CMO interview: How BBC Studios' marketing lead builds brand purpose and growth

Global chief marketing officer across show brands such as Doctor Who, BBC Earth and Blue Planet shares the customer insight investments and partnership strategy fuelling audience growth and impact

Tech and digital-first partnerships

The strength of brand, content and IP is allowing the BBC marketing team to cement innovative partnerships and try new things, too. A recent example was the Doctor Who chatbot on the Skype UK media platform. The conversational bots asked consumers to go through and assemble the six pieces of time strewn across the ether.

“It enables us to have Doctor Who contact you and run that game through with you after every episode,” Lee-Joe says. “We’re also looking at interactive audio.”

In the case of Earth, where the emphasis is on purpose, the Google partnership also opened up new channels and audiences. Google Expeditions, Daydream, and Google Earth coupled with BBC content realise that collective vision of better inform people as they are exploring the globe, Lee-Joe says. Likewise, gaming partnerships around the Top Gear brand have attracted younger, gaming enthusiasts to the BBC.

When the BBC went to do the new release for marketing for Blue Planet 2, it opted for a four-minute prequel, simulcast to 75 markets and pulled through YouTube and Facebook. It then assembled a music collaboration not just with Radiohead, a band inspired to produce their 2011 track, Bloom, after watching the first Blue Planet series. The work resulted in 50 million organic views, and embedded coverage of more popular culturally oriented  publications, such as Pitchfork.

Another recent executive was a promotion for a night off with Airbnb. “We know there is interest between natural history and travel… we can see whenever a landmark is screened there is an increase in travel to those locations,” Lee-Joe says.

“The promotion was taking consumer out on the Alucia submersible exploration vehicle, the boat that captured all the content. It’s been a very successful promo for us and for Airbnb. Off the back of that, we had interest from fashion and high-end travel magazines.”  

Finding the right partners  has to start with brand first. “Between us, we’ll derive commercial value, but also mutually beneficial brand attribution and audiences and reach,” Lee-Joe says. “As owner of the IP, this enables us to partner in new and very interesting ways.”

Increasingly, these digital and tech innovations are informing the content itself. “Doctor Who is a great example… it’s a new thing for the writing team to think about,” Lee-Joe says.

“Our writers wrote all the narrative around that Doctor Who bot. As a marketing function, once we’re seeding these new ideas with them, it becomes a great marriage and collaborative working environment and process.”

Measures of success

To measure marketing success, Lee-Joe looks to commercial metrics first, such as revenue and profit by business line and region. Equally, global, social and digital audiences and growth and engagement over time are important. Brand attribute is another vital one.

“It’s important to measure brand in a world where do you not always own your routes to market,” she says. “Audience appreciation indexes, and fan panel data are important too. We have a balance between brand, reach, value and impact measures.

“With BBC Earth for example, it is about how we can help inspire and provoke action, whether it’s interest in learning more about what’s going on in wider planet and ocean, or plastics in the case of marine conversation.”  

As a CMO, this means maintaining a good mix of creative and commercial thinking. “One thing I’ve always loved in the CMO role is the ability to create broader creative vision and think in new and innovative ways alongside needing to apply commercial rigour,” Lee-Joe says.  

“What sits behind that is being a jack of all trades, and being well versed across the entire spectrum of marketing. In an increasingly converging world, that enables you to construct more interconnected programs.”

At the BBC, Lee-Joe’s commercial remit enables her to dig in to strategy and see it through.

“We have ambitious targets and we need to meet them. We’re building in long-range planning and looking at value of IP. These are shifts we know we need to make,” she concludes. “It’s enabled us as marketers to take a seat at the table, for sure.”  

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