If you went to TFM&A, you were probably looking for a specific technical solution. But you might also have been in search of the answer to a much bigger problem - how will older marketers cope with the new digital world? David Reed finds out
Some industry events have a hidden theme running through them. Without any prior agreement, speakers reference the same example and visitors are all talking about it, too. Like a stick of rock, you only find out what it is after you have taken a bite.
In the case of this year’s Technology for Marketing and Advertising show, the common thread was Gartner’s prediction from January 2012 that in five years’ time, chief marketing officers would be spending more on technology than chief information officers. It was an idea that helped bring together the many disparate strands to be found at TFM&A and give them a sense of an over-arching strategic relevance.
How else to make sense of the competing interests of search marketing or email, CRM and data-driven marketing? If you see the multiple point solutions on offer as contributing to a coherent picture of the newly technology-literate marketing function, then some type of signal begins to emerge from the noise.
A prime example of how the challenges of managing multi-channel marketing can be met - even if with some difficulty - was given by Richard Murphy, global director of Nokia.com and eCommerce, Nokia. In a session called “Digital marketing transformation”, he pointed out that, “we as a business are going through an enormous amount of change - the shift of advertising spend to the Net, the change in where and when people access the Net. So much traffic is going mobile, we are now seeing a rate of 2:1 mobile to PC visits.”
Murphy made the telling point that digital natives working in marketing deal with new channels without hesitation. But their bosses - the senior executives who hold the budget - are “digital migrants”. For them, digital channels are not only unfamiliar, they also represent a threat.
This came to light after his team had identified the four marketing capability leaders which Nokia needed to focus on - accountability, talent development, process management and key performance indicators. “We fired this out to our local markets as the answer to their problems. Twelve months later it was still sitting as a slide in their hard drives and nothing had changed ,” recalled Murphy.
“So we did some research into what was preventing this change from happening. We’d focused on our goals, but not on what was going on underneath, such as people wondering why we were bothering with digital? To people under 30, that is not a question they expected to hear asked, but it scares older people,” he said.
Many marketers lacked the knowledge and skills to drive campaigns in these new channels, so were avoiding them. To help, Nokia identified experts and moved them into teams where they could transfer their knowledge. At the same time, Murphy simplified the 13-stage customer journey which had been mapped into a set of outcomes that made sense across all areas of marketing.
“If the business objective is to increase product consideration, the call to action on our marketing is ‘learn more’. The second thing is ‘buy more, buy now’. ‘Do more’ is about downloading apps and bonding with the handset. ‘Tell more’ is about advocacy. Marketing teams can focus on those and understand what they need to do,” he said.
What looked like a need to transform the nature of its marketing was in reality an enterprise-wide change management requirement. But as Murphy pointed out, “you’ve got to adapt or die - and we nearly did.”
It is a theme which the IDM itself has picked up as an external issue, as much as an internal one. As its CEO Mike Cornwell put it: “The IDM is really focusing on how to retrain the C-suite who missed out on the whole digital explosion. There are a lot of people who need to go back to school.”
Evidence of how challenged many practitioners are by the new technology-saturated marketing could be found in some of the session titles alone. From “Marketing A utomation for the Masses” (by internet and intranet services provider Clerkswell) and “Automate your marketing implementation and get a promotion” (Brandworkz) to “The technology RFP trap” (Experian Marketing Services), it is clearly not easy these days to manage this business-critical f unction.
Peter Galdies, development director, DQM Group, made the point in a panel debate chaired by Cornwell. “Marketing models for today are unlikely to be models for tomorrow because the environment is changing rapidly. The same strategies won’t work tomorrow - the best examples are the ones that adapt and change the fastest,” he said.
Some aspects of this challenge are easier to define than others. The other major theme within TFM&A was big data, which as many speakers arguing against as were for it. Integrating data sets from the new channels with those already in place is a critical objective for many companies.
“The challenge for organisations is to align the traditional data held in their CRM databases with what they can glean from social channels and clickstream to understand how customers are moving through owned, earned and paid media. If companies are able to integrate across all of those data sets, they will start to understand that,” said Simon Hughes, senior marketing manager of global marketing operations, Microsoft.
While there is plenty of technology around to address that, the underlying difficulty is harder to resolve. Said Hughes: “The challenge I have everyday is from a people standpoint - how to develop the skill set. We’re moving to an age where the traditional marcomms manager has to become a technical manager.”
This is what draws the crowds to TFM&A more than anything else - the desire to find an answer to how to manage technology-driven marketing. It is a search for knowledge, rather than solutions (in the IT sense) that really underpins the success of the event.
Paul Cash, managing director (or “chief zagger” [sic]) of communications agency OTM Create - part of the advisory board for TFM&A - put it bluntly: “I see the fear in the eyes of marketing directors as they battle the confusion that exists in the marketplace today.”
He said: “The real challenge is to be ‘master blenders’ - taking the best of the old and the new. There is an opportunity to form a more integrated view of the world. You have to surround yourself with young talent who have the skills to deal with the emerging world, but surround them with older experts who have the experience to get the best out of them.”
One way of doing that is what Microsoft’s Hughes described as “reverse mentoring”, where the younger digital natives support their seniors in the business. At the same time, some of the robust and proven approaches from traditional marketing can be translated back down the line.
“Many of the principles of old-world and new-world marketing are the same, such as test-and-learn,” admitted Richard Robinson, director of Google. “Real-time data is what transforms how companies act and react to customers because they can do things so much more quickly. The best thing about the web is that you can fail fast, put those failures away and move on having learned so much.”
Learning is not always easy, especially for practitioners who are mid-career. But the one given is that change will happen anyway. As Robinson pointed out: “The Gartner finding shows how important the technical layer is to engaging with customers. The marketer of yesterday is not the marketer of tomorrow.”