Andy Lark: Technology is the core brand differentiator

Outgoing CommBank CMO talks about how technology has become the new battleground for brands in the digital era

Whether your brand is virtual or physical, technology is the core differentiator and those with the best digital platforms will win the battle for customers’ minds and hearts, Commonwealth Bank’s outgoing CMO, Andy Lark, claims.

Technology has become the current battleground for organisations thanks to the surge in data, social era and the shift to mobile devices, he told attendees at the Adobe Digital Marketing Symposium in Sydney on 16 July.

“We are all software companies,” Lark said during his presentation on ‘the connected customer’. “Software must also cross all channels – you need to build once, run anywhere.

“Whatever your product might be, you need to deal with the fact that technology is the core differentiator for brands, right here, right now. Technology has become the battleground.”

Lark also contrasted the decade-long rise of Google as a percentage of the marketing budget against the more rapid rise of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and pointed out that when Google first came onto the scene, marketers treated it as a ‘+1’.

“We had a long period of time to sort out the Google effect, and integrate it with our digital marketing budgets,” he said. “As a result, it took roughly 12 years to get to 10-12 per cent of our media investment as enterprise. That is not going to happen in the future.

“Facebook’s on a trajectory to get there in four to five years; Twitter’s going to come on faster. We are not dealing with a plus one, we’re dealing with a plus 1 squared. That’s an enormous challenge.”

But while the social era might look profound, Lark predicted the rise of the sensory era and perceptual computing will be even more dramatic as technology infiltrates every waking moment of our lives.

“The Internet of Things new is going to become a reality, and every device will be connected, and will be transmitting where you are every minute of the day, what you just ate, what you just bought,” he said. “That’s a real thing and will be here within three to five years. The surge in data that presents then transforms the entire experience online and we are going to have to deal with that.

“As you re-platform your businesses for the digital era, you need to find that zero moment of truth; that one thing that customer really wants.”

Lark also highlighted mobile as the new gateway to business and said the winners in the next wave of digital innovation will be those that get mobile right. To demonstrate mobile’s impact, he illustrated the way CommBank’s customers use mobile, desktop and tablet devices throughout the day to show the differences in usage and how mobile has become a dominant form factor.

“Mobile is not an addition, it is the starting point,” he said. “In the future, the vast majority of interactions, particularly those involving purchasing decisions, will be made off a mobile device.

“Most of the secondary purchasing decisions by consumers happens at the zero moment of truth… it is the most convenient and immediate place to reach customers.”

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As part of his presentation, Lark ran through five common questions put to him by other marketers during CommBank’s brand transformation, and how his team approached them. The questions ranged from securing budget, to what technology platforms to choose, developing mobile and device strategies, and choosing partners. The banking group’s technology suppliers include Adobe, Salesforce, Google, Jive Software, Lithium, HCL and Amazon, while its agency partners include VML and White.

Two significant changes CommBank made to drive new and more responsive digital experiences was a move to integrated cloud infrastructure, and embracing agile methodologies in how its teams operated.

Driving digital as a culture across the organisation is another must, Lark said.

“Too many digital projects are looked at in terms of ROI, like they’re some bizarre add-on project. Digital is an inherent part of the P&L [profit and loss] and part of the cost of doing business,” Lark claimed. “We all have an enormous responsibility as digital leaders to educate other parts of the business on the true cost of running our large-scale digital channels. Too much of the digital investments occurring in a piecemeal fashion.

“You also need to look at ROMI – return on marginal investment. What do you get from the marginal extra dollars you flow into digital you would not have got otherwise?”

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