In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
Innovation and big data are dominant drivers in how today’s marketers interact with customers and require a business-wide focus and long-term commitment, according to several representatives from Australia’s biggest brands.
Coping with key industry issues like big data, innovation, content generation and leadership took centre stage during a panel at this year’s Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Connect event. The session was led by the general manager of relationship agency TrinityP3, Nathan Hodges, and featured four brand chiefs from Lion, Subaru, Westpac and Ferrero Australia.
Lion brand director of premium and international brands, Ben Slocombe, said the alcohol producer is committed to innovation and recently moved away from a project-based innovation team in order to embrace innovation as part of its culture. The company has identified eight key innovation platforms that are both expandable and repeatable across the business, stretching from recruiting new adults into the business, to making sure older groups of customers don’t exit specific product categories. Lion has eight employees aligned to these platforms.
“These [innovation platforms] are based on the category drivers we have qualified and give us the ability to innovate continually,” Slocombe said.
At Ferrero Australia, marketing director Yannick Durand, said it is fostering innovation across the whole team through its 70/20/10 business model, where 10 per cent of resource is allocated to innovating.
One innovation to come out of that was an online store for its Ferrero Rocher brand, which would enable it to tap into consumers not captured in its regular retail environments.
“Innovation is not something that is a fad; innovation stays,” Durand continued. “The 70 per cent of our model, which is more traditional marketing, is also moving very fast thanks to content demand and the increase in channels.”
At Subaru, innovation is often tied to meeting challenges and hardships as a smaller player in the automotive sector, its general manager of marketing, Andrew Caie, explained. One new way the company is thinking outside the square is by establishing a relationship with Cycling Australia, where it produces new communication channels and provides support to help grow the sport. At the same time, these initiatives give Subaru a platform to reach more potential customers it couldn’t do against bigger brands in traditional advertising media.
For Westpac’s head of digital marketing, Bryan Meredith, innovation is led by customer interaction. “It’s about fulfilling our customers’ expectations and leading them to where we want to go,” he said.
There are plenty of challenges to innovation too, including costs and time to market, balance and short-term thinking, panellists said.
“You have to prioritise enough time to see the results,” Bannick added. “Clearer measurement will also help the business to change.”
On the big data front, Westpac is building a range of initiatives based on increasing volumes of customer data and insight, and Meredith was excited by the opportunities it presented to better interact with customers. However he stressed the importance of looking at how you’ll act on any results from the data first.
“You need to understand what you are going to do with the customer when you get there,” he told the AANA audience. “Often, businesses are in danger of spending a lot of time on a big data solution that does little for you.”
Durand agreed big data analytics offered brands more ability to become more relevant to customers. “The more we have, the more important it is to know which questions to ask and to tap into the intuition of the business,” he said. “We could spend our whole budgets on data… but it’s about aligning this to the right questions to drive the brand.
“Making sense of and telling stories with the data is critical.”