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Archive for the ‘Brand Strategy’ Category

No member of the C-suite has a riskier or more-short-lived term than the chief marketing officer (CMO).  The average tenure of a CMO at the ‘100 most advertised’ US brands is 28.4 months, according to recruiting firm Spencer Stuart in a recent Advertising Age column by John Quelch.  In fact, as a marketer, few things are as much of a sure-fire, eventual career killer as being named CMO.  Strange … you’d think that getting to the top of marketing hierarchy would be the pinnacle of one’s career.

The challenges faced by the CMO speak to many of the fundamental strategic problems underlying marketing organizations and marketing science today and that are linked to a permanent shift in power from brand-company to customer and to a proliferation of communication channels and information sources.

For CMOs to succeed they must sit at the top of a newly-agile marketing organization, built from the ground up with sophisticated, financially-savvy and technology-empowered closed-loop systems and processes in place that can scale, that can manage increasingly complex and customer-centric communication execution and that can provide necessary transparency into multi-channel program performance.  And this transparency must provide other C-suite colleagues with the real-time status of key performance indicators (KPIs) and on the return on investment (ROI) of marketing programs in net present value (NPV) terms.  “[F]inancial accountability of marketing is here to stay,” argues Quelch in the Advertising Age column.  “[I]mproved accountability requires CMOs to be financially literate, to understand the balance sheet as well as the income-statement effects of marketing initiatives.”

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

Too often, though, such an organization does not exist.  “Although the marketplace has changed beyond all recognition due to Web 2.0 and the explosion in digital – marketing technology and process have not kept up with the changes,” commented Bob Barker, VP of corporate marketing at Alterian, in a recent post on DM News.

The imperative for the CMO, thus, is to drive change. 

And that change must be focused on building just such an organization.  It is not sufficient to manage execution of the existing organization or to believe that your company is already ‘getting it right’ today.  There is no room for complacency or incremental efforts.  Marketing is a dynamic practice that keeps an organization in check with the dynamic needs of its customers and of the marketplace.  CMOs must drive change because their organizations must constantly change to remain competitive – a fact that was validated in a recent CMO Council report, which noted “… 61% of respondents believe that marketing operational transformation will be an essential area of focus for them in the months ahead.”

So how do CMOs do this?  And where should they focus their efforts to transform the marketing organization?

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This is the second in a three-part series of posts on integrated marketing management platforms.  The first post identified the strategic need for integrated marketing management, mapped this to key marketing ‘pain points’ that these systems address and provided an overview of the disparate technology camps that are vying to deliver robust integrated marketing management platforms to marketing organizations.  Click here to view the first post, “Marketer’s Needs + Technology Landscape.”

Today’s post will present high-level thoughts for marketers on approaches to analyzing their needs and to selecting a platform that is the right ‘fit’ for their organization.  The final post in this series will present snapshots of the top 20 vendors I’m watching and that I believe are representative, forward-thinking leaders in this segment.

    

What should guide your decision to purchase an integrated marketing management platform? 

Let’s start with the basics:  What are your fundamental business goals?  And what marketing programs have you deployed to achieve these goals?  Ideally you want to invest in technology infrastructure that can help you achieve your business goals, that mirror your marketing programs and that (when all is said and done) can help you measure the impact that you made in reaching this goal.  Seems straightforward … except (and let’s not sugar coat this) … marketing processes and communication flows are complex and borderline ‘ugly’ when it comes to the level of complex, integrated execution and monitoring involved.  This means that your technology infrastructure must be able to handle this ‘ugliness.’ 

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

That brings us to the more advanced issue in evaluating the purchase of an integrated marketing management platform:  “How do I bring method to the madness?” as Market2Lead CEO Geoff Rego framed in a phone interview.  Whereas focus should rule the day in marketing strategy and planning, robust capability and the ‘kitchen sink’ factor should, in part, guide your technology decisions.  You want a platform that can give you real leverage.  In fact, you probably need more than you think you need.  And you can’t ‘wimp out’ when it comes to digging into this decision; this is a system that will become your lifeline; nor can you simply go with the marketing technology equivalent of ‘Big Blue’ (because no one got fired for buying Big Blue, right?).

“One thing not to do is to look at a generic list of the ‘top three’ products or ‘industry leaders’ and refuse to consider any others,” comments industry analyst David Raab in a white paper, titled “Three Differences that Matter in Demand Generation Systems.”  Raab continues, “On the other hand, few marketers have the time or inclination to perform an in‐depth technical analysis of several dozen demand generation systems, or even to document their own needs in detail.”

So then what is the middle ground, and how should marketing organizations approach finding the right ‘fit’ for their organization … without having to build CIO-level expertise and while staying true to their current, successful (but not fully leveraged) marketing processes?

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Today we are beginning a new ‘semi-frequent’ feature on the Propelling Brands blog.  In addition to the regular features and ‘who’s propelling’ profiles of individuals and companies, we will periodically feature Q&As with individuals that are true forward thinkers on brands, marketing, innovation and technology.

  

Wisconsin School of Business

Source: Wisconsin School of Business

Professor Aric Rindfleisch is just such a forward thinker and marketing researcher, who works to fuse insights from the front lines of business and marketing with cutting-edge academic research.  In addition to his extensive academic background, he has worked for both ad agency J. Walter Thompson in Japan and marketing research firm Millward Brown.  Rindfleisch is currently the Associate Dean for Research & PhD Programs and a Professor of Marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He teaches graduate-level courses for the Wisconsin School of Business on new product development and marketing strategy; his academic research focuses on understanding inter-organizational relationships, consumption values, and new product development; and he is developing a new blog for the school, titled WisconsInnovation which seeks to bring together the ‘co-created’ insights of both faculty and students on innovation in business.

Rindfleisch has recently authored a groundbreaking paper, titled “Customer Co-creation:  A Typology and Research Agenda,” which we are fortunate to be able to share on this blog.  His co-author is Matthew S. O’Hern, a lecturer and doctoral student in marketing at Wisconsin.  The paper is slated to be published in an upcoming volume of the academic journal Review of Marketing Research.  And it is the focus of our Q&A here.

So what does co-creation really mean?  What is the impact of co-creation research on businesses, and how can marketers embrace co-creation as a strategy for improving the customer-brand relationship?

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I wrote in a recent piece on this blog, titled “Marketing Personalization 2.0,” about how companies are increasingly applying techniques from mass customization, using ideas such as personas and embracing what Patricia Seybold refers to as ‘customer scenarios’ to improve personalization of marketing efforts.  I also cited a range of technologies that can manage execution of this type of marketing.

Yet, even as this evolution represents an advancement over Marketing Personalization 1.0 (i.e., demographic and lifestyle channel targeting), there is much to be desired.  We are still at a point as marketers where we are guessing at personalization.  It is still possible to make costly mistakes, particularly if we misjudge customer persona or the channels for interacting with a given persona.

Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

“If you think backward from the audience you’re trying to reach and the channels and methods you’ve used to try to reach them, it all argues for taking a much more integrated approach to the work of marketing and communications,” argues Jon Iwata, SVP of Marketing and Communications for IBM, quoted in a recent piece by Paul Dunay on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog.

Fortunately, waiting in the wings is a new wave of technologies that promise to rapidly leapfrog the current state and to take us to what I believe is a very tenable basis for structuring and ‘propelling’ forward to Marketing Personalization 3.0 (see diagram).  These technologies, which include semantic analysis and social graphs, offer the potential not only to get closer to customers than ever before, but they also approach enabling what I believe is true ‘co-creation‘ of the marketing experience.

What do I mean by this?  Customers, who increasingly have power and leverage over brand-companies, will not only specify what they want but will also shape the boundaries and expectations of their communication with, recommendations regarding and the ultimate delivery of products and services from vendors. 

The entire experience will become a partnership, but why is this important?

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I was listening to a presentation by marketing leaders at a major consumer packaged goods (CPG) company this past week, and it made me think about the issue of the sustainability of our marketing campaigns and investments online.  One of these marketers was talking about how her team, as part of a major brand marketing initiative, had launched a Web micro site.  The site was well-produced, but it was little more than an online brochure (with some value-added content, to be fair).  It was not bad, but my immediate thought was about the half life of such a site.  Sure it would help drive traffic and subsequent exposure and attention for a period of time, but it was static, with nothing special to keep people coming back once they had gotten tired of it.  It wasn’t serving as an ongoing catalyst for the customer relationship and for longer-term brand community.

I had a similar experience listening to another presentation by marketers at a different CPG about a month ago.  They were talking about how a key piece of a new product launch was a ‘buzz campaign.’  It made me wince, but — yes — they were talking about paying people to go online and create buzz for their new product.  The ethics of such a campaign aside, it also made me think about sustainability.  As long as these ‘buzz agents’ were being paid to talk about the product, there would undoubtedly be dialogue in chat rooms and on blogs, but once the campaign was over, how long would this continue, and what would be the impact on the brand’s reputation if people found out about the paid buzz agents?

Dr. Justine Foo, a scientist and marketing researcher, perhaps said it best in a post, titled “New metrics for sustainable marketing,” on her Brains on Fire blog earlier this year:  “Our current market is driven by short-term forces: get next quarter’s numbers up, what it will cost me now, # of mass impressions, etc. As a result, we create campaigns, not movements … .”

Where is the sustainability in all of this?

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The challenge of any marketing strategy is that as marketing leaders we always face the great ‘leap of faith‘ that you can’t get over.  We try to design marketing programs that coincide with right place, right time and right target audience.  And we have binders full of statistical, demographic and ethnographic insights that we use to justify this triangulation.  But it all remains a guess.

Further, our target customers don’t choose to participate in a given media or social-networking channel saying, “I hope my favorite brand will market to me there!”  They choose these channels out of their own personal and professional interests and needs. 

Finally, their choice of channel constantly changes over time.

Thus the underlying issue is that our brand communities are mobile – not just in the phone sense but in the holistic sense.  And it’s our challenge and opportunity as marketing leaders to figure out how to keep up with them.  Yet many of our legacy approaches, processes and platforms do not enable this; instead, they focus more on the medium, rather than the brand community relevance.

What can we do to help solve the ‘mobility’ problem and better center our marketing on brand communities?

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I wanted to call out an interesting thought piece I saw on the Conversation Agent blog today.

Marketers are often excited about riding the wave of every new channel or technology medium for reaching customers.  There is a sense of cache, but there is also this sense that if you get in first, you can actually rise above the background noise and make your message heard.  In recent years, this has meant embracing social media as part of brand building.  The latest darling, of course, is Twitter.

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