Transforming Brand Experience
As we all know, today's consumers have changed drastically in the ways they interact with and experience brands. They are no longer are satisfied by a brand blasting messaging to them about how great their product or service is. What they expect instead are engaging experiences that show them what the brand stands for, as well as useful and/or entertaining content on platforms on which they already spend time. This has upended the role of the modern Chief Marketing Officer, who is no longer responsible just for TV commercials or print and banner ads but must now pave the way for digital products that have data and technology at their core. Modern consumers expect the CMO to deliver site personalization, augmented and virtual reality, and customer service powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning—and for it all to be instantly accessible on their mobile devices.
But what about the Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer? How have their roles changed?
I hear from many of my clients that working across the “party lines” that divide marketing and technology is a challenge. Not because the technology is not available but because the process, culture, and corporate structure are not flexible enough to allow for it. Many times I have asked a client contact on the technical side to help us create an experience for a counterpart on the marketing team. The response sometimes is positive and we work through challenges to make APIs or datasets available, but more often I run up against the all-too-familiar barrier of “marketing is not my job.” I believe this reluctance to cooperate stems not only from people’s tendency to stick to their own swim lanes, but also from larger organizations inadvertently projecting their own risk-averse corporate structures onto their consumers. This is where clear opportunity exists for our clients to innovate not only their products but also their processes. If your C-suite structure is highly siloed with no clear process, incentive, or even permission to cross party lines, then more often than not your foot soldiers are going to fall into this same pattern, and the experiences your customers will reflect an experience that is not designed in a holistic way.
Consumers have changed drastically in the ways they interact with and experience brands
Gary Hamel, cofounder of the Management Innovation Exchange, defines management innovation as “a marked departure from traditional management principles, processes, and practices or a departure from customary organizational forms that significantly alters the way the work of management is performed.” Two of the key points of this system that I think many organizations fail to deliver on are:
• Building and nurturing relationships, and
• Creating a system that seamlessly blends collaboration and competition.
I want to expand on that notion of collaboration specifically in regard to digital experiences. If you are collaborating across, for example, data/AI, technology, and design, the teams responsible for each of those things should be incentivized and capable of working with one another regardless of whether it is within their “lane.” Think about products such as Lyft or Google Maps. If the design of those products was lackluster, it would not matter how good the tech was or how accurate the data and predictive models were. Similarly, if the design was amazing but the data were always wrong, no one would use them.
I ran into a situation recently in which a major retailer was interested in using machine learning to create increasingly personalized and targeted direct mailers over time. They had data from the marketing team that told them who was receiving the mailers, but the marketers had no idea about the relative success of each mailer since that would have required a handshake with in-store technology. We proposed creating a system that would allow them to better track the mailers and make them more targeted season on season—just as they had asked. The system would actually get smarter year over year based on conversion data and product category. The problem: The marketers with whom we were working didn't even know where to start on creating such a system because their organizational structure didn’t support collaboration with their in-store network. Those systems were outside their area of responsibility, and they could not be persuaded to cross the chasm. The clear opportunity here would have been to create a system that encouraged collaboration and forged new working relationships within the organization. To date, that has not happened. I am sure this is a situation to which many of you can relate. By no means am I saying every organization has the ability to switch the way they work overnight, but I believe it is time to recognize—and act upon—the truth that an ability to collaborate across technology, data, design, marketing, and product offers tremendous opportunity for growth and a significant competitive edge.
Experiences such as this show that our conversation needs to target not just the modern CMO, but also the CIO and the entire organization. Consumers require more from brands today, and that makes things infinitely more complex. Marketers, technology departments, and business leaders alike need to be able to pivot the way we work, both internally and externally.