How these CMOs are making marketing 3.0 a reality

Marketing leaders from Visa, Taco Bell, Time Warner and Zappos talk about their data-driven marketing efforts and the critical focus that needs to be placed on internal culture for success

From left: Zappos' Tyler Williams, Taco Bell's Marisa Thalberg , Time Warner's Kristen O'Hara, Visa's Kim Kadlec and panel moderator, Adweek's James Cooper
From left: Zappos' Tyler Williams, Taco Bell's Marisa Thalberg , Time Warner's Kristen O'Hara, Visa's Kim Kadlec and panel moderator, Adweek's James Cooper


Connecting organisational dots, cutting through complexity and removing corporate hierarchies are just a few of internal changes CMOs are tackling in order to bring the next generation of marketing into their enterprises.

Brand custodians from Visa, Time Warner, Taco Bell and Zappos took to the stage at this year’s Marketo Marketing Nation summit to discuss what is on their priority list, as well as the approach to data, technology and corporate culture that’s helping them better engage customers.

One of the biggest priorities for VISA senior VP global marketing platform and capabilities, Kim Kadlec, is connecting the dots between marketers, communicators, IT, product developers, engineers and data analysts. The aim is to break down communication gap silos between marketing and distribution to better inform product and experience design through data.

“We talk about data a lot, but actually having a discipline around it that allows you to activate on it in a marketing capacity and build an iconic brand, is important,” she said. “The sooner we connect the dots and speak the same language, the better.”

What keeps Time Warner’s CMO of global media, Kirsten O’Hara, awake at night is how to use data to gain competitive advantage. To make that happen, it’s important to mobilise the whole organisation to realise the opportunity, she said.

“We have gone through many cycles of transformation – every decade there are new things, whether it’s CRM, ecommerce, and now data. What makes data a significant opportunity is it cuts across the entire organisation and we need systemic change in order to realise the potential,” she said.

“When we talk about data at Time Warner, it’s a business transformation, and marketing is use case one. But for us, the new use cases that cut across distribution, content, franchise marketing and as well as marketing, are key. There are lots of opportunities but it’s a huge challenge because change is really hard.”

As brand stewards, Taco Bell CMO, Marisa Thalberg, said marketers have a responsibility to cut through the complexity that exists for consumers in the marketplace, but equally, within the organisation. More widely, she saw her role as turning all staff into storytellers.

“It’s about having a clear vision, purpose and sense of what your brand is about and why it matters,” she said. “If you can’t create that fundamental human and emotional connection, all the tracks you’re laying behind won’t be as meaningful. Even people you don’t think of traditionally as storytellers own that responsibility in their own way too.”

Technology has an important role to play in facilitating experimentation, being forthright on what works and what doesn’t, and driving change, Thalberg said. “Culture is then what enables us to make the right decisions,” she added.

The focus in recent years has also been internal for Zappos, as it strives to get the internal systems that enable the brand story to keep unfolding and changing, its ‘fungineer’, Tyler Williams, said.

“We’ve worked to break down the traditional hierarchy of managers and titles, and we’re now self- organised,” he said. “It’s a distribution of power that gives employees the ability to move quickly and fast, and be empowered in their work. That has worked really well for us.”

Williams said the Zappos brand started with a lot of ‘firsts’, and value propositions that were ahead of their time.

“The industry has caught up and that’s common now. So how do we continue to get people to continue to choose Zappo has been top of mind,” he continued. “What we’ve focused on is creating new value props that are ahead of the industry. We’ve always viewed ourselves as customer service company, not an ecommerce company. So we’re looking at getting into other industries to solve for that. We want to diversify and be more resilient as a company.

“Will we be in ecommerce in 10 years? We don’t know. So what can we do as a brand so we can pivot, be resilient and adapt to the faster and faster marketplace.”

That commitment to customer engagement and servicing customer needs has seen Zappos launch portable toilets for the live events market.

“As a service company, we look at areas where we see needs and where there is a service gap,” Williams said. “With event festivals, the number one complaint is portapotties... No companies are innovating in this space. We thought Zappos was the right brand to create a new type of restroom so we created the first Porta Party.”

First introduced in VIP areas, the company is now looking to extend these to wider audiences. “It has amazing features, fun and makes going to the bathroom quite the experience,” Williams said.

Data as a customer force

Panellists also debated the role of data in their organisation and strategic make-up. At VISA, a plethora of insights provides the ability to identify the customer stories that matter.

“If you think about it, every SQL query is the beginning of a story,” Kadlec said. “The folks looking at this data day in and out... they’re literally seeing human stories and behaviour. Empowering them to speak to the rest of the organisation to let those stories out makes them very actionable.”

Utilisation such data insight has led to products like Visa Checkout for seamless payment on the phone or laptop, to buyable videos with Wiliams Sonoma, Kadlec explained.

“There are lots of opportunities to get really creative around how you connect content and commerce,” she said. “But it’s how to connect the dots and how you find stories that are actionable that creates the magic.”

Data is also rapidly informing every aspect of Time Warner’s marketing approach, O’Hara said, who added the change has happened very quickly.

“Part of that is because the impact of data compounds very quickly,” she said. “We’re at a point right now where every marketing campaign, whether it’s HBO, Turner or Warner Bros, games and so on, is starting from a data-first place. It’s informing everything from communications planning to creative strategy and media planning. Everything is being optimised in real time because of data. That’s shifted so much of how we go to market.”

As an example of data activation, O’Hara pointed to DC Entertainment, which has an aggressive launch strategy. Three years ago, the team decided that it if it could market an entire franchise differently through the use of data and technology, it would succeed in making data a transformational engine for the business.

This came into effect with Batman versus Superman last year. “It was the first release where we had a strategy to collect data from the first trailer drop, not just for that movie, but across all DC franchises, Every single campaign from then til March of last year needed to be a data collection opportunity,” O’Hara explained.

“We used a data-driven approach for that movie [Batman versus Superman] and since then, the organisation thinks very differently and is going to market very differently today. Six months after that movie came Suicide Squad. It was one of the first movies where we stopped spending before release, because the segmentation and targeting was so effective we were hitting our numbers pre-release.”

Get rid of the old, embrace the new

So what would these marketers purge if they could? Williams said rigid processes that have been built by businesses to protect them are the thing he’d most like to see eliminated.

“It’s about breaking down incumbent behaviour internally – pivot your business and don’t be tied to your primary business,” he said. “For us, that’d be ecommerce or shoes.”

O’Hara would love to make organisational change easier. “All businesses are being transformed from one extent to the other,” she commented. “Part of it is breaking things down to smaller bits so it’s not as scary for people. There’s a lack of expertise – when required you don’t have skills internally and need to bring on experts from outside, which can be unsettling for rest of the organisation.

“I’d like the ability to make it easier, faster and take away barriers that it has to be perfect all the time. And convincing people we need to adopt a pilot mentality.”

Kadlec also wanted to “take the handcuff of legacy fetishes”. She pointed out 50 per cent of millennials are using adblocking tech, and that data and talent should be used to create awesome experiences people want to lean into.

“More and more these days, magic is the cost of entry. We have the power to accomplish that but we don’t.”

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to Marketo Marketing Nation as a guest of Marketo.

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