New consulting group aims to help marketers tap cognitive computing and analytics

Lead partner for KPMG's new division, Solution 49x, talks about the challenges marketing departments face around digital transformation

Cognitive computing and artificial intelligence have the power to transform marketing and advertising by bringing greater efficiency and effectiveness to the marketing function.

That’s the view of KPMG lead partner and head of the consulting group’s new Solution 49x business, Rod Bryan, who caught up with CMO recently to discuss the business’ go-to-market strategy, as well as how the operational structure of marketing needs to change in order to meet customer expectations.

One of Solution 49x’s core focuses is on bringing AI and cognitive capabilities to bear in the marketing arena. And that, according to Bryan, is very much a conversation about how marketing maximises technology’s potential for speed and agility.

“Most organisations can get stuff done, what they can’t do is get things done at scale or in an agile way,” he claimed. “That’s where AI and machine learning will really change the way you utilise these technologies to create far more impact and to manage the environment you are designing.”

As an example, Bryan said many large organisations today will have more than 100 models in their marketing department. “But they could use 1000 if they can make that be cost, process effective and accurate,” he said. “In marketing, the more granular you get, the more you are able to tailor messages for your consumer base.”

Solution 49x is a newly formed team within the KPMG business. The emphasis is on helping organisations design their processes, organisational structures and skillsets to into analytics, cognitive and digital capabilities for better marketing and customer engagement.

Bryan and his founding team members have been in consulting for several years before moved across to KPMG last October. To date, Solution 49X has recruited 30 staff including data scientists and modellers, process consultants and architects, digital experts, trained cognitive and AI/machine learning specialists and some behavioural science.

“We decided five years ago that we didn’t want to just do analytics, we wanted to create a factory concept around insights, connectivity, autonomics, and how that impacts product design, customer journeys and campaign management, to take a business outcome view,” Bryan explained.

“It’s about how you manage when you’re moving into an environment where you have 10 to 50 times the scaling of campaigns you’ve been used to running in the past, how you handle content, or how you create customer experience journeys and manage content across that.”

According to Bryan, every marketer must be well-versed in data and technology in order to function successfully.

“There’s no such thing as a marketing department that doesn’t need technology skills at the moment,” he said. “The issue is how organisations shift from being interested in machine learning, to pragmatically exploiting it and creating value with it. That requires real design work and a real understanding of what your team does, and what you need to transition in order to become a far more dynamic and agile group.”

While most organisations know they need to find a way to keep up with rapidly changing consumer expectations, many are struggling to take the technological, process and cultural steps necessary to do so. Bryan suggested most organisations are nowhere near well organised enough to meet customer expectations now and into the future.

“The consumer is moving so fast, as practitioners we find organisations struggling with how to bring all the elements together,” he commented. “For example, they’re struggling with programmatic buying and capabilities that are not linked to a total platform of marketing capability. They’re buying [advertising] real estate that’s not aligned to the total journey design.”

Another major issue is being able to action customer insights. An example Bryan pointed to is around audience segmentation.

“Marketers may have spent $300,000 with someone to come up with a great combination of lists, mosaic and so on,” he said. “So now I have insight into who buys my product. But what do I do with that? Am I changing campaigns, can I link that to data to run my propensity to buy and churn models against those segments?

“Unless you can make use of these, it has limited practical value. It’s funny how many organisations are willing to spend on interesting.”

Bryan also saw a similar issue around marketing technology purchasing.

“Organisations are often buying technology but don’t understand in-depth what their needs are or understand they have specific requirements,” he said. “You need to have a vision of where you want to be, not what you currently want. Then buy capability to get you on that journey.

“Take campaign management: Is it a technology, business or procurement choice? The reality is it’s all of these. And marketing can’t do it without the IT folks being a big partner in this, but that’s often not the case.”

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