CMO50 #1: Mark Reinke, Suncorp
Marketing can no longer just be measured on growing today’s businesses, it is ultimately accountable for whether organisations will survive in future, according to Suncorp’s customer, marketing and data leader, Mark Reinke.
“Marketing has to create tomorrow’s business from the customer back. To me, that means marketing has a very significant impact on whether businesses will even exist,” he says.
Make such a statement five or six years ago, and most CEO and boards would have laughed. But the breadth of Reinke’s role within the ASX-listed insurance giant, and his success in helping the organisation navigate customer-led digital and data transformation, are proof the role of CMO today is ultimately one of business leadership.
Reinke highlights several career milestones leading to his current position and approach. The first was spending three years in the US for BHP while in his 20s, working to build up a small company the group had acquired by growing the Colorbond brand.
“It was a key milestone for me as it was accelerated learning, I was the only Australian in the business and I had to cover all facets, not just marketing,” he recalls. “I had singular accountability for growth in a new country with only my wits to support me. The business was previously owned by employees and they didn’t need me telling them what to do. You learn a lot from a character point of view from those experiences.”
Reinke’s second milestone was running his first large P&L for BHP’s pipe and tube business, covering everything from oil and gas piping to the Hills Hoist and car parts. “Every quarter, you needed to have your customer proposition set, be able to price in an international market, and to continue to innovate and reinvent in your business in a volatile market,” he says.
In 2006/2007, Reinke was on the team integrating 12 brands as part of the $8bn Promina and Suncorp-Metway merger. Each business had distinctly different approaches to brand and marketing across their portfolios, which included Bingle, Just Car, AAMI, Shannons, Vero and Australian Pensionerss Insurance. Today, Suncorp operates 14 brands across five verticals.
“My job was to integrate those businesses, continue to operate them, liberate some synergies and then maximise growth,” Reinke says. “I don’t think that had been done in financial services globally, to have that suite of brands in a services market, with such distinct brands and in distinct segments.”
Reinke’s most recent milestone, and the one that singled him out from the rest of the CMO50 2015 pack, was being elevated to Suncorp’s executive table to lead customer and marketing stream two years ago.
Challenging the meaning of CMO
For Reinke, the mindset shift from marketer to business leader came 10 years into his career, when he realised he physically couldn’t do things on his own.
“In your early career, you’re always focused on outputs and the ones you create,” he comments. "In year 10, you start to realise you don’t have all the answers and that the greatest momentum and acceleration you can get is via diversity of thought.
“My stint in the US started to show me that you could achieve a lot yourself, but much more by creating an environment where others could perform at their best. It’s not about you, but how you help the rest of the team to be successful and through that, you’ll be successful. I made a number of mistakes along the way there, and didn’t perhaps understand that until that point.”
At the same time, marketing as a function has expanded from the narrow confines of brand and communications to business growth, Reinke says. “Marketing was previously defined as engaging customers in the need for a product, and creating the brand as shorthand for why that product satisfied a customer need. Today, it’s more around designing journeys and delivering experiences, which is a much broader idea,” he says.
“That requires the fusion of skills and what would previously have been completely different functions. It also entails understanding technology quite deeply, in a way that allows you to solve customer problems, and understanding the power of data in solving those problems and creating new solutions, as well as content.”
Reinke’s role directly reflects this shift from responsive to proactive. As an example from his CMO50 submission, the group has recently adopted a ‘now’, ‘next’ and ‘later’ approach to growth opportunities. These are being used to build strategies that address existing product and segments, while increasing the focus on new products and customer opportunities.
“As we go through a period of accelerated change in society across all continents, the role of marketing becomes not just growth for today, but resiliency for tomorrow,” Reinke continues. “That is, understanding and navigating disruption. We have to understand those drivers and help redesign and reshape businesses built on models that were industrial age in many cases, for a new age.
“In times of accelerate changed, marketing has a responsibility that it’s never had before – it’s more than an opportunity.”
Creating the adaptable organisation
Reinke believes CMOs have to transform the business they’re operating in today. That requires technology, data and insight but most importantly, adaptability.
“You have to be able to automate and make many more decisions more quickly than you ever have before, and in many cases, that’s beyond the ability of pure human intervention,” he points out. “That doesn’t give you any guarantee, however, of the unknown unknowns.”
To have any chance of coping with unpredictability, marketers must create adaptable organisations, a concept Reinke says he’s passionate about. As an example, he points to digital disruption.
“Digital is often discussed as digitising existing experiences and creating new experiences, but broadly speaking, in many of the new business paradigm that exist. That’s great, and Kodak and others would have said they were doing that,” he says. “But what’s the role of marketing in creating an organisation’s ability to adapt when something unknown occurs – a ‘black swan’ event? What role do we play in being able to pivot quickly?
“You have to be working 365 days to create organisations that are agile and open to change.”
Reinke agrees the shift creates significant tension because it crosses so many boundaries of the organisation.
“It’s difficult and uncomfortable, but most of what organisations can do are today are almost immediately replicable by a competitor,” he says. “Only the culture’s ability to reinvent itself when it has to, makes it different.”
Suncorp’s quest for adaptability has seen the business create a unit this year focused on developing new offerings, and iterating with real customers on minimum viable products. The team is utilising lean startup methodologies and other innovative processes to expand that and has a dedicated GM.
Innovation, an overused but nevertheless critical word in the business lexicon, is key and for Reinke, it’s firstly about solving existing customer problems in new ways. More often than not, this is by connecting things that weren’t connected before, such as experiences, data, and people via platforms.
“Those customer problems tend to be things that have been there for some time, it’s just we can solve them in more elegant ways,” he says.
The second side of innovation is creating new models that allow the business to grow in ways not possible even in recent years, Reinke explains. “In our case, that means the opportunity to explore adjacencies, meet more customer needs and use capabilities we already have,” he says.
“I have a simple belief that companies can only grow in three ways: By entering new geographies; via mergers and acquisitions; or by inherently delivering new value for your customers. Boards have become wary of the first two, and it’s increasingly difficult to execute international expansion even though we’re in a globalised market because of currency risks, instability, culture and so on. M&A requires significant premiums and more often than not, shareholders don’t see a return on these premiums.
“In my business, innovation needs to play a significant role in the third option, which is delivering more value to existing customers. If you can start to solve problems and create new revenue models, that is transformation without the risk of transformational change.”
Next priorities: Data and delivery
In the next 12 months, Reinke’s focus is on creating platforms to aggregate, curate and simplify customer experiences, as well as to use data to “free people from their problems”.
For the last two-and-a-half-years, Reinke has led the group’s focus to harness the power of data as a competitive discriminator. The work saw Suncorp establish a team of 300 expert staff to accelerate capability, led by a chief data officer reporting directly to the CMO.
Suncorp has also simplified its data warehouse approach, employed cloud-based solutions, and created a portfolio of new customer use cases, focused on testing the group’s ability to uplift performance in retention, paint point removal and share of wallet. All of this is based on what is the holy grail of customer engagement: A single customer view.
“Thirdly, it’s to connect the meaning and purpose of our brand into broader culture,” Reinke says. “We need to create shared value, and by that I mean how do I create and measure value for customers for Suncorp and the community? In a socially enabled world, if you’re creating a lot of shareholder value but not much in the community, it’s out of balance.”
Another ongoing challenge for Suncorp is creating an environment that attracts the best talent, Reinke says. “These are complex problems to solve, and good talent, particularly in digital and data fields, can work in many places overseas. So it’s about how we create an environment where talented marketers want to work,” he says.
“My last focus would be how we measure the value we create, and then make better decisions on the strength of that. Yes, we do the same as everyone else - ROI, customer advocacy – but increasingly, we’re looking to make that predictive rather than retrospective. How do we create a forward-looking view of that value rather than last month or year’s delivery? That’s still work in progress.”
To get there, Reinke says CMOs need to remember that “learning beats knowing”. “If you’re a doctor or plumber, after 25 years you’re going to be at the top of your game. I don’t think it’s true in our profession,” he claims.
Understanding how technology can solve customer problems is another growing part of the marketing function.
“I think great marketing leaders are committed to learning, experimenting and creating that environment around them. You can’t rest of knowing because the recipe keeps changing,” Reinke says.
Marketing leaders also increasingly need to synthesise complexity into simple ideas that people can understand and grasp onto including boards, staff and partners. On top of this, they need to understand the commercial levers and these can be used to influence others.
A final core attribute for Reinke is encouraging diversity of thought.
“You need to know how to put teams together with different thinking styles and approaches because the answer is always somewhere in the middle,” he adds. “It’s that ability to bring talent together and get a multiplier effect from that it is key.”
CMO50 submission: Ensuring accountability
An example of an innovative marketing initiative Reinke has led from his CMO50 submission is establishing an Accountable Marketing Program. The program has been designed to ensure marketing investment is seen and managedas an asset, rather than an expense, and to lift the team’s capability to measure the impact of its strategies on P&Ls.
Reinke said the program enables the team to have more robust conversations with the CFO and to develop a quantifiable approach to ‘opportunity cost’, or where the best returns on investment have occurred. The work also involves adopting a continuous learning mindset through test-and-learn and experimentation, and is supported by deep quantitative insights gained through multi-brand, in-market testing and external partnerships to build cross-channel models, he said.
Personalisation of customer experience is a key part of the program, and has seen Suncorp’s marketing team invest in new Web technology platforms as well as audience segmentation through behavioural insights in order to better tailor interactions using real-time behaviour.