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CMO50 #5: Vittoria Shortt

  • Name Vittoria Shortt
  • Title Group executive, marketing and strategy
  • Company Commonwealth Bank
  • Commenced role March 2015
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 280 staff, 6 direct reports
  • Twitter @@VittoriaShortt
  • Industry Sector Financial services
  • 2015 ranking 5
  • Related

    Brand Post


    The Commonwealth Bank has built itself a reputation as Australia’s most innovative banking group, launching a host of pioneering digital offerings and technology advancements that have earned it the title of Australia’s first real-time financial institution.

    But when it comes to marketing, Vittoria Shortt is looking to reorient perceptions of innovation away from initiatives and to cultural shift. “When you start talking about innovation, people quickly point to example A, B C or D, rather than the ways of working that help innovation thrive,” she says. “For me, innovation is the cultural piece, but is has to be evidenced by things you achieve.”

    One example of how Shortt has looked to improve the bank’s innovative approach is by introducing ‘have a go’ KPIs into every marketer’s performance reviews.

    “People were feeling their KPIs were holding them back because by their nature, they mean you have to succeed,” she says. “The intent with ‘have a go’ is you must go something a go. There are a few limited no-go zones, and you have to do it thoughtfully, but the outcome is irrelevant, it’s about learning from what didn’t work and applying those learnings.”

    Shortt has stayed away from being prescriptive or having a target around these types of initiatives, but does insist staff discuss these regularly and that they’re part of performance reviews. “It’s qualitative, but this makes that front of mind,” she says.

    A data-led customer marketing transformation

    Elsewhere in marketing, data and analytical capability have become the glue sticking together everything Shortt is trying to achieve. For the past 12 months, she has been leading CBA’s Customer Marketing Transformation, an ongoing program of work propelled by the need to use customer data more effectively to inform media buying, improve target and lift messaging relevance.

    Core elements include introducing technology-enabled capabilities to raise marketing’s ability to interact through more personalised experiences, the democratisation of customer data across the business, rolling out the internal CAN Academy to educate and upskill marketing teams around key capabilities now needed for modern marketing, and a host of things she describes as “new ways of working”.

    The first phase of work heavily focused on creating tools, and three types of data-led services were rolled out: Strategic insights to create customer engagement strategies; pre-campaign analysis; and self-service tools to provide frontline teams with customer data. The second and current phase is how to get the value out of such tools and drive adoption.

    “It’s all very well to create fancy tools, but what we’re doing is measuring and monitoring usage, understanding who is using the tools, how are they using them to see what is the value coming out of them,” Shortt explains. “We have people capable of visualisation that are supporting visualisation tools for the frontline, and these tools are available and being used by all the people you’d expect – from product teams to the acting head of branch networks. We’re getting great takeouts from different areas and at very different levels as well.”

    Shortt initially believed everyone had to use everything. Today, she’s more interested in looking at who is using them and why. “It’s bringing up lots of questions we’re following up. Sometimes teams are not confident, so at least we know where to go to help,” she says. “Power users don’t necessarily get all the value either. We need to understand how it’s being used, but at least data gives us some insight.”

    Of course, data is useless without clear objectives, and Shortt says customer understanding has to come first. “The technology helps you to get there, and give us tools, but the customer understanding has to lead, supported by the former,” she says.

    Shortt says marketing has been getting excellent value out of its self-service, real-time reporting tools in recent months. It’s also led CBA to establish forums at different levels with ‘go-to-market teams’ who use the results to make decisions.

    “It’s been enormously useful because you get away from subjectivity,” she says. “We established a base set of data points we use to understand how things are working. What we’re evolving to is a greater depth of understanding. It’s about increasing our sophistication around these results, and pulling in different data points underneath. Sometimes you’ll get a particular view through data but if you pull in more data, that view changes. We’re making loads of decisions off back of that, and for me, that’s nirvana.”

    Data not only informs performance activity, it’s enabling teams to choose high impact, rich media placements designed to generate brand uplift. Adding to this in 2016 was the launch of a real-time, data-driven attribution model, which combines offline and online data to provide CBA marketers with a clear view of the customer’s true path to conversion for the first time.

    Already, Shortt says CBA has a clearer view of what contact is better at which stage of the customer journey, which it didn’t have that before. “I’m excited by the optimisation opportunities this presents,”she says.

    “Multi-touch attribution pairs up with customer journeys. We have been working towards optimising our contact around those journeys, but what we’ve not had in the past was the real data to help us understand what part of the journey we are in, when and what the timeframe is.

    “Our data tools bring that all together, and it’s both online and offline data, which very important for us given who we are and our branch networks. We all know customers go through a particular journey, and are in multiple and different places at any one point in time. How that hangs together and using technology to help us tap into that is going to very exciting work for us this next year.”

    The analysis tools are already causing marketers to actively rethink message content and channel usage for different parts of the communications process, leading to a 20 per cent increase in ROI around campaigns.

    Supporting CBA’s analytical insight capability is a group analytics collective, established by Shortt to foster cross-functional engagement and development. The analytics team includes specialists spread across the banking group, from marketing the data and analytics team to credit risk, digital, finance, IT and products.

    To keep the emphasis on customer, CBA’s group marketing and strategy team rolled out a customer management capability. Four key frameworks sit behind this: Engagement based around customer lifestage needs and value; adopting a market lens to determine target market cohorts and needs drivers for acquisition; adopting a customer relationship banking lens to understand and drive breadth and depth of an existing relationship; and embracing a customer value proposition framework that enables overall and segment specific propositions to be developed.

    Changing the media mix

    Like most other brands, CBA has been actively channelling media dollars into new channels, and Shortt notes 50 per cent of spend is now in digital and social. But she’s quick to highlight the ongoing importance of traditional media too.

    “You can’t always get the results you want out of some of the new media,” Shortt claims. “Reach is one, and quality is big discussion point at the moment with digital around things like viewability. You need the mix.”

    The way marketers used digital initially was also highly inefficient, and the focus is on improving that at CBA, Shortt continues.

    At the same time, it’s vital brands take risks in new channels. As an example, Shortt points to the ‘Everyday Champions’campaign by CBA, which saw the team replace TV investment with digital video, including YouTube. The cost per acquisition halved, new account sales targets were achieved and CBA app downloads spiked the week the campaign was launched.

    “We had been very happy with the results we were getting, but the question was can we do better and what insight do we have to go further,” she says. “We didn’t have a lot of insight on these new channels, so it was about giving it a go and agreeing we’d go back to the way it was if it didn’t work.

    “We put our best foot forward, tried it and it worked well. It could have gone the other way, and that would have been OK.”

    What made this possible was getting the buy-in of business partners to take the risk, she says. “We had conversations with our business partners and told them this is what we think it will produce but if it doesn’t get there, you need to be standing alongside us,” Shortt says. “It was about doing this with our partners.”

    Learning new capabilities

    Another one of Shortt’s priorities in the past year has been rolling out the CAN Academy, a training program produced in partnership with the Australian Graduate School of Management and Blackdot aimed at improving staff literacy in 10 fundamental modern marketing skills. CBA identifies these as data-driven marketing, influencing strategy, and functional capabilities including project and change management. Training is both formal and on-the-job.

    In 2016, staff began working through the modules, and Shortt says these have been linked more tightly to development planning. “But where we have set basic levels for a lot of roles, I think we’re going to realise that basic is no longer good enough for most roles,” she comments. “It’s especially the case with analytics. The question is, is it enough to have a basic level or do you need to be that next step up? I think it’s going to be the next step up.”

    That can’t be at the expense of collaboration, however. Shortt agrees it’s important that a shared language, culture and way of working exist across the entire marketing function.

    “If teams get too specialised, people start talking different languages and it’s difficult to come together,” she says. “We’re asking people to step up more generally, but it also comes back to having a philosophy of always learning. Things keep shifting and changing, and you have to commit some of your time to continually learning. It’s not good enough to say I don’t know.”

    According to Shortt, the distinction between how the marketing team functions today compared to two or three years ago is most apparent during talent review discussions.

    “We don’t talk about digital versus non-digital for example, it’s everywhere and everyone needs to be capable,” she says. “Previously, it would have been a team sitting in one corner doing digital. I’m happy with the uplift in capability in most areas, the one area I’d say that needs more is analytics. We need creativity in the mix, it’s a fundamental tenet and I don’t see being replaced, but you’ve got to use data properly.”

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