26 50

CMO50 2020 #26-50: Fabian Marrone

  • Name Fabian Marrone
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company Monash University
  • Commenced role July 2017
  • Reporting Line COO and SVP
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 107 staff, 6 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Education
  • 2019 ranking 26-50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    “Finding the nuggets of gold in customer experience data” is vital to achieving innovative marketing that fills a customer need, says Monash University CMO, Fabian Marrone. Equally, systems and processes that allow scalability and consistency in message, motivation and action are a must.

    But don’t forget that third all-important ingredient. “Creativity will get you through anything”, Marrone says.  

    It’s by mixing all three Marrone has been able to create and realise ‘With Monash’, a whole-of-university initiative aimed at driving high-level customer engagement and organisational change. The ambition is to deliver audience personalisation, implement end-to-end digital recruitment, establish a single source of lead collection and conversion and deliver clear return on marketing spend.

    It’s an initiative requiring a shift from generalised communications to highly-personalised, individualised ways of interacting, and it’s increasingly shaping the strategic agenda and influencing enormous change across Monash University.

    “The University has many and varied external stakeholders including prospective students, current students, researchers, media, industry partners, alumni and donors. ‘With Monash’ ensures our audiences are at the centre of everything we do,” Farrone says. “By providing these audiences with intentional, branded experiences, underpinned by data modelling and forecasting, we can better identify high-quality leads to inform conversion activities and improve business outcomes.

    “Operationally, this has meant a high level of collaboration across the institution to secure organisational buy-in and crucial support from enabling business units.”

    Marketing achievements to date include establishing offer-to-response prediction models to support retention and conversion activity by mapping applicants most likely to accept, defer or reject; Web analytics tracking correlating application portal activities with other Web behaviours; a migration of all Strategic Marketing Communications (SMC) emails into Salesforce Marketing Cloud; a fresh marketing digital ecosystem with IX flows, journey maps and current/future state recommendations; offline lead capture; and personalised homepage and study pages.

    Data-driven approach

    Through the use of predictive data models and drawing on the capability of another technology platform, Tealium, as well as work underway to build marketing business Intelligence, “our targeting is becoming significantly more accurate and our audience experience is improving”, Marrone continues.

    Further steps taken to harness data and technology include standardising automation and governance tools and processes used in marketing automation, related compliance and governance, and building business intelligence through data modelling and forecasting. Off the back of this, Monash has created an online student recruitment hub allowing prospective students to explore more about the unit, and improved levels of Web personalisation. There’s also an event registration and comms platform now in play university-wide.

    One example of how this is paying dividends is the Web personalisation across the main Monash website, homepage and course pages.

    “Visitors to our website who have consented to personalisation now see a targeted homepage banner, which, based on Web pages they’ve visited previously, may be more targeted if we believe they’re an international future student, current student or part of peer research or alumni communities,” Marrone explains. “Visitors to our course pages from India, Malaysia and Australia will see testimonials from students from the same country as them, as well as international scholarship information and call-to-actions relevant to them.”

    Marrone’s team is now trialling new advertising targeting strategies using lead data, prediction models and segmentation of audiences based on behavioural data.

    “It’s about meeting people where they are, with the right information, at the right time,” he says. “By working together and using data to improve our audiences’ experience, we’re able to continue to grow our vast Monash network and continue to drive positive change in our world. We’ve also made it easier for our audiences to connect with us and find what they need via holistic webpage personalisation based on what we know about our users’ interests.”

    At a media and advertising level, Marrone and his team are doing course-level advertising to new leads, targeting audiences who share similar characteristics to those who are ‘likely to become a lead’ to study at Monash. Media content benchmarking and measurement has also been introduced to benchmark and analyse owned media to track key trends and provide improved return on investment.  

    Results include 109 per cent year-on-year increase in users of Monash’s platform for expert commentary, Lens, plus an additional 442,860 views through Apple News.

    Innovative marketing

    Creative structures supports the vision. Over the last year, Marrone and his team have transformed the disruptive, award-winning campaign, ‘If you don’t like it, change it’, into physical activation, ‘A Future Without Change’ (AFWC). This invites people to imagine a world in which we fail to make critical changes to the most pressing problems. AFWC was recognised by D&AD as one of the world’s best advertising campaigns with a 2020 Graphite Pencil award.

    As CMO, Marrone says he’s prioritised growth of owned channels. Now, these channels - including the What Happens Next? podcast series, hosted by Dr Susan Carland; Lens; and Monash’s documentary series, A Different Lens, can be leveraged to elevate the ‘Future Without Change’ campaign.

    Alongside this, Marrone has focused on strengthening Monash’s international reputation via an international agency model. The University partners and collaborates with experts in key markets (India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia; scoping Vietnam, UK and North America) to tailor campaigns and communications for local audiences.

    Among the results Marrone is most proud of is sustained positive sentiment across all channels in 2020, plus 3.7 million impressions of A Different Lens films. Monash has also chalked up a seven-fold increase in landed media stories year-on-year and 54 per cent increase in media mentions globally, and a 72 per cent lift in Lens engagement compared to the year prior. The What Happens Next? podcast has also extended into 77 countries and boasts of a 5 out of 5 rating on Apple. It was ranked #78 in the top 100 Australian podcasts in first 30 days post-launch, and is in the top 10 per cent of podcasts worldwide.

    Commercial acumen

    With Monash, supported by an ethos of working collectively, has been a key enabler of the strategic pivot the university has made in response to the severely disruptive COVID-19 pandemic this year. The crisis resulted in a drop in enrolments, including from key international markets.

    Collaborating with business units across the institution, Marrone says he adapted and reprioritised the 2020 marketing agenda to deliver on a unified marketing, retention, conversion and recruitment (RCR) strategy and program of work.

    “RCR requires that we quickly adapt everything we do in marketing at Monash to be digital first, provide a single online experience to market, report back on ROR, reassure our students that their digital education experience will be of exceptional quality, and incentivise students to commence or continue their studies against the pandemic’s backdrop of uncertainty,” Marrone says.

    Campaign activity, including personalised study plans for China market, was one manifestation of this approach supporting student retention, while bespoke, in-language content achieved an international reach of 191,547 with 76,422 views, likes, shares or comments across China, India and Indonesia socials. What’s more, 343 study session appointments were booked via Calendly.

    Using its digital-first mindset, Marrone’s team has now developed ‘Monash Explorer’ campus tours, advocate content, influencer packs, sample lectures so students can ‘try before they buy’, and Facebook Lives with key university influencers.

    “All metrics are tracked via a custom dashboard that measures leads, applicants, enrolments and spend per Faculty, enabling close tracking of RCR’s impact on Monash’s commercial outcomes,” he says.

    Covid-19 change

    Monash’s brand is centred on innovation and adaptability. And it’s clear the COVID-19 climate rapidly accelerated parts of that strategy to focus on creating a truly personalised, curated, data-informed experience for audiences, Marrone says.

    “Two segmentations of data - reputation and conversion - have enabled us to rapidly gauge audience needs at a nuanced, granular level, and pivot activities and communications to meet specific needs,” he says.

    “Key marketing activities, such as our Open Day, have been reimagined as entirely digital events, enabling Monash to deliver higher levels of audience flexibility and personalisation. We’ve also rapidly pivoted from printed to entirely digital collateral, further enabling personalisation, creativity and flexibility. These changes will profoundly and permanently transform marketing at Monash.”

    In parallel, Marrone says marketing has managed the crisis communications response to COVID-19 and continues to strengthen the University’s public reputation through an editorial and thought leadership strategy. A social strategy, for instance, focused on genuine, short and engaging content to support student and staff communications, including the #Monashfromhome user-generated content campaign. A COVID-19 chatbot launched during the pandemic had also answered 2224 questions at time of CMO50 submission.

    “It's been a period of endurance under incredible circumstances and pressures,” Marrone says. “The community and public response requirements in a vast global organisation has been critical - requiring timely constant pivot and reinvention with a strong focus on community management.   

    “I’m in awe of the team's passion, commitment and will to support their fellow staff members, students and the whole community. We’ve all learnt new crisis management skills and developed a deep understanding of the need for compassion and compromise and above all to accept that our best must be good enough.”   

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