CMO Interview: Building customer connections using art and science

We talk to the global chief marketing officer of PItney Bowes, David Newberry, about data-driven marketing, creativity, B2B marketing trends and how to be more customer centric

Data-driven marketing has become the catchcry for marketers striving to achieve real-time and relevant customer interactions in a world where consumers have all the brand power. But it’s those who also invest in creating an emotional link with the customer that will win the fan base.

That in a nutshell is the view of Pitney Bowes global chief marketing officer (CMO), David Newberry, a highly experienced brand manager and marketing technologist tasked with spearheading the customer management software vendor’s market engagement and growth.

For Newberry, marketing must be a combination of art and science. Technology improvements in management platforms have clearly driven scientific capabilities around reach, tracking and response, but it’s equally important marketers have the creativity to convey the right message in a way consumers can relate to on a human, social level, he said.

“Sometimes when people talk about the science of marketing, they forget that there is this whole emotional side. That is the true essence of a brand – how it conveys emotional value and creates emotional connections with an individual,” he said.

“How you create empathy with an individual is all about the creative, or art of marketing. Successful marketing is about how you combine those two things.”

Technologist by trade, marketer by nature

Newberry has the benefits of both art and science experience, and boasts of a long pedigree in brand marketing as well as marketing technology on the international stage. He worked for 20 years at British American Tobacco in marketing and general management roles, and also spent 13 years living in a diverse range of countries including South Korea, South Africa, Hungary, the Middle East and the UK.

After quitting British American Tobacco, Newberry co-founded marketing technology company, ProMost, in San Francisco, before consulting to large organisations looking to improve the efficiency of their marketing organisations. He then joined a marketing operations management (MOM) technology provider in the Netherlands before switching to Portrait Software, which was acquired by Pitney Bowes Software in August 2010. Since then, he has held the title of group marketing chief.

For Newberry, modern CMOs need both an understanding of technology, as well as an ability to lead people. “The marketing function is becoming more pervasive across organisations and you have to be able to engage with more functions,” he commented.

“Marketing is also changing from a generalist function to one that’s becoming more specialist. You need to identify the right people, effectively manage them, make sure people are placed in the right roles.

“Being able to get the best out of people is becoming a key component to a good CMO.”

Customer centricity

Taking the lead when it comes to customer focus is also core to Newberry’s approach, and lies at the heart of how Pitney Bowes is realigning its market focus The company is endeavouring to achieve this by adopting a customer lifecycle approach, Newberry said. That requires a single view of the customer, which in turn requires c-level support.

“There is often a lack of clarity around whether it’s marketing’s role, or what the role of customer support and the other functions are. My view… is that marketing has to take the lead around providing a single view of the customer back into the various functions of the organisation,” he said.

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It’s also about taking a one-to-one relationship approach, something not native to B2B marketing, Newberry said. Traditionally, B2B marketers would identify an in-market opportunity, then put together a campaign that treated both clients as well as new prospects in a similar or the same way, Newberry explained.

“It was all about reaching out to a select group of organisations likely to have a similar issue, because you believed you had a solution that could address that,” he said. “Today, customers want recognition that there is a relationship in place, and they want to be treated in a way which reflects the nature of that relationship.

“What we are trying to put in place internally is an approach where we still do acquisition campaigns, but we also better on-board customers by ensuring they get the right level of benefits out of the technology or solutions we provide. It’s about how we then help them identify the right opportunities to augment their existing technology, and provide new solutions that deliver more value.”

Data analytics is increasingly helping Pitney Bowes decide the type of engagement needed, Newberry continued. “A lot of people talk about big data, but it’s actually about small data, and identifying which data criteria are really important, and which are the ones that can really make a difference in making decisions around how to engage with customers,” he claimed.

“That’s where you need analysts to interrogate all the different data sets, find the patterns of behaviour and identify the things that are important to know. It’s those insights that help you make the right decisions about how to treat an individual in an interaction.”

Thanks to the rise of digital advertising, significant strides have been made in understanding what a customer is doing and how they engage online, but behavioural data in isolation doesn’t deliver the full picture, Newberry said. “It’s how you combine behavioural and demographic data which gives you the better understanding as to why is likely to be of interest to that individual.”

In addition, a recent digital marketing trends report found US consumers are now being exposed to 3000 messages a day, making it incredibly difficult for brands to cut through. As well as clever content marketing, Newberry also saw location intelligence as a vital part of the process.

“Marketing has always been local and as an organisation looks to ensure they are treating the consumer as an individual, one needs to understand their locality and take into account various aspects of that,” he said. “Location is becoming a truly important part of contextual marketing and making it relevant.”

As an example, he pointed to online retailers who are now using location and even weather forecasts to identify an individual customer as well as target the appropriate products and services.

Earning customer trust

A big challenge marketers face in engaging one-to-one is gathering the right consumer data in a consensual way. This is especially problematic in an age of channel fragmentation and digital transparency, where privacy policies aren’t always clear and loyalty is constantly challenged. Newberry believed consumers will continue providing information to brands so long as it is treated in a confidential and respectful way, and there is a benefit for them doing so.

“This whole aspect of mutual value exchange is really important,” he said. “You need to be transparent – in other words, the reason you’re capturing this information is to ensure the experiences delivered back and offers made [by your organisation] are more relevant and in line with the consumer’s needs and expectations.”

Having an emotional connection between consumer and brand also helps improve a marketer’s ability to access the right information, Newberry said. “My father was a journalist and he used to say the ability to tell a good story is based on two things: Clarity of purpose, or being very clear about what you communicate; and authenticity, or credibility.

“That is exactly what marketing is all about now – it’s about brand reputation and the ability to tell a story that’s clear and concise around what you’re trying to sell and convey, brought together through a credible and validated proposition.”

In the digital age, where less direct human contact is inevitable, Newberry said striking this emotional, social connection becomes even more critical. “That’s also why consumers like to engage through social media with brands; they feel there’s someone human at the other end of the wire,” he said.

The dominance of social and earned media channels within the marketing mix has also shifted the focus away from brand promise, to brand reputation, and placed the spotlight on brand communities, Newberry said. “If you go back 20 years, Ford Motor Company could run a big broadcast campaign, get a high share of voice and state the promise being made to you as an individual. You’d have a fairly high level of consumer buy-in to that brand promise. It’s not the case anymore.

“Humans want to hear how other humans – colleagues, friends, family and community members – have experienced the brands. It’s all about reputation. So there is a huge move, both in B2B and B2C in this whole area of brand reputation. There is less trust around the brands and companies – that is now sitting with other community members sharing their experiences. Actions now speak louder than words.

“In other words, you can only really be credible based on the fact that people have supported what you say from a promise perspective. Brand communities are where you get that sense of reputation and credibility.”

As a way of summing up, Newberry referred to a comment made by the CMO of Walgreens in the US: ‘You must never let your brand promise get ahead of your customer experience’.

“In essence, that’s the challenge for marketing: Whatever you say has to be embedded in your ability to deliver,” he added.

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