Reimagine Marketing Podcast

Episode 1: Welcome to the Reimagine Marketing Podcast


WILSON: Consumers today are capitalizing on AI, IoT, mixed reality, and other emerging technologies. These forces exert tremendous pressure on marketing organizations to reinvent themselves for the future. The question is, are brands and consumers ready?

This podcast series will answer that question and many others as we consider the future of customer experience and marketing. Thanks, everyone, for joining us on this first episode of Reimagine Marketing. I'm joined by my co-hosts Steven Hoffmans and Justin Theng. Welcome, guys.


JUSTIN THENG: Thanks, Wilson. Good to be here.

WILSON: Now as you get to know us, we will provide sort of our viewpoints on how this show is going to unfold for the rest of the series. So we're going to start with Steven Hoffmans. And I find that the best way to get into someone's perspective is to ask them for their favorite or one of their memorable quotes that helps shape their craft. So Steven, by way of intro, what is your quote and tell us a little bit about yourself.

STEVEN HOFFMANS: So I've worked like for seven years for a marketing technology provider and I've seen many industries implementing marketing technology and trying to take the best of it. And one of my favorite quotes is, "A fool with a tool is still a fool." And the reason why is because I really see a lot of companies invest in different kind of hypes and innovation.

And for me, you have two type of motivational factors that decide to work with innovation. You have the companies that really understand how they can take advantage of market innovation and improve customer experience and really create value out of it. And these are the companies that when they're launched-- when they launch, for example a chatbot, it really can answer your questions, artificial-intelligence driven, and it improves customer experience and brings down the cost to serve.

Then you have the companies that invest in innovation because their competitors are having it. And those are the chatbots that refer you to the call center after one or two questions. Where the problem is, they were not able to take advantage of the marketing innovation that happens and they were not able to translate that really into customer experience improvement. And often in reality, the technology gets the blame. So my advice there is always wonder if it's the technology that needs to be changed or the business that needs to change.

WILSON RAJ: That's awesome, Steven. So everyone, that'll be sort of that lens. It is really coming from that strategy perspective, right, Steven? So I like that. So basically separating the tools from the fools. There'll be some of-- definitely a big part of Steven's perspective. Justin, what about you? Your favorite quote and your angle on this.

JUSTIN THENG: Thanks, Wilson. You know what, Steven? I had a quote that was about a tool, as well, so I'm not going to use that one. I'm going to choose another one. My second favorite quote is, "I know that 50% of my marketing is working, I just don't know which 50%."

That's kind of the line that stuck with me throughout my career. Speaking of which, I have a career ADD. And I also have real ADD, just for the record. So you know, I've jumped around a lot, Wilson, as you know. I've come from traditional advertising, above-the-line TV, I went into digital, I ran my own agency, sold it, became a marketing coach, and then decided I should probably broaden my horizons again, and here I am at SAS, looking at AI.

WILSON RAJ: Fantastic. Fantastic, Justin. Again, I think that rich background but coming in from a performance perspective. But you know, it's certainly not restricted to that as you'll see in the rest of the podcast. But they'll be certainly some of the elements there. And everyone--

STEVEN HOFFMANS: That's right. And what about you, Wilson?

WILSON RAJ: Well, I don't have any quotes on tools or fools, although I think they are absolutely salient here. But one of my early quotes was actually from a gentleman named Scott Bradbury. He was actually the first CMO of Nike that really did all those amazing brand campaigns. And then he moved off to another amazing brand, Starbucks, in the Seattle-- in the Pacific Northwest area.

And he wrote a book many years ago called A New Brand World. And this is one of the quotes around brand. He says, "Cracking your brand's genetic code is not strictly about product, about the past, or even about things." And here it comes. "It is about tapping into an essence and an ethos that defines who you are to the folks who matter, your core customers, your potential customers, and your employees."

So I use this a lot during my agency days, just like you, Justin. I think we share a background there. I was I was on the client side, I was on the vendor side, on the agency side. And for me, my journey is simply that of a marketing explorer, a traveler trying to explore as many facets of marketing.

But ultimately it really nets down to what Scott Bradbury-- how do you tap into this essence or ethos that defines a brand? So a lot of my perspective will be that, all right, what's the human aspect of that? How do we unpack that into a marketing execution. It's not just now but into the future.

JUSTIN THENG: That's awesome, Wilson. Wow, you guys-- you chose such philosophical responses. I really should have-- I think we should have written it down and I should have probably read it. I thought, you know what? I'd rather the candor.

WILSON RAJ: Well, I'll try to memorize these quotes.

STEVEN HOFFMANS: That's right.

JUSTIN THENG: Hey, Steven. You spoke a little bit about hype and innovation. Are there kind of two categories that companies fall into typically that you see?

STEVEN HOFFMANS: That's actually a very good question and not an easy one to answer. When I look at hype and innovation, I think of companies that are able to stand out by putting a smile on people's face and really by providing what I call frictionless customer journey. These are companies that are actually combining convenience, personalization, and timing to really deliver and excel at bringing customer satisfaction.

And one of the companies I found in my region-- I am from Belgium-- that is able to do this is actually Coolblue. And Coolblue is an e-retailer that was founded in 1999. And they managed to double their growth rate every 20 months, resulting in this year turnover of 1.5 billion euros.

So really a company that took advantage of innovation and their slogan is, "We do everything for a smile." I like that. And the idea behind it is really that when they are doing commercials, when they are delivering their packages around the Benelux, they always have the intention to put a smile on your face as a customer. I think that's a very important value.

Let me give you an example of how they look at frictionless journeys. The standard delivery services for Coolblue were just not good enough. They were using the public post and some other distribution services. So they looked at really how can we create a delivery service that can meet our expectations, our customer values?

So they looked at different pains in the delivery journey. And one of the businesses-- they are very successful in is what they call themselves white goods. These are dishwashers and washing machines, really low-involvement products. And the way you buy a washing machine is simply not the same as the way you buy a TV.

And they looked at first at the basics. So when people buy a washing machine and it gets delivered at home, they need on-site explanation, they need to take back the old washing machine because it's a heavy product and nobody can lift it. So they said, OK, these are the basics and when we give an on-site explanation and when we take back the old washing machine, we are meeting expectations.

And then they change their view, and they were really looking from a satisfaction point of view at the journey. And they realize that whenever somebody is bringing in a washing machine to a customer, they ring the door. And when the customer opens, you actually say, I have nothing for you, because the washing machine-- you will not take it out up front because first you want to be sure that the customer is at home.

So you have that awkward moment where the delivery person is ringing the door and actually have nothing in their hands and say, we have a washing machine for you. Now wait like five minutes while we are now going to take the washing machine out of the truck. So he said, we need to change that. We need to get rid of that awkward moment.

So what they did is now every time they ring-- they do a delivery-- they have a small package, a small gift, with them. They ring the door, say, here's your washing machine. And then the customer looks a bit odd, seeing a washing machine is such a small package.

So and while they are opening the package, they have the time to go to the truck, get the washing machine, bring it ready. The customer is surprised because he gets a package and there is a few sample washing samples in there. And you know, it puts a smile on a person's face. And the best thing is that they were able to turn it into value.

So Procter & Gamble is paying five euros to be actually in the surprise package to get washing delivery samples. So I think that's one way of creating customer delight and improving the customer experience. And it will also be one of the upcoming podcasts where we'll talk about how companies need to prepare for customer experience 2030.

A second example is for me, Netflix. I think it became a commodity but especially with kids at home, it is a life saver these days, really. I think we take it for granted but it's still a product that is relevant for every member of the family. It's convenient because it's available on every device. So I think convenience is very important. It's personal so everybody can reach it.

And their commercials don't follow me around the globe. You have these companies that when you visit them or you see their promotions, they follow you all around the internet. And I think that says a lot about sensitivity and how to be personalized with the right timing and the right tone for every individual.

And we'll have a talk around data-driven marketing, and especially with the recent documentary of the social dilemma. And we'll have discussions with Mieke, who is the program director of Artificial Intelligence at imec, on ethical marketing, AI and privacy, and what is good digital guardianship.

WILSON RAJ: Sounds good, Steven. Sounds like there are a lot of great things to look forward to. And I think just to play back to the audience, I think the two takeaways were innovation is all about adding unexpected, surprising, and helpful value. That was one of the first examples. And the second one is all about that hyper-personalization, making it super relevant at the point of need across a household, across different personas. So those are great examples.

Now Justin, you've been, I think, very similar to me. You've been on both sides of the marketing fence, so to speak.


WILSON RAJ: Be on the client's side or brand's side. You've also been on the agency's side--

JUSTIN THENG: That's it.

WILSON RAJ: --and consulting. So I think you've got a unique vantage point as we talk about in this podcast, and the whole theme of it is evolution of marketing. So standing on the middle of that fence, what is your take on what's happening now and how marketing is evolving?

JUSTIN THENG: Yeah, it's an interesting question, Wilson, because you know the examples that Steven gave reminds me of Zappos. It's really that question of how do we take a customer from liking us to absolutely loving us? How do we create that customer delight?

The evolution of marketing as I see it, Wilson, has gone from this one-to-one selling into the creative advertising revolution, where we went to mass-market and tried to delight the customer that way. And then we created segments-- you know like sociodemographic segments that we could talk to. Then we went to buyer personas in the digital marketing, inbound era. And now we've come back full circle to the individual again.

And it isn't that we wanted to move away from that. We've always wanted to speak to the individual. It's just that we weren't able to using the technology that we had. And now now that we have it, we've evolved-- or I guess you could say we devolved and then re-evolved. I don't know how you put that, but we've come back to being able to speak to the individual.

And that really comes back to what you were saying. I mean, brands call it hyper-personalization, but I think your customer would call it convenience, understanding my context, understanding my need. How about yourself?

WILSON RAJ: Yeah, I think for me, it's really back to that core basics. Even back in the good old days, especially with Covid-19, we have seen that return to that essence, what Bradbury talked about with the essence and the ethos of what brands are all about. And we saw examples with Covid-19 and the whole pandemic, how brands pivoted, right? They were willing to suffer short-term revenue losses-- some even maybe longer than short term-- but they were doing it in order to build that brand affinity to eventually ensure a faster recovery.

So for example, I saw, I think even globally, Crocs. They make those ubiquitous, rubberized sandals with lots of holes on it. They are super ugly but very convenient. Unfortunately, I think my whole family-- each of us have a pair. But what they did was they started donating their sandals to front-line workers like health care, hospital staff, nurses, doctors. And they didn't put profitably ahead of customers.

Another one was a lot of hotel chains like in the New York area, for example. They used their rooms to provide temporary to mid-term lodging for emergency care workers. Another one that I saw-- even in advertising, it was returning back to that ethos-- Miller Lite, for example. Of course they couldn't sell beverages any more, or beer, and so on. So they started the hashtag #VirtualTipJar to support out-of-work bartenders in the different cities that they ran this campaign.

And then Taco Bell, on top of it, they suspended all their advertising. They toned it down, they revamped it, and they did basically a user-generated content showing people coming through the drive-thru window and then showing that connection with the consumer.

So I think at the end of the day, the lessons here were really, hey, focus on customer purpose, align with brand values if possible. And here's a caveat to that, don't force-fit. The flip side to that was that some brands are inauthentic. They try to be caring.

I mean, I think each of us got emails from brands that we probably never-- you know, we did business with like 10 years ago. I got like-- all of a sudden, everyone say, hey, I'm thinking about you. I hope you're well. I'm like, gee, when did that happen?

JUSTIN THENG: Not just brands, Wilson, but LinkedIn as well.


JUSTIN THENG: Everybody I've never spoken to on LinkedIn hit me up and said, you know, just thinking about you. Hope you and the team are well. They don't know my team.

WILSON RAJ: Right? Exactly. And I think that ethos, that focus, should have been there all along whether there's a pandemic or not. And I think I like what you said. Like it was sort of swung to one end-- devolved, so to speak-- and then now, kind of coming back.

JUSTIN THENG: Yeah. I mean, it reminds me of-- the way that I think about things is when I'm, I guess, advising or consulting on brand, I always challenge and play with people's heads and say, well, a brand isn't what you say it is. It's what people say it is when you stop talking.

So when you can't communicate anymore and you can't go to market with your typical channel communications like what happened in Covid, you discover what your brand actually is because when you can't talk anything other than, are you OK? You know, we're here for you. Our delivery times are blah, blah, blah. And I'm being blunt deliberately because that's when you find out in that silence, well, what do our customers actually think about us? Do we actually have loyalty here? Do we actually have brand affinity?

And the flip side of course-- Wilson and Steve, I'm sure you have commentary on this as well-- is how do we achieve the business objectives? I mean, us as marketers or practitioners, we can say, OK, focus on the customer. And at this point, everybody else who's not in marketing rolls their eyes and go, oh, my gosh. How do we achieve our business objective?

At the end of the day, we have shareholders, we have profit margins to hit, that kind of thing. So it's really an evolution, isn't it? Because it's kind of like a 1900s thing, focusing on profit first and profit only and forgetting about customer satisfaction and making people happy, to be frank.

And if we think about marketing in an environment where the customer has the power, take that to the nth degree and give them all the power, all the privacy rights, all the privacy choices, and communication choices, I mean even price choices, and you really discover that sometimes they're at odds with each other-- this kind of brand objective and the business objective. Not always but sometimes.

WILSON RAJ: I think that's a great-- now sort of getting into the how. Initially we talked about the context of why we are reimagining marketing and why this series exists. And Justin, I think you give a nice summary from your perspective, like what are some of the elements that make up that change. And you can definitely get back to that a little bit.

But I want to hear from Steven in terms of how have-- in light of consumer expectations, not just with a pandemic but how they change overall, and what are some of the how topics that you'll be focusing on for some of the subsequent episodes in our series?

STEVEN HOFFMANS: So when you look at how customer experience has changed in 2020, I think we did experience the biggest digitalization wave ever. Some online shops had to adapt in one week from 30% online sales to going 100% online sales because people couldn't visit the store. And we don't have to neglect the impact on what that brings from a customer experience perspective.

I'm very interested in how it looks like in your regions. But from us, the reality is that we are moving from a fear of missing out when it comes to expectation to a reality of missing out. No traveling, no instant delivery anymore, no live sports games, and no barbecue with friends.

And I think it really adds on on how do you reimagine customer experience because the question is, the market has changed but did the customer expectations change with it or are people still living in their previous customer experience-- do people still have their previous customer experience expectations or do they still have their old expectations?

And I think it's very important when you think about how to reimagine customer experience that there is a challenge for companies that they need to cope with the old expectations and keep on delivering the hopes and dreams of the new expectations to the customer. And they need to find out, OK, if we are not delivering time, if they cannot go for travel, if they can't visit a football game. And saying, how do you cope with that reality of missing out and how do you keep loyalty to these customers that you maybe not always be able to serve.

I think that's a very important challenge for companies to address in 2021 and moving forward because I'm not sure if customer expectations already changed with the new reality that is being put in place. And we'll discuss with some of the people around what you can do on the short term with Bernard Marr around what should you plan for 2021?

We'll have a discussion with Sandy from Office Depot around how do you reimagine marketing planning and how do you make sure, in the age of agility, that you can adapt fast enough? And then we'll have Manu or Michael from the Belgium soccer association talking about how will we need to reimagine fan experience. And I think the last one is very interesting, how do you bring a stadium experience to people that no longer can visit the stadium? How do you cope with that? I think that's a very interesting topic.

So I'm looking forward to these discussions and I'm really also interested in on your side, Wilson, what is happening from an experience perspective? How are our customer expectations changing?

WILSON RAJ: And to that end, I mean, that is the big question, isn't it, as we move forward. And I think one of the key things that we did even before the disruption happened is really to ask that question. What will the future of CX look like 5 years from now, 10 years from now into 2030 and perhaps even beyond?

So what we'll be doing through the series, unpacking findings from our worldwide survey called Experience 2030 that looked at some of the core drivers of evolving CX-- and very quickly. I mean, they are all about smart tech, immersive tech, which is all that to say that the consumer is not using digital, they are digital. Another factor there will be around privacy adjusting. You mentioned that balance. So we talk about privacy in the digital age.

Steve, you mentioned loyalty. So that's also one of the key drivers that will still persist, except that now it'll be less about the program but more about loyalty being infused into a customer journey. And the last piece of it will be around the technology in terms of how agile and how automated the brands can be in their marketing while leaving room for humanity or empathy.

So those are some of the key things, and so we'll be unpacking that. In fact, we've been talking to some of these elements in this episode but we'll get to focus a little bit more. And Justin, we talked about some of those drivers from my end. Steven talked about some of the expectation and how future episodes. What about you? You work a lot. You consult a lot with customers SAS. How do you see them respond to reimagining marketing towards 2030?

JUSTIN THENG: Yeah, I think it's a big scary question, Wilson, because you feel like you're trying to plot a course on shifting sands sometimes. And how much of our previous data is usable now? How much is relevant? How do we avoid locking people-- or what I call lane-locking-- into workflows or automation? How do we not make assumptions and then lock people in accidentally? How do we make sure that we're educating our internal teams as well as educating our customers about what they can do next without being creepy?

So there's all these big questions that come into how we imagine marketing, which I suppose is why technology is an easy framework to go off. We can look at how technology is evolving and we can somewhat predict how customer behavior shapes around that because it's true when technology provides a framework, customers' behavior fills that framework.

So look at voice search for example. I mean, if you were just to pull on that thread for a second, if 40% of search traffic in America-- in the United States-- is voice, what does that mean for being on the first page on Google? Absolutely nothing. There is no first page in voice search. There's just the first answer.

So who gets to be first? Is it the advertiser or is it the search engine's recommendation on the best human intent? So it's all these questions that really factor in. And as you said, this CX 2030 report was fascinating to me because the perception of where brands think things will head and what customers say they want, it's almost chalk and cheese, isn't it, Wilson?


JUSTIN THENG: And then we start looking at things like holographs, drone delivery, automated vehicles, and you start to think, well, maybe I can imagine a future where brands aren't just trying to sell more but brands as infrastructure can happen in our world and economy. You know, where your Teslas are providing space travel or hyper loops, where you've got Amazon that was once just a shopping company now providing infrastructure for anyone who wants to start a business. We're talking about a whole new landscape, really.

WILSON RAJ: I like that term, brands as infrastructure. That's a great perspective to base a lot of our future conversations on in terms of, yeah, it's not just this-- well, Scott Bradbury says there's an ethos, there's an essence. But I think as we get inundated with all this technology, yeah, it also now functions as an infrastructure, a foundation. So--

JUSTIN THENG: Yeah, lots to talk about, isn't there?

WILSON RAJ: --lots to unpack there. Yeah. It's pretty neat. Well, as we draw to a close, let's do this. We know that it's a start of a new year, 2021. It's looming, it's coming hard and fast.

So for each of us, let's give one prediction for the year. Now we know predictions can just go sideways and backwards, but from your perspective, what is this one marketing or martech or customer experience prediction that you see coming-- maybe not to fruition, but certainly expressing itself a lot more in 2021?

JUSTIN THENG: Ooh, that's a--

WILSON RAJ: Any takers?

JUSTIN THENG: --hard one. Wilson, you threw you through a random one in there. I like that. I think it comes back down to the human. I think it's really a culture of curiosity. I think we are going to need to dig into facts and get a little bit creative again. Can you believe it? Marketers relying on intuition again.

WILSON RAJ: All right, so we have prediction number one from Justin. Creativity will be in, intuition will sort of take a-- not to diminish data and analytics. All that's great stuff but there will be a greater focus on that creativity, intuition, and that human mindset. I love it. Steven, what's your prediction for 2021?

STEVEN HOFFMANS: I want to build on that. And I think that companies that are willing to take risks and put themselves out there for their customers-- and I really mean really experiment and test on how they can make a difference in the customer experience and are willing to take risks and bet on that angle-- I think they will learn the fastest and they'll grow the fastest.

If you're really out there and not stay in your comfort zone but really get out of your comfort zone and try new stuff to bring new journeys into place-- to rethink experience and really turn the world upside down-- I think that's very important as a marketing organization moving forward to 2030.

WILSON RAJ: Awesome. I think I hear the word-- it's almost sort of a revolution of sorts, I guess in a good way, for marketers and customer experience leaders. So awesome. I think for me, I'm going to go I guess a little bit more functional in my prediction.

We talked a lot about data and insights and that hyper-personalization, and Justin, you mentioned creepy in that same sentence as well. So I think definitely we'll see a rise of ethical AI. As AI is fantastic, is automating a lot of really cumbersome, boring, manual tasks that allow marketers to be creative-- as Justin talked about-- to be thinking out of the box, to be revolutionary, as Steven comments on.

And I think at the same time, there will be some forces in play coming from the brands, the clients, vendors, government organization, other kinds of structures to infuse some ethics into AI. So I think that will be on the rise. So there we have it. So we'll see--

STEVEN HOFFMANS: I like that one.

WILSON RAJ: --as we go through 2021, how we stacked against some of these predictions. And there will be more.

JUSTIN THENG: And I'll hold you guys to it.

WILSON RAJ: We'll be good for it.

JUSTIN THENG: In episode 230, we're going to be looking back and going, how did your prediction go, Wilson?

WILSON RAJ: There we go. Yeah. We'll see. All right--

JUSTIN THENG: So what should listeners do next, Wilson?

WILSON RAJ: Number one, subscribe. Again, this is just the kickoff. There'll be plenty, as Steven and Justin alluded to, in terms of Reimagine Marketing. That's the first thing. Also Justin, we talked about having different folks. You want to share a little bit of that?

JUSTIN THENG: Yeah, that's right. We thought it would be a cool idea to the listeners listening to have some of you even as guests. I know that we've got colleagues and friends who are chief marketing officers and CX professionals who are listening right now. And we thought it'd be great to have them on the show.

So if you would like to be a guest on the show, you can actually register to do so. And yeah, throw in some topics. And we would love to have you on and chat about it. How about you, Wilson? What do you think we should do next?

WILSON RAJ: Well, the last thing I would say is some of the reports and resources that we reference in this podcast will be in the show notes. One of them obviously will be Experience 2030 research paper and some other additional resources. So check those out.

This is episode one, and we look forward to seeing you on subsequent episodes of Reimagine Marketing. So on behalf of Steven and Justin, this is Wilson Raj saying, thank you and we'll see you on the next podcast. Take care.

JUSTIN THENG: Take care, everyone.


What defines today’s customer experience, and how will consumers and brands evolve through the year 2030?  

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