During the past couple of years, CMO.com’s EMEA team has been fortunate enough to interview some of Europe’s leading marketing executives. Last week, we published our 50th interview—with Tom Malleschitz, CEO of Three. We decided that this was a good time to take a look back at this trove of marketing wisdom and glean their overarching themes.
Represented in these interviews are companies ranging from major retailers, such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and L’Oreal, to the travel industry’s number one hostel booking Web site, Hostelworld Group, to some leading individuals in the industry, such as Sir Martin Sorrell—all of which can be found here.
In conducting these interviews, we used a similar array of questions to give a communal, shared feel to the information that we gathered. Though it’s impossible to cover all the details here, it is worthwhile to highlight some memorable quotes and ideas that our questions elicited.
While generalizing is always tricky, it seems safe to say that these interviews indicate a common set of challenges and tenets that binds these 50 marketing leaders together. They are:
- “Mobile first/customer first” is the prime directive.
- Change is not easy, and corporate culture is the most obstinate of all.
- There is no one-size-fits-all answer; each company has unique needs.
- Analytics and the speed of technology can be paralytic without a practical and disciplined approach.
- Open-minded, team-oriented people with the right talent and skills are the key to success and there’s never enough to go around.
Mobile First/Customer First
The interesting thing about transformation, in general, is that you must have an objective in mind. From the insights we gleaned from our interviews, “mobile first/customer first” appears to be that primary objective. According to David Oliver, Head of CRM for Whitbread: “To get traction within the organisation, Whitbread's data, and analytics function had to set a very clear strategy and concluded that it should be around engaging with customers.” Here’s a similar perspective from Michael Acton Smith, CEO of Mind Candy: “We thought the web and desktop experience was going to last for much longer and we were really caught out by that. We knew mobile was big and it would grow but the sheer speed has shocked us.”
Understanding Change Management
Digital transformation requires a different mind-set right from the very beginning of the journey. During his interview, Dr. Steven Althaus, from BMW, put it this way: “Digital transformation requires a different role for marketing, one that involves much more understanding of what happens in the outside world, and feeding this back into the organization to generate better products, better services.” The challenge is embodied in driving that change through the organisation effectively and efficiently. Caroline Van den Bos, Insight and NPS Director for RSA, observed: “Business change takes a long time, especially when it touches on core systems, and businesses can’t cope with constant demands to change.” Summing things up, David McMillian, CMO of Aegon UK, had this to say: “To transform a business, you have to walk away from everything you thought mattered and recognise that customers have a totally different perspective.”
Increasing Speed Of Technical Advances
The conundrum here is that marketing technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex, yet, at the same time, must be available to the entire revamped and integrated team of creatives, marketers, sales, IT, and data scientists/analysts. The entire team must be able to communicate in the language of the others in order to make the technology work across the enterprise. This is a monumental task, and the velocity of marketing must be matched with the speed of technology. Mark Evans, the Marketing Director of Direct Line, put it this way: “Digital is a cultural mind-set, saying let's use technology and make things happen in minutes and hours rather than days and weeks." That doesn’t happen all by itself. Eddie Copeland from Policy Exchange, had this twist on tech: “Technology has raced beyond society’s ability to develop the social norms to know how to respond. As a society, we don’t know how we feel about different organisations using our data.”
Wrapping It All Up
We are looking forward to the next 50 interviews and the insights they will reveal. In the meantime, the results of the last year’s Digital Roadblock survey, European edition, makes for an interesting read in conjunction with observations noted above.