Publicis Sapient CMO Teresa Barreira is a strong believer that marketing belongs at the core of every company’s growth strategy.
She’s also firm on the idea that delivering on a growth strategy relies heavily on creating an environment and culture that fosters bravery, experimentation, and, most importantly, agility. In this exclusive interview with CMO.com, Barreira talks about the “intangible skills” she looks for in new hires, the state of digital transformation, the emerging technology she thinks will have the biggest impact on the customer experience, as well as the details behind her organization’s recent rebrand.
CMO.com: Please tell us about yourself.
Barreira: I am originally from Portugal, but I have lived in North America for most of my adult life. On the professional side, I have spent my career in global marketing roles at technology and services organizations including IBM, Accenture, and Deloitte. I joined Publicis Sapient because I wanted to work with an organization that has the ability to combine technology, strategy, and creativity to deliver outstanding value to our clients. I wanted to make an impact on the business, but for me personally, the most important thing was to join a passionate and committed team.
CMO.com: People are key in driving growth for an organization. What do you look for in new hires?
Barreira: The days of the campaign and project manager are done. On my team, I no longer have these roles. We have shifted to journey managers and outcome managers. When hiring for any role on my team, I trust that the majority of candidates have the skills necessary for their specialty. What I’m looking for is what some people describe as an intangible skill: It’s energy, passion, and enthusiasm, and all my best hires have had it. Employees are ambassadors for your business, and on the marketing team they have the power to make or break our brand and reputation. Our business operates like a startup, and that energy, passion, and commitment is what helps make us transformative.
CMO.com: And that leads me to my next question: How do you define digital transformation?
Barreira: While the market has been talking about digital transformation for several years now, most brands are now just realizing the full value. We at Publicis Sapient think of digital business transformation as a holistic approach to transforming the entire enterprise end to end by helping organizations create exponential value and growth for their business and customers.
CMO.com: Where in the digital transformation journey do you find most brands?
Barreira: We think of digital business transformation in three stages: front stage, back stage, and customer experience. The vast majority of companies today are focusing on what we call “add-on” strategies, meaning adding new digital technology to their existing business, and very few companies are actually disrupting their business or reimagining the future of their business. We have clients that are doing both.
CMO.com: What emerging technology do you believe will have the most immediate impact on customer experience and why?
Barreira: Artificial intelligence will “stress test” most brands. Why? Because AI is radically changing—and complicating—how companies interact with consumers. Brands are having to completely rethink how they talk—and listen—to people, whether consumers, SMBs, partners, or others.
Just think about the experience of how a brand engages with you from a communication perspective: tone of voice, how they persuade you, the content they serve you, and the delivery mechanism, as well as the ability to listen. AI will have a fundamental impact on the experience as it will help brands foster customer closeness, pre-empt and determine customer needs and desires, and therefore increase customer satisfaction. It also can help deliver hyper-personalized, predictive services that wrap around the customer—suited to their highly individualized needs—whether it’s as simple as a family planning a vacation or buying home insurance customized for their family. For companies, this translates into increased customer satisfaction, fewer product returns, and, most important of all, emotional trust for future engagement.
CMO.com: How will GDPR and today’s big focus on consumer privacy impact customer experiences?
Barreira: As a marketer, I believe that GDPR is already having an impact on customer experiences. With customers having greater control over data privacy, it’s increasingly harder for companies to gather and use customer information. We believe that when customers trust us with their information, we must respond with highly targeted, high-value content they want to consume and engage with.
CMO.com: Can you take me behind the scenes of your organization’s recent rebrand?
Barreira: First of all, the rebranding is the integration of our business globally under one unified message and the promise to help our clients who are facing unprecedented changes in their industries and businesess not only to survive but to thrive. We are evolving our business and creating a brand that is purpose-designed to serve the needs of the future. This will allow us to partner with our clients to create exponential growth and value for their customers.
That said, I am super-excited about the new brand and all it stands for. The brand itself has the clarity and playfulness of a tech startup, the insightfulness of a consultancy, and the intelligent creativity of an agency. It is a hybrid of the best of each in the same way our company is. But I am most excited by the fact that it was created by our own teams in a global collaboration, and is a testament to our commitment to excellence and creativity.
We invited designers across the globe to participate, and the response was incredibly enthusiastic. Over 100 designers from several countries generated over 50 designs in just the first round. After several reviews of numerous iterations of phenomenal options, we landed unanimously on an elegant, modern logo design, complemented by a graphic element inspired by an aperture, which is actually a space through which light enters a camera. I love what that says about us.
I feel very fortunate to have such a creative and dedicated team and access to the best designers and experience professionals in the industry. For us, being innovative and creating customer experiences is already part of our DNA. We have been doing this for over three decades, so it comes naturally to everyone in the organization.
CMO.com: How will the rebrand change your marketing strategy?
Barreira: Our marketing strategy is very clear and simple: Drive profitable growth for the business. This is not changing, but the new brand will provide the focus and permission to lead the digital business transformation opportunity and position ourselves as best-in-class in fusing customer experience, design, and engineering with problem-solving creativity. In addition, we are in a great position to provide better consistency across the globe.
CMO.com: If you weren’t a marketer, what would you be?
Barreira: I grew up in a small village in Northern Portugal, 1,000 residents, mainly a farm community. My father owned a café/restaurant and grocery store. I grew up working in the café and store since I was 6 years old, serving coffee. I barely could reach the counter, so my father built a platform for me to stand on. I loved it and learned from an early age how to interact in a conversation, be social, and engage with different people. When I am done being a marketer, I will own a coffee shop.
CMO.com: What is one piece of career advice for your younger self?
Barreira: The same advice I give myself today: Never stop learning. If you think you know it all, you’re already failing, so don’t be afraid to take advice, be bold, and try new things. Seek out different perspectives and challenge what you hold as true and, mostly, surround yourself with young people.