Why Mars and Qantas are investing into in-house digital skills

Australian brands at CeBIT say they are investing in internal skill sets to tackle digital marketing paradigm and address agency skills shortfall

Chief marketing officers (CMO) should look to build digital capabilities in-house and find an ally in IT if they wish to be more responsive to customers and stay ahead of the curve.

Speaking on a panel at the CeBIT WebForward conference in Sydney, chief digital officer at FMCG brand Mars, Chris Riddell, said his team is increasingly working to educate the group’s marketing departments on technology platforms and trends to better drive brand engagement in the digital age.

Riddell said a stronger knowledge of digital and technology within marketing would lessen the function’s reliance on third-party agencies, and the skills shortfall in those organisations, and help build much-needed digital and social engagement capability internally.

“Success is dependent on that partnership between the IT and marketing functions, and we’re seeing more and more of these partnerships being formed internally,” Riddell said. “We are helping educate marketing departments so they in turn can learn what they need to ask their agency partners and can hold them to account.

“We are partnering with marketing... to help them learn the vernacular so they have an internal ally, not just external parties prompting them on what they should do.”

Fellow panellist and CMO of Qantas Loyalty, Stephanie Tully, agreed it was important to build in-house capability and said the airline had been investing in its internal digital skills as a way of improving marketing’s agility.

“We found this model works better for us in terms of speed and ability to react, and our understanding of digital as part of our integrated marketing strategy,” she told attendees. “The movement and speed of change today reinforces how important is to build internal capability. You need to own your own marketing strategy and have people who understand your business.

“Agencies have a role and we need their creative input, however with digital we’re moving to build this capability internally.”

Deloitte CMO, David Redhill, also supported internal investment as a winning ingredient commercially, adding that it helps to deliver much-needed brand authenticity around the products and services companies are selling.

“It’s a conceit to think you can learn a business in three months and then sell it. We are looking for our people in professional services to do the marketing for us,” he commented.

The key for Deloitte is content creation and distribution. “We are focused on getting great content together we can disseminate to our staff,” Redhill said.

“The era of purchasing mind space is passing. We have to create great content and own that content, which in turn earns us the right to be in people’s minds.”

Redhill also flagged the increased blurring of lines between marketing, digital and IT roles in marketing strategy.

“Marketing is not a sequential process – it’s an entangled feedback loop between creative people and strategic thinkers,” he added.

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