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10 Commandments For Modern Marketing
The World's foremost marketeers offer new direction
Recession, the rise of digital and the emphasis on media neutrality are just some developments making new demands on marketers and changing marketing's role in the company structure. Here we glean the ten best ideas from the world's foremost marketers for embracing this change and steering your brand for the future.
Who can predict the future of marketing? Executives from brands such as Google, Facebook, Zurich and Novartis and a range of academics have come up with definitive predictions for how to steer marketing into 2010 and beyond.
At the European Chief Marketing Officer Conference in Zurich earlier this month, the brand guardians (some are pictured above) laid out their vision for the future of the industry, which Marketing Week has compiled into "ten commandments" for the modern marketer (see description of the modern marketer's mindset, below).
The evolving role of marketing
Marketing roles are evolving - with some in the industry even talking about how job titles are likely to change away from "marketing" to terms that reflect the bigger scope of the role. As such, chief marketing officers have been forced to rethink their strategies and adopt new tactics to get their messages across to consumers.
These ten commandments are inspired by what the world's most powerful marketers think their peers need to embrace in order to spot opportunities within crises and set up their businesses to flourish both next year and in future decades.
1. 2010 is about dialogue, not marketing
The traditional working practice of marketers of moving from campaign to campaign needs to shift to maintaining ongoing conversations with everyone involved with or connected to the brand.
CMOs must make sure that everyone within the business understands the brand in depth. The company's ideas must be firmly embedded in employees' minds - all based on the insights that customers have given them in the first place.
Scott Davis, senior partner at Prophet, explains: "It's important that you show how a good dialogue can directly affect stakeholder value through transparent conversations with your customers and your board. Maximising ways of doing that is essential. It's not enough to be the person in charge of advertising any more."
Arun Sinha, chief marketing and communications officer at Zurich Financial Services, agrees that maintaining a dialogue makes a huge difference.
"You have to reflect the cultural shifts that are going on outside the walls of your own company," he notes. He says that within his own business, this meant creating a new brand entirely - "HelpPoint" - that would help Zurich give its customers somewhere to focus their conversation.
Sinha says it was vital to "create a dialogue reminding customers that we put them first and that they are at the heart of everything we do."
Online, user-generated content is helping to make customers feel a part of the brand. Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and founder of My.BarackObama.com, the official presidential campaign social networking website for President Obama, stresses: "It's so important that brands focus on the idea of sharing and giving people a voice. We made every single member feel that they had a role in the presidential campaign and that they knew Obama was listening to them. This sort of dialogue is essential to a brand's success."
Ely Dahan, professor of marketing at University of California, agrees. "In the highly interactive world of web 2.0, consumers suggest new product options and sometimes even develop their own products and services. Consumer involvement could revolutionise marketing."
However, this doesn't mean marketers can sit back and let consumers do all the hard work. Real dialogue and participation is about taking consumer insights and then using marketing skill to shape them for the brand. "Companies need filtering mechanisms to identify those options with the greatest potential," Dahan admits.
2. Think like the "brand architect" of your company
Marketers need to think about their roles in the context of other professions. Philippe Zell, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer of Novartis Consumer Health, explains: "Taking lessons from other sectors can be a worthwhile experiment."
Christine Nordhielm, professor of marketing at the University of Michigan, suggests that too many marketers are currently acting like "anaesthetists" - sending consumers to sleep with their predictable communications. She warns that they are using "ordinary techniques, which may lack competitive advantage," adding that: "The greatest challenge facing CMOs is to keep up with the mindset of the modern consumer and continue to engage with them in the way they desire."
The best role model for the modern marketer is the architect, suggests Andy Stefanovich, a senior partner at agency Prophet. Architects constantly focus on innovation and creativity, yet within rigorous, measured parameters. That makes a good model for marketers to follow.
Stefanovich recommends that all companies use a five-point checklist (see The Five Ms, below) to help them remember all the different elements that can make a difference in how they approach their work.
3. Make sure you talk to staff as well as customers
All staff within a business should feel like they have been given a voice and have the ability to shape perceptions of the company. They should feel they have a role in co-creating a culture that resonates with them, because they are being listened to and therefore feel attached to the brand.
Zurich's Sinha says marketing should begin internally and then be followed externally. The only way to do this is to get buy-in from the very top. He explains: "You have to get the board to support your new mantra first and then follow it through across the company."
It is vital to make sure people inside the business understand the company's vision and identity long before they try to translate it to those outside. "Ensure that every staff member understands," says Sinha. "They have to drive and create the momentum internally, so that must be prepared first."
By communicating the marketing internally, it also helps brands to avoid simply shouting a message they think people want to hear and instead create something that staff are happy to talk about with customers. Doing this effectively, says Facebook's Hughes, is what creates the dialogue necessary with potential customers.
He says: "It's about getting staff to understand how to work well with their supporters and build fruitful relationships. Opportunities like this means that people want to be involved as much as the staff do. For instance, we raised $500m (£313m) of the $800m (£500m) of Obama's presidential campaign funds online."
4. Become the "chief brand officer" on the board
In tricky economic times, it would be easy for marketers to keep their heads down in order to avoid being noticed spending too much of the board's money. But Martin Roll, business and brand strategist at Venture Republic, and the conference chair, argues: "Marketing and branding must be elevated to boardroom level across corporations and become more strategic with a top-management driven agenda."
This will require a shift, warns Prophet's Davis. While most boards would claim that they understand the value of marketing, this is still not entirely the case. "The majority of CEOs and boards don't get what marketing is. To change this, marketers need to gain their recognition," he says.
To do this effectively, Davis claims there will need to be a radical rethink of exactly what the role of a modern marketer should be. "There needs to be a much tighter way of working by being responsible for more than just marketing. Marketers have every right to co-own other departments. [Marketers] should get themselves in a position where they are driving business strategy board-level discussions."
Novartis' Zell says the challenge is to convince boards that their brand positioning will fundaÂmentally make a difference to the bottom line.
"Modern CMOs have to show that they are forward-thinking all the time," he claims. "For me, it means challenging science and building marketing based on consumer insight. This way, I can encourage the board to launch new variants, and show them that we are putting the consumer first and are innovating to stay ahead of the competition."
At Zurich, Sinha says he took the approach of encouraging the board to adopt a "looking outside" their traditional philosophy of business to launch his HelpPoint campaign. "Changing a frame of mind is not easy, nor does it happen overnight. What I took upon myself to do was remind the board that they wanted to stand out more, and ensure that they knew that everything we do is for the benefit of the customer."
Asking the board to be brave and step away from the familiar areas where it was comfortable paid off, he claims, saying that it helped develop the "brand's lasting message, still being celebrated today."
5. Personalise, personalise, personalise
Marketers need to target people effectively by ensuring they treat their potential customers as individuals. Michael Conrad, president of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, says: "Marketing should work under an ethos of inspiration for chosen audiences. Brands should use the insight to gather a psychographical perspective of who they should be looking to target with ads in the first place. Targeting and personalisation will be core to retention and acquisition in the future."
Online brands such as Facebook and Google are leading the way with this service. Facebook's Hughes says that consumers "are increasingly overwhelmed" and looking for the "personal touch to build trust and loyalty". If you can get this right, he adds, "eventually a deep relationship forms."
Google sales manager Dr Beat Bühlmann argues: "Personalisation will be the future of marketing. By stimulating interest based on people's online habits, consumers will respond better to marketing and will feel connected to the brand, in a different way to more traditional media formats."
Companies such as InfoPrint Solutions Company, a joint venture between IBM and Ricoh, are already practising this in their marketing. Allen Thrasher, marketing principal at InfoPrint Solutions EMEA, says she thinks that no marketing campaign should be considered without thought on how best to make it personal.
"Moving to personalisation presents the CMO with more opportunities to interact with the consumer," she says.
Marketers should be responsible for more than just marketing, they have every right to co-own other departments. Marketers should get themselves in a position where they are driving board-level business strategy discussions. Scott Davis, Prophet
6. "Media neutral" needs to be more than a catchphrase
Budgets should be spread across all media. It's no use brands just claiming to be media neutral and then failing to consider any but the most traditional options. Part of the CMO's job is to ensure that their brand is wherever the consumer is.
Google's Dr Bühlmann explains: "There is no wall between online and offline, but CMOs must realise that, used correctly, online can be a huge generator for sales because it reaches the audience at the time when their interest is peaked."
People simply don't live in an "online" or "offline" world these days; consumers mix their media and brands must do the same, says Dr Bühlmann. "We live in a culture of research online, purchase offline. It's important that CMOs think in a much more integrated way plotting their marketing across disciplines so information can be found at all the peak interest moments."
At InfoPrint Solutions, the company is calling on marketers to think about accurate targeting both on paper and online. Combining these elements is what can make a campaign work even harder. Thrasher says: "Technology is increasingly becoming sophisticated enough to make cross-media promotions more possible."
Facebook is one company trying to introduce these cross-media opportunities. It not only encourages brands to publicise their fan pages on offline material, but also allows users to purchase ads to appear at the same time as other media might be being digested.
Facebook's Hughes explains: "We're just beginning to see the start of an information revolution, enabling greater transparency and openness. Brands have to adopt this same model across media. The more meat in the pot, the better the stew."
Zurich HelpPoint: Created to give Zurich customers "somewhere to focus their conversation"
7. Now is the time to experiment
With the economy at a low, experimentation has not been high on marketers' priorities this year. However, with the lull beginning to lift, brands must look for new customer insight and find ways of utilising innovation to capture consumers' attention in ways that resonate more with their lifestyles.
InfoPrint Solutions' Thrasher says: "There is an opportunity now to find out what your customers like and what they are less receptive to. It's the perfect time to experiment with cross-marketing techniques and look to directly correspond with your customers in ways that are relevant and right for them. Customer strategies have never been so open to so many options for communication."
This approach is taken by Novartis, where the company changes its approach to marketing its drugs to suit different audiences. Zell explains: "Change the benefits of the products; don't just have a one-minded approach as to who you target. You don't have to stick with one stereotype, but can exploit methods that have worked in other sectors and incorporate them into your marketing."
According to Prophet's Davis, it is this type of visionary approach that will help marketers in the future. "It's no bad thing to experiment and drive growth by being a power-engine. You should constantly push the boundaries and always think of the return on investment that experimentation could generate for you. The secret weapon is a repository full of customer insights."
At Zurich, Sinha says that as a very traditional insurer, it felt adopting a new way of working around its HelpPoint brand promise was "risky" but feels that it has paid off.
Facebook's Hughes echoes these sentiments: "With the work we did on the Obama campaign, the experiment of getting people involved digitally was a shot in the dark, but it has resonated with politics worldwide now. Future campaigns could also see this success, if they only begin with a pure social experiment that sees where it goes."
The tools are available for anyone to keep up to date with the habits of 21st century consumers, online and offline. Thekey now is for CMOs to work with this data. Dr Beat Bühlmann, Google
8. Pare back to your core activities
It's important to remember that your core brands are the ones that will generate the most for the bottom line and not everything should change due to the effects of the recession.
Novartis' Zell explains: "Large corporations should focus on their strategic brands and build on consumer insight to re-invest in them and increase their consumer profile. It's all about seeking maximum ways to increase the brand's potential and harnessing the needs your consumers are telling you they are seeking - either through variants or complete re-positioning."
Zurich's Sinha adds: "You should never forget the core of what your company does and never let your employees do this either." He says that to keep brand managers focused on the core elements their customers want, he sends them out to answer calls in the firm's contacts centres. He says: "I'd encourage others to think about their core activities like this."
Novartis: Takes lessons from other sectors and applies it to its advertising; it says never be bound by sector rules on marketing
9. A new role for advertising and communication
Marketing no longer means simply advertising products or services. Advertising is seen as just one small area of the wider marketing picture. Prophet's Davis says that this requires brands to take a longer-term approach and calls for more collaboration from communications suppliers.
He says: "You need to look at long-term opportunities and short-term opportunities so that you have plans in place based on your customer insight and media analytics. It's no longer one or the other, but asking agencies to work much more integrated in your advertising."
Google has recognised this trend and the company claims it provides tools to help advertisers plan campaigns better. Dr Bühlmann says this is because "the future is hybrid, with much more integrated advertising changing the way we relate to brands."
Sinha agrees: "We use a mixture of different media for different lengths of time. But the messaging remains constant and it talks to our customers in a way that we were guilty of not having thought of before."
10. Don't forget the fundamental basics
Marketing is at risk of falling lower down the list of company strategies if CMOs or equivalent directors do not change the way they approach marketing strategies and make it part of the everyday talk surrounding the company.
"Don't forget the basic homework," says Zell. "For every product you put out there, think of ways to cross-sell. Look to technology to push promotions to a more superior level. Be that product extensions or new variants, take a pragmatic approach and do what you think is right based on what consumers are telling you they want."
Sinha adds: "It sounds obvious, but so many still forget. It's important to remember that your customers are your lifeblood and you must use your marketing to keep them involved right from day one. If it's wrong, rethink the strategies and ensure that you have a competitive idea that will keep you one step ahead of your competition."
Overall, a greater emphasis needs to be placed on being customer-centric and using insight to guide you through the basics.
Dr Bühlmann concludes: "The tools are available for anyone to keep up to date with the habits of 21st century consumers, online and offline. The key now is for CMOs to work with this data."
Despite this advice, marketers are sure to be under increasing pressure to make sure they stick to all the commandments. Some of the recommendations about media neutrality and agencies working together are likely to require changes not just from brands themselves but from their whole supplier infrastructure.
Leading executives from the agency world say that while they agree with the ten commandments in principle, CMOs need to remember that actions speak louder than words (see agency response, below).
Liam Byrne, chief secretary to the Treasury, said last week that the biggest risk now to economic recovery is complacency. If marketers and agencies move into the last few months of 2009 being aware of these ten commandments - whether they agree with them or not - they could certainly not be accused of complacency.
Agencies' response to the ten commandments
Kevin Allen, vice-chairman of Lowe Worldwide, says: "In a supply economy, the company ran the show. In the demand economy, the customer is firmly in charge and a dialogue - which includes no small amount of listening - is the order of the day. Brands are at the core of the company's entire being."
Chris Hirst, managing director of Grey London warns: "These can be very easy things to say, but the proof will only come if they practise what they preach. Evolving the importance of marketing and eliminating silos is a goal that everyone involved in the industry wants to see happen. The reality is that the difficulties we are facing right now, means that we can only focus on the now. That's not burying our heads in the sand, but working on fusing old and new media and helping to change traditional mentalities."
Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK, says: "I would like to see marketing - rather than restructuring, financial manipulation, cost-cutting, mergers and numerical window-dressing - to become the first place organisations look to for innovation, growth and the creation of sustainable long-term value. If we are to recover financially, it is worth remembering that no one has ever cost-cut their way back to growth."
Richard Huntington, director of strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi, cautions: "While these ten points are with merit, the problem is that they should have been the way that marketing was approached over the past decade. Instead there has been a lot of blame flying around from all parties in marketing. What would be nice is if people take stock of these and realise the value of participatory marketing - only time will tell."
Meera Chandra, managing director at Syzygy, says: "Today's agencies must seamlessly integrate with the marketing departments of their clients in order to effect real change. It is imperative that a web 2.0 scenario exists between client and agency - with mutual sharing of knowledge and understanding of the brand and the competitive market. The best ideas today arrive out of co-creation between agency and client - and indeed between consumer and brand manufacturer."
Andy Lear, head of planning at Publicis, adds: "Advertising should absolutely remain focused on capitalising on a target audience and seizing their imagination. But the ways we can do this have fundamentally changed, and agencies are beginning to adapt to reflect that. We've rebuilt our entire agency model around creating engaging content that aims to be useful, interesting or entertaining in the most relevant channel for the audience."
Stephen Woodford, chairman and CEO of DDB UK Group, concludes: "These points are essential for success in good times and a survival necessity when times are tough. But I'd add an 11th: create an "effectiveness culture" where the bottom line contribution of marketing is continually assessed and fed back to inform and improve performance. Econometric analysis is the cornerstone of this and, in my view, it is still an underused tool."
The modern marketer's mindset
Always remember that marketing is a conversation. It's always available and is shared constantly.
Be prepared to forward-think.
Come up with ways to keep the customer front-of-mind at all times.
Be prepared to learn. You need to keep up with the constant changes that surround marketing.
Have consumer insight at the heart of everything you do.
Work closely with creative partners, both in-house and externally. Their ideas will rub off on you.
Identify new and innovative methods of getting people engaged with the brand. Experiment.
Make it as easy as possible for a consumer thinking of the brand to find it instantly.
Work with colleagues across the organisation to develop an understanding of the business from top to bottom with a career goal in sight of becoming tomorrow's growth leader.
Don't overthink strategies. Remember, the fundamental truths of marketing haven't changed.
Help your agency partners to understand your objectives and deliver them in a way that gets the brand noticed above its competitors.
Recognise success across other sectors and find new ideas for the brand.
The five M's
Mood is dependent on the company atmosphere and openness to creativity. Innovation will starve in an environment closed to creativity.
Mindset is about the people around the organisation. How do they approach their work and embrace innovation?
Mechanisms. Focus on the devices each organisation uses; what technologies are available? How can these devices be better utilised or embraced to let innovation flourish?
Measurement is an item often overlooked - be sure to establish a measurement of success for innovation. Don't limit yourself to a quantitative approach; look for the qualitative aspects as well.
Motivation is more about self-awareness - ask yourself: "What are you doing to lead innovation and creativity?"