‘Realise what’s possible’ campaign, designed to educate customers new and old about the breadth of the company’s capabilities.

The journey is ongoing, but Matlock is very pleased with the feedback so far, as new opportunities arise for VMware in the cloud, networking and storage sectors, on top of their core compute virtualisation offering.

“We’re making great strides. If you were to benchmark brand awareness for us five years ago, you’d see tremendous progress,” she says. “But it needs to be one brand, one voice.

“It’s not just advertising, it’s all your communications strategy – how you empower your field to have conversations with customers, and what kind of content you build.” 

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