Taco Bell CMO on digital marketing's 7 paradoxes

Taco Bell's marketing chief Marisa Thalberg says CMOs must overcome, or at least accept, seven key paradoxes if they hope to thrive in the modern marketing world.

Marketing technology Lumascape
Marketing technology Lumascape

PALM DESERT, Calif. — When Taco Bell CMO Marisa Thalberg took the stage this week at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) Annual Leadership Meeting she showed a graphic that depicts the growing complexity and chaos of the modern marketing technology landscape. More than 2,000 startups and legacy providers currently vie for a piece of that market, according to Terry Kawaji, founder and CEO of investment bank Luma Partners, which created the graphic Thalberg used in her presentation.

"I look at that [graphic], and I think there has never been a more amazing or more horrendous time to be a marketer," she said. The "digital and social media revolution" forced marketers to work on challenges and goals that often seem at apparent odds, according to Thalberg.

"Why do [marketers] feel sometimes paralyzed or just frustrated and confused?" Thalberg asked. "It's because we are operating in a Pandora's box of paradoxes."

The CMO then outlined seven paradoxes that she and many of her colleagues in digital marketing face today.

1) Brands need to create more content AND consumers feel bombarded by ads

Brands are told that they need to produce more content and promote it in more places than ever before, according to Thalberg. However, the majority of people say they "feel bombarded by too much advertising and consider it out of control."

This means marketers must navigate an increasingly varied media landscape, while producing appropriate content for the specific channels they target, she said.

2) Big brands are publishers AND advertisers

Brands increasingly become publishers when they create offerings such as Taco Bell's "taco emoji gif generator," a marketing initiative that resulted in the creation of a taco-specific emoji, according to Thalberg. However, brands are still advertisers, and their primary goals are to sell products or services. "It's not one or the other, we're actually both [publishers and advertisers]."

3) Brands need to be global AND local

Taco Bell and other global brands tell stories that must be global, because they are shared throughout the world, Thalberg says, but equally important local opportunities also exist. Brands need to tell stories with local relevance and global interest, according to Thalberg. Some campaigns may serve both purposes, but marketers should also specifically target local and global markets with different types of content.

4) Brands should focus on campaigns AND communicate constantly

Campaigns are the traditional method that brands use to tell their stories to the public, and they're just as relevant today as they were in the past, according to Thalberg. However, today's always-connected society also demands that brands maintain constant, 24/7 communication with their customers. "Ultimately, we need to tell more stories, but in the right ways and in the right places," Thalberg says

5) Marketing is an art AND a science

A familiar marketing paradox received a particularly vocal response from the attendees of IAB's annual event. "Marketing is art …," Thalberg said, pausing briefly so audience members could help her complete the statement in unison, "… and marketing is science."

"Are we all right brain and left brain now? Maybe," she said. However, while much of what catches consumer attention in advertising can be attributed to artistic creativity — the ads that make people laugh, cry or seek out more information — the mechanics and means by which ads reach consumers are increasingly scientific, according to Thalberg.

6) Great content is expensive AND organic

Creating compelling ads can be tremendously expensive, Thalberg said. "Great content creation can be elite, but great content creation can also be democratic."

The best ads aren't always the most expensive or professional ads, she said, and amateur, cheaply made videos and sketches can drive the same results as multimillion-dollar media campaigns. Great content is not exclusive to the "elite ruling class of high-end creative talent and the marketers who have the pockets to afford it," Thalberg said.

7) Marketers must inspire quick sales AND drive loyalty over time

Retail brands in fast-paced markets, such as Taco Bell, must pursue both short- and long-term growth and loyalty opportunities, according to Thalberg. "This is at the heart of the issue for us as marketers," Thalberg said. "The only way to win today is to recognize, … embrace and integrate these paradoxes in our digitally driven world."

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Getting your business ready for the Entrepreneurial Consumer

We all know the digital revolution has completely transformed the way consumers are interacting with brands, and that a lot of businesses are finding it hard to catch up. One way to closing this brand gap is to understand consumer behaviour and build a brand experience that meets these new needs.

Pip Stocks

CEO and founder, BrandHook

Brand management starts with management

As the world continues to grow and evolve, it’s more important than ever to build a strong brand that articulates your message clearly and consistently, stands out against the noise, and develops relevance with the people that matter. This makes managing your brand a key component to gaining cut-through and ultimately business success.

Dan Ratner

managing director, Uberbrand

Disrupting marketing as we know it

Call it digital disruption or the fourth industrial revolution, our rapidly evolving environment is affecting consumer perceptions, purchase behaviours and the way they consume information and products.

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Very well said “With today’s consumers more demanding of the brands and merchants they shop, it’s imperative for merchants to not just co...

Masterarts

CMO's top 10 martech stories for this week - 29 September

Read more

Very interesting article which touches on the importance of a feedback loop fuelled by customer and market insights. Ideally this scenari...

Andrew Reid

Building customer insights in the data and digital age

Read more

Very very good piece- very novel and innovative and very possibly- effective - way to look at one's communication headlines!

Patrick Dsouza

Should your disclaimer become your headline? - Brand science - CMO Australia

Read more

Excellent post Rob, Mobile app users are growing day by day. Everyday lots of apps are launched in the market but not every app retains t...

Marcus Miller

Why app engagement must be personalised - Mobile strategy - CMO Australia

Read more

very informative blog. I really like the information given in this blog.http://gng.com.au/

Gajanand Choudhary

The evolving role of the CMO - The CMO view - CMO Australia

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in