3 Australian CMOs explore the global marketing trends expected to dominate 2021

Leading Australian chief marketing officers respond to the latest Deloitte trends on marketing strategy in 2021

The world of 2021 marketing and commercial growth will be driven by human connection and the overarching need for organisations to not only be trusted but also embraced by the customers they’re striving to engage with.

That was the overarching takeaway of Deloitte’s recent 2021 Global Marketing Trends report, which was explored practically this week through the experiences of trio of leading Australian chief marketing officers from Coles, ANZ and Telstra.

Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends study is based on two surveys: A consumer pulse across nearly 2500 consumers in the US, UK, Mexico, Asia and EMEA; and a poll of 400 c-suite executives from global companies including CMOs. The research focused on the impact COVID-19 has had and its potential impact to 2021 and beyond.

Trend one: Purpose

Top of Deloitte’s list is purpose. The analyst firm’s research found 79 per cent of consumers could recall instances of brands positively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to help customers, communities and their workforces. What’s more, 25 per cent customers said they will walk away from a brand if they don’t think they have an alignment with their goals.

Panellists on Deloitte’s webinar agreed that increasingly, c-suite understand being purpose-driven will translate to the bottom line and makes good business.

“When you look at companies that have performed very well in last five years in different parts of the world, it’s those with strong purpose that are doing better from a revenue and marketshare point of view,” said Coles CMO, Lisa Ronson. “Purpose presents alignment with customers and a filter you use to make the decisions on what you are and aren’t going to do.

“It’s no longer nice to have for brands to think about impact and role in the community and impact on the world. Every dollar a consumer spends is a vote for the world they want to live in.”  

Ronson has worked with her c-suite colleagues to build out the supermarket giant’s long-term business strategy and its first purpose statement and mission. The resulting purpose, to sustainably feed all Australians so they live healthier and happier lives, was significantly tested during the global pandemic.

“That purpose was our light on our hill to guide us through the pandemic and it ladders up to our goal to be the most trusted retailer in the country,” Ronson said. “We were making decisions, hourly, daily during COVID and it came back to that vision and purpose.”

Over at ANZ, CMO, Sweta Mehra, has taken the group’s purpose of shaping a world where communities thrive and homed her marketing team in on one of three pillars underpinning this: Financial wellbeing.

“Financial wellbeing impacts our customers more directly, particularly consumers and small businesses. And it starts with measurement – you can’t improve what you can’t measure,” Mehra said. “We have just launched our Financial Wellbeing Index in A/NZ, which gives us the ability to measure at every area what is happening to financial wellbeing of Australians, and if that’s improving faster than customers of other banks.”

This emphasis on financial wellbeing is so important, it’s becoming part of the executive leadership scorecard across ANZ. Another way ANZ is practically chasing its purpose is by looking at behaviours and insights linked to financial wellbeing. The marketing team then taps these to guide programs of work to move consumers forward.

“This informs everything from our features to how we nudge customers to set up goals and actions, now and into tomorrow,” Mehra said.  

For Telstra, an overarching purpose to ensure everyone can thrive, not just the happy few, has been a guiding light. “Over the last 18 months, that has come much more to the fore in the way our CEO has led us, and more broadly held in the company. While it’s always been nascent, perhaps it’s now been made more explicit,” Telstra CMO, Jeremy Nicholas, said.

“It’s also not a trade-off between good and shareholder value – you create shareholder value from doing good things.”  

This has guided Telstra’s multi-brand strategy across the Telstra, Belong and wholesale brands, helped cement a focus on connecting to remote communities, and informed how the telco dealt with the pandemic, Nicholas continued. For example, purpose drove Telstra to ensure families benefitting from tax benefits during the pandemic had discounted Internet, led to the decision to give everyone more data, and saw Telstra giving small businesses a break on debt.

“We’re by no means perfect but we know the standard we are trying to hold ourselves too,” Nicholas said. “It’s improved the quality of the conversation and outcomes for customers, and over time, it improves the return to shareholders as well as society we serve.”  

Trend two: Agility

Deloitte’s second key global marketing trend for 2021 is agility. According to its consumer pulse, 60 per cent of customers were able to name a brand pivoting quickly to make their product or service more appealing to consumers during the pandemic. Yet despite this, only 35 per cent of organisations surveyed are actively designing offers with the input of customers.

Agility is a major stumbling block. Mehra said ANZ’s move to agile two-and-a-half years ago was particularly important in helping the brand pivot and adapt as COVID hit.

“We needed to use all that small team agility that we could. We created new hubs, importantly continued to listen to customer feedback, and were constantly iterating on what info needs to be out there to help consumers, what changes to make to products, or to increase the scope of our offering,” she explained.

“Agile was a blessing and helped us organise and react for speed… Within marketing, whole section all focused on how to help consumers to get to what they need very quickly. We could find patterns – for example if homeloans is significant part of our outflow – which allowed us to hypothesise and launch campaigns on the go to respond.”

As Mehra put it, agility for marketing is not a choice. “I described it as dream big but bite small – we focused on just getting this done, then this done. It focused the whole organisation to work together, not in silos.”  

Telstra has also transformed to an agile way of working. On top of this, its T22 strategy is about reducing complexity in products and services. Eighteen months from introducing full agile at scale, Nicholas said the huge shift has been profound.

“In my chapter areas, we have teams of two marketers to 10 with everything from UX to comms, brand expertise and data. It’s a fantastic mix of people to get stuff done,” he said. “You’re not passing briefs between functions, you’re getting it done together. While there is complexity in managing teams this way, the impact to speed to market, improvements in conversations and getting stuff done has been immeasurable.”  

Read more: CMO50 2020 report: Customer-led innovation in a time of crisis and beyond

Up next: five more trends expected to dominate marketing in 2021

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