CES 2019: CMOs debate technology's impact on marketing

Technology has had a massive impact on marketing, particularly around talent, data, and metrics, if used in the right way, marketing chiefs from Mastercard, National Geographic and National Public Radio debate

Three of the globe’s top CMOs came together to discuss technology’s impact on brand strategy at Consumer Technology Association's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 this week.  

Jill Cress, chief marketing and communications officer at National Geographic Partners; Meg Goldthwaite, CMO of National Public Radio (NPR); and Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, agreed technology has had a massive impact on marketing, particularly around talent, data and metrics.

Marketing is now at the forefront of bringing new technology to an organisation, and is spearheading its purchase. Every company is now a tech company.

Rajamannar said the entire consumer landscape is totally changing, and is now more digitally driven, while Cress added organisations now have to work hard to bring the point of view of the consumer to technology.

“Nothing has impacted marketing like technology and data and now marketers need to understand and deploy this technology in the most appropriate way,” Rajamannar said. “You must be knowledgeable and educate yourself, or it will be a disaster. Every new technology has an immense amount of power to amplify the impact of marketing in a big way. But if you don’t educate yourself, you will be obsolete in no time."

According to Rajamanner, metrics "will go through the roof" if you technology is used in the right way, and he suggested it can make campaigns eight or nine times more effective. "However, the opposite can happen if you don’t know what you are doing. You don’t have to be an expert, but certainly knowledgeable enough to be able to deploy it effectively," he continued. 

“The single biggest challenge is how to future-proof tech solutions. Technology is evolving so much, so organisations are always left with legacy systems. When selecting a new tech, how do you know it’s not just going to be flavour of the month? Marketers must make sure it is economically sustainable, scalable, and not a hobby on the side, and know how to link to existing tech so the customer experience is seamless, and for the marketer, it is efficient, seamless, and quick.”

Cress saw the technology challenge and opportunity as being around personalisation, and investing in the right technology to make those consumer experiences happen.

“Our audience wants to connect and co-create, they don’t just want to receive information anymore,” she said. “And that’s the challenge; we have to make that experience unique and personalise experiences and create connections to those who are like minded.”

Key to this, is the right team, something that is vital for National Geographic.

“We lead with the importance of purpose and the impact we are trying to have in the world. Everyone who works there is passionate about what they do, which is to help people understand the world around them so we can keep this planet in balance. We have to ensure we have the right balance of people to enable storytelling,” Cress said.

Rajamannar added talent has become a huge challenge as a result of technology, but also because marketing is having an existential crisis.

“We need people who understand marketing, business, and finance, because the CEOs and CFOs want to know how to connect the dots to the bottom line and top line, as well as data analytics and technology,” he said.

“PR used to be a different department, but it is within marketing now because one tweet can make or break a brand. So you are looking for super human beings to recruit to marketing. Talent is a huge challenge and what keeps me awake at night.".

What's more, as an industry, marketing is trying to bring back that ‘oomf’, Rajamanner continued. "There are several companies, top companies, doing away with CMO roles, because they can’t justify why that role exists. It’s an existential crisis, because in the last five years marketing has become completely different," he said.

"We must tap into talent with meaningful jobs and meaningful roles. When a trainee is brought in, they are given menial tasks when they need to do something meaningful. Kids coming out of college now are so smart and they want to do meaningful stuff and be inspired and motivated. The marketing person also needs to rotate through different parts of the company. We need to bring those basic principles back because we lost our way.

 “Marketers sometimes get wedded to the creativity, but our product is not creativity, it’s the outcome that matters. What is the use of this art, if it doesn’t deliver results?”

Cress saw corporate purpose as vital for both talent and consumers. “With the deep understanding of the audience comes the idea of purpose and making a difference in the world. Consumers are choosing brands that are doing good and making a difference in the world. They wanted action," she said.

"For us, it is balancing fact with action so our audience feels like they are part of something bigger than them and we’ve given them the tools to do something about it.”

Goldthwaite agreed, saying it is fine to generate revenue, as long as you put it back into doing good.

“We are focused on our social mission, which is gathering news. I’m always saying, it’s okay to generate revenue, and it’s okay to be focused on numbers, because in doing that you create a virtuous cycle that allows us to plough money into our journalistic integrity to fuel the important place we fill in society,” she said.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu     

 

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