An in-depth understanding of consumers sits at the heart of what we all need to do, but we know it’s not always easy to uncover insights that will unlock a true innovation opportunity.
Technology has disrupted all walks of life and business. How can then the business of marketing remain untouched by the waves of disruptive technologies?
It means that new technologies also bring new challenges for the marketing leaders. So, how will a chief marketing officer (CMO) deal with the new technologies that are challenging his traditional business model? Where can he go for help? That is the most important question for a CMO today. His survival depends on finding the right answers to his dilemma.
"Technology today has become so ubiquitous that future of marketing lies in technology," Krishnan Chatterjee, senior vice-president and head of strategic marketing, HCL Technologies told CIO Asia over the phone one morning in late June when Singapore was wrapped around in a thick blanket of haze. "None of us has any doubt about it."
Chatterjee is a multi-disciplinary strategic marketer with 18 years of experience straddling across consumer goods (B2C) and technology (B2B) industries. So, he has seen it all. Now, sitting in his office at HCL Technologies in India, he and his team have been working on a new model of marketing that will fully embrace the new disruptive technologies.
"You might wonder what a technology company is doing in the business of marketing," he said. "Almost everybody from IBM onwards has jumped on this bandwagon. Every IT company worth its salt today is articulating a proposition for the CMO." He then paused for effect. "What we are doing is slightly different."
He goes back a little and gives us a background of his team's research.
To develop HCL Tech's proposition, Chatterjee had held face to face consultations with about 40 CMOs in India and abroad. "They gave tremendous amount of insight with which we were able to build this offer," he continued.
"What do we seek to achieve? He asked rhetorically. "The most fundamental insight we got when technology enters the CMO's landscape is that technology has entered (the landscape) not because of the CMO but because of the consumer." What he means to say is that it is the consumer who has brought in technology in the CMO's landscape and the CMO has been forced to deal with it.
"Consequently, what has happened is in traditional marketing, we thought the moment of epiphany, of truth, is when the consumer encounters your product typically inside the store," he said. That is not quite true any more. "Technology has moved the moment quite far away from the actual interaction with the product."
He gives us an example of booking a hotel for holidaying in Sri Lanka. He tells us how he recently booked a hotel by looking for hotels on the Web and when he found a hotel that was recommended by his friends online, he went ahead and made his booking. He didn't need any further convincing. His friends had vouched for the property and he was sold on the idea.
He calls it the 'Zero moment'. It is the moment when you decide to make a purchase without physically viewing or experiencing the product.
In the hotel example, he had a zero moment of truth experience at that point of time because he decided on the hotel without looking at it or visiting it.
"It is happening more and more across the multiplicity of product category," he said. "The moment you think about the zero moment, it not only presents a massive creative opportunity to differentiate the marketer's brand; it also presents a tremendous cost out opportunity in marketing itself."
Why? "If you can engage the consumer so early in the engagement lifecycle, your spend will be that much less," he explained.
HCL Technologies' Mission
"Our mission is to be the CMO's zero moment partner," he says. "We believe if we can be the zero moment partner then we will not only be able to tremendously increase the effectiveness of marketing but we can also tremendously reduce the cost it encounters on the profit and loss."
His approach is not that of substituting the creative resources or agencies that the CMO has been working with all along.
"You can't tell the CMO that I will substitute everybody that you work with," he said. "He has built up an ecosystem over the years and works with best of the breed agencies."
That was one of the learnings he had when he met the 40 odd CMOs. Don't go in with substitution. So, the campaign box is not to be touched in this case.
"The CMO and the agencies do an exceptionally good job in the campaign box," he said. "We don't want to touch that. Unlike us, every other technology company is trying to get into the campaign box."
Switching consumer to community
There are three main components of HCL Tech's proposition: Integrated Analytics, Multichannel Hub and Content Creation, Rendition and Management.
What happens in Integrated analytics? In this, said Chattejee, we ask: "Can we marry unstructured, semi-structured and structured data into analytics with which campaign hypothesis can be built? Unstructured data is typically social media data. Semi-structured data can come from many sources such as market research agencies. Structured data can come from the organisation's own systems like their point of sale, their CRM database and so on."
"Usually the challenge most CMOs face is they have all these forms of data on a standalone basis," he said. "But it is very difficult to integrate them and look at one consistent view of what is going on in your market."
To take care of this, they have come out with a Multichannel hub. This hub harmonises the consumer touch points of a campaign across all the channels, and provides a common view of the consumer.
This, according to Chatterjee, helps in building communities. 'It enables the CMO to start building community with the consumer instead of having de novo touch points with him with each new campaign."
He gave the example of Oreo on Facebook. It is one of the top 10 brand pages, with 45 million followers on Facebook. The same company also owns Toblerone as a brand.
So, instead of building separate brand campaigns for these two brands, the mother company should aim at engaging the community of 1 billion followers and switch them to their brand in the zero moment. That's what HCL Tech's proposition advises.
So, the Multichannel hub helps in switching consumer to community.
Community transaction, not individual transaction
The third piece of the puzzle is Asset creation, rendition and management and it takes care of the issue of community transaction instead of individual transaction.
"What we are offering is a solution (various components) which is a combination of technology and service," he said. "In some cases, we have our own IP but in many cases we are operating with best of breed technology products which we can then integrate."
For example, one of the components of their offering is called the Corporate listening office.
"What it does is that it listens on your behalf on the chatter on the social networks," he said. "We take tools like Radian 6 and have trained people sit on top of that tool so that instead of giving you a 500 page Radian 6 report, we actually deliver to the CMO a sentiment directory which based on certain customer KPIs."
Obviously, it reduced the pain points for the CMO and summaries for him the customer sentiment that he can make sense of.
"We did this for a big insurance company in the US. We were able to segment their entire buying audience of seven million active users. We were able to segment them in nine different segments. And across those nine different segments we built for them a sentiment directory."
HCL's offering contains all the above mentioned components but till date no single company has deployed them all. "We are already doing significant business with each of these components," he said. "It is in excess of US$120 million worldwide."
Chatterjee hoped that in the next few years, there would be companies that would be using the entire range of their solutions.
However, he cautions that the CMO cannot do it all by himself. He will need the CIO to be on his side.
His message to the CMOs is very clear. "The CIO-CMO combine is one of the most strategic combinations of the future," he said. "Most CMOs are usually 50 plus and not tech savvy. They have grown up in a more traditional kind of world. They lack the fundamental training of architecting and deploying technology."
So, unless the CIO and CMO work hand in hand, they won't be able to help navigate the company toward success and survival in these most competitive of times.