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Transformation through technology

Marketing has evolved at an unprecedented pace during the last five years. Brands are bigger than ever, competition is global, and consumer behavior is changing faster than most businesses can accommodate. 

In response, there has been an explosion in the development of software tools to manage virtually every aspect of marketing practice and in recent years these tools are being incorporated into ever-more-comprehensive platforms of business software by companies such as Adobe, Google, IBM, Oracle and Salesforce.

Marketing has changed, and at its core is a technological revolution.

Innovation and fragmentation

Over the past 15 years brands have adopted digital marketing technology in a fragmented, tactical way creating massive inefficiencies and preventing them from future optimization and innovation.

Some marketing technologies such as ad serving and search campaign management were outsourced to agencies, while others such as email marketing, web analytics and social listening were often managed by specialist internal business units. Rarely did anyone pause to map out the entire range of consumer touch points and brand engagements in order to design a truly customer-centric technology strategy and operating model.

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change

Charles Darwin

But today, leading marketing organisations are realizing that the ability to curate a consistent and relevant brand experience across all touch points relies heavily on the ability to manage all the tools, platforms, and data sets that deliver those experiences in an integrated whole. Customers expect to be recognized and presented with highly relevant offers and experiences across multiple different channels, but this requires the integration and coordinated use of a large number of disparate tools. And each time a new media platform becomes popular with consumers, or a new VC-backed software platform provides new features and functionality, the complexity is exacerbated.

In order to combat the fragmentation that can result from ad hoc adoption of new technologies, brands need a strong technology strategy and an operating model to support it.

Transformation in action

The process of creating a marketing technology strategy and then driving change throughout a complex global organization with multiple divisions, brands and suppliers can be time-consuming and expensive. It is therefore imperative to secure a strong executive mandate from the start, backed by a solid, measureable business case. It is also critical that marketing strategy leads technology and not the other way round.

Always start with the brand engagement strategy: What does our current customer experience look and feel like and how do we want to improve it? Are we artificially limiting the customer experience as a result of our own organizational structure or silos?

Next, define the operating model that will best support the delivery of your brand engagement strategy. Which functions are managed internally and which ones are outsourced? Do we need to operate across brands and markets? How do we integrate processes with stakeholders in IS, corporate affairs and insights?

Once the target operating model has been defined the data and technology strategy can be developed. In conjunction with your IS colleagues, build a data framework and technology architecture that supports your brand engagement strategy and operating model and make sure you have the right people in place to manage the new tools and data sets.

Lastly, ensure that a thorough and ongoing adoption program is put in place to drive home the transformation. Training and education is vital, but equally important is measurement and comparability through the use of common KPIs and business benefits.

The limits of technology

Through the smart and structured adoption of technology brands can achieve better customer visibility, more meaningful engagement, better attribution of success and an agile platform for ongoing marketing innovation.

But it is vital to remember that technology is simply an enabler. Without the required adjustments to business process, without properly trained staff in clearly defined roles, without a strong vision for how you want to improve your marketing practice, and, crucially, without the cultural willpower to change your organization, no transformation program can be a success.

Imperatives for Success

  • Secure a strong executive mandate – Transformation is fundamentally about culture and vision, not simply tools and processes, and that has to come from the top.
  • Build a strong partnership with IS – Technology strategy, procurement, architecture, program and service management are tasks IS teams are much better placed to deliver on.
  • Develop a strong business case – Business benefits should focus on quantifiable improvements in marketing effectiveness as well as cost efficiencies realized through technology standardization, scale and de-duplication.
  • Be customer-centric, not technology-centric – Technology can be a highly effective enabler for improved brand engagements and customer insights, but it mustn’t lead the process.

This piece was published in the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2014

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Acceleration crafts digital marketing capability for global brands and industry leaders. We are digital natives who early on understood the radical impact that technology would have on the future of brands. A rare breed of individuals with comprehensive experience in building marketing capability, driving best practice and implementing marketing technology.

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