Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Winning the “Race Against the Machine” – Critical Take-Aways from Digital Marketing Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

By Ricky Coussins
Managing Partner
Coussins Associates Marketing Consultancy

“We are in the early throes of a Great Restructuring. Our technologies are racing ahead
but many of our skills and organizations are lagging behind.”  These words, somewhat prophetically stated by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in their 2011 book, Race Against The Machine, were never more appropriately quoted and brought home than at Digital Marketing Europe: A Frost and Sullivan’s Executive MindXchange, held in Lisbon, Portugal, in late January. The event theme was “Digital Transformation: Leading Marketing’s Revolution.”

So what did we learn about how to catch up with all the technology?  In order of appearance, here are my personal top 10 take-aways from the event:

  1. Customers Make Un-Intermediated Buying Choices
    Our keynote speaker on Day 1 – Simon Hall – former Chief Marketing Officer of Dell UK, noted that 50 to 70% of the purchaser’s decision is complete before they ever engage the vendor. The funnel of Awareness, Consideration, Preference Formation and Purchase is no longer controlled by sales.  This means that our communications have to be influencing the decision everywhere before any intermediation takes place.

  2. Build Personas From the Individual Customer Upwards
    Acer’s Global Digital Marketing Director - Francesco Federico - suggested that we should build personas from an individual customer upwards, finding similar audiences to individuals rather than aggregating from the top down starting with the macro – we have ‘n’ customers in this predetermined segment.

  3. Digital Does Not Belong To The Marketing Department
    From our Day 1 panel session came the point that Digital, and, by implication, Digital Marketing, does not fit in boxes. It traverses many parts of the organization – it drives the e-commerce and IT agenda, touches operations, customer service and back office functions as well as that of marketing.  That means digital marketers have to collaborate with many different parts of the organization that, traditionally, they have had little or no relationship with. Building relationships across the organization is now a priority.

  4. Digital Isn’t Free
    As one of the panelists pointed out, digital isn’t free as some C- level managers would like to think. Doing it well involves considerable investment. 

  5. Market Digital Marketing
    A key concept that echoed through many of the presentations and discussions was the importance of marketing digital marketing to our own organization.  Aligning individuals and departments, selling the concepts, processes and the investment needed to our C-level colleagues should form a key part of the digital marketing leader’s work. Especially as almost all C-level managers are not from the digital generation.

  6. People Buy Emotionally
    On Day 2 our keynote speaker - Monika Schulze, Global Head of Marketing at Zurich Insurance Group, reminded us that most people make decisions based on emotion.  She pointed out that we can use story-telling techniques to tell longer and powerfully emotional stories in the digital space.  As long as the story connects to the brand and is a positive one, this approach can be highly persuasive.

  7. The Buyers Journey Is Iterative
    Lucio Furlani, Vice President, Marketing, EMEA, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, pointed out that we need to understand that the buyer’s journey is no longer linear but iterative and that we need to plan our content for each of the points of iteration in the journey.

  8. We Are All B2P Marketers
    Lucio, in addressing the topic of why B2Bs should sit up and take notice of consumer trends, also made the point that he does not do B2B or B2C but B2P – Business To People.

  9. We Need To Have A Content Strategy
    Giuseppe Caltabiano, Vice President, Marketing Integration at Schneider Electric noted that in most organizations, there are too many ‘digital publishers’ and too much unplanned and unconnected content origination.  It is therefore key to have a comprehensively developed content strategy and that strategy should define the channels to be used – the channel strategy, rather than letting the channel define the content.

  10. Customer Digital Behavior Is Changing Faster Than Our Ability To Adapt
    Finally, Luisella Giani, Head of Digital Strategy, Axalta Coating Systems, made the point that we must understand that the world of digital marketing is fast changing.  We need organizations that can see these changes and are willing to rapidly adapt to them in order to keep up.

Of course, over the two day event, there were many more take-aways than the 10 I have selected to discuss here! But, even if some of them are already familiar to you, I hope the above provided you with a few insights and gave you a sense of the ideas and applications discussed at the event. To say the event was stimulating and thought provoking is an understatement.  It was a key opportunity to keep up with, and even get ahead of, the “race against the machine” that is the ever changing world of digital marketing.

Ricky Coussins career in marketing began in the early 1970s when he worked for the multinational conglomerate Litton Industries. He later joined Xerox where he worked in sales and then marketing with a responsibility for exploring the potential of new products.

In the early 1980’s he moved to British Telecom where he was Head of Packaged Software Products in their Systems House Business. He later moved into the Mobile Communications division as a Networks Marketing Manager. Ricky started his marketing consultancy, Coussins Associates, in 1989.  They supply outsourced marketing services across the whole spectrum of the strategic and tactical marketing mix, including digital marketing communications.