Reimagine Marketing Podcast

Season 3 Transcripts

Episode 11

Season 3, Episode 11: Title coming soon


Coming soon

Episode 10

Season 3, Episode 10: Reimagining Buzzwords


BRIAN ALFOND: Hello, folks. Welcome to this episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. I'm your host Brian Alfond. And I'm part of SAS's Global Customer Intelligence Group where I work with customers to find elegant and creative solutions to their marketing problems.
My guest today is Lisa Loftis, a CRM customer experience and business intelligent expert with over 30 years experience assisting organizations with customer strategy. She's worked with numerous organizations all over the world and across virtually every industry on all aspects of successful data governance, business intelligence, and CRM. She specializes in combining technology necessary to support customer experience and business intelligence strategies with organizational structures, executive leadership, cultural factors, and other things required to migrate an organization towards effective implementation of customer strategies. She speaks frequently at national and international conferences, has co-authored the book Building the Customer-Centric Enterprise, and is a colleague in principle on the SAS Customer Intelligence global practice.
Lisa recently penned an article I found on CMSWire entitled "Phygital-- A Confusing Neologism for a Very Real Problem," which explores in part the trouble with buzzwords, the specific definition of this one, and the difficulty in making phygital happen in the marketplace. Now, personally, I have trouble keeping up with all the new and redefined words and terms we use in language today. And I don't think I'm alone in this. And from my reading of this article, it is very evident I'm not alone in this. So, Lisa, thank you for talking to me today. And perhaps we can start hopefully simply with the definition of phygital.

LISA LOFTIS: Thank you, Brian. [CLEARS THROAT] Listening to you give me the introduction, I'm going to have to change my bio because it makes me sound like Methuselah.
Anyway, so the issue that I have with phygital, if we take out the fact that the term phygital reminds me of the toys fidgets. Do you remember those?

BRIAN ALFOND: Oh, yeah. Like fidget spinners, yes. [LAUGHS]

LISA LOFTIS: And they're designed to help people fidget. And fidgeting is defined as making small movements especially of the hands and feet through nervousness and impatience. And that doesn't seem to me to be a great parallel into a word that we are talking about in the CX and marketing space to begin with.
But really, the reason that I have an issue with phygital is more how it's applied because most of the shorthand definitions that we look at for phygital actually start with the fact that it's a melding of the physical and digital worlds, which is fine. I mean, that's what we're trying to do in CX when we talk about the hybrid digital/physical customer engagement model. It's when you dig deeper into those definitions that I start to have problems because if you Google them, you'll find things like this tacked onto the definition.
However, as the retail companies that have adopted this technique have underlined, the real application of a phygital structure is that of enhancing the engagement of the consumers thanks to the introduction of digital technologies inside the traditional physical spaces. Or this one. Phygital is governed by the three I's-- immediacy, immersion, and interaction. The first two I's, immediacy and immersion, come from the digital realm with the final I, interaction, coming from the physical realm. Now, what those definitions lead the reader to is that you have to be in the physical realm, the store, in order to have a phygital interaction.

BRIAN ALFOND: Well, I'm glad you got that from those definitions. I have to tell you that the second one confused me almost as much as just the term itself. But so the limitation here or one of the issues-- because I think with a portmanteau such as this, we have a number of issues besides the word itself-- is it's limiting you to coming from the physical world first.

LISA LOFTIS: Yes. Yes, it is. If it's applied only to that context, then I have absolutely no problem with it. But the problem is that it is being used now because it's a catchy term. It's being used as a substitute for the hybrid digital/physical customer engagement model. And it's a mouthful. But that hybrid digital/physical and customer engagement model is much more than simply dealing with engagements that originate in the physical space and move digital activities into that.

BRIAN ALFOND: So if I'm understanding you correctly, and tell me if I'm not, what I'm hearing is that the details of a definition like this matter and that the two that you read were rather limiting definitions of what phygital is. And if you subscribe to one of those definitions, then by default, you're almost limiting your ability to execute in the marketing space to essentially what's only in that definition.
LISA LOFTIS: Basically, yes. And I think the real issue there is you may not look far enough into what you actually have to do if you want to satisfy a hybrid digital/physical engagement. So if you look at phygital, and if you look at how you need to tune your processes, how you need to tune your technology, and you're only looking at providing a digital aspect when someone is in a physical store-- like the ability to ask Siri when you're in a store for help as opposed to waiting for a person or the ability to walk into a store with a shopping app like Target from many years ago and have the app direct you around to the most expedient way to pick up those items that you have on your shopping list. That's only one aspect of hybrid digital/physical. And if you only look at that, you will not really take advantage of digital/physical.

BRIAN ALFOND: So, I mean, I see the value in an approach like Target has. And I have to admit, as a homeowner, when I go to the local big box home warehouse store, I do find it useful that there is something on the app that will direct me to the store. But I can also see what you're talking about that being very, very limiting to that marketing effort. That same big box store has something where I can take maybe something that I could buy there and through virtual reality put it in my home and look at it before I go and buy. That seems like more of a hybrid model where they're doing both in that instance.

LISA LOFTIS: Absolutely. I mean, hybrid can be anything. To go back to the definition that I didn't like, that I of interaction can take place either in the digital realm where you're bringing in physical to some extent like what you said with AR VR or the other way around. So activities like order online, pick up curbside is a mix of both. Telemedicine, especially telemedicine that's incorporating wearable devices to monitor health statistics, having the ability to click through to a real human while you are on a website trying to get support and have all of the information or your navigation path transferred to that human without you having to pick up a phone. Those plus your AR VR example are all really what we're talking about with hybrid digital/physical.

BRIAN ALFOND: We're using a true definition of hybrid. And I think of a hybrid car. Sometimes it's gas. Sometimes it's electric. Sometimes it's both.


BRIAN ALFOND: I'm a very simple man. I tend to think in simple metaphors. That makes sense. But it also sounds a little bit complicated, so maybe a little bit harder to execute for companies.
And I noticed that you wrote in your article that the digital transformation that was accelerated so much by the pandemic might have caught many organizations unaware. And they more or less applied a digital Band-Aid to their efforts. Could we talk about that a little bit?

LISA LOFTIS: Absolutely. What I quoted in the article was a CMO Council study that SAS sponsored. And it was actually a continuation of a study that we started pre-pandemic and then looked at the height of the pandemic as well with the objective of understanding what's happening in customer experience, where the sticking points are, and what customer experience is going to look like 5, 10, 15 years from now.
And one of the things that came out both in the original study and in the one that we just did with CMO Council is that two out of three marketing leaders are saying that it's extremely important to deliver hybrid CX so that they can increase personalization, innovation, and improve their customer engagement. But more than 60% of those marketing leaders actually said that they're not confident in their CX's strategy right now, their ability to win and retain customers in this new environment.
So that gives us a sneak peek into how companies are feeling. And the problem is that 71% of the consumers told CMO Council that they want this blend of hybrid digital/physical. But over half of them said that brands aren't very good at delivering that type of a seamless hybrid experience.
So what we're thinking here or what I'm thinking is that the pandemic caused brands to have to transition so fast into an almost purely digital environment that they really didn't take a holistic look at what needs to be done. They had to have websites up where you could order your groceries online and have them delivered or pick them up curbside. And that's what they looked at.
So they didn't have a chance to make those apps all that usable. They didn't have a chance to figure out that half their users were the older generation who wasn't well versed in the web to begin with and didn't really easily navigate around those websites. And they didn't connect up the channels. So they didn't connect up the physical space with the digital space. And now that consumers are used to what's happening, they're finding out that brands need to really take a good hard look at what's working and what's not.

BRIAN ALFOND: So we have a little bit of a situation where we have chewing gum and baling wire holding a lot of digital strategies together because of the panic that initiated these things, which I can understand. The pandemic caught so many of us unaware across all aspects of our life. But there's a time where you have to-- this is my approach to home repairs. Speaking of my earlier experiences, a lot of chewing gum and baling wire.
But there's a time when you have to say, OK, well, I fixed the immediate problem. I stopped the leak. But now I have to make this permanent. I have to make this a change that's going to benefit the structure of my house or whatever's going on. I think a marketer has to do that too. We have to talk about, as you did in your article-- which I love this expression "ripping off the digital Band-Aid" because I can feel--


BRIAN ALFOND: --what that feels like. And it must scare marketers, CMOs, anybody in that marketing organization tremendously to have to endure that little bit of discomfort in order to get that larger benefit.

LISA LOFTIS: Yeah. And I'll tell you what. I mean, to that end, brands understand this too. So this was a surprising aspect to us of this study because we anticipated that consumers and customers were not going to be satisfied with where we sit right now. But what we did also find is that fewer than one in seven marketers told CMO Council that they think they have a mature digital infrastructure.


LISA LOFTIS: And fewer than one in five said that their hybrid models are actually mature enough to satisfy the customers. So the brands actually understand that they put the digital Band-Aid on and that they have to look at how to fix that.
BRIAN ALFOND: Well, I think some of the tips that you gave in the article are fantastic. And my favorite one [LAUGHS] by far is re-invoking the voice of the customer. Now, wait a minute. Lisa, do you mean to tell me that there is actual value in asking your customers what they want and then acting accordingly? I'm shocked.

LISA LOFTIS: [LAUGHS] Well, you'll be even more shocked if we dig into the details of this because there's a section in that report that looks at what customers say drives loyalty and what brands or marketers think drives loyalty. And there are significant mismatches, which tell me clearly that people haven't taken a good hard look at the voice of the customer lately because-- just a few examples. Low cost was the second highest driver of loyalty from a customer's perspective with 56% of the customers ranking that very highly. But brands? It was the 10th item on the list with only 21%--

BRIAN ALFOND: That is fascinating.

LISA LOFTIS: --ranking it. Loyalty programs were third in the consumer's eyes with all of 47% saying that. Brands ranked at seventh with only 24% of them saying it was important. So you can see that there's an issue here that marketers have to start to address. And I think just taking a-- voice of the customer programs have been around forever. I think taking a look at them again and maybe dusting them off and trying to get more in tune with what the customer base thinks is important is really the first step there.

BRIAN ALFOND: Here's the thing that fascinates me about that disconnect. Everybody on the brand's side is a customer of someone or something. And you would think that their personal ranking of what's important to them would provide some sort of insight into what is going to be important to the brand. But as I've been speaking with customers over the past couple of weeks, I've seen that disconnect. You'll have somebody who has a very strong opinion about what they want from an interaction with another company. But when you ask them what their customers are expecting from an interaction with theirs, it's not connected at all.

LISA LOFTIS: Part of the issue here is we're talking about marketing versus the rest of the organization. And there are only certain things that marketers can control. And some of the factors that customers ranked highly are not things those that are in the marketing vernacular. So low cost is not something that a marketer controls. But it is something that's important to CX. Service is not something that a marketer controls. But again, it's important to CX.
And one of the things that the study highlighted for us is that that cross functional coordination across every functional area that deals with CX, which includes marketing but also includes sales and service and product development, is critical. And most brands say that they're not actually accomplishing that right now as effectively as they need to. And that's an organizational thing. It's not a technology thing. It's a leadership thing. So I think that has to be addressed.

BRIAN ALFOND: It's almost like they're putting up silos as fast as we can convince them to tear them down.


BRIAN ALFOND: That can be very, very frustrating. But it's hard. Organizational change. We've spent some time in the past talking about that. That is very difficult. And I understand what you're saying about what's in the marketing realm. I think having the overall CX strategy mapped out so that even if you do have silos, you got to get them to work together. It's so important.
And once you know what the customer wants, I imagine-- [LAUGHS] your second point was about modernizing the journey maps. I imagine some of these journey maps that are out there probably haven't been touched in months, maybe years. And taking that input from the customer, you're going to have to go and look at how you're guiding them through those journeys.

LISA LOFTIS: Oh, that's absolutely true. So a journey map is defined as a way to understand how the customer navigates across various channels to accomplish a goal. And some of the objectives there find friction and pain points for the customer so you can address them, find process inefficiencies so you can correct them, and determine the appropriate metrics so that you can actually monitor your performance.
And [LAUGHS] your point of them not having been touched in months or years-- I call them shelf wear, which, in my consulting days, we used to call the massive binders of conclusions that some of the large strategy and IT consulting companies-- and they'll remain nameless to protect the guilty. But they used to turn out after six months on site with 50 consultants. And they were looked at initially and then put on the shelf.
Well, if you look out-- and I think that's what's happened. You're absolutely right with the journey maps because I just did a quick Google of journey map images. And anyone listening to this can do the same thing. They were clearly generated pre-pandemic. And they haven't changed.
The first one was called Jumping Jamie, someone who wants to change a mobile plan. And the steps in that journey map were she sees a TV ad for a competitor. She researches the options that she has available, all the competitors on the website. She calls her current carrier to tell them that she is shopping around. She calls the competitors to get quotes. And then she calls the current carrier to tell them that she's switching. And then she has to go through all of the other steps necessary to switch from one carrier to another.

BRIAN ALFOND: All over dial up, of course.

LISA LOFTIS: [LAUGHS] The retail journey. I mean--


LISA LOFTIS: --they look at the options on the phone. And the customer feedback is it's difficult to compare the options using the phone. They go to the store and make a purchase after they see them in the store. And the customer feedback is the cashier wasn't very helpful. And then they used the product. And the customer comment is they had to call for support. And they said, I'm so glad you answered the phone with a live person.
It's like these journey maps are from before digital transformation ever even happened. And those are the first ones you see. So it's clear that that's either fallen out of favor or people aren't going back to those. But I think they need to.
And it clearly will not be linear. Almost all of them are linear if you look at the images. And it won't be linear. It'll be very zigzaggy. [LAUGHS] It'll be a combination and a melding of the two channels so that you can compare things with AR VR so you don't have to go to the store to touch and feel. They're antiquated. And I think people need to reevaluate them.

BRIAN ALFOND: And, Lisa, I'm thinking for an organization, it might be intimidating, too. But that's OK. You just have to start wading through it. If what you said is-- and I believe you obviously. What you told me about the study where you said 71% of consumers want these type of hybrid experiences or they want this type of customer experience-- well, if you don't do it, then I don't really know how you're going to advance in today's market.
So as you said in ripping off the digital Band-Aid, it starts with listening to your customer. You're going to modernize those journey maps. You have a point in here about walking the privacy tightrope because that affects the journey maps. And that's definitely something from a customer's perspective that's becoming more and more prominent in what I as the customer am expecting from my interactions with an organization.

LISA LOFTIS: Absolutely. And the reality there is it's an issue. I like to call it the perfect storm. And this hits marketers square where they live in the data because, on one hand, you have increasing privacy regulations. You have third party cookies going away. You have consumer expectations in terms of privacy. And I know you and I have talked about this because you turn off all tracking anytime you have the opportunity to do it. But you're not the only one that does that.
When Apple introduced their privacy dashboard, which allows people to see how they're being tracked on the internet and giving users the option to opt into tracking versus having to turn it off-- the latest statistic that I saw-- and this isn't very old-- was only 25% of those consumers are doing that or opting in. So it's becoming harder and harder to get data to use in personalization. But on the other hand, if you want that consumer satisfaction metric to go up, you have to provide personalized experiences, which require data, especially digital data in today's hybrid digital/physical world.
So it's a conundrum. Brands recognize that too. So they're looking at changing their data collection policies. They're looking at providing transparency to the customers and consumers in terms of what they're collecting and how they're using it.
And they're really looking for ways-- and I think this is the critical part. And it's a teaser for the next article I'm going to write, which is technically how do brands fix the issues that they have? How do marketers fix these issues? They're actually looking at providing a value exchange. So how do you take the data that a customer gives you or gives you permission to use and provide enough value back to that customer that they continue to allow you to do it and that they do not opt out of tracking for you.

BRIAN ALFOND: Lisa, I think that's a great point to wrap this particular episode up. But I would love to have you back on after that second article comes out or the next article comes out. That will also be on CMSWire I assume?


BRIAN ALFOND: Fantastic. And, folks, do go to CMSWire and read the article that we're discussing because it does lay out the problem perfectly. The article is called "Phygital-- A Confusing Neologism for a Very Real Problem." Do check that out on CMSWire.
If you enjoyed today's show, or even if you didn't, you can head on over to emarketingpodcast-- all one word-- and join in the conversation. You can subscribe to the series on your favorite podcast platforms, too. Just search for "Reimagine Marketing." If you have topic or guest ideas, please email us at Reimaginemarketi where, once again, "Reimagine Marketing Podcast" is all one word.
I appreciate you listening. And I hope you'll consider joining me next time. Until then, this is Brian Alfond for Lisa Loftis hoping all the important things in your life are good.

Episode 9

Season 3, Episode 9: Reimagine Marketing with Mike Turner


BRIAN ALFOND: Hello, folks. Welcome to this episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. I'm your host, Brian Alfond, and I'm part of SAS's Global Customer Intelligence group, where I work with customers to find elegant and creative solutions to their marketing problems. We are well into the new year, but I hope we're not too late to make some New Year's predictions.

Now, personally, I am not much of a prognosticator, but I have the good fortune of working with an excellent one, Mr. Mike Turner, principal business advisor here at SAS. Mike recently published an article on entitled, "2023-- Will It Really Be Different? Yes. Yes, It Will." In it, he cites four areas where things in marketing may just be different this year, or at the very least, continue the direction they were heading, but at an accelerated pace.

Mike has over 30 years of marketing experience. And during that time he has been everything from the guy going on the coffee run, all the way up to being the CMO. He has led teams and marketing agencies, consulting organizations, supply and demand side commercial businesses, and a couple of startups. In fact, he still provides support on two digital marketing MSC courses.

And he's graciously agreed to join me on the Reimagine Marketing podcast to talk about his article, and to dive a little deeper into the four main areas of marketing where he sees change happening in 2023. Hello, Mike, and thanks for joining me today.

MIKE TURNER: Hey. Hi, Brian. How are you? So you made me sound fantastic. I love it. Sounds really cool.

BRIAN ALFOND: [LAUGHS] Well, you have earned it, sir. You've earned it. Now, as you mentioned in your piece, we all kind of view these predictions with a grain of salt. But I personally think you've really hit on some trends here.

And I'd like to talk to you first about the increase in the convergence of the real and the digital worlds-- a topic that sends my mind immediately to the metaverse, which I think it's fair to say is really still in its infancy. Is that part or involved in the convergence you're referring to?

MIKE TURNER: Yeah, it is. So when I look at that convergence of data and real world, or digital and real world, I'm always immediately led down the path of this will be the year that AR and VR will become reality for everybody.

But, of course, we all know that whilst a number of organizations are still playing around with those technologies, they're not really mainstream. It's very hard to imagine anybody walking down the street with an Oculus Rift strapped to their face experiencing some sort of virtual world, while the rest of us walk around in the real world.

So yeah, I was leaning more towards that convergence of what we're seeing happen in the metaverse. And we are seeing a number of really large organizations who are seriously moving into that world. And they're starting to develop strategies that cross over between the real world and those metaverses.

BRIAN ALFOND: I have to admit, I am-- my sole experience-- well, maybe I have two experiences with this type of thing-- is one was from the Pokemon Go that my kids used to play, where you kind of had that virtual reality there.

But more so, when this first came out, I logged on to a Roblox account and started playing around with that a little bit, which had me being accused of playing at work. But that's really it. And you mentioned a couple of large organizations that are doing this. Are you comfortable citing an example or two?

MIKE TURNER: Yeah, of course. So I think there are a couple of really interesting examples. And I think Nike probably leading the way in this world. And it does seem to have really sparked interest in the world of fashion, in particularly, high fashion.

So Nike were early entrants into that Roblox world. And they allowed customers to create branded Nike goods, to wear those goods, to actually trade them for real money. So they moved towards a US dollar model, not towards a cryptocurrency model, which in itself is an interesting trend.

But other organizations like Gucci have entered into that market. They've created their own trading environments. And I was fascinated to read in January, having made those predictions, that Gucci, in fact, managed to sell a virtual copy of a handbag for more than the real item in a store.

BRIAN ALFOND: Seriously?

MIKE TURNER: So it gives you an idea that—


MIKE TURNER: Yeah, seriously. So there are people out there that will trade in real dollars in those environments. But it's not limited there. And I think if you look at financial institutions, who would have thought a financial institution would look to the metaverse? But HSBC last year sponsor a very large international concert in Asia-Pac.

And what they did alongside that was created at a virtual concert in the metal world to sit alongside that real world concert. So they opened up their market. They changed audience perceptions of what that environment was about. And they created an experience for customers that brought in a whole new audience for them. And I think that is a fantastic use of a new channel-- and opening up of a new potential audience in a very different way.

BRIAN ALFOND: Oh, I am trying so hard, but I'm not going to be able to resist the urge to bring up Neal Stephenson here. Because one of the things-- he's credited with inventing this whole metaverse thing in Snow Crash. And they were virtual concerts, where there was a concert, and it was all over the metaverse. I just-- wow.

MIKE TURNER: They were indeed. And I love-- I absolutely love the idea to imagine that there was somebody of my generation at a tender 30 years of experience who may have picked that book up when it first came out.

BRIAN ALFOND: Oh, I was there.


MIKE TURNER: Huh. This could be reality now. We could really create that experience that was first raised in that book.

BRIAN ALFOND: It seems though-- indeed, in taking that book-- and I know there's people cringing-- sorry. But read it if you haven't. But it seems like, whoa, the challenges to marketers are only going to increase. They're almost going to have to become semi-amusement park designers in order to develop these experiences.

MIKE TURNER: Yeah, without doubt. And I think this is why for me this topic area is really interesting. Organizations will sit there. They'll look at the metaverse, and they'll go, meh, is it really for me? And I guess if you sell canned goods or baked beans, my favorite example, is the metaverse really for you? Well, probably not.

But for others, they've looked at that environment and literally seen an opportunity to reach a new audience, an audience they don't touch today. Now, given the challenges in the world, economic not being the least of those, maybe these virtual environments are going to create environments for these particular brands to experiment with new ideas, new concepts.

And the thing about the metaverse is it's very quickly becoming a bidirectional channel. When Nike set up their environment, they didn't go in with a set of predefined products and say, hey, there you go. There's your product. It's much more inclusive. It's much more about us as individuals designing something within that brand.

And what you're starting to see is some of those ideas. And I was at a conference towards the end of last year, where one of the guys from Nike stood up and said, we are now seeing the emergence of some of those designs from the virtual world are being taken by our real-world designers and turning them into real product.

BRIAN ALFOND: Crowdsourcing product development. That's fantastic.

MIKE TURNER: Exactly. Yeah.

BRIAN ALFOND: That's really, really cool.

MIKE TURNER: Yeah, exactly. So you think five years ago, if you and I had been having the same conversation, sure, we'd have mentioned virtual reality and augmented reality and maybe the one or two examples that existed out there. But metaverse is really opening up to all types of industry.

Public sector-- I think it's Riga in Eastern Europe, have had schoolkids redesigning parts of the city in a metaverse environment to see what they can learn from those experiences-- really is a very different channel. And I think woe behold the marketers that don't look at it now, even if they can't use it today, and think about what potential it offers in the next year or two years.

BRIAN ALFOND: Yeah. At least start some test and learn. But I guess in order to do that, I'm just thinking, the data, the scope of data that's going to be added to the data that marketers are already dealing with. And in your article, you talk about 2023 being the year of-- I think you called it the dawn of data realization. And interestingly, you say that a big part of this is marketers looking beyond just the customer data-- beyond that to what?

MIKE TURNER: So I think this is a challenge that marketers are becoming more and more aware of. I think for, again, the last 5, 10 years, we spent a lot of effort on collating and curating data around this focal point of customer. But I find it infinitely interesting that while we collect a lot of data about our customers, what we tend to do is still act in a very product-centric fashion.

So in the last week alone, I've had conversations with a couple of well-known clients who very much want to move towards this model of customer centricity, and they collect a lot of data about customers. But every time you look at their marketing strategies or their plans, they're siloed into product-focused channels.

Now, one of the things that's beginning to change and dawn-- and, again, it is retailers I'm afraid that are leading the way a little bit with this-- is wouldn't it be great if we could be more dynamic with idea like content offering-- dynamic content instead of fixed content from a single source?

And as you know, in my history, I've worked in the publishing world. And many, many years ago, publishers started to think about the problem of, how do you repurpose what is essentially for hundreds of years been printed text? How do you repurpose information in those articles and start to break it into component parts so you can reassemble those parts, a bit like LEGO bricks, in different ways to appeal to different audiences?

And where we're seeing some of the top retail organizations go now is to expand data strategies and data models to incorporate contextual data, external data, economic data into the marketing data mart. So things that have traditionally lived in maybe planning or operational environments, those data sources are beginning to be merged into our marketing data sources.

And I think with that data, hence, my term "dawn of realization," is the realization that customer focus is a very different way of working and behaving. And in order to support it, you can't just have data about customers in isolation-- has to be more than that.

BRIAN ALFOND: That's very, very true. And it delves nicely into your next point, which I was actually very happy to see. I'm a big believer that context is crucial in these types of engagements. And you mentioned that the use of data is really going to be switching from the focus on a next best action-- how do we get them to buy this thing-- to a next best engagement, more of how do we deepen the relationship?

MIKE TURNER: Yeah. Yeah. And, again, you're right. It does follow on from that last idea. So my challenge here is if you are a product owner, a line of business product owner, of course your world is focused around your product. That's the way you're asked to behave. And you will be responsible for the profit and loss of that product. You'll be responsible for the way in which that product goes to market.
Now, here's the challenge. What we typically do when that is our problem is we look at actions or trigger points that entice a customer to buy our product. And again, look at the language here. It's a product-centric language.

Where we need to switch to, and where we are seeing some customers switch to, and particularly startups, who don't come with that legacy, is to think about, well, actually, what does my customer want next? How do they want to engage? What channel do they want to come in through?

What do they want to talk to me about? What is it? Is it service communication? Doesn't have to be a product or a selling communication. Is it information? Is it sharing? Is it-- what is it they're doing?
And if you think about it from that perspective, you think about the idea that traditionally, actions are driven off of a set of behaviors we want the customer to exhibit. Engagement is understanding what the customer is doing and responding to it.

BRIAN ALFOND: Mm-hmm. I know that when we had a conversation a while ago about different engagement, or even loyalty models, I'm curious, from a generational standpoint-- we talked about this. You and I think are solidly in Gen X. And I don't think we're used to thinking about anybody thinking about what we want, right? We're Gen X. We grew up latchkey kids.

It's interesting for me to engage with an organization that does actually seem to be curious about how I want to interact with them. I'm having a recent experience with an auto insurer to fix some damage on a car. And I never thought I would have a pleasant experience trying to get a quote to fix my car. But they've met me on my terms.

Starting with, OK, I went through their app and took the pictures. But I can talk to somebody if I want to on the phone. The whole interaction-- they have met me where I've wanted to be.

And there hasn't been that, oh, we're just going to cut you a check. It's, are you OK? What can we do to make you happy? What can we do to make you whole? I'm not used to being treated this way by my own family, let alone by another company.

And I'm wondering-- sorry. I didn't mean to be quite so flip there. But I'm wondering if maybe the expectations of subsequent generations are helping to drive this realization. Because certainly, it's driving the behavior.

MIKE TURNER: I think you're probably right. And yeah, you're right. We are of a generation where we're used to maybe not receiving that level of service or that level of interaction.

So I think you hit on an interesting challenge. And the challenge for anybody looking at an experience-based model is what are the drivers of individual need of experience? So we see generations that come after ours are very comfortable in digital worlds. And we hear the term that they want to engage in digital first, or that they're mobile only or mobile first, and so on and so forth.

I think engagement is much more than that. It's about the experience. And you just articulated that in your experience. It's what is that empathy that you are showing through that engagement and making it real. You can't fake this stuff.

You can't nominally say, well, hey, Brian. Sorry about the accident. How are you feeling? And then you respond by saying, well, awful. You know, I've got whiplash. I got this problem. I got that. And then go, yeah, yeah. That's fine. About your claim-- that doesn't work. It doesn't gel with the customer.

So I think empathy and engagement and this whole idea of real world interaction is driven from what we see in the behavior of those Gen Zed, Gen X individuals, in a world where they have taken to generating their own content, sharing their own content.

And if you look at the way people share, they're on Instagram, YouTube, et cetera. It's about peer resolution of that data. Do people enjoy what they're putting out? If they don't, they change it. They move. They flow with it.

If you think about action versus engagement, actions are very rigid. They fall apart. So you either stay on the path, or you drop out of the process. Engagement-- we have to flow with the customer. We have to move with them.

And that links back to that problem of data. How do we sustain enough data around content, around messaging, around information to share with those customers, in order to make that dream a reality? And the only way we can do that is to utilize some of these much-lauded AI or scalable solutions using mathematics or engineering at the bottom end to do that. Because no company can hold one million concurrent conversations with human beings. It's not feasible. We have to rely on technology to support this ambition.

BRIAN ALFOND: Yeah. And that's not-- it's not necessarily easy. It should be a little bit challenging. What you're doing is hard. But if you get it right, I think the rewards are there both for the organization and for the customer.

MIKE TURNER: They are. But again, you think about the modern companies we see out there, the organizations that are out there that are doing these sorts of things, the one challenge with this is when you get it wrong, it becomes very visible to everybody that you've got it wrong.

So with a next best action, I've never in all of my years, 30 years of marketing, I have never had a customer ring up and complain about the marketing message they didn't know they didn't want.




MIKE TURNER: When we're talking about engagement, we're dealing with real emotions, real people. And if we respond with the wrong step, we take that conversation in the wrong direction because of this media awareness of these programs and the way in which we interact, if we get that wrong it's very public. It's very open. And it's very much in that general highlight. So we've got to be careful about what we're asking these marketing mechanisms to do, what we're asking them to support.

BRIAN ALFOND: And I love that you said conversation because I always think of marketing as just a conversation. And when we're having a conversation, you know it's-- we are aware as human beings of all of that ancillary data of the context, of the surroundings, of the weather. We're just taking that in automatically. And, of course, in the marketing world we're using data and machines to do that. But it's the same concept, right?

You want to have a-- you want to listen. You want to understand where you're going. And when it goes wrong on the engagement side of things, it goes really wrong.

I mean, I can't help but draw the pun to the YouTube video of the guy getting on his knees in an engagement with his girlfriend at a ballgame and her running away. That's gone publicly really, really wrong. He misread some data along the way there. And yeah. I understand what you're saying about the engagement model can go wrong.

But I think what would help, and this kind of relates to your first point, is the brands or the organizations themselves need to be authentic. It can't be a cynical approach to customer engagement. They need to have an authentic sense of who they are and what the customer should be expecting from them.
And that ties into a little bit about one thing, one area where organizations are trying to be authentic. You're talking about sustainability, becoming more marketing mainstream. And when we talked previously as well, it can be a loaded term.

But I really loved the way that you kind of defined it and talked about it, especially from a brand to consumer point of view, which was not a question. It was a dot, dot, dot to let you pick it up from there.

MIKE TURNER: [LAUGHS] Yeah. And look, I think-- this is an area that I'm quite passionate about. And I hate being greenwashed. It's a lovely term.

But there are so many companies out there that you can almost imagine the conversation in the boardroom. We need a sustainability structure. We need a sustainability message. Great. What do you do for a living? Well, we consume electricity faster than any country in the world. Great. So this is going to be a hard sell.


MIKE TURNER: And it's very easy with the availability, the openness, the sharing of information, the knowledge that's out there, the wonders of the web and where that's going, for people to get found out very, very quickly. And I think when organizations talk about sustainability, they can't just have a marketing message around sustainability. It has to be a whole company strategy.

So we have a client at SAS, a well-known client, Levi. Levi's are fantastically aware of the damage that creating denim does-- the amounts of water it uses, the dyes, the reconstruction of items like zippers or buttons or poppers or various bits and pieces.

And so when they looked at the problem, they didn't start with, hey, let's talk to customers about how green our products are, not meaning the color. But they talked about changing a business model from a linear business model to a circular business model. How do we create a model that allows us to bring in a quantity of raw materials?

And then how many times can we create garments, recycle them, give them a second life, bring them back, disassemble them, and ethically, either reuse or dispose of those materials? Now, no marketing strategy in the way-- in the world, rather-- is going to replace that need for creating the business model that means sustainability.
And the other big challenge for me on sustainability is what does it mean to an individual customer? So we're back to the issue we just talked about. If I'm communicating with an individual customer, and I talk to that customer, and I say, hey, here is a locally sourced product. What does that mean?

To one customer that could mean within the same county, within the same state. To another customer that could mean within five miles of the store. And so we can't disengage these four concepts. They fit together, and they rely on one another to drive these different strategies.

And I think that really is the key to this. It's underpinned by data. It's underpinned by technology scalability. But if you want to create sustainable products, you've got to change the business model to be sustainable as well.

BRIAN ALFOND: Yeah. It's not just lip service, right? I like that. So really, you're using data about what your customers desire to drive your whole product development. I mean, you might even have crowdsourced it using the metaverse before. It is very-- it's very cyclical. I do love that.

Well, this seems like a good place kind of to bring it back to the present from the prediction side of things. And thanks, Mike, for your time and insights today. And it'll be interesting to look to see how these trends work their way through the customers that you and I both work with in the coming years.

So ladies and gentlemen, if you enjoyed today's show, or even if you didn't, you can head on over to sas.comreimagine marketingpodcast-- that's all one word-- and join in the conversation. You can subscribe to the series on your favorite podcast platforms too. Just search for Reimagine Marketing. And if you have a topic or guest ideas, please email us at reimaginemarketi where Reimagine Marketing podcast is all one word.

I appreciate you listening. And I hope you'll consider joining me next time. Until then, this is Brian Alfond for Mike Turner, hoping all the important things in your life are good.


Episode 8

Season 3, Episode 8: Reimagine Implementation

BRIAN ALFOND: Hello, folks. Welcome to this episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. I'm your host, Brian Alfond. And I'm part of SAS's Global Customer Intelligence Group where I work with customers to find elegant and creative solutions to their marketing problem. As we move from the first half of this podcast season to the second half, I'm hoping to do more interview/conversational type of episodes. And as part of this transition, I was looking for someone I could talk to, to recap the main themes from the first half of the season where we focused on the importance of things, like good processes, change management, and doing and buying the things that will work best for your organization. And my guest today is just such a person.
Marisa Scorsone is a marketing operations and management consultant with over 18 years experience helping marketing organizations improve their marketing operation's efficiency and effectiveness. She combined skills and strategic positioning, business process re-engineering, software implementation, and training, design, and delivery. Marisa has worked with software from all the leading vendors and with a variety of clients such as tech giants, multinational financial institutions, telcos, and retail brands that you would know by heart.
In one of my past lives, I had the pleasure of working with Marisa on a couple of projects and found her approach and perspective refreshing, powerful, and most importantly, effective. Welcome, Marisa, and thank you for taking the time to speak with me. As I noted in your bio, you've helped customers implement new marketing processes and technologies for a variety of customers. And you've certainly been in the trenches far more recently than I have than I have, rather. I'm interested in what if anything you think I got right, what I missed, where I'm wrong, and any comments you may have had about what you've listened to so far.

MARISA SCORSONE: Well, hello, and thank you, Brian, for that great intro and for welcoming me on the show. So let's kick it off with your first question. We're asking me to judge your performance.

BRIAN ALFOND: [LAUGHS] I'm scared now.

MARISA SCORSONE: No, no. You did a lot right. In fact, I picked up a lot of my early tips and life hacks from you. One of the things that I remember is the fact that you held firmly to the methodology. When we were at a client site, it taught me it was OK to push back if it's good for the work, right? As far as what you did wrong, a lot of dad jokes. Just way too many dad jokes.

BRIAN ALFOND: Yes, but true to brand, right? Yes, OK.

MARISA SCORSONE: Very much so. But I mean, in all reality, there is really no one-size-fits-all approach. There are guidelines to help right size for an organization's needs. For example, the importance of understanding what the client wants to solve for, their objectives and goals. And even more importantly, is the client ready? Is the leadership support there? Are the resources available? Do they have the bandwidth, the timeline, the budget, and things like that? So those are a few of the guidelines that I hold to when entering a client site and starting a project.

BRIAN ALFOND: I feel like we might be on a client side again, especially the objectives and goals. How can you hit a target if you don't know what you're aiming for? And then I think you definitely-- thank you for reiterating leadership support, right? If you don't have that, then really, you're sunk if you're looking to make some sort of change in your organization. So hopefully, you have that. I appreciate it that you would reiterate those. So what are you seeing out there in the world in terms of your customers that are seeking your assistance? So there any specific trends or themes that you're encountering again and again?

MARISA SCORSONE: Yeah, but just quickly to get back to the leadership support. And we hear that term thrown around a lot. And I just want to articulate what we mean by leadership support. A lot of leaders are excited when they bring somebody on. Obviously, they're funding this. They're excited about it.
But what I'm referring to is more of that ongoing leadership support and the enablement within the organization and the SMEs that we're working with to offer up their time and their resources and to support that initiative. And so there's leadership support from, OK, we have the green light to move forward. And then there's that ongoing support throughout the lifecycle of the implementation. So just wanted to go back and clarify that.

BRIAN ALFOND: Now, that's a really good point. I think because I'm still thinking with the consultant brand, I just want to get the heck out of there, right? But did they-- which is a-- it's the truth. You want to get the project done. You want them to be successful and then move on. But the support you're talking about to continue to encourage the growth and the adoption of the solution is key. So thank you for that. I do appreciate it.

MARISA SCORSONE: Yeah, as far as common themes that I'm seeing on client sites that I've personally come across on client sites, it's usually the same four or five, right? Folks are using to looking to increase cross-functional collaboration, perhaps, standardize processes so they can reuse them. A lot of times, they're looking to provide additional clarity around who does what within the organizations-- within the organization as it applies to the work that they're doing.
And then some peripheral bells and whistles that like to add is that they want better operational metrics so that they can more effectively inform future work and assess past work. And when it all comes down to it, why are they looking to solve for this? And it's basically to increase the bottom line an overall optimization of the work that they're doing.

BRIAN ALFOND: Doesn't sound like these common themes have changed much in the years since I've left the consulting side of things. And it's both reassuring in the fact that things don't change, but also a little alarming in the fact that no matter what, you're going to find silos, right? You're going to find those silos. And you need that collaboration in order to get things done as efficiently as possible. So I guess I'm not that far out of the loop as I maybe thought I was. So that's cool from my perspective.
But I noticed-- I'm recalling, rather. And I've noticed in speaking on the sales side now that very often, you're talking about software. And you're talking to that client about the software. And it can do this and could do that. We can help do all of these things. And I wonder if the organization doesn't think, Oh, well, if we just buy this software, it's going to solve all of our problems. And whether you're doing a CRM package or whether we're in your specialty of marketing ops, I'm hoping you'll agree with me that it's not the software alone.

MARISA SCORSONE: In marketing ops, I don't think software alone ever solves a problem. Using software with broken or weak frameworks and processes basically enables you to be inefficient and ineffective much faster.


MARISA SCORSONE: So we should look at software as more of a tool to implement or support solutions rather than the solution in and of itself.

BRIAN ALFOND: I agree, and I think it's almost every type of software. It's almost any type of problem that you have in your life. You have to put in that work and figure out the process and figure out what that framework should be like. How do you work to bring that about or to overcome maybe any resistance that the organization has? Oh, no, just take what we're doing and put it in there?

MARISA SCORSONE: Well, first of all, we ask what's not working and why it isn't working. And that oftentimes is probably less to do with this technology that they're currently using or lack thereof and more the processes that are in place. And let me add it also, there's another component that we don't really consider a lot. And it's the people. And it's the organizational structure. Do we have the functionality in place in the organ-- and then we have the resources and the people to support those functions that we need to get the work done.

BRIAN ALFOND: That's a very good point. Yes, the operating model might need to change, as well, especially if you're bringing in efficient capabilities that might touch a skill set that isn't in the organization. I agree with that 100%. And that's one of the many things that could potentially get in the way of an organization's success when trying to implement changes. I'm sure you've seen probably 1,000 other ones. Any high points there or any things to tell organizations what to watch out for?

MARISA SCORSONE: Watch out for as far as implementing software or just--
BRIAN ALFOND: Yeah, when they're going through an initiative such of this. And they're bringing you in. And they're bringing in some software. Essentially, I'm asking, what gets in the way of an organization's success when they're trying to implement change and change-involve software, people, and process?

MARISA SCORSONE: Yeah, so like as I referenced before, understanding the software and the processes that are involved in understanding that they will need to be tweaked as the company continues to evolve. And then secondly, not choosing a software based on its popularity or a fancy bell and whistle that it has but doesn't really fit the need. Or does it help you solve what you're looking to solve or support what you're looking to support?
Another area that's often forgotten or neglected is recognizing the importance of change management and starting that process early on. In my ideal world, change management starts the day that the implementation starts even at the point of discovery, understanding what can potentially change the potential impacts to the organization and the people working within it and then getting people involved in the change management activities and planning.
And then finally, also, clients sometimes insist on choosing the methodology in which to do this work, meaning-- and I'm talking about methodology. Let's just talk about project management methodology that we employ to implement a piece of software, for example. And so if a company is using Agile to do their day-to-day work and marketing, get a campaign out there doing Agile marketing, there's this, I guess, notion or assumption that Agile is the way to implement the software as well. And that might not necessarily be the right approach to get this implementation off its feet or even completed.

BRIAN ALFOND: I'm not sure we have enough time, nor do we have the noncursing vocabulary to go down some of the paths on the implementation discussion or as we shortened it all those years ago to implementology, right? The implementation methodology.

MARISA SCORSONE: Love a good portmanteau.

BRIAN ALFOND: Yes, a very good portmanteau. But I agree with you obviously. One of these days, I'll find somebody who disagrees with something I had to say. But it's very, very important that you go about this in a way. So would you mind describing for the listeners a little bit to the framework that you use?

MARISA SCORSONE: Well, the framework-- so there is a framework here. Correct. So before I even go into the implementology, it's really important. And this is part of the methodology. But it lies outside as part of a pre-planning or determining factors in the methodology. And one of them is making sure that we define the requirements. And that usually entails knowing what we're solving for. And that sounds like a really simple question and answer to give. But a lot of times, we know what we want to fix in our day-to-day work or maybe even on a larger more strategic view. But does it ladder up to your higher-level goals and objectives both within the department that you're solving for or within the organization?
So there's that consideration when determining the requirements. And then also, are we considering the impacts that these changes or this implementation will have either further upstream or downstream or even laterally across the organization? And we're fixing a problem within, for example, the marketing department. But how will that impact the finance department, HR, other departments that are tangential partners? And oftentimes, that's really not front of mind when we're considering our requirements.

BRIAN ALFOND: And I think that it's not front of mind because people are trying to solve that problem, right? It hurts figuratively, and you want to solve that pain. But knowing that you're going to be dropping a pebble into a pond, and there's going to be all these ripples. I think maybe that's why some customers don't want to-- they think it's going to be too hard, right?

MARISA SCORSONE: Right, yeah. And they're just, like you said, they're just trying to stop the bleeding. But it's not enough to stop the bleeding. How we prevent infection, right? How do we do these-- how do we do these other things that can have long-term downstream effects? So I think those are important things to consider when defining our requirements. They're not necessarily just the immediate business requirements.
And then secondly is establishing a baseline. So we need to accurately assess and document our current state processes and our tech stack. It's not enough to say, Oh, we're using this project management tool. It's not working. We want to replace this with a tool that does this, this and this. Well, is this project management tool operating in a vacuum? Is it hooked into other systems that we're utilizing or that we're feeding information back and forth from?
So we want to document that so that there's like a canonical document to go back and look at and say, this is how everything is set up in the organization now. Does it still work? And what do we need to change? And when we do change those things, what other areas or what other processes and technologies will be affected and how we do we need to adjust for that. So that's the pre-legwork before we can figure out what implementology to apply.

BRIAN ALFOND: And how do you go about determining what implementology or what implementation methodology to apply? Does it change from customer to customer? Or are you fairly consistent with how you're going about this?

MARISA SCORSONE: Oh, it varies from customer to customer. There are a lot of other factors that contribute to it, timeline, budgets if we're taking a roadmap approach, meaning, oh, let's just implement the core functionality or core areas that we need to fix first right away. And that will depend. Typically in my experience, it's some variation of a waterfall into Agile, hybrid type of methodology. But regardless of what methodology that we choose, there's still key components that are found in both, right? So we need to do some type of planning, discovery, design, configuration, testing, et cetera.
The areas that are often omitted in both or the hybrid version of those methodologies a lot are that pre-planning, doing that final scoping after they've committed to a project and tweaking it and then also checking any type of system compatibility both with processes and software. Another area is the discovery is not a fully vetted-out discovery. So somebody goes off and speaks to a bunch of subject matter experts.
They document what they think the processes are, what their current experience is. But we don't take that up, follow that through to the end, and have that validated by the rest of the organization, and then also signed off by maybe some type of leadership to say yes, like, I vouch for this is how things are. And that serves as a way to verify that we are working from the correct set of baseline assumptions and baseline circumstances.
And then last but not least, again, going back to change management, understanding the importance of that, and planning for the not only the change within the organization, but how are we going to roll out this new software or process, and how the consultant or whoever's in charge of implementing this is going to transition off who are we going to hand off those responsibilities for the upkeep and maintenance or any minor changes to? So those are the areas that are-- that I would say to pay special attention to because they're often neglected.

BRIAN ALFOND: I hear that. And I hope that people listening to this-- and if you're thinking of doing a project like this here that as well. I'm going to take a chance here because one of the things that I have encountered in speaking with customers-- and you and I, full disclosure, we've talked about this offline before-- walk into a customer-- Oh, we're Agile here in our marketing department. Or we execute these campaigns using the Agile methodology.
And sometimes, I think it's a little bit like The Princess Bride. That word you keep using. I'm not sure it means what you think it means type of thing. And I'm wondering if you're encountering this because we used to play Buzzword Bingo back in the day. And I think then-- what was the one that we're always-- I haven't see them. You're much younger than I am. So I get old, and I forget these things.
But there was another buzzword methodology that was around at the time. And we were trying to conform everything into that. But you can't take a process that's used for maybe developing software to easily map that over to configuring your marketing solution. Would you agree, disagree, or differ?

MARISA SCORSONE: Agree, yeah. And I'm glad because you brought it back to a point that I had made earlier about folks wanting to use the Agile Project Management methodology or waterfall or whatever that they're using internally to conduct business with. And so I think a good place to start is to distinguish between when we talk about things, like Agile, for example, and there's various types of Agile. There's Kanban. There's Scrum. There's APF, which is Adaptive Project Framework, which again, is just a repackaged way of referring to Agile, which if we take a step far back enough, it's all if you remember the '90s and early 2000s, the Six Sigma.

BRIAN ALFOND: That's what I was looking for. Thank you. Evidently, I don't remember the '90s or 2000. [LAUGHS]

MARISA SCORSONE: So a long, long time ago, at least, it is to--


MARISA SCORSONE: --younger. Yeah, well, younger folks are not both of us. So I think it's good to take a step back and distinguish between when we talk about Agile and Agile methodology, there's Agile in terms of developing software from scratch. And then more recently, marketing organizations have adopted Agile-like methodologies, to get marketing campaigns out the door.
Those two are not the same. We use a lot of the same tenets where we're doing things in sprints. And we're going back and testing and reviewing and tweaking and then reissuing or making adjustments, certainly very useful. And specifically in software development, extremely useful if you're creating code from scratch.


MARISA SCORSONE: A lot of these implementations are for out-of-the-box solutions that are-- we refer to as you can't really use them out of the box. I shouldn't say out of the box. But they are highly configurable. So all of the capabilities exist within the coding or is coded within the software. Our job is to enable what makes sense in accordance with whatever processes we develop for the specific client.
So we can't fully apply Agile software development methodology to these boxed software solutions. And I just wanted to make that distinction because a lot of times, clients don't know. And rightfully, they shouldn't know. They don't if we're developing this code or not. It's not their job to know. So I just wanted to level-set that way and just make that distinction.

BRIAN ALFOND: I think it's a good one. And as somebody who tends to operate and think in terms of metaphors, I've always explained, we're giving you a box of LEGOs. And there are different sizes, pieces, and shapes and different colors in this box of LEGOs. And you can build anything you want to do with this box of LEGOs. But what you can't do easily is design a new LEGO piece that isn't part of this box.

MARISA SCORSONE: That's a great metaphor. I need to start using that more often.

BRIAN ALFOND: Well, you're welcomed. You're welcome to take-- to do whatever you want with that one. I don't know. Just, it's how my mind works. But we've worked together long enough that you know that. I'm interested in customers. We're going to keep this all anonymous obviously. But in customer success stories or even though they might be somewhat more fun to talk about from a schadenfreudic way, the horror stories, where have you been successful? What have you seen where it hasn't worked out the way you want? And what were you and the organization able to learn from both?

MARISA SCORSONE: OK, so as far as success stories go, I tend to be more successful at organizations that have a culture of well-defined structured processes or that have been around for a while, like pharma companies, for example. And I'm not sure if it's because these companies are subject to heavy regulatory scrutiny more so than other companies. And so they're used to having to validate requirements and enforcing SOPs.
And then there's other industries, like either retail or media or social media that can be more challenging, especially when a lot of the primary SMEs and folks that I speak with can sometimes be allowed to color outside of the lines. As long as they get their work done or produce a deliverable on time, they are not as beholden to the strict processes that are supported by extremely verified and validated requirements. So that's what I found in my personal experience.

BRIAN ALFOND: Interesting.

MARISA SCORSONE: So I had one client. And again, not naming names.

BRIAN ALFOND: Yes, let's not.

MARISA SCORSONE: But they did want to-- they wanted to optimize their existing marketing op stacks by integrating their project management and their campaign development and execution solutions. But there's SMEs of folks that I were speaking with. And let me just not assume people know what SMEs are.
SMEs are subject matter experts. They lacked that leadership support needed to prioritize that implementation or that work. And they weren't given the bandwidth to meaningfully engage without letting their day-to-day work suffer. So they weren't able to really properly validate requirements or test and build things out.

BRIAN ALFOND: I had a client who had that exact same situation. In the way that the sponsor described it to me was it's really hard to steer the boat and figure out where you're going when you're so busy just trying to bail it out and keep it afloat. And so you have to draw that line between, OK, well, you have to keep your day to day. But at the same-- and if the day to day is going so poorly that that's really where you are, then maybe now isn't the time for that project.

MARISA SCORSONE: Right, and I love how you just tie everything into a neat little bow for me referencing. No, you really, you make-- you reference the point that I made early on as far as getting ready to do the work. Are you ready to do this? Is leadership ready to support? Are the resources that are going to be working with you available, willing, and able to do the work that needs to be done?

BRIAN ALFOND: It's all cyclical. It all comes back to do that prep work like you said. I know that we talked about one other example that I thought would be very informative. Again, we won't name any names. But please, if you can remember if you can recall that one.

MARISA SCORSONE: Oh, yes, there was a company. It was a startup company that was part of a larger, more established company. They wanted to implement an MRM solution, a Marketing Resource Management solution ASAP. And our definitions of ASAP, we found out later varied wildly. I was thinking more along three months. They were thinking last week.
But we finally came to some type of common ground on the timeline. However, I don't think I was able to impress upon them the importance of doing a proper requirements gathering so that we can understand what we were trying to build and what we are trying to solve for by replacing the Google Docs or the Excel sheets that they were using to manage their campaigns.
Needless to say, we finally implemented a piece of software after extraordinary effort because there was a lot of rework done because the lines of what was sufficient and what wasn't as far as a solution kept moving back and forth because we didn't have that Bible to refer back to as a business requirements document. So long story short, we ended up ripping out that entire system only to then be instructed to reimplement another system without again doing that performing the due diligence of requirements gathering.
That cycle happened about three times within a two-year period. And I'm hoping-- fingers crossed-- I'm no longer there. But after the third time, maybe they just are able to see a little bit more of the value in doing that work up front. Coincidentally, they were also a quote, unquote, "Agile shop." And we need to do a little bit of waterfall-type activity, a little bit of working up front without actually delivering anything upfront but getting our thoughts together. So that again ties in to making sure that we do our due diligence and don't stick hard and fast to a specific methodology because it's your chosen one within the organization and maybe determine whether it makes sense for this type of work or not.

BRIAN ALFOND: Yeah, that I'm wondering if they'd ever heard the quote that's attributed to Einstein, which I'm sure everybody else can quote for me, but something about doing the same thing over and over again and then think we've encountered that.

MARISA SCORSONE: Insanity. Yes, insanity quote.


MARISA SCORSONE: It felt like insanity. And I'm sure it felt like insanity on their end because I don't think they were understanding what went wrong. And a lot of times, well, the software doesn't work. Or this is we shouldn't be using this methodology when in reality was something as simple as let's go back to the basics. What are the processes that we're trying to implement? And how are we trying to implement them? And are we fully-- are we vetting them out before we decide we're going to configure them into our software? Because it was really a matter of we want to create this type of project plan. Go ahead and put it in the system without understanding all the impacts to doing the process this way or setting it up this way. And all the resources that would be affected.

BRIAN ALFOND: Thinking we can all be glad that that company doesn't make houses. I have a question I ask customers when I'm talking to or people I'm interviewing sometimes. It's the, quote, unquote, "magic wand" question. So if I were to hand you a magic wand, and you could change one thing about the state of what you consider to be your industry right now, or maybe I could be generous like a genie and give you three wishes, are there are a couple of things that if you just go poof, it would make your life a whole lot easier?

MARISA SCORSONE: Yep, I'm going to try to get a twofer out of this. So I'm going to say it's--

BRIAN ALFOND: Just can't wish for more wishes.

MARISA SCORSONE: One. But then just stick-- slide two wishes in there. So one of them would be to, I think most importantly, set realistic expectations with clients. I don't want to use that cliche of overpromising and under-delivering.


MARISA SCORSONE: It does. It does. It's just very-- it's like fingers on a chalkboard when I hear it. It's like that low-hanging fruit phrase. But no, but it does work. And sometimes it's OK for a client and a consultant to just walk away from each other and not work together if it's not a right fit. And then secondly, which ties into the first point that I made, is to present the implementation methodology as part of the deliverable itself, not as a means of producing the deliverable.
In other words, we'd say something along the lines of this is our standard. It's our vetted methodology. And if we use your untested methodology, you can lower your chances of success. Oftentimes, that allows the client to pause and reassess, like, do we want to be successful more than we want to be right or more than we want to use the methodology that we use in-house? So that's a little phraseology that I've picked up along the way to help mitigate or work through that conversation.

BRIAN ALFOND: That's a very polite way to say something that my late father, who was an auto mechanic, he had a sign in the shop-- that just gave different rates. If I do it, it's $50 an hour. If you want to watch, it's $75 an hour. If you want to help, it's $125 an hour because let the expert do what the expert is good at is essentially, I think, what you're saying in a very nice way.

MARISA SCORSONE: Yeah, and by the way, I learned that from you many, many years ago, about 15 years ago. And I saw how firm you were when clients pushed back when they were clearly wrong. And they didn't know they were wrong. They really believed that they were doing the right thing. They just don't have the benefit of how do they say it? They haven't been to this rodeo before of having implementing this type of software.
And I was a little bit nervous when you bring up that conversation and just how forcefully you push back. And then they almost always eventually came around and would come back and say you know what. Hmm, you are right. I'm glad that I listened to you. Or I'm glad that you gave me some resistance on that.

BRIAN ALFOND: Thank you for that. And I only ever had one customer actually hit me. So that was good. And I learned to mellow that approach over the years. But I think it was just have a little faith. And you've obviously learned that. And you're out there doing that. So I'm happy.
I think that's a good place to wrap up this episode. And Thanks, Marisa, for your time and thanks for the stories. And boy, you sparked some memories. I hope that we get an opportunity to work together again in the near future. I think would be a lot of fun. If somebody hearing this was interested in engaging your services or talking to you, is there a real concise or easy way for them to get a hold of you?

MARISA SCORSONE: Through LinkedIn. And my LinkedIn handle is mscorsone. It's M-S-C-O-R-S-O-N-E. I'm not sure if you can drop that in the--

BRIAN ALFOND: I'm sure we can pass that on over in the show notes. So that's great.

MARISA SCORSONE: Just, if I can do a shameless plug, you mentioned to have a little faith. And conveniently, coincidentally, a couple of days ago, I just published an article on LinkedIn about having faith or trust for the process for the consulting process. So if you're interested or you're curious, you can check that out. And I just want to thank you again for having me on and allowing me to wax poetic about--


MARISA SCORSONE: --marketing stories.

BRIAN ALFOND: Absolutely, and we'll include a link to that article in the show notes as well. So folks, if you enjoyed today's show or even if you didn't, you can head on over to, reimaginemarketingpodcast-- all one word-- to join in the conversation. You can subscribe to the series on your favorite podcast platforms too. Just search for Reimagine Marketing.
If you have a topic or guest idea, please email us at reimaginemarketi where again, Reimagine Marketing podcast is all one word. I appreciate you listening. I hope you'll consider joining me next time. Until then, this is Brian Alfond for Marisa Scorsone hoping all the important things in your life are good.

Episode 7

Season 3, Episode 7: Reimagine Reflection


BRIAN ALFOND: Hello, folks. Welcome to this mini episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. I'm your host, Brian Alfond. And I'm part of SAS's Global Customer Intelligence Group, where I work with customers to find elegant and creative solutions to their marketing problems.

The holiday season is upon us. And it just so happens to coincide with the halfway point of the Reimagine Marketing podcast season. So this feels like a good point to pause the thinking about marketing and to take some time to reflect on, as I like to say, all the important things that at this time of year may deserve more of our attention.

I'm reminded of an episode from a prior life when I was in the office on a Saturday completely stressed out because something wasn't working the way it should have been. Evidently, my stress, or maybe the foul language I was using, thinking I was the only one in the office on that Saturday, attracted the attention of a VP who was also trying to catch up on some work that day.

Calling me into his office and pouring two glasses of wine-- hey, this was the 90s, he handed me one, looked me in the eye, and said, Brian, we're not curing cancer here. At the end of the day, you have to remember it's just junk mail. Even if we do our jobs to the best of our ability, to the vast majority of people, it is still just junk mail.

Now, please don't misunderstand me. Marketing is very important to those of us who make our living doing it or supporting it, et cetera. But work is just one part of life. And what I love about this time of year is the opportunity to really relax into and enjoy the other things, all the important things life offers us, and that we risk taking for granted as we go about our daily tasks.

We will resume the Reimagine Marketing podcast in the new year. Until then, I hope you have an opportunity to take some time this holiday season to reflect and enjoy the things that make you happy, that make you grateful, and make life whole. So until next time, this is Brian Alfond wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season, a safe and prosperous new year, and that, as always, all the important things in your life are good.


Episode 6

Season 3, Episode 6: Reimagine Motivation


BRIAN ALFOND: Hello, folks. Welcome to this episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. I'm your host Brian Alfond. And I'm part of SAS's Global Customer Intelligence group, where I work with customers to find elegant and creative solutions to their marketing problems.
When I was 13 and a budding bass player, a friend gave me Rush's album Exit Stage Left, and a lifelong obsession was born. Geddy Lee is their lead singer, keyboard player, and most importantly bass player. And it was his bass playing that hit some sort of nerve. The sound of his Rickenbacker bass took residence in my soul. And I needed to have that sound.
I figured the easiest way to get it was to go out and get a Rickenbacker myself. So for over a year I detailed cars, I mowed lawns, cashed in a couple of savings bonds, sold a trombone that was not getting me a lot of dates, and finally bought a used Rickenbacker 4001, just like the one Geddy Lee played. And I played that bass all through high school and into college, but I never sounded anything like Geddy Lee, and I was frustrated.
A few years later Geddy switched to Steinberger basses, so I bought a Steinberger. But the only one I could find was fretless, which wasn't the same thing at all. So obviously, I still didn't sound anything like Geddy Lee. But a few years after that, Geddy switched to Wal basses. And the sound of that bass completely displaced the sound of the Rickenbacker for me. I sold all four of the basses I owned at the time to buy one used Wal. I even drove all the way from Boston to Philadelphia to get it.
But while I loved the sound I could get out of the Wal, it still didn't make me sound anything like Geddy Lee. Then in the early 2000s, Geddy went back to basics with a Fender Jazz Bass. But this time, I was way ahead of him. For reasons best left untold in this setting, I'd been forced to sell my Wal, along with all the other basses in my arsenal. And I'd replaced them with two basic vanilla Fender Jazz Basses. And guess what. After all those years and all those bass guitars, I still didn't sound anything like Geddy Lee. And I wasn't having any fun trying to either.
I started thinking back to my youth when I'd play 8 to 10 hours a day when bass was all I wanted to eat, drink, sleep-- heck, even sleep with. And I realized that I had never played anything that played as nicely as that first Rickenbacker. So I bought another one, but this time I didn't want to sound like Geddy Lee. This time, I wanted to sound like, well, me. And then at the advanced age of 46, I realized this was OK.
The Rickenbacker is a dream to play. And I found a sound I and my bandmates loved. And I started having fun again. How's that for reimagining things? Which brings me, in my usual roundabout-- it happens to be also another great song played on a Rickenbacker-- way to marketing. I'm sure many of us have met with or have been part of a company that has found their own Geddy Lee in the form of another company that they think does everything right. And I'm sure many of us have seen these organizations go out and buy the same martech stack that their hero company uses. And lo and behold, they aren't performing the way that their hero company does. And the results, while perhaps adequate, are not the amazing results they expected. And they want to know why.
I found that just like me when I was a teenager, companies can become trapped in a mindset that if they could just find the right tools, they would be successful. Don't get me wrong. Tools are important. And you want to acquire the best tools you can-- be it a bass guitar, or a ratchet set, or marketing software. But for young, bass-playing Brian, well, my failure was a failure of vision. Inspiration and emulation is all well and good, but at some point, you have to set your own goals that take your own abilities and situation into consideration.
I'm not sure a company can be successful with a pure emulation strategy. If the culture is different and the people are different, but the goals are the same, can they succeed? Wouldn't a company need to understand its own business challenges and issues that are preventing them from achieving their goals, then craft a solution to meet those unique requirements? And sure, it may involve some or all of the solutions that the competition uses, or it may not.
Trying to be something or someone you aren't could end up being a massive waste of time and money. And even if you use the exact same toolset as your competition, your results are most likely going to be different because your business is different. And just like there's only one Geddy Lee, there's only one of you or of your organization.
As I was thinking about my days as a wannabe rock star, I realized there are other parallels in the mistakes I made then to what I see in my professional life now. For example, I can now admit I suffered from what my bandmates would describe as shiny things syndrome. Basses aside, I always was attracted to the newest and hippest technology. A black light lit amplifier? That looks wicked cool! Yes, please! But did it help my sound at all? Sadly, not enough to justify the expense, and that's just for the amp itself. I hadn't even taken into account the cost of the time I spent trying to get a decent sound out of the thing.
Now, I'm sure you can draw the parallels to working with organizations trying to solve their business issues. How many organizations go out and get the latest trendy and self-proclaimed innovative software only to find out it isn't really what they need? And it has added minimal to no additional value whatsoever.
Now, the good news for me was that at least I could sell my failed amplifier experiment. I'm not sure companies can do this. Most likely, they'll stick this software on a shelf somewhere, the literal definition of shelfware, and look for ways to write off the cost without arousing the interest of the taxman.
If there's a common thread to my meandering down my musical memories and making them marketing metaphors, I suppose it's this. You have to do the hard work first. You have to determine what it is that you're trying to accomplish. Understand what you need to get that done, understand what's in the way of you getting it done, and understand how you can address those issues.
Like I said, it's the hard work. And organizations often need help with this. Fortunately, I've enjoyed a career of helping organizations with this. And over the past 20 years, I've worked with others who also excel at taking reimagined goals and crafting processes, teams, and technology solutions to make them a reality. So I guess I'm saying, don't be afraid to ask for help. After all, if it was easy, I'd probably still be out there trying to be a full-time rock and roller. And trust me. No one should ever see me in leather pants.
On that distressing visual, I'm slightly nervous to say that if you enjoyed today's show, or even if you didn't, you can head on over to emarketingpodcast, all one word, to join in the conversation. You can subscribe to the series on your favorite podcast platforms, too. Just search for Reimagine Marketing. If you have topic, or guest ideas, or other feedback, please email us at reimaginemarketi, where, once again, reimaginemarketingpodcast is all one word. I appreciate you listening. And I hope you'll consider joining me next time. Until then, this is Brian Alfond hoping all the important things in your life are good.

Episode 5

Season 3, Episode 5: Reimagining Change...Management


BRIAN ALFOND: Hello, folks. Welcome to this episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. I'm your host, Brian Alfond. I'm part of SAS's Global Customer Intelligence Group, where I work with customers to find elegant and creative solutions to their marketing problems. In the last episode, I shared how, in the process of renovating my kitchen, I discovered many parallels with the challenges organizations face whenever they decide to reimagine part or all of their marketing. And in this episode, I'd like to further explore this topic-- change management, not my kitchen, clearly-- with someone who, as previously alluded to, has spent time in similar professional trenches as have I.
Kate Parker is currently the director of markets and growth for SAS Customer Intelligence here at SAS. She has over 15 years of experience in marketing as a cross-industry marketing advisory consultant, a marketing technology systems implementer, and as a MarTech solutions architect.
Now part of the sales organization, she believes that sales is more than just selling a product but rather providing customers with the solution to a business problem. Although a self-proclaimed talker, she credits her success in-- and perhaps more importantly, her satisfaction with-- her career to being an attentive listener, listening to the challenges her customers face and then collaborating with them on solutions to those challenges.
It's those 15 years in the consulting trenches that I'm particularly interested in today. And Kate and I have spoken often how managing change is often the most critical part of a successful business transformation or of a software implementation.
Welcome, Kate. And thanks for joining me on the podcast.
KATE PARKER: Hi, Brian. Thanks for having me.
BRIAN ALFOND: My pleasure. I'm going to start with an easy one. In your view, why is change such a challenge?
KATE PARKER: Change is a challenge. Change is hard, right? I think we all know that any time anything changes in our life that takes us away from the status quo, it's hard to work through, right?
And, when we were kind of talking through what we were going to discuss, the example that I gave you was my son. This is kind of a ridiculous example, but my son just changed rooms at daycare.
And why I care that my son is changing rooms at daycare, moving away from the teachers that I know and the room that he's in, and I'm so comfortable with that scenario, the change that he's moving up into a new classroom and new teachers and new students in there. And it's different.
Now, if I take a step back and I reflect on why do I care if he's moving from a two's classroom to a three's classroom-- again, again, somewhat ridiculous-- I care because I recognize it's going to be a challenge for him. It's a challenge for me.
But in order for him to grow, he has to do this, right? He has to keep moving. He has to keep changing. So change is hard because it's the unknown, right?
BRIAN ALFOND: I think that's very, very accurate. You're giving up something. You're giving up control, certainly. You're giving up what's familiar to you. I love what you just said there and maybe we can spend a little bit more time on that, that change is required for him to grow. BRIAN ALFOND: And so if we could extrapolate from that, any organization, in order to grow, is going to have to change.
KATE PARKER: Yeah. I think organizations-- and I think you and I see this in our daily working environment, right? We're changing constantly. And we're trying to figure out, as a team, how we adapt. All the organizations that we work with, day in and day out, are also constantly adapting.
And especially in today's world, with digital transformation efforts underway and the constant flux of new systems being implemented, new vendors being brought in, it's a constant churn, if you will, of new technologies, new people being brought into the mix with previous experiences where we're trying to blend all that together and new processes that we're having to explore to make everything make sense. It's a challenge.
BRIAN ALFOND: I agree with that 100%. And then you add the pandemic on top of everything and how we all had to make significant changes over that time period. I'd like to follow this, your example, a little more, if we could, because I think it's really important. And I work best when I start with some sort of metaphor or analogy and can extrapolate from that.
And I think, just in thinking about how I would work with an organization to prepare them for change in the past, it's probably going to be very close to how you helped prepare your son for that change. Because I'm going to assume that you had some conversations with him other than just saying, hey, new classroom. Here you go.
KATE PARKER: Well, you would think. No, I'm kidding. Yes, I did. I mean, we had talked, several days before, saying, hey, you're going to be having a new classroom. A lot of your friends are going to be going with you. But you're going to have new friends in there, too. And your teachers that you know and love are not going to be the same. So you will have some change there.
I will say, when I walked into the building, I had no idea where I was going or what classroom he was in. So I'm clearly winning all of the rewards for parenting. But, you know, I did. I communicated with him. And I helped him understand what he was in for, as best I could. BRIAN ALFOND: You set some expectations.
KATE PARKER: Yeah. Yeah.
BRIAN ALFOND: Also, it sounds like you set some expectations for yourself. Because what you said, I didn't know where I was going-- well, how could you? It's a new classroom, right? So to me, that means-- I'm just going to equate you to leadership.
BRIAN ALFOND: They may not know, either.
BRIAN ALFOND: But you were clear on what the goal was, right?
BRIAN ALFOND: New opportunity for him to grow and learn. And I think that's a key point, from what I've found in my past life, of going into an organization. If the leadership knows why, and they've communicated that all the way down, I'm not saying change still is going to be easy. But at least you know why you're going in that direction.
KATE PARKER: And honestly, that to me, is the most important aspect. Communication, for any change, is the number one priority. But also, the why behind the change has to be so clearly articulated ahead of any major change, in order for something to be successful.
So again, take, for example, within our own organization, when things change, how much better does it go when someone says the change is coming and here's why we did that. And here's what this will look like for you.
I mean, for me, personally, it's night and day, whether I am able to adopt that change or adapt to it, if you will, versus if someone just says, this is changing, and you don't need to know why. BRIAN ALFOND: Or even worse, this is just how you're going to do it. Because I said so. Which-- as I'm also a parent, my kid's significantly older than yours-- there were times when I did fall into the "because I said so." But I think there are appropriate times for that as well.
KATE PARKER: Oh, yeah.
BRIAN ALFOND: This probably-- if you're trying to do a major digital transformation or even doing some sort of major MarTech reimplementation, reorganization, whatever, that's not going to fly, in my experience.
BRIAN ALFOND: The we-say-so corporation never worked. It never worked.
KATE PARKER: Nope. I think that's where you go into one of the reasons that we're here today is to talk about change management.
BRIAN ALFOND: Yes. What did you do, in your-- well, I know what you do now. And I will say-- I'm not trying to suck up-- you do a great job of it. And I think that we're in an organization that sets a really great example, within our little corner of the world there, into how to manage change with the people that are undergoing that.
But from your consulting days, what did you have that worked? What was your approach? Did you meet any resistance? How would you overcome that?
BRIAN ALFOND: A whole bunch of questions in there.
KATE PARKER: Whole lot of resistance. So my background was, for a while, marketing advisory consulting, but also marketing resource management implementations, which is a whole lot of process, a whole lot of change management.
And there's absolutely resistance. Because, again, change is hard. But I think one of the things that I did well, as a consultant, and that I would try and work with the organizations again that I worked with, was, again, working through the process of understanding why we were here, what we're trying to achieve, and being able to articulate that in a way that project sponsors, key stakeholders, were all aligned to that vision or to where we were headed.
And if you have that in place before you head down the path of asking everybody to change what they're doing and adopting new processes, new systems, et cetera, that's a huge win. BRIAN ALFOND: Yes.
KATE PARKER: Right? Starting off on a level playing field where everyone is saying yes, nodding their heads, I agree to what we're trying to achieve.
BRIAN ALFOND: Mm-hmm. You're absolutely right. How many times did you have to walk in and assist with that? Did you ever have the great situation where you had walked in and they were already in that process of communicating that change?
KATE PARKER: No, I would say in most scenarios I was in kind of early on in the process, where I was able to work with them and kind of shape out what that looked like and provide insight into, again, best practices, strategies for communicating upfront, again, aligning those key stakeholders, and then implementing a communication plan and strategy, ultimately to drive adoption.
BRIAN ALFOND: You said "best practices." That always triggers something with me. I think in our professional experiences before, even now, I've found-- could be wrong in this-- that whenever a customer would ask me for best practices, what they were really asking for was for me to tell them that what they're doing right now was best practices. And I would always just say, well, then why am I here? Right?
BRIAN ALFOND: So obviously, you might have some things that are, but clearly there are some things that you still want to change. Anyway, that's just the "best practices" aside. The other thing that you said that I really would like to drill down is about having all the stakeholders there, horizontally and vertically. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
KATE PARKER: Yeah. With any process, again, with any technology that you implement, you have the horizontal structure, your leadership, who are typically your sponsors, your key stakeholders of the project that you're trying to execute. Their alignment is critical. But then also, if you think of the functions that support the various elements of the process they also have to be on the same page.
But going back to your "best practices" piece a couple of seconds ago, that's where, particularly in the functional area, you get a lot of the pushback. Because it's, well, this is how we do it today.
And again, not saying what you're doing is wrong. Again, people could come into our positions today and say, you're doing this wrong. And frankly, we probably should say, OK, I'm open to growth, I'm open to change, and listen to them.
KATE PARKER: But the number of times that I think each of us has probably heard, this is the way it's always been done.
KATE PARKER: But that doesn't mean it's being done right. And I'm not saying what you're doing is wrong, but I'm sure there's ways that we can improve it.
BRIAN ALFOND: There have always been tap dancing sessions in any of those meetings where-- because you don't want to say you're doing it wrong. But you do see-- because you're an outsider, you do tend to see, oh, well, that could be a little different, or that could be a little different.
And we have the benefit of talking to multiple companies and not just being within one. So I do think that's a very important thing. And that takes some skill to be able to tell somebody that, I know what you're doing. I know you care, you're passionate about it. That's fantastic. How about this, though?
And I will say, in my younger days, maybe I wasn't so patient or so great at communicating that. But I think that that's-- as people did that to me, exactly what you're talking about, come into our organizations and managed our change, I'm like, oh, I'm going to try to that. That really makes a lot of sense.
KATE PARKER: Well, I think it's a lot easier when someone comes in and, honestly, a third party comes in, and provides some outside expertise and says, OK, let's talk about what your current state is. I'm an outside participant. I do not know what your processes are. I don't know what your systems currently look like or who does what.
Let's talk about it. Let's kind of start with this. And you and I have done many sessions around this. What technology you're using? What's the process behind it? Who's doing what? And just, again, level setting on that current state.
KATE PARKER: And then starting to go into, OK, well what if you did it this way? Oh. Well, I hadn't thought about it that way.
BRIAN ALFOND: Mm-hmm. Those are great moments. When those happen and you get that buy-in, those are great moments. As the consultant, we think, oh, cool, OK.
KATE PARKER: But that's what's required, I think, to help people change, is to get on the same page as them, in terms of where you currently stand, and then aligning to that future vision and working through it together. Because if you come in and you say, I don't really care what you're doing today. You're going to do it this way. That is not going to work.
BRIAN ALFOND: That probably would not have worked very well with your son.
KATE PARKER: Ooh, correct, no.
BRIAN ALFOND: You were able to get down to his level and understand, OK, well, this is what he's going to be concerned with. And life is the same thing over and over again. The universe continues to put things in front of you that you have to work on. So whether it's change with your son or change of your Global 100 company, it's essentially-- to me-- the same thing.
BRIAN ALFOND: It always has been. It's all that same conversation. So what would you do-- and I'm curious. I don't know if we want to trade stories here because that could get dangerous. But maybe you could tell me and the listeners a little bit-- when you had that management chain that was just, no, we're just going to tell them. And I know you've had them because we've talked about this. I have not yet found a surefire way to be able to overcome that.
KATE PARKER: I think when you have those resisters, it's opening the door for further conversation. And, again, welcoming them into the table and saying, tell me why. I need to hear why this is so hard or why you're pushing back so much.
Because you obviously feel very strongly about this. And that's OK. That's good. You're passionate about what you do. But you're not all that unique. You're not unique in terms of wanting to just kind of stay the same. So why are you so-- I guess you can't probably say "hell-bent" on a podcast, but--
BRIAN ALFOND: "Hidebound." You can say it.
KATE PARKER: Why are you so hidebound on keeping with this, right? You know, why? And if they can clearly articulate it, then that's, again, room for us to continue to iterate on what's the right way to approach this.
But if not, then that, again, brings us to the table where we can say, OK, now this is, again, repeating why we're doing this and that we have the support that's required from the executive team. And here's where we are. So we need to figure out a way to productively work through this and figure out what our path forward is.
But I do find that the more that-- sometimes there is absolutely a time where you have to shut it down and just say this is the way it's being done.
BRIAN ALFOND: Yes. And I think that's more, as you said earlier when we were having another conversation, that's really more at the functional level. But at the strategy level, maybe it's there too. There are times you have to shut it down.
KATE PARKER: There are. But you don't want to get there, right?
BRIAN ALFOND: Right. Because I don't know if your people will follow you then.
KATE PARKER: Yeah. No, I think you continue to open the door and have constructive conversations to figure out how to progress, how to move forward.
BRIAN ALFOND: So the thought popped into my head as you were talking about, it's another opportunity to listen, it's another opportunity to understand the why and to ask the questions why.
No company names, obviously. But there was one time when I said, well, the only way that we're going to be able to get through this is to try it and either succeed and we, the consulting company, is wrong, or it's going to fail. And it's not going to be an I-told-you-so moment. But that's the time to say, well, what if we try it this way?
I think, to a certain degree-- and maybe it's scarier now because there's so many new channels-- people are terrified of failure. But how the heck else do you learn?
KATE PARKER: I think there's absolutely those instances. And sometimes it's when the organization as a whole disagrees with the approach, and they make a decision to proceed as they want. And I've been in the situation where, six months later, we've received the OK, you were right. Let's change it. Let's go through and modify our processes, modify the solution, et cetera. But I think it's going to happen.
BRIAN ALFOND: Absolutely.
KATE PARKER: You want to avoid it, but you can't always avoid it, right? Again, it just opens the door for continuous reform and change as you move along. And as they start to use the system, move throughout these processes, they recognize, hmm, this wasn't really what I expected. Or there's way too much here. I over-architected the solution.
KATE PARKER: I don't want to take away the goodness, the art and the science aspect of marketing. I don't want to take away my artistic portion of this process. So--
BRIAN ALFOND: Absolutely.
KATE PARKER: --we're going to separate the two and make processes more milestone-based and, again, allow more flexibility. So just those kind of scenarios where you do revisit it and no love lost, it makes sense.
BRIAN ALFOND: I really love that you just said you don't want to take away the art. And we don't. Because, as much as, you know , you want to get into the analytics and the A/B testing and all this, and as much as AI is supposed to be the futurem there is still that art. And there's still that creativity and the gut instinct that you need to promote, to support. Which is why I don't like micromanaging any type of process, right? Let's please leave room for that.
BRIAN ALFOND: Leave room for that. I'm very glad that you brought the art back into it. Because that's also where you can learn. Unexpected things happen there. That's a really good point.
You were also talking about bringing in a new system. The "blame the software," I think in my-- whatever I wrote, I wrote something-- that silverware better be in the first darn drawer they open. Otherwise, you know, you're going to hear, oh, well, this is never going to work. And in your experience, have you-- A, one, I'm going to assume that you've encountered that. And then, how have you countered that?
KATE PARKER: I go back to, honestly, what I just said. Open the door for the conversation and talk about why isn't it going to work. Again, just saying because it's not how we do it today is not the right reason.
But what is it? Is it the way that you're clicking the button? Is it the way that the process is architected? Is it how you're aligning with this other area of the organization? What isn't working about it?
And if they're blaming the software, there's obviously more to it, right? Sometimes it is the software, right? We work for a software company. We--
BRIAN ALFOND: Yep. Sometimes the button's just not where it's supposed to be.
KATE PARKER: --fully acknowledge that it can be the software, at times, so not saying that at all. But is there more to the story? So just opening the door for conversation, communication.
BRIAN ALFOND: Right. There's two, three, maybe four equal parts of the equation. The software's one of those variables. But then you do-- you have your process. You have your change and everything else. That's a very good point.
And I think-- I know in our role in the sales side now, we do try to talk to our customers about, hey, this is a big change, what you're talking about, depending on where they are in their digital transformation. But even if you're just bringing in new software, that can be a big change to the people who are invested and who take great pride in their jobs. It sounds like what you're saying is, the more communication, the better.
KATE PARKER: Yeah, and I think, again, you and I like to lead even presales conversations with workshops, right?
KATE PARKER: That's our comfort zone. We like to-- what's our starting point? Get a common ground of where we currently stand and then paint that vision for the future. I think that's so pivotal to succeeding with any technology is that common understanding before you move forward.
BRIAN ALFOND: Comfort zone. I am way out of my comfort zone if I can't do that.
BRIAN ALFOND: If you're dropped in and say, well, we just want to replace the software. And if I don't know the wherefore and the why-- and this could be a personal failing, I don't know, but-- I get nervous. But I need to know why.
BRIAN ALFOND: And I often think that, well, if I need to know why, then maybe they have people that need to know why, as well.
KATE PARKER: You're not unique there.
BRIAN ALFOND: Oh, good. Oh, good. I think I have a question here, but I think you've already answered it. My question I wrote down was, "Can a mismanaged implementation be saved?" I'll just queue it up to say, communicate.
KATE PARKER: Yeah. Yeah. I think it absolutely can be saved. Because nothing ever goes exactly as planned, right? If it did, then the world would be perfect. There's inherently flaws in everything that we do.
So mismanaged implementation, you can come at that many different ways, in terms of who mismanaged it, what side was it on. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. Once things are in there and you all have to figure out how to move forward, everyone needs to come to our proverbial table, sit down, and figure out what that path forward looks like, to figure out how do we collectively change. And that can be even these third parties coming in to the table saying, I need you to change how you did this, right?
BRIAN ALFOND: Yes. I've heard that many times.
KATE PARKER: Yep, yep. Received that feedback, too, so-- which is good, again, for my personal growth, your personal growth.
BRIAN ALFOND: Yes, I almost wish that more people would provide some honest-- it doesn't have to be cruel, but provide some good--
KATE PARKER: (LAUGHING) Constructive feedback.
BRIAN ALFOND: No, seriously, how else do we learn? How else do we grow?
Speaking of that, I think that might be a good place to wrap this conversation because I'm about to ask for some of that. So I really do appreciate your stories, your insights, and your take on these things. It's nice to record one of these conversations that we have on an afternoon. And I hope that you, the listener, did as well. So if you did enjoy today's episode, or even if you didn't, you can head on over to eMarketingPodcast-- that's all one word-- and join in the conversation.
You can subscribe to the series on your favorite podcast platforms too. Just search for "Reimagine Marketing." And you can submit your constructive feedback or your ideas for topics or guests, as well as anything else you'd like to let us know, by emailing us at where, once again, "remimagemarketingpodcast" is all one word.
I'd like to thank my guest, Kate Parker, and I'd like to thank you, the listener, for listening. And please consider joining us next time. Until then, this is Brian Alfond hoping that all the important things in your life are good.

Episode 4

Season 3, Episode 4: Reimagine Change


BRIAN ALFOND: Hello, folks. Welcome to this episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. I'm your host Brian Alfond and I'm part of SAS's Global Customer Intelligence group, where I work with customers to find elegant and creative solutions to their marketing problems. Today I want to talk to you about my kitchen. It was recently completely remodeled and I do mean completely. It was demoed down to the studs and then reconstructed with an entirely new layout. The only thing that's the same from the original design is the location of the sink.
.Now, I'm three months into using this new design and I still find myself opening a drawer near where the silverware used to be, or heading toward the spot where the refrigerator was, or looking for the trash with a trash can previously resided, and, sad to say, I think I'm going to be doing this for a while.
This kitchen layout is infinitely superior to what it was before. Instead of walking five steps from the stove to the sink, now I just simply turn 180 degrees. And the dishwasher and refrigerator are a single step of the way, rather than the hike I had to previously complete to go from one to the other. So if it's so much better, why am I still going to all the old spots?
I only lived with the old kitchen for six years, but this evidently dug trenches in my brain such that I'm definitely entrenched in those old patterns or it really is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. And at this point I'm sure you're thinking what could this possibly have to do with Reimagine Marketing? Well, please bear with me for a little bit longer.
In a past life, I spent over 10 years implementing marketing software specializing in marketing operations and marketing process re-engineering. Then I jumped to the sales side and I've spent another 10 years offering solutions to a wider range of customers marketing challenges. But with every customer I've interacted with, I've encountered a similar phenomenon to my momentary kitchen confusion.
I'm called in when an organization decides it's time to reimagine their marketing and bring in something new. Maybe they want to rip their marketing down to the studs, like in my kitchen, or maybe they're just replacing part of their martech stack that they feel they weren't getting optimal return from. Whatever the case, I found that the people who do the work within the new tools are not happy when the proverbial silverware is not in the very first draw they open. And in many cases their first instinct is to blame the software.
Now, when an organization brings in something new, the reasons and benefits are typically clear to the executives making the decision, yet I've found often not so clear to the folks doing the day-to-day work.
People take pride in the work that they do. They're invested in their processes and the tools that allow them to get their work done and any threat to this is going to cause fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Think about your own experience. Typically the thought of any change is initially going to spark thoughts of resistance. And I've seen some brilliant martech implementations struggle and even failed because not enough attention has been paid to how processes will change, the adaptations people will need to make to those changes, and most importantly to the communicating of why the change is being made in the first place.
Now, with my kitchen project, I fully understood why it was being changed as well as the benefits the change would bring me, the primary cook in the house. I initiated and drove the change. I even played a major role in the new design and layout of the thing. And yet I'm still not getting 100% efficiency out of the design because not enough time has passed for me to replace my old habits with new ones.
Really, it's all a matter of time. People need time to get used to the idea of change. Then they need time to get used to the idea that what they used to do isn't how it's done anymore. And this is very much akin to a grieving process. We should make time to allow for people to work through this. Then they need time to turn the new way of doing things into habit.
Now, that's a lot of time. But I found that the best way to minimize the impact to a project plan is to start managing change as early as possible.
In my current role, I won't even mention software until I make sure the customer knows how vital understanding and managing the impact of this change to their people and process is to their success, which is why I emphasize the importance of early change management, of communicating well before any change happens the reasons why an organization is making a change, the expected benefits from the change, and an acknowledgment that the change is going to affect the day-to-day work of people involved. And, ideally, your communication plan should be bidirectional
Now, I have seen and worked with companies who resort to the BP Richfield method of "we say so." But success in those cases is rarer than a non-inflammatory political tweet. And as we know from life in general, listening is key. If conditions are such that you're seeking to reimagine your marketing, then your teams probably know that a change is needed and would be beneficial. They also probably have valuable input into how to make things better at the boots on the ground level and they want to, need to, and indeed should be heard.
I always ran my process re-engineering sessions with all the stakeholders in a room together. And I deliberately kept myself ignorant of the titles or levels of the people involved because I wanted all voices to be equal, at least to me. And all of my successful customers were those that worked together to understand the problem, identify remedies, and design a cross-functional and cross-hierarchical solution.
Someone once told me all change is painful until you can look at it in the rear view mirror. I really wish I could remember who said that, but I can't. But it stuck with me throughout my entire career and life.
And another thing to keep in mind is that no change is perfect. Believe me, there are things that I wish I had done differently in my kitchen remodel, but these things are minor and don't even begin to move the scales when weighed against the efficiency and benefits of the new design.
So when it's time to reimagine your marketing, I urge you to first take some time to reimagine the way that your processes and people will need to work in your bright, new future and talk about it with all stakeholders impacted. Ask what the change will mean to them, discuss the disruptions of a new process, a new system, and any other concerns. Then make sure that everybody understands the benefits you expect from the change and how it will directly benefit your team, your marketing, and your company. And then I'll be happy to come talk to you about the software to enable it.
Of course, this is just my take on change management and marketing and I hope to extend this conversation here with some folks who have spent their time in professional trenches similar to my own. So please look for that discussion in an upcoming episode.
And I'm curious about what your experience has been with marketing change large or small. Do you have any horror stories or great success stories? Let us know and you may be invited on to discuss.
In the meantime, if you enjoyed today's show or even if you didn't, you can head on over to emarketingpodcast-- all one word-- and join in the conversation. You can also subscribe to the series on your favorite podcast platforms, just search for Reimagine Marketing.
And I'd be happy if you shared your topic or guest ideas by emailing us at reimaginemarketi, where, once again, Reimagine Marketing podcast is all one word. Thank you for listening and please consider joining us. Next time. Until then, this is Brian Alfond, hoping all the important things in your life are good.

Episode 3

Season 3, Episode 3: Reimagine Digital Advertising


BRIAN ALFOND: Hello, folks. Welcome to this episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast I'm your host Brian Alfond. I'm part of SAS' Global Customer Intelligence group, where I work with customers to find elegant and creative solutions to their marketing problems. Today I have the pleasure to speak with Roy Reeves, a colleague of mine here in SAS, about a subject that I certainly have a lot left to learn about-- digital advertising. And with over 20 years of experience as a sales and business development leader in advertising media and technology, Roy is the perfect person to help educate me.
Roy was the co-founder of PumpTop TV, which, at the time, was the world's largest gas pump TV network. And then while at Bullseye Media, Roy helped pioneer out-of-home audience measurement, which used the mobile phone as a proxy for the person carrying it. Roy is currently leading the go-to-market efforts in the Americas for SAS 360 Match, SAS' first-party ad serving and management platform.
Roy, thanks for joining us. I'm hoping we can record as interesting a conversation as the one we had off the cuff-- at least I found it interesting. If I remember correctly, it stemmed from the fact that I was guilty of thinking of digital advertisers buying their ads, if I may, the old fashioned way, like television advertisers did back in the days when I would steal the TV remote control from my father. But in reality, like in all of marketing, things really have changed. Would you mind just recapping that part of our conversation a bit?
ROY REEVES: Certainly. Well, thanks for having me on today, Brian. I think when we were talking, it was about how marketers have traditionally bought ads by media channel versus--
ROY REEVES: --now somewhat buying audiences. And really until recently, marketers would do their best to identify their target audience, then do the research, or hire an agency to develop a very detailed media plan to find opportunities to reach, well, let's say, 18 to 34-year-old women. We'll keep it simple.
BRIAN ALFOND: Like the classic almost Nielsen demographics that we talked about.
ROY REEVES: Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. And that media plan might include some TV ad spots on a show like Friends, maybe some banner ads on websites like Vogue or Cosmo-- media properties where a high density of their target could be found, very contextual stuff. And this would be very fairly typical of some of the line items on a media plan years ago. And the reality of this method was that it resulted in a lot of money wasted on delivering ads to people outside of the core target of, again, the 34-year-old women in this case. So really today-- because of advances in technology, measurement, et cetera-- marketers can now really target and buy audiences in an omnichannel mode.
So, in other words, a brand looking to reach those 18 to 34-year-old women can place a single media buy to reach that audience through programmatic means. And really the result would be ads delivered to women in that age range through a variety of media channels. Let's say addressable TV ads to the right households, display ads on web pages where the first-party data or the third-party cookies match the audience, mobile ads, et cetera. So this way--
BRIAN ALFOND: You said the magic-- so you did say the magic word, though, if I could interrupt you for one second. You did say the magic word--
ROY REEVES: Yeah, sure.
BRIAN ALFOND: --which is third-party cookies, which is something that I've expressed some strong opinions on those. But you helped show those in another light to a certain degree there. I mean, in a past episode, I talked about privacy in third-party cookies, but maybe I can learn a little bit from your perspective. So maybe you could define them and then talk a little bit about how they're used and the usefulness of that.
ROY REEVES: Sure, sure. Well, let's just start with cookies, which are really just small pieces of data stored on a user's web browser. The websites use cookies to remember what the users do so they aren't asked to perform a task over and over. Cookies should help provide a better, more personalized user experience. And so now third-party cookies are a bit different. They're placed by third parties. Those are websites other than the website you're visiting. These little files collect data on the user as they move across the web and, yeah, I mean that's really what they do.
BRIAN ALFOND: Yeah, and in my episode I called the third-party ones the tracking where you're going. I call them creepier, maybe even I said something worse than that. But it does seem that the majority of consumers agree with me. But, at the same time, you mentioned personalized. And it also seems like the majority of consumers want personalized digital experiences, if they're forced to view ads at all. And so, to me, that's a really interesting paradox. I want a personalized experience, but I don't want you tracking me.
ROY REEVES: Right, right, isn't it? And that's really the way it is and what really the savvy marketers are going for. And really on the creepy end-- I mean, certainly, some people feel that way, and is really-- one of the reasons why Google's Chrome will be phasing them out, and I think they recently announced sometime in 2024. Other browsers have already phased them out.
But whether you know it or not, a vast majority-- about two of every three people use the Chrome browser. And the fact is that about 80% of advertisers and brand marketers have really relied on these third-party cookies for ad targeting. So I think they would like cookies-- these third-party cookies to stay around for as long as possible. But they really have been the building blocks that marketers have used to develop profiles on their targeted consumers. And they've used them to track users across websites for retargeting. I mean, do we all need to be reminded of that time we looked a little too long at that pink snuggie or whatever, right?
BRIAN ALFOND: I definitely understand the usefulness to advertisers of them and that need to get something a little more targeted than the pink snuggie, if you will. And if I want relevant ads, then I think that I have to be willing to tell the advertisers something about me right. But with all the privacy concerns that are going on, I think we're going to have to find maybe a better approach or a better way to do this. What do you think?
ROY REEVES: Yeah, absolutely. It's a balance. I mean, certainly third-party cookies aren't all bad. Again, for years, they've been really the targeting data for most online marketers, which is super valuable. But with all the privacy concerns, and mandates out there, and the fact that they're unable to cross devices or even between apps in this-- I call it a multi-device world-- I think they've about run their course. It's really now time for what I think is a more consumer consent, privacy-centric, really first-party data driven approach to advertising.
BRIAN ALFOND: I certainly believe that the first-party data approach is going to offer organizations a wealth of maybe untapped insight about their customers. And hopefully they can help that use that data to truly personalize that customer experience. But, as we've talked about, we have to get the customer into the funnel in order to do that. You can't just strike up a conversation with somebody and assume you're going to know everything about them, right, just based on observable characteristics. Otherwise, anybody who met me would assume that I was just a really mean, grumpy guy. But once they get to know me, hopefully we can have a more meaningful conversation as they add to that initial impression and maybe even correct it.
ROY REEVES: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, no, that first-party data is key. And the more you collect, the better your targeting is going to be.
BRIAN ALFOND: So this is one change that I want to talk to you about. And I'm going to ask you to take your crystal ball out here twice. You've been in the adtech industry for quite a while. So looking into that crystal ball for the first time-- as some change comes to the world of third-party cookies, what would you recommend for marketers to do going forward?
ROY REEVES: Woo. So once-- you're talking about once third-party cookies go away?
BRIAN ALFOND: Yeah, how can how can marketers pre-arm or pre-strategize, if you will, their marketing budgets their marketing strategies to deal with that?
ROY REEVES: Well, yeah, obviously, it's going to-- I think marketers need to, obviously, do things differently. A lot of marketers believe that it will definitely be more difficult to target consumers and personalize ads. And it may be somewhat of a step backwards for the industry. Without those identifiers that the third-party cookies have provided, at least some of the folks I've spoken to believe that the personalization and the ability to optimize campaign performance will definitely be more difficult, which would, of course, negatively impact their return on ad spend. So that's one thing.
Some see this phase out as somewhat of a power play by Google. I mean, let's be honest, Google's the 800-pound gorilla out there. It has a ton of user data collected for years through its tools and, what, its properties like Search, Maps, YouTube, et cetera. They have loads of first-party data. And it would not surprise me to see many marketers become more reliant on Google. And so I would say, how do I put this, an easy and, dare I say, lazy choice for marketers would be to just turn to Google Ads or Facebook for their campaigns. But, really, in the long run, I don't think marketers want to be beholden to Google or Facebook.
I listened to one of your recent shows, Brian, and I have to agree with you that first-party data is the way to go and I really liked your analogy in that-- remind me of what--
BRIAN ALFOND: The conversation? It's just it's all about having a conversation and like I led into this topic, you can't rely only on your first impression.
So third-party data is the prejudgment we make when we meet somebody. We look at them. What are they wearing? What do they look like? What's the hairstyle like? And we categorize them mentally into our head as to, oh, well, this it this type of person and this is what the conversation is going to go like. And that's just our evolutionary instinctual first impression. We try to breed it out of ourselves. We've had a couple-- I think I said we have a couple of millennia of social veneer, but we're still animals underneath that.
So the first-party data we gather when we actually sit down and talk to somebody and start engaging, well, first party, one-to-one, so we can find out that, yes, I have a resting mean guy face, but I'm actually friendly, I'm a musician, and get to know more about me that puts things in a context. And I think that's what marketers need to do in order to create that personalized experience is, sure, you get your cohort data, so, like you said, we're looking for somebody-- a woman 18 to 30. That's the cohort data.
But then once we bring them into-- the marketer or advertiser can bring them into their own property, then you can get to build out that profile with more nuance to say, OK, yes, you're 18 to 30, you lead a very active lifestyle, you prefer hiking to a cruise and things like that. We're really getting to know that person. The problem comes when people go to sell that data. I think that's where the privacy issue comes in.
ROY REEVES: Sure, sure. But, yeah, you're right, the prejudgment and, as you said-- if we rely solely on that, we're really missing out on the deeper richness, so to speak, of that individual. So, yeah, that's well said.
BRIAN ALFOND: When we were talking, you talked about that marketers are going to have to kind of gird up for a period of experimenting with their approaches, and maybe with their channels, and what they're going to do.
ROY REEVES: Yeah, definitely, I think the savvy marketers out there, if they're not experimenting, they should be experimenting. The third-party cookies are going away. It's been delayed for a year, thankfully, I think most of them would say. But if they are not experimenting, they really are doing a disservice to their company.
And if it were me, I would appoint one or two people within my company to work closely with the agency and my adtech provider to really ensure there's a complete understanding and transparency on the potential impact this change will bring about. And, of course, continuing to beef up the first-party data through lead gen forms, progressive profiling, surveys, customer reviews, et cetera. There's many tried and true strategies out there for first-party data collection. So the tools are out there.
BRIAN ALFOND: But I like your thoughts about experimentation because one thing that experiment-- experimentation, sorry, provides-- it shows a willingness and almost a necessity to make mistakes so that you can learn from them. So much of this digital marketing stuff is new to everybody and things change so quickly you absolutely have to have a mindset for learning and adapting. And it seems to me that kind of mindset is the most likely to help an organization succeed.
ROY REEVES: Absolutely, absolutely, couldn't agree more.
BRIAN ALFOND: So that does lead me to something else. Things changing so much-- something you alerted me to-- Roy, am I correct that there are soon going to be commercials in my Netflix shows?
ROY REEVES: There are. Yeah, no, Netflix, as you may have seen, has been losing quite a few of their subscribers. And I think last quarter they reported a reduction of almost a million subscribers. So really the behemoth of the industry, who touted that they were never going to an advertising-supported model, is actually now going to go down that road. I believe they recently chose Microsoft as their partner to deliver the advertising.
And I think I just recently read last week that they're looking to charge a $60 CPM cost per thousand impressions on the ads, which is really at the very high point of connected TV advertising. So it'll be interesting to see what happens there.
BRIAN ALFOND: And I wonder if the other streaming services will follow suit or how that will work out, but I guess it's all part of that experimentation thing.
ROY REEVES: It is. It is. There are many of the services out there-- I mean Disney+, Paramount+-- they all now have an advertising component to them. There are actually something called free ad-supported TV services out there, things like Pluto and Xumo and others. But it's actually a pretty interesting model and they've actually done very well recently.
And I think just with the economic pressures, I think a lot of people are starting to turn to these ad-supported services as a way to continue to get premium content. And it just makes sense. It's funny because it's going back to the old TV model, but really the ad loads on these services are much less than on your broadcast TV.
I mean, on broadcast, you're looking at 16 minutes probably per hour of ads, whereas on these they're closer to four to six minutes per hour. So, yeah, it'll be interesting to see what happens. And a service like Netflix could be cannibalizing some of its subscribers, getting them over to the ad-supported offering, but, yeah, we'll see what happens.
BRIAN ALFOND: I guess it just depends on how badly you watch do you want to watch The Umbrella Academy or some of those shows, right, maybe even can pull them over to that.
ROY REEVES: Right, right.
BRIAN ALFOND: But it will be interesting. And if the ads are, theoretically, more targeted and, as you said, the ad load-- I mean a 30-minute sitcom is 22 minutes. So do the math there, yeah, you're getting 14, 15 minutes of ads. If I can watch an hour show and three or four ads that might actually be relevant to me, in a way that is improving that customer experience as well or the least we could do the experiment to see if that improves the customer experience.
ROY REEVES: Yeah, I totally believe it. And I think that's why you're seeing many of these fasts, as they call them, and the larger subscription services now going toward this ad model.
BRIAN ALFOND: Well, that's something to watch for, if you're a Netflix fan or any of that-- and any of those streaming services. Roy, I want to thank you for joining me for this conversation today and I look forward to you helping me stay up on what's happening in the digital advertising world.
ROY REEVES: Absolutely, it was fun.
BRIAN ALFOND: We'll do it again as events warrant. Absolutely. And I hope to have more conversations about a variety of topics in upcoming episodes with other people like Roy, other experts I know.
In the meantime, if you have any thoughts you'd like to share with us, you can head on over to emarketingpodcast-- all one word-- and join in the conversation. You can also subscribe to the series on your favorite podcast platforms. Just search for Reimagine Marketing.
And I'd be pleased if you shared your topic or guest ideas, like we had Roy on today. Just email us at reimaginemarketi, where, once again, Reimagine Marketing podcast is all one word. Thanks for listening and please consider joining us next time. Until then, this is Brian Alfond, hoping all the important things in your life are good.

Episode 2

Season 3, Episode 2: Reimagine Your Cookies


BRIAN ALFOND: Hello, folks. Welcome to this episode of the "Reimagine Marketing" podcast. I'm your host, Brian Alfond. I'm part of SAS's Global Customer Intelligence Group, where I work with customers to find elegant and creative solutions to their marketing problems. Today, we're talking about cookies. Specifically, about losing them.
We know that in spite of Google granting a stay of execution for another year, third-party cookies are going away. And clients, customers, and colleagues are asking what to do about it. First, is it really a shock that these are going away?
I'm sure you've seen Apple's recent commercial showing an imaginary auction of a user's data where the auctioneer says, "it's not creepy. It's commerce". If you have to say something like that, then it's pretty obvious that there's a problem. The tracking and selling of every digital step we take is creepy. And it always has been.
Now, I'm a man of a certain age with certain opinions and thoughts about privacy that I thought were about as current as parachute pants and trapper keepers. But it turns out that those younger and older than I, for the most part, agree with me. Every generation surveyed is concerned with online privacy.
Sure, we may differ by a few percentage points, with the lowest being only 68% of Gen-Z users. But it's still the vast majority of users in any generation that finds this tracking thing creepy. To me, it just makes sense that this is going to go away. Yet these cookies, which enable the selling of your personal data, is how companies like Google and Facebook make a whole bunch of money. As a result, they and others are putting great effort into coming up with a way to do the exact same thing they've always done, but call it something else.
They want and need to be able to track your activity across the internet and your devices. Now, they say they won't track you as an individual, but rather place you in a flock, or a cohort, or a gaggle, or whatever they decide to call it. Either way, you're still being tracked. A group is nothing but a collection of individuals. And even put into cohorts, that individual data has to exist for them to do so.
And I get it, I'm not disparaging Facebook or Google. At least not for this. Because they're serving a very real need to get customers into the top of the funnel of organizations from mega marts to mom and pops. But if consumers are uncomfortable with internet tracking to the point of calling for legislation, and those same consumers are saying they prefer to do business with companies that "know them," maybe companies that spend so much of their marketing budget on the top of the funnel are looking at things a little bit backwards.
Maybe companies need to start re-imagining their digital marketing and putting more emphasis on an approach that provides for deeper customer understanding, longer customer relationships, a better customer experience, and more profitability. Maybe the future of digital marketing is first-party data. We think it is.
I've always thought of marketing as just an extension of a conversation. And if we think about our conversations, the more meaningful ones are clearly the more memorable and enduring. When you first meet someone you don't know very well or at all, the only data you have to go on is similar to cohort data. I know we aren't supposed to profile. Yet, we all do it.
Evolution has perfected this in us as a survival mechanism. And we can't shuffle off a few billion years of natural selection and a few millennials growth of a societal veneer. We make prejudgments about people-- the way they look, the way they talk, and what we expect of them based on our past experiences and knowledge of dealing with others who resemble them. This is analogous to cohort data. Well, you sort of look like others that do these things and like those things. So I'm going to serve you up some messages that similar people have responded to.
But as we've learned as we've developed this thin veneer of culture, if we rely just on our prejudgments, we're missing out on the richness that is the individual, the experience and perspective that make one unique. And that can ultimately enrich our conversations and relationships. I understand it is the role of cohort-based data to get someone to consider sitting down in the conversation, to balance on the edge of the funnel, to consider engaging in a more personal manner.
Yet, companies very often spend an inordinate amount of money on just this part of the conversation. And the return on that investment, when you can even determine it, may not be worth it. And when we see a company that we do business with providing new customers with better incentives or deals than we who have been loyal for years, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The two largest telecoms in the US, and probably more, are advertising how great it is that they're treating their loyal and existing customers the same way they treat new customers.
They are trying to address one of the reasons why mobile loyalty is so low. It doesn't feel right when you ask your mobile company with whom you've been with for years for the same deal they are offering new customers only to be told that you can't have it. Well, why wouldn't I just keep my number, switch to another carrier that is cheaper, and will give me a shiny new phone for free?
It's the proverbial bird in the hand situation. And as the spigot of birds in the bush all but closes with the deprecation of third-party cookies, companies are going to have to realize that it is worth investing in and keeping the birds in their hand. And the secret to keeping that bird right where it is could be the first-party data you already have. As long as you don't sell that data to others, it makes sense for a company to capture everything they can about their existing customers.
Then, combine this data with all the historical data you have on past transactions and interactions. This is how a company "gets to know you". And survey after survey indicates that the customer experience that feels like a company knows them is what consumers are looking for. But in my experience, this data very often sits idle just waiting to be leveraged. But if you, as a marketer, can tap into it, analyze it, operationalize it, well then you have the making for an insights and customer experience renaissance.
Now in order to do so, you're going to need to be able to track and leverage your customer activity across all your channels. You'll need a data strategy for how to combine what you're learning with what you already know. And you'll want to be able to examine all of this data for insights into how you can improve your customers experience and keep them coming back.
As it happens, I work with some wicked smart people that could help your organization with this. And if you're looking for this kind of thing, I ask you to keep that in mind. Now, clearly there is a need and a place for third-party data in a marketing strategy. Businesses need customers to grow.
I'm just positing that maybe the balance needs to shift to emphasize using your first-party data to deepen the relationship with your existing customers. And when organizations make that shift, I'll bet that the return on the marketing investment for your marketing strategies overall will improve. Now, I'd like to gather some first-party data myself.
I'd like to know what you think about my take on this topic. Feel free to post your comment or a question. Think of it as enriching the conversation, and maybe we can learn a little bit more about each other. So if you enjoyed today's show, or even if you didn't, you can head on over to podcast-- all one word-- to join in the conversation. You can subscribe to the Series on your favorite podcast platforms too. Just search for "Reimagine Marketing".

Personally, I'd be thrilled if you shared your topic or guest ideas by emailing us at reimaginemarketi Reimagine Marketing Podcast is all one word. Thank you for listening. Please consider joining us next time. Until then, this is Brian Alfond, hoping all the important things in your life are good.

Episode 1

Season 3, Episode 1: Welcome Back to the Reimagine Marketing Podcast


BRIAN ALFOND: Hello, folks, and welcome to season three of the Reimagine Marketing. Podcast. If you've been here before, you may notice that things sound a little different. I'm your new host, Brian Alfond. I'm part of SAS's Global Customer Intelligence group, and I work with customers to find elegant and creative solutions to their marketing problems.
I've been in and around marketing for longer than I care to admit out loud. Let's just say that I'm firmly ensconced in Generation X. And over this time, I've seen trends come and go, buzzwords born and then often die in the same week, technology that tries to solve every imaginable problem, and technology that creates every unimaginable problem.
Looking over the past 10 years alone, the pace of change in the marketing space seems to be, if I may borrow from an influencer of mine, at ludicrous speed. And while things haven't quite yet gone plaid, it does appear that we are on the verge of a traditional tartan. And if you didn't catch that reference, please do look up gone plaid.
For a quick comparison, consider this. My grandfather was born in 1899. This was a time before airplanes, heck before cars were really common, although many of the cars around at this time were electric cars. When he was a boy, he heard about the Wright brothers' success at Kitty Hawk.
In his retirement years, he watched Neil Armstrong step foot on the moon on a 12-inch black-and-white TV. And in his eldest years, he saw the space shuttle retired from service on a 44-inch flat screen. Imagine the scope of change to his world and what he had to adapt to, and imagine how fast he must have thought that pace was.
I know it seems that things are changing even faster now, not only in marketing, but in all aspects of the modern, connected life. But for all this activity, are things actually changing all that much? Because I have a feeling that, while the pace of change is indeed frenetic, this is more the result of changes to technology. We aren't truly changing what marketing, or really life, is at all. And this is what I find fascinating. And this is what I hope to explore in upcoming episodes of this podcast.
I hope to go beyond technology to the human aspects of things like privacy, the metaverse, social media and dopamine exhaustion, and how marketers are trying to keep pace with each new technology and trend. But I want to work from the foundational idea that the purpose of marketing itself hasn't changed much at all. All marketing is still an attempt at a mutually beneficial conversation between two entities, and that the goal of marketing now is the same as it was when the first Mog's Mammoth Meats advertisement was painted on a cave somewhere.
While the only voice you're hearing at the moment is my own, we certainly will have conversations here where, as we say where I'm from, wicked smart people can exchange their thoughts and opinions, and I get to learn something new. Hopefully you, the listener, will, too. And to be clear, the thoughts and opinions that I express on this podcast are my own, and could very well be misinformed, misguided, and even blatantly wrong. This being the internet, I'm sure there are folks who will disagree with my views and who will politely, helpfully, and constructively offer their own point of view and perspectives in a calm and respectful manner. Well, one can always hope, anyway.
So thanks for listening so far. Next time, we will actually delve into one of these topics and see how it goes. Until then, I hope all the important things in your life are good.


Season 2 Transcripts

Episode 9

Episode 9, Season 2: Reflections & Projections


WILSON RAJ: Marketing organizations are leveraging the continuing pandemic-related disruptions and accelerated digital transformation efforts as catalysts to reinvent marketing and transform customer experiences for a digital first consumer.

Hello, I'm Wilson Raj and welcome to this Reimagine Marketing podcast. Today's episode is called Reflections and Projections, season 2. This episode marks the end of season 2 but not the end of the podcast series. Plans for season three are underway. And I'm excited to be joined by my co-hosts, Steven Hofmans and Justin Theng. Hi, guys.



WILSON RAJ: Good to see you all.


STEVEN HOFMANS: Good to see you, too.

WILSON RAJ: Great to have you on the show, and this is a great season. We've had a range of guests ranging from very progressive marketing leaders in different industries, everything from telco to CPG. We had futurists and leading market research leaders weigh in on marketing transformation in today's world and leading into tomorrow.

So, as we kind of recap this for our audience, just give them a taste of season 2. Let's start with just some, maybe some highlights that perhaps resonated throughout the show.

STEVEN HOFMANS: Yeah, OK, for me one that I found interesting was like, the 80-20 rule. I learned in the first episode with Sandy, 80-20, it was all over the place, and actually you can apply that to many things in your life. Actually, it was about marketing planning, and she said, you need to put your plan 80% fixed and you need to give global teams the ability to personalize 20% of the marketing plan. Same with personalization, right?

You – 80% you can personalize through a specific country but then you still need that 20% to embed the local culture and embed that local flavor. And actually that 80-20% rule you can also adapt to your work. You can spend 80% on your – it was in another episode; 80% you can spend on your normal tasks and 20% of your time you can spend on innovation. So, it was actually very funny that in the first episode with Sandy, that 80-20% rule was very important.

And then later on when we talked about implementing marketing automation solutions globally and how do you overcome global challenges, it was also 80-20%. So, I found that that 80-20% rule is actually something very important that you should apply in your daily life.

WILSON RAJ: All right.

JUSTIN THENG: I love that, it's so fascinating, that 80-20 here in Australia, in our region, one of the variations on, I think they call it the Pareto principle which is 80-20, right, is the 70-20-10, and all it is they've budged a little bit, Steven, and the 10% is left for crazy experiments and testing. And it's just – that's where you just have fun, take some big risks, and see what happens afterwards from the data.

For me one of the things that stood out was Wilson's interview with Ray Wang. And he was talking about data supremacy. I love the idea of data supremacy because it speaks to that competitive advantage. It's true, whoever owns data is king. It's not just the brand that owns the data. But even at a boardroom level, whoever owns the data and can extract a narrative from that data is going to be the most credible voice in the room, because everything else would be anecdotal.

So, Ray Wang talks about the three A's, analytics, automation, and AI. And those three A's to me are like AAA battery, right? That's what's fueling a lot of growth these days. And I know we're going to talk more later, Wilson, about some of the data restrictions and challenges.


JUSTIN THENG: But I do feel like in this coming era of privacy and governance, especially in the marketing arena, analytics and predictive analytics are going to be critical.

WILSON RAJ: Yeah, I think that particular one with Ray around decision velocity was really critical because his notion was that the gap between the analog physical world and that digital world has really meshed, and so how do these interfaces and interactions occur? And basically, you need the analytics and AI to be able to speed value from data to decisions, and then obviously into actions, and then to be able to bridge physical and immersive, augmented reality-type experiences or digitized experiences.

So, I think that was the key thing where the brands or the business will need faster, more precise decisioning. The other thing that he also mentioned was around anticipatory analytics. That's an interesting word which is, I think, certainly a big part of AI, because it is predictive.

But how do you then not just react to experiences or fluctuations in customer engagement in real time, but to anticipate moment by moment, not necessarily into a next phase of a customer journey, but in that moment, what is that next moment? What's the next step? What are the choices?

So, he gave an interesting example which I won't share here, listeners can talk about, hey, how a future elevator ride would look like. So go check that episode out and you'll see some of Ray's thinking there.

JUSTIN THENG: Yeah, that was a great little scenario, yeah. And just to echo that, Wilson, I think in an unpredictable time we need to put our own predictability back in as much as possible.

WILSON RAJ: Mm-hmm. The other one that was particularly interesting was the interview with Scott Brinker, we did two with him, around the meshing customer experience with your marketing technology stack there, and also around, how do you bridge those CX goals with investments in technology? And there's a lot there, but there's one I think I did like, where we really tackled the age-old problem around, do marketers build technology or buy technology, or is it integrated and best of breed?

I know, Steven, you had some thoughts there. You've been – you're in this business, you talk to customers around those kinds of choices. So, what's your take on that one?

STEVEN HOFMANS: So, he kept me – when he was talking and explaining his different kind of situation, it struck me that, on the one hand, when you buy a platform from a vendor and everybody would implement that same platform in a standard way, you won't differentiate on customer experience because everybody's sharing the same experience. So, if you want to be top of the market, you need to customize. You need to think about what will that technology mean for you, and how can you use it to your benefits, and how can you customize it, do little tweaks, to bring that experience?

But then the other question is how much tweaking do you need to do? And then I wondered, myself, I think the moment when you have the feeling that you are becoming an R&D company and you're becoming a software development company, I think that's really the end of the road. I mean, unless your ambition is to become a software vendor in your business, I mean, that's where you have taken the road too far.

So, finding that balance between customizing that makes sense, to do good customer experience and excel, but also watching out that you're not becoming an R&D port, I think is a very important factor that you need to take into account when choosing softwares and working in a marketing technology environment.


JUSTIN THENG: I think that that South African proverb is apt here, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. And that's certainly been the feedback that I've been hearing especially out there in the market where people are able to build specific solutions in-house and that's great.

But the upkeep of it, they tend to go out of date and very, very fast. So as the rest of the world adapts it's difficult to keep up. Once the project is closed off and finished, it's very difficult to keep reiterating and making sure that it stays current and continues to work.

On the flip side, as you said, Steven, even if an organization were to buy, there is a certain level of customization that needs to be done anyway. And the question is which way around do you want to do it, and what would you like your speed to value to be? I think you raised a good point around, IT typically would prefer to build, whereas so there's some IP ownership, or IT ownership, IT/IP ownership, whereas the business would probably prefer speed to value.

WILSON RAJ: Right, and I think the guiding principle, he tried to say, whatever you customize has to be very unique, unique to the organization that only the organization can provide, because for the most part, a lot of these engagements across industries, across sectors, are very, very similar, so to have a thoughtful approach to that. And I like that proverb because that does link to some of the themes that we saw in, I think, most of the podcast, which is around collaboration, not just teamwork. I know, Steven, you had one about the people first. I definitely want to hear about that.

But I think in the Ulta Beauty with Kelly Mahoney, in terms of how they were digitizing beauty experiences, it really took not just the marketing team but an entire stakeholder team ranging from marketing, sales, service, technology, and brand loyalty, that was all integrated into their Ultamate Rewards program. And I think Christine Moorman, in her CMO survey report, one of the episodes there, she talked about – there was some stats around companies where they had higher levels of collaboration tended to do better in terms of their marketing efficiency and effectiveness.

JUSTIN THENG: Mm, and inter-brand collaboration as well, even beyond the organization, now, as marketers are looking for solutions of what to do once third-party cookies and third-party data disappears entirely, is how can brands who are non-competing share first-party data in a compliant manner? But this is nothing new. Jay Abraham has been talking about this for, I think decades, calling it the host-beneficiary model. And it's just that now we are forced to not be able to use third-party data and everyone's thinking, OK, well how can we collaborate better and share data?

STEVEN HOFMANS: I think it contributes to the whole idea of, if you want to, as a company, become a partner of your customer, you actually need to go outside – go think outside your box, right? A customer has a dream, he wants to realize something. And actually, maybe the service your company is offering is not enough. So, you can actually, by sharing data with third-party providers and maybe building a service together with third-party providers, you're really getting to that: I'm no longer a vendor of that customer, but I'm becoming a partner helping to realize his hopes and dreams.

And I think if you can use an ecosystem and really use all the data available to become relevant, I think that that is going to be a massive differentiator for the future. The company that can integrate different kind of external partners in their services using data from all of those kind of providers offering that ultimate dream customer experience is going to win the market. I believe – I mean, that's my belief for the next coming years.

WILSON RAJ: Right, I think that was a common theme among all of the guests, that centrality of data, and Ray Wang said it nicely, data supremacy. So, as we move through, what are some of the challenges?

STEVEN HOFMANS: I think one of the things I mentioned by Geert, this is – where we're looking for synergies within companies. But on the other hand, you need to be able to allow individuality in a company. And what I mean by that is there are always discussions in marketing going on, on what do you centralize and what you don't centralize? Who do you leave independent and not independent?
And every market has its own ecosystem, so how do you decide on what is best for the market and the company together to give a global customer experience? I think that's a kind of hard challenge as there are many ecosystems out there and providing value for the customer. I think that's quite a hard nut to crack.

Where should you collaborate? Should you collaborate local? Should you collaborate global? Should you look for different kind of services? I think it's a hard nut to crack, to really give a personalized experience tomorrow with all these global and local players. I mean, for marketing, it's hard to choose, I think.

WILSON RAJ: And Justin, I think in your episode you had a nice – I think you touched on some of that in this notion of experiential tech, right, happier customers and increased profitability because they have to go together. You don't just make the customer happy, you've got to be profitable as well, as a brand and as an organization.

JUSTIN THENG: That's right, Matt Kuperholz spoke about exponential technologies –


JUSTIN THENG: – and the experiences that they bring. And yes, one of the things that, I mean, as we've spoke about, I think that third-party data is a big issue. Being able to centralize a single view of customer, I think, is also another big issue that cuts beyond marketing, goes into sales. And then it goes without saying, I think any time you bring this up in a room of marketing and CX leaders, you talk about talent and every head is nodding, saying, yep, yes, that's me. I mean, the Great Resignation, right?


JUSTIN THENG: So, one of the things that I, not to just present problems, but one of the things that I predict is going to be best, it comes from an idea that Adam Grant put forward in his book, The Originals. And he talks about, he did this incredible study around what provides longevity in brands and businesses, and would you believe that if you look further afield from the actual function that you're hiring for. So, for example, if marketers were to say, well, what about if I take somebody from automotive or what about if I take an engineer or what about if I take a, yes, a data scientist, or what if I take a marketer from fashion, or – so they go further afield.

And I think for that to work, as long as the leader is very strong in data as the source of truth, then you can bring expertise and viewpoints from various different fields further abroad into your marketing ecosystem and form squads or form strike teams that can look at data and use their intelligence and intuition to think, what should we try next? And the data will tell you whether it's working or not.

And we have the benefit now of being able to rely more on artificial intelligence to do what marketers traditionally would have done using intuition. I'm not saying it's replaceable entirely, but I'm saying it's more enabled now to look beyond the field of marketing for talent. So, I mean, those are the three challenges that I see as the core.

WILSON RAJ: Excellent, I think now we can kind of – I think this is a great time now to pivot to some of the interesting topics that we could potentially have a deeper dive to more in season three. I think that notion around data but then also what's the humanity, right, the empathy there.

And I think in The CMO Survey there was a very surprising finding where brand building has now taken on a focus for marketers in her [Christine Moorman] global survey. So, building the brand in terms of more advertising, telling the narrative, getting more connected from a value, emotional capacity, rather than just sort of a transactional, so that kind of supports a little bit, Justin.

So, for season three, what are some of the one or two topics that each of you think would be an interesting one that we can do a deep dive into?

STEVEN HOFMANS: I think for me, you guys in season 2, we talked a lot about the value of data, and we are becoming a decisioning economy and we need to focus on data. I think the customer is realizing the importance of data and is more and more going to see it in the future as a currency. So, they'll expect, when you ask them to share their data, there's going to be a discussion around fair value.


STEVEN HOFMANS: Are you providing me fair value for the data I'm giving you because data is currency, and I'm paying you with my data so what do I get in return? So, I think having a discussion around fair value, what is fair value?

And can you ask banking transaction data, and what is the cost of asking banking transaction data to a customer to provide a better service? When is a customer willing to give his data up for a certain service? I think that's a very interesting topic or discussion just to understand the synergies between those two, the customer and data.
JUSTIN THENG: I 1000% agree, Steven. I think this fair exchange of value will even get to the point where third parties are facilitating payments for the use of your personal data, and you can sell it for a time. That's a topic I'd like to explore. It's something that's fascinated me.

Another topic that's fascinating me at the moment is actually based on some research that Google has done called the messy middle. And if any of the listeners haven't seen that whitepaper, I certainly recommend you go and look at it because what it does is it challenges, based on the data since the pandemic, how people are searching and purchasing, in fact, what we might have called the funnel previously, throw that out, the flywheel, throw that out. It's called the messy middle.

And interestingly, awareness plays a role, but not as a phase. It's called exposure, where all the activities that you're putting out in market of all kinds, whether it be conversion campaigns, or whether it be lead gen or nurturing campaigns, all of it is exposure and all helps it. And I think that's where brands are starting to – or rather, marketing teams are starting to focus on brand. It's that idea of exposure.


JUSTIN THENG: That's something I would love to explore further, I think.

WILSON RAJ: I think for me I definitely see that and in addition to that, what I call pandemic-era services, so things such as curbside pickup, virtual assistants, digital delivery. All those kinds of things will not just become the next customer experience normal, but those expectations are going to continue to rise into 2022 and beyond.

So, I think sometimes we're also reading that some brands are reverting back, for example, like airlines right now. Some of those systems are kind of, while they made a lot of inroads during the disruption, some of the bad habits are creeping back in, in terms of wait times and more complex processes. So that will be something that will be an interesting topic.

The other one, as we all mentioned, that need for privacy or consent journeys that are designed with the customer in mind. That's going to heat up. So again, going back to things like the data deprecation, the going away of third-party cookies, the legal scrutiny, governance, all those kinds of things will have to be built into that messy middle for sure, in terms of reimagining customer engagement and marketing.

Well, I think this is a great spot to wrap up this discussion. And that's it for season 2 of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. Now if you enjoyed today's show, please search for the Reimagine Marketing podcast on your favorite podcast platforms and subscribe to the series for show notes, hear previous episodes, and to catch season three content when it drops in 2022.

Also, you can head on over to, all one word, to join in the conversation and discover more bonus content. So don't forget to join us when we return with more personalities, paradigms, and practices on the future of marketing and customer experience. Thank you all for listening.


Episode 8

Season 2, Episode 8: Marketers on the Rise: Findings from The CMO Survey



WILSON RAJ: Digital transformation is a fixed, yet fluid, reality in our post-pandemic world. Brands are shifting to a digital-first economy where prospects and customers expect genuinely tailored experiences. More than ever, marketers today are taking on more responsibility for digital transformation, driving business performance, and expanding their strategic leadership in their businesses.

Hi, I'm Wilson Raj, and welcome to this episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast, "Marketers on the Rise-- Findings from The CMO Survey. I'm really excited to have our special guest, Professor Christine Moorman, who is the senior professor of business administration at the Fuqua School of Business from Duke University, where she's a faculty member in the marketing area. Professor Moorman has authored many books in this area around marketing leadership, marketing excellence, marketing expertise. One of her books, Strategy from the Outside In-- Profiting from Customer Value, with George S. Day, was awarded the 2011 Berry Book Prize for the Best Book in the field of Marketing.

Professor Moorman is also the founder and managing director of The CMO Survey, that founded in 2008. The CMO Survey is the longest-running, noncommercial survey for and about the field of marketing. And this is where the research-- where she collects and disseminates the opinions of top marketers around the world in order to predict the future of marketing and to be able to improve the value of marketing in firms and the businesses that they serve.

Now, she also blogs extensively about the survey findings at Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Marketing News, and many other publications. So, with that, I'm excited to welcome our guest, Christine Moorman. Hi, welcome, Christine.

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: Thank you, Wilson, it's wonderful to be with you today.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely, you know, I think it's absolutely-- your work since 2008 has become sort of a stalwart piece where marketing folks, pretty much all over, use as a benchmark to assess where the state of marketing is at, what is happening, but also more importantly, what needs to happen. So can you just tell a little bit about just the genesis of this project, called The CMO Survey, that started in 2008 and has been just running through up to now and I'm sure into the future.

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: Well, thank you. So, the survey was really born out of frustrations that I was experiencing. And then I sensed other, actual marketing leaders were experiencing as well, which is that marketing leaders weren't being interviewed by the press or investors for their views on various critical marketplace trends or company marketing activities. Often, they would ask the CFO these questions. And so, I felt there was a need to get more exposure for marketers, in their role as experts, about what was going on with customers and how customers could be managed, as well as brands and other important assets that they're responsible for.

But it was also the fact that what I sensed is that-- and I think this is still a frustration for marketing leaders-- is that they don't have very good benchmarks. So, when they think about going to their CEOs, or CFOs, to increase their marketing budgets, how do they know whether more budget is necessary?

How can they put that into perspective? And so, that's when I developed the survey to sort of capture the opinions of these marketing leaders and then disseminate the results.

And a lot of the questions that we ask are forward-looking measures. You know, where is marketing going. What are you doing to lead marketing within your organization? But also, to provide those benchmarks that I mentioned so that marketers can turn to the survey and get a sense of where they fit.

Whether it's in firms of their size or firms in their industry, they can gauge how well they're doing and how much they're spending on marketing.

WILSON RAJ: Right, and so with that, Christina, great intro to one of our first sections, the notion around how-- and it's a very important part of your research-- how the marketing function. Right, and certainly it's called The CMO Survey, but I think everyone in marketing leadership, or in marketing, absolutely benefits from this.

So, the context here is that we know the context, the pandemic has prompted many businesses, many brands, to undergo just a radical, rapid transformation in their gold market models. And you've tracked those. And we are seeing in other research, but certainly in yours, that there's a sense that many of these businesses are moving past that initial, nascent phase of digital transformation maybe about a year or a year and a half ago. And becoming, you could say, more mature, they're more integrated, they're more emerging. And you're seeing that spectrum.

So, the question is, what's that spectrum that you're seeing, where the people going from nascent to emerging, and related to that, the role of marketing leaders?

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: These are excellent questions. And I think, just to put it in perspective, it's important to appreciate this dramatic transformation that's occurred during COVID and born out of necessity. Companies had to transform quickly.

And as a result, one of the questions that we've asked a few times in the last couple of surveys that look at the period over the pandemic is, how the importance of marketing has changed. And what we see there is, we see consistent reports of increased importance of marketing during the pandemic. In fact, 72% of marketing leaders reported that marketing had increased in importance.

And a big part of that, as you mentioned, is the responsibilities that they've been given in the digital area. What we report in The CMO Survey is that marketing is responsible for digital marketing in 94% of companies. They are leading those efforts not the CTO, not the chief digital officer, not the COO. It's the CMO. And the other thing is, they have led the transfer-- the digital transformations in 73% of companies. So not only are they responsible, but they led that transformation in the majority of companies.

And so, you might ask, well, what are they doing? And what are some of the things that they've done? Two things really stood out from the surveys that we've done over the last year, and even this most recent one, which is that they were focused on building better customer-facing digital interfaces and also working to try to help transform their company's go-to market business models.

These are big strategic activities. Which, I think, has been really important for marketing to play a role. Because, I think, what happens is the way that we imagine marketing-- which I really like the title of your podcast-- and the reimagining of it, is that we need to think about it as a strategic function. That is the full benefit of marketing. If we think about marketing just as sales support, or promotion, or things like that, we're really not fully generating the value that marketing can bring to organizations.

WILSON RAJ: So that's actually good news. And so how are marketers sort of taking this new-found, I don't want to say notoriety, or newfound halo effect that they are involved. You know, pressures, are they stepping up to the plate? And then can talk about some of the other pieces.

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: Sure, so maybe good news and bad news. The good news is that during this same period we've asked how often is the senior marketing leader asked by the CEO, or the CFO, to participate in board meetings or earnings calls. Which, in a publicly held company, that is the upper echelon. That is the place where-- that's the seat at the table that the marketer wants, right. They want to be advising in those critical situations. Also strategically, but here, in these situations when they are managing this key stakeholder, it's important.

And what we find is that those average participation rates are a lot higher, actually, than I think most people would expect. 43% of companies say that marketers participate in board meetings all the time. And on a 7-point scale, the number is about five, where seven is all of the time, and one is none of the time. Now the numbers are slightly smaller for earnings calls, which you might expect, but they're still healthy. They're sort of average rates.

So, I think that's the good news. I think that the challenging news for marketers is-- it's really a story that challenges all companies going through this digital marketing transformation-- which is that there still is work to be done. That to really get the full benefit of the digital marketing transformation, we do need to move beyond offering non-integrated digital elements to fully institutionalize digital investments that really can drive marketing decisions all the time.

I think most companies are still stuck back at this kind of non-integrated stage. So, the work of the marketing leader, then, is going to be really an internal marketing job, if you will. To fully get the organization to embrace this big change. And to then have its tentacles reach all the way across the organization because that's where you get-- first of all, that's where you see that marketing really is a pan-organizational superpower. And second, that that's where you really get the full benefit of your digital investments.

WILSON RAJ: Right, this notion around those changing expectations around spend and marketing investments, I think your data points around the increase in the number of marketing leaders asked to participate in earnings calls, right, or board meetings. That's, again, a testament to driving that strategic digital transformation.

And that they actually -- it's funny because in the press, in the popular press, you don't, frankly, I don't see that a lot. It's always -- maybe the tune is changing -- but it's always sort of, oh, here's the short tenure of the CMO. The current one right now might be a little bit longer than whatever it was two years ago. But these encouraging results really show that marketing leaders are slowly but surely earning a seat. And you talk about the improvements.

I'd like to pursue one more line. In the past, we used to say the best buddies for the CMO, for her, it would be the CIO because marketing and technologies go together. And there's something that you said, there's now a new person and that's a new best friend, if you would, the chief financial officer.

So could you talk to that, in terms of that you talk about marketing being a pan-strategy, cross-functional. What are some of the things that you have seen in your research, anecdotally, in terms of that CFO and CMO construct? Although, rather than just, hey, I need to justify my budget. Does it go beyond that?

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: That's a good question. So maybe what I can do first is drop in one quick benchmark data point that I think marketers actually will find useful. It's probably the most-used data point in The CMO Survey, which is that we find that marketing spending is, on average, about 12% of overall company budgets. So, if you take the full company budget, marketing spending is about 12%. And it is about 9% of company revenues.

So, for marketers out there who are trying to get their handle on where they sit on that budget spectrum, those might be useful numbers. You can also go deeper into some of the firm and industry breakout reports where we say, OK, if you're a software company, if you're a health care company, and look to see what those budget figures are. But those budgets are-- they sort of, I mean, they fluctuate a little bit, but those numbers have stuck around for a long time now, for more than seven or eight years. So that's kind of one number that marketers can put in their pocket and turn to.

But here's the problem. And this is the problem that you are referring to, which is that marketers do get a lot of pressure from CFOs, and CEOs, to prove their worth. And the pressure is really not the problem. I think the problem is that these non-marketing leaders tend to focus-- they tend to think about marketing as a short-term effect. So, they look for the short-run effect of marketing spending, and they're not really patient for the long-run effects of marketing spending.

And so that's the job I think that the marketer needs to take on. They need to really embrace the opportunity to educate the c-suite on where they can provide value. And I think that part of that involves building a business case with the CFO that really does focus on those longer-term effects. And we did some additional interviews, both with Deloitte and with Google, on one of their big organ future studies. And some of the findings from the survey, together with those interviews, point to just maybe a couple of things that I'll point to.

First, having a real business partnership with the CFO, to think about that as a relationship, as you mentioned, that needs to be engendered. And that means saying, this is how marketing really connects to the firm's business strategy. And also, to meet with that person regularly, not just at big senior management meetings but outside of those meetings, to explain what you're doing, what is your hypothesis, if you spend in this direction what do you expect will happen.

WILSON RAJ: That's a good one, Christine. So, getting the CFOs buy-in into the marketing strategy rather than looking at it as like, all right, I need to justify to the executive. Here's my budget and then defend. It's actually to co-create with the CFO. So that's definitely a shift in mindset.

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: Yeah, that's a great way to put it. And one thing that can help marketers do this is to run experiments. These can be very small-scale. They can be on a website. They can be in a lab. You can do surveys-- sorry, do experiments in so many different ways. They're so very uncommon for many marketers. But they're a nice way to show, if we take this action, we see this lift over baseline because we have a control condition. So, running those experiments is really important.

And then finally, I think marketers tend to pay attention to-- and marketing leaders also-- tend to pay attention to those shorter-term effects that marketing can have. So, I think what we came to was this idea of creating a full-funnel view, that really showing the effect of marketing across the funnel.

So, you have to spend at the top of the funnel because you know that it's going to really pay off at the bottom. So, you see that longer-term effect on whether it's customer retention or customer purchase. To start with, customer retention, the value of the brand, all of those require that the company spends. But if you don't pull that thread all the way through the funnel, then how is anyone going to see what that longer-term effect is?

WILSON RAJ: Right, absolutely, so that long view. I think that constant pressure, especially public firms and quarterly earnings calls, where there's that short-term pressure, but then to have that long view and balancing that.

Just something popped into my head here. Are you seeing sort of similar strategies for both what I would call digital natives -- so like the Ubers of the world where they started digitally? That's their mindset and their whole business model, and the ecosystem is predicated on that. And then the others who were traditional and then have now digitized. Are you seeing similar kinds of behaviors? Or the digital natives, they have this pretty much locked and loaded?

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: I think the latter. I think because they've set up the metrics. The systems are set up so that they feed back into the decision making that's going on. I mean, this goes to one of the topics that I did want to talk with you about, which is metrics. And what we actually find, it's very surprising.

We find that when we asked marketers to rate a whole, I think, 26 different metrics. Like, how frequently do you do certain things. The top, the most used, metrics were all things like sales, revenue, customer engagement, digital, web, mobile performance. Those were highly used, which is great.

What was very weakly used were things like customer lifetime value, brand equity, even measures of brand differentiation. Things that should really be part of-- you should be measuring these things regularly so that you can actually, first of all, show what marketing is capable of. If you're not measuring these things regularly, how are people going to know where marketing is having its effect.

But also, it doesn't really-- it also hurts the ability to make the case for marketing spending. So, I think the idea that we need to expand the number of metrics that we ask-- I mean, these were used, for example, brand equity was the lowest of all of these metrics. Which is really surprising given what we know about the value of brands.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely, and especially if 2020 and suddenly this, 2021, and I think moving forward into this post-pandemic world. Where that brand equity, the longevity of the brand, the transparency of the brand, all the things are critical factors beyond just delivering your products and services or engagement.

So, I think there's a huge learning, I think certainly in your research, around the most used metrics which are very near and dear to the marketer's hearts-- in terms of content, lead gen, conversions, those kinds of things, to something. And then aligning it from a financial measure to the strategic value-- speed to market, agility, you mentioned CLV, or customer lifetime value of profitability. And then drawing the comparisons.

So, I think the big takeaway here is that marketers need to convert marketing metrics to business metrics as best as they can and show the lineage, or the linkage to those things, upstream and downstream. And clearly some companies are doing better than others. But I think some of the things you outlined there are really helpful.


WILSON RAJ: So just as we kind of talk about marketing growth, you also identify beyond the metrics there were certain behaviors that marketing leaders were doing. They were sort of that common behaviors that was helping to drive the marketing side of the business. But also, there are other less-common behaviors, just like the metrics you talked about. Can you illuminate us on that, in terms of how that maps into marketing growth and proficiency?

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: Absolutely, well, one of the things that I talk about a lot in my class is that I think businesspeople in general-- and I would put marketers into this group-- they tend to be sort of captured by their own industries. Which is fine. I mean, they do need to know what's going on in their own industries. But a lot of learning and a lot of growth opportunities can come from looking at other industries.

And so, what kinds of business model changes are these companies engaged in. What kinds of marketing activities are they engaged in. Where there's-- the company can learn from it and import it into their own strategy. I mean, historically, there's lots and lots of examples of companies doing this. But I think it takes time to step out and say, wow, what is this company doing that could have implications for my business.

There's a great example, the person who did the first rotating sushi company in Japan. We all know the-- I think it's YO! Sushi, is the very popular one these days. But this was in Osaka, the founder of that concept. Where did he get his idea? From a local Asahi brewing company where he watched the beer bottles go around on the conveyor belt. And it struck him that this was a way that he could bring some novelty to his shop. Now he had to transfer that knowledge from a very different area, from a factory into a retail, into a restaurant, but still.

I think the opportunity here-- there's many, many opportunities. So, I think keeping your blinders down is important. Letting some of those cross-industry opportunities seep in is really important. I think also, machine learning, using machine learning and leveraging it for growth is really important.

And we find that marketers really aren't using artificial intelligence or machine learning as much as they probably could. They're only using it about 11, about 12% of the time. They report to us in The CMO Survey. They expect that to triple to about 38% of the time. So, we ask them, in all the decisions that you make, how often are they being driven by artificial intelligence or machine learning. So only 38% of the time over the next three years.

So, I think the key thing here is that they think about where they can lean on their martech stack to identify opportunities for automation and augmentation when they're trying to personalize their customers' experiences because it shows that there's still a lot of opportunity there.

WILSON RAJ: Now, beyond some of the things that we talked about, what do you see emerging from your research around some of the drivers of what future marketing leadership would look like?

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: So, there's a couple of things that I can point to. One I just wanted to -- I think a theme for me for this discussion is that marketing is so much more than just creating short term sales. It's about creating valuable customers and creating valuable brands. And just one statistic that I've shared widely that I think is important is-- this was based on a study that we published in the Journal of Marketing.

And what these researchers did was, they created a portfolio of companies that scored high on customer satisfaction as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index out of the University of Michigan. And they compared that, basically, to just the market returns. And what they found is that over a period of about 14 years, from 2000 to 2014, the companies that performed, had the higher customer satisfaction ratings, were able to achieve a 518% return compared to the 31% return for the S&P 500 during that era.

So big picture, marketing really does matter in a strategic sense. And this is looking at the stock returns that are associated with companies. And so, keeping that in mind is important.

And maybe just two quick things that really stood out to me in the survey. One is this very surprising finding, which is that for the first time in a decade we saw that traditional advertising-- this is sort of like radio, TV advertising-- became positive for the first time in a decade. So, the last time it was positive, in terms of growth rate, was 2011 when it was 1.3. And then it's been negative growth over the last decade. It re-emerged as positive here in August 2021 when we measured it at 1.4%.

So, I think what-- it remains to be seen exactly why. My speculation is that marketers are finding that there's a lot of digital clutter out there and they're looking for ways to break through, podcasting, for example. I mean, you may have sponsors for your podcast. I don't know if it's just SAS or if it's other companies. But they need to break through, and so traditional advertising is one way that they can break through. So that's one topic that I thought I would discuss.

WILSON RAJ: Along with that, we've also seen more of that emotional empathy and caring as it's expressed to diversity, and equity, and inclusion. Not just in the brand but also in the way that you go to market. So, for example, in the finance sector, we've had some conversations with folks where, how do you serve the underserved in banking, people who don't have access, people who are in dire straits? And really help them along with advice, with empathy, with information, with guidance.

So, we're seeing that happen, and certainly in the CPG place as well, spots, as well. So, I think your research kind of touched a little bit. Can you speak to that? And is that also another element for the next level of marketing?

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: I think so. And I do have some data I can share with your listeners, which is that marketers, marketing leaders, report that they'll spend about 11% more, and-- they spent about 11% more over the last year on DEMM. So, it is something that's very salient to people. And we've asked these questions a couple of times.

We see a shift, which I think is really an important shift. We see a shift to where marketers were focused more on external things like communication and brand, which was more the primary emphasis maybe six months ago. This most recent survey shows that it's shifting to, more attention is being paid to things like segmentation and targeting, products and service design, partnerships, things that are more at the-- other aspects, other important aspects of marketing. So, we see that shift.

But there still is work to be done, as there always is. And so just two points on that. We find that most companies don't have very strong processes for making marketing decisions that send those decisions through a DE&I filter. So, on a 7-point scale, when we ask people to rate their companies, where seven is very highly, do they have this process, versus one, not at all. We find a mean of about 3.5. So, with fully 23% of companies say they don't do it at all.

So without that kind of filter, it's hard to correct decisions that are going to not be DE&I sensitive. And so, and also, we find that fewer, too few, companies have really changed their marketing strategy to reach more diverse customers. Again, on that 7-point scale, a 3.4. Companies just have not shifted away from their core customers to think about a more diverse set of customers.

So, we asked where's the bottleneck? What's the trouble? Why aren't you doing more? And there were two things that emerged. One was the difficulty of assessing the value of those DE&I opportunities. So marketers are worried about if they have that marketing dollar to spend. If they can't really prove the business value of DE&I, even though it might be the quote unquote, "the right thing to do," they have some concerns about spending that. They like to be able to prove the value.

But then the other part of it is-- and this is, I think, a real opportunity. It may be the basis of a whole other podcast, which is envisioning those opportunities. You know, like how do they-- how do they actually come up with what those DE&I opportunities are. I like the "serve the underserved" idea that you shared about banking. But how is it that those ideas are generated? I think marketers are struggling with that.

WILSON RAJ: You know, I think that, fantastic, this is really, I think, a great spot to kind of end on that note. And I think the big takeaway here, from your research, Christine, is that as the marketing function continues to evolve, marketers will be called on to provide even more strategic direction across digital investments, performance, and certainly brand building and brand value efforts. So, I think leveraging deep knowledge of a customer, certainly aided by technology such as data analytics, AI, helps.

But I think the bigger story here is really that mindset of experimentation, looking beyond your organization, or even the borders of your team, and then to be able to get that spark of innovation. So, thank you so much for joining us, Christina. It was great to have you on the show.

CHRISTINE MOORMAN: Thank you, Wilson. It was my pleasure.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. Now if you enjoyed today's show, be sure to head on over to emarketingpodcast -- all one word-- to join in the conversation and discover our fantastic bonus content. Now you can certainly subscribe to the series on your favorite podcast platforms. Just search for Reimagine Marketing on your platform. And again, thank you for listening and joining us. We'll hope to see you again on another episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. Have a great day.


Episode 7

Episode 7, Season 2: Rule the World with Customer Experience



WILSON RAJ: Today, extreme consolidation and accelerated digital transformation is changing the global business landscape. To win, businesses must embrace agility and use automation to address customer needs. It's all about adopting a customer experience strategy that speeds decisions, reduces risk, and enables real-time customer engagements to stay relevant, valued, and in demand. Hi, I'm Wilson Raj and welcome to this episode of Reimagine Marketing Podcast, Rule the World with Customer Experience.
I'm super excited to have my guest, Ray Wang, founder, chairman, and principal analyst of the Silicon Valley based Constellation Research. Ray is an expert in his field. He is well known. He hosts a weekly enterprise and business leadership webcast called Disrupt TV that averages 50,000 views per episode.
He's also a prolific writer, authoring a business strategy blog that has received millions of page views per month. Ray also serves as the nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Geotech Center, and he has been on countless stages and keynotes all over the planet. So, welcome Ray.

R "RAY" WANG: Hey, thanks a lot, Wilson, and finally I'm now on your stage. So, thank you for having me, really appreciate it, and glad to be on your Reimagine Marketing Podcast.

WILSON RAJ: Hey, it's fantastic because I know we do a lot of things together and it's always nice to see you in action and it's nice to actually, for selfish reasons, have you on this podcast to really have a great conversation on a lot of things you have done. But certainly I think your latest book, Everybody Wants to Rule the World. And I think I'm going to start there first, Ray. This book certainly is a timely read, the backdrop is certainly COVID-19 scenarios, it has digital transformation, but your thesis there is that that itself is not enough.

And as I kind of read through some of the reviews and the summaries, you have been really aligning around some historical narratives. Bringing in Alexander the Great, quoting the British military strategist, and he says time was his constant ally. He capitalized every moment, never pondered on it, and thereby achieves his ends before the others had settled on their means. That is JFC Fuller on Alexander the Great.

So, let's start there. What was the impetus and the main thesis for this book?

R "RAY" WANG: Yeah, taking a step back we started Constellation in 2010 focused on digital transformation. I wrote a book that kind of summarized the theses of the company, which was Disrupting Digital Business that was published by Harvard Business Review Press. That book laid out the groundwork for where digital transformation was heading. White data was such an important asset how people were building new business models.

So, in 2018 I started the process. They tell you to write the book after the book comes out for your next book. I forgot to do that. So, five years later, I'm like, OK, let's see what happened. We started looking at companies in 2018 to understand what was going on, 2019 we started to get some weird trends, and we realized that wait digital transformation, as you were putting, is not enough. Something is going on here.
We got a different class of companies that were exceeding expectations. And it wasn't just like, oh it was like one X or 2X. Let's put this in context. In 2017 Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google, their market cap was about $2 trillion. And Microsoft. There were about $2 trillion. The Fangs plus Microsoft today their market cap is over 10 and 1/2 trillion. Never before in the history of capitalism, in the history of organizations, have companies of that size and scale quintupled.


R "RAY" WANG: And so usually they get big, they get sloppy, they get lazy, they forget what sight of their mission is, right? They have a bad management team in the back end, their products no longer scale up, but in a digital world these companies completely changed the game. And so, the book starts out by talking about what are the elements of these digital giants, what's required to partner and compete with digital giants, what that lifecycle is going to look like, and of course how do we keep fair and free markets as we regulate digital giants.

WILSON RAJ: That's such a fantastic statement because you're right. Digital transformation in and of itself is not enough. Right? There are other factors. And I think there's a great concept that you have coined decision velocity. I love that, because you and I have been talking quite a bit, right, in our engagements around, and I quote you, "data to decisions," right? And now this term decision velocity really bridges and spans that gap. Can you talk a little bit about that and some examples of what you have seen in your really expansive research, not just for this book but I think really over your career?

R "RAY" WANG: I appreciate that. Decision velocity kind of works like this. You and I make a decision per second, but it takes us what a day to get out of management committee? A week? A quarter? Maybe a year? Right? It takes us a long time, right? And most people have that challenge. They're constrained by the decision-making capacity of an organization. Machines make 100 decisions per second, even thousands of decisions per second.

That asymmetry is what we're competing against. Companies that can make faster, more precise decisions on a consistent basis are going to win. They're going to create an exponential advantage by being able to do that. And to deliver on decision velocity there are a couple of things you have to do, and three of them are important. This is analytics, automation, and AI. We have to ask the right business questions.

That's where the analytics comes in. And sometimes the answers don't exist. We have to find sources. There are external sources, internal sources. And automation, because that's how we actually collect the data and the information and insights and how we actually scale up by bringing that information and collecting at a much faster rate. And then the last piece is the AI. That's the basis of the business graph. That's the basis of these new companies, which are these data driven digital networks.

These are the platforms, the 100-year platforms with multi-sided data networks that they're powering. And AI provides that capability to have the institutional memory to build the business graph, the intersection of a customer, an employee, a supplier, a partner, with an object like an invoice or an ad or an order or a request. And the context. Weather, location, time.

Thinking about your sentiment. Wait, what was your heart rate, Wilson? Were you smiling when you were at that engagement? Who were you with? All that data is being captured for future use so that they can anticipate what's next.

WILSON RAJ: Right. I think those three As, right, analytics, automation, AI, is really the fundamental crucible in which that decision velocity happens. And I really love frameworks like that because it really helps, I think business leaders and marketing leaders to really hang their technology stack on, their organizational structure, even measurement. So, we're going to talk a little bit about some of those things further down. And you mentioned business graph and I do have a specific question on that a bit later, too.
But as you see in your research and putting this book together, I mean, you came up with very surprising examples. And these are not the digital natives, per se. These were some old older, traditional brands that have really adopted those three As, analytics, automation, and AI. Can you speak to some of those? And maybe some of the surprising things you found in terms of customer experience and meeting consumer needs?

R "RAY" WANG: Yeah, we saw that. I mean some great examples where I think we use Phillips as an example. How they're using data to compete, how that data is actually changing the way we look at health care. Every device has become a sensor. We looked at companies like Honeywell in terms of their connected buildings and their ability to actually build digital twins of buildings and kind of deliver on that.
And we started to see other examples where people have built businesses that are on data. And I'll give you an example in terms of industries that are collapsing against data value chains. Communications, right? Telecom. Media, entertainment, software, and tech. They're really the same business today. We have a digital asset. That digital asset gets put out through distribution networks. Those distribution networks run on a technology platform.

And we basically try to build the biggest customer networks that we can. And you see that, right? Whether you're selling a game, music, a video, a live stream audio, enterprise software, it's really the same set of business models and monetization models. And that's why we see comms, media, entertainment, and telco collapse and come together.


R "RAY" WANG: Retail, manufacturing, distribution, same thing. We're going to see that. Hospitality, health care, that sounds an interesting one. Hospitality, health care, and insurance? Well, those are really experiences. Right? And they're data driven experiences. So, we'll see more of these types of collapsing around data value chains and I think that's where people should spend some time understanding where upstream data, downstream data come together in the Cloud and more importantly, how that data is being used, consumed, or being able to be created as inputs.

WILSON RAJ: I think that's a really fascinating idea, Ray, around not just CX innovation within a vertical, right, or a sector. It's these multi-industries coming together as you mentioned in different combinations and probably there are other combinations that we have not even seen yet. And that is now the totality of the experience, right? And therefore, that data becomes that connective glue.

So, it's really, I think an important point for our audience to listen to. There's one thing I want to press on and you mentioned it so many times, and this notion in your book. You call it data supremacy, right? With analytics and automation as sort of accelerating and you talked about, I think you tweeted this and it's certainly in your book, that, “data is a foundation of every customer experience powered moment. Every company will have to be competing for data supremacy.”

So, can you unpack that? There's a lot in that tweet, in that sentence. What are some of those attributes that can be gleaned and be practical for our listeners?

R "RAY" WANG: Yeah, it's important to think about data. It's really about having that analytical mindset, asking the right business questions. Part of the challenge in most organizations is they only ask questions to answer as they have. And that works, right? I mean you want to know what your performance is, you want to know where you are in terms of profit margin and how many employees you have. That's great, right? Those are our answers you know. But let me ask you this question. Should we add 10 more people to the marketing team, or do we add one million to the budget? Which ones are going to have better lift and which ones is going to drive more revenue?


R "RAY" WANG: Now you and I know we can't answer that question right now because we really don't know. And part of that is because we don't have all the data sources we should be putting together. And many times, we actually don't even know where those data sources are supposed to be.

But when we start asking those types of questions, we start getting closer to business alignment. And by getting closer to business alignment, we can start figuring out what techniques to apply and more importantly as well, what tools to apply. And so that's an example of where this is headed.

The other way to look at this as well is once you have that in place, we want to deliver on what we call precision decisions. And precision decisions are hard, right? We make exceptions all the time. We break rules all the time. And automation doesn't know that that's happening.

And so, if we can actually figure out how to augment that, reduce the number of false positives, reduce the number of false negatives, we can improve precision in that process. And we want to automate precision decisions because we want to bring this to a point where when we see a gap, we can actually improve the false positive, false negatives rate and improve the precision. And then we get to that concept we talked earlier about, which is decision velocity.


R "RAY" WANG: How do we use that to drive decision velocity? And so, this whole notion of what you asked about, competing on data supremacy in that chapter and in that lesson learned is the fact that organizations that understand that data is their most critical asset are the ones that are going to win on data supremacy. And you apply, you get information to the Cloud, you think about the impact of data, and then you apply the three As of decision velocity, analytics, automation, and AI, and that's how you come to it.

But there is one more piece around autonomous enterprises. Is their time to talk about that?

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely, Ray.

R "RAY" WANG: OK. So, the autonomous enterprises are important because in every single business process we're going to ask four questions. When do we fully, intelligently automate something?


R "RAY" WANG: Now I'll take you back to senior year in college. There was a class I wanted to take on a Thursday night so I could avoid a Friday class to make my major and graduate. And it was a class on the history of something like train accidents. Something like that. One of those kind of classes you're just trying to fulfill a requirement.

WILSON RAJ: It sounds rather esoteric there.

R "RAY" WANG: Yeah, it was very esoteric along with the history of the American automobile. But so, this class was interesting because in the history of train accidents it was the conductor was asleep, the conductor was drunk, the conductor was on a mobile phone, right? So, it was always human error that drove that.

Now when you go to an airport that has a self-service, automated monorail or connector between different terminals, do you see anybody driving that thing? No. It's fully automated. And in fact, not only is it fully automated, there might have been maybe a handful of recorded accidents ever with these kind of devices. And it's automation of a train. So, we have full intelligent automation today.

The second question that we ask is when do we augment the machine with a human? And that's where we start to train and pair these machines and that's where the false positives, false negatives also get looked at, because what we're trying to do is figure out where are the errors? Right? Why is something not perfect? So, 99% accuracy in manufacturing is not bad. We want a few more nines, we get that, right? You know, but 99% accuracy in healthcare would you take, Wilson?

WILSON RAJ: Yeah, I think not in this day and age, probably.

R "RAY" WANG: But your doctor is only 87% accurate. Right? So, we believe that the human is more accurate when the machine is actually more accurate. And we have higher expectations for machines than we do on humans. That's what we've just proven over and over again. But that's what happens when we augment the machine with a human.

But then we're going to augment the human with the machine, and that's different. That's where we democratize data. We give people the access. They make the insights. They jump in and they use that information to make faster decisions. And then at some point you and I going to trust human judgment.
So let me give an example. It's 2 AM, I'm checking into a lower budget hotel in the RDU area. I don't want to see the clerk. I want to choose my room. I want to tell them my preferences. I'm allergic to feather. And I want a late checkout and an invoice sent to me and a mobile key. I don't really want to see anybody, right? That's fully automated self-service in the back end.

But imagine if I'm checking in at the Umstead. I want to pull up to the driveway. I want the door person to welcome me. I want to smell the scent airburst. Oh, it smells like the Umstead. I want to see the flowers, right? I want someone to hand me a flute of something to drink and someone to greet me and say hello.
I'm the same person. Nothing changed. Right? And our ability to offload choices and friction when there's value or automate when it's more necessary, that's what's driving the future customer experience. That's what's driving how decision velocity plays a role. And that's where analytics, automation and AI come together.

WILSON RAJ: Right. I think this is really I think what you're building up to. With the decision velocity, right, with data as a foundation activated by those three As, is coming down to this notion of immersive, right, and what you call ambient customer experiences that's really delivered for mass personalization and at scale.

So, we did some research, we found that brands are really stepping up. In a separate survey we did recently, a pulse survey to Experience 2030, which is around the future of experience, around how they are accelerating their deployment of customer facing technologies such as AI, AR, VR, holographics, customer journey analytics. And we found that the cohort that was just – this was mid-pandemic that we surveyed – that 33% of brands are accelerating them and shortening those timelines by literally 24 to 36 months.

So that's not trivial. That's really huge. So, the question is this notion around ambient experiences. You know, there's mass personalization and then at scale. You know. Great to hear, but sometimes it may seem at odds with each other. So, as you did your research and from your findings and just your experience, how these two elements you know reconciled from an immersive, ambient experiences like the example that you talked about, what's the underlying principles or enablers to be able to do mass but then at scale on top of it?

R "RAY" WANG: Great point. What's happening in the world of ambient experiences, these are things that are happening in the background. They're being observatory, they're understanding what you're doing, they're applying relevance and contacts to make things happen. And the idea is that in a digital world every choice you make has a demand signal. It informs of what's going on.

And so, we actually see that the context plus the choices plus the ability to deliver an anticipatory analytics give people the capability to actually personalize over scale. That's the fundamental thing. But I'll take something even step back. Let's use a work example. Your return to work.

You come into the office, it's 2:00 in the afternoon, 27-point facial scan, gait analysis says, hey, that looks like Wilson. Not like you have a lot of skyscrapers where you are. But imagine you're working in a 50-story building, and you walk in into the lobby. And it's 2:00 in the morning, and you've been standing there for 20 seconds. They should actually send an elevator down. What are they waiting for? You don't need to push a button. There's someone sitting there, and they've come in through for 20 seconds.

OK, great. You swipe your badge. The digital exhaust and the digital footprint starts kicking in it says, hey, we think it was the guy on the 14th floor. Now we know it's the guy on the 14th floor because he swiped the badge. You get into the elevator and the console says, hey, would you like to go to the 14th floor? You know, your glasses a little VR chip in there and says, hey, would you like to the 14th floor? Your phone says, hey, would you like to go the 14th floor?

I mean, these are immersive experiences. It doesn't matter what channel you're in, it suddenly says, hey, would you like to go to the 14th floor? But wait, your boss. She's on the 48th floor and you've got a 15-minute window. And you could actually make it and set up a meeting with her. Would you like to meet up with your boss?

That's very interesting. Now there's a 90% probability you would have gone to the 14th floor, but now we've entertained another idea and there's a 70% possibility you might catch up with your boss who you've been trying to catch up with for the last three weeks. So, choice number two pops up.

But wait, there's more! There are free donuts on the 10th floor.

WILSON RAJ: Oh, that would be – I'd be rushing right there.

R "RAY" WANG: See, I'm learning. Your decision of choosing the donuts on the 10th floor was smart, but did you take those donuts back to the office, did you eat it yourself?

WILSON RAJ: Share it with the boss.

R "RAY" WANG: Or did you give it to your boss on the way up?

WILSON RAJ: There you go.

R "RAY" WANG: There you go. Share it with the boss, right? And that's the learning, right? And so, what do we do? We just walked through this. We talked about the fact that we digital exhaust, right? Then we figured out how we were going to deliver on a set of immersive experiences. Those immersive experiences didn't care what channel you were in, right? They basically took the context, they understood what was going on, delivered different channels.

Then we actually started delivering the personalization at scale. We had anticipatory analytics. I gave you a bunch of catalysts that inspired you to make a set of choices. If you took the choices, we had value exchange. Sometimes it's consensus, we had a meeting request. Sometimes it's an action, you forwarded something that's non-monetary. And sometimes you paid for something, it was a transaction.

And what we start studying is the cadence of those interactions, which we learn over time, we apply to our ML models, and we start bringing that process back in again. And we know what you did last time when you go back into the lobby at 2:00 in the afternoon, and maybe there's not a meeting request that's open, but maybe you'll take the free Bundt cake on floor three.

WILSON RAJ: Right. You know, I think you've really introduced I think just a very interesting model or a framework. When we talk about ambient and immersive experiences, most of the time it's more around at least from what I have seen really, connecting digital and physical. Which is definitely a part of it, and your example on this elevator experience shows that, but behind that there's a lot more. I think I love the context and choice and action and then predicated by learning underneath that where each moment this system is learning.

R "RAY" WANG: Yes.

WILSON RAJ: And then providing better options. More predictive, forward-looking kinds of choices for the consumer or the person to take.

R "RAY" WANG: Yes.

WILSON RAJ: So, I think that's really a new, fresh idea. So, appreciate that. There is one term, Ray, that you mentioned earlier on that I think part of this dynamic. You talked about brands or organizations building a business graph, right? Very much of how social networks have a social graph.

R "RAY" WANG: Yes.

WILSON RAJ: So, what does that mean as a brand? What are the aspects or attributes practically of building a business graph for differentiated CX? What the componentry there?

R "RAY" WANG: Yeah, the business graph is anything from the CDP on the back end, your ability to figure out relevance, your marketing intelligence, your customer intelligence, the analytics on the back end. But let's take a step back. Like social graphs and social networks, it's that interface, right, between the customer and a object and the relevancy on the back end that we talked about.

And when you build out the business graph, what happens is you're using the volume of information and the levels of connectedness that you have to other networks. What you're starting to do is identify patterns. Because what we're trying to do is go from data to decisions. Lots of data, lots of insight in the business graph, let's align them to something like a business process, incident to resolution, order to cash, campaign to lead, and what we want to do is start mining for patterns. And so, you need a lot of data in the back end to make this happen.

WILSON RAJ: Right so that becomes sort of a template, almost like akin to a customer profile.

R "RAY" WANG: Yes.

WILSON RAJ: But enterprise-wise for CX and then to be able to activate on that – merging, the technology, and the intelligence, and certainly the outcomes in terms of journeys and in moments. Have you seen, just on that path alone, examples of companies, big or small traditional or digitally native, that are doing those kinds of things particularly well?

R "RAY" WANG: Yeah, let's take a great example. I mean let's take Tesla, right? People like, oh, they're doing EVs and that's great. But at the heart of it, Tesla is a data company. Those cameras that are driving around or capturing location information, mapping data, the analytics behind your car behaviors, powering the future of Tesla insurance. Right?

You could get underwrited by Tesla because they've got better data than the insurance companies on your performance, on your safety records. Right? They're building electric grid management capabilities with not just your car, which is a source, and not just the charger or solar panels which is also sourced.

But also, what happens when you interact between the choices, right? What draws peak demand? What do ISOs have to do? Can you provide additional demand by rerouting what you put into the batteries? Right? And so, you can see all across the board how much Tesla is a data driven digital network. It's a data driven company and we're seeing them compete for data supremacy.

WILSON RAJ: Right. I appreciate it. Thank you. That's a great example. I'm sure there are others. I think what you said within that, there's a salient point. Tesla is a data company. And I think by definition, every company is a data company.

R "RAY" WANG: They just don't it yet.

WILSON RAJ: Right, to be able to succeed I think in this new world. Yeah, there's no getting way around it. Wow. For the audience, just to summarize, I think a couple of points, at the end of day, capturing data is really what allows long term success for customer experience in this very, very complex changing digital world.

To survive, really, brands need to rethink everything. You know, journeys, experiences in the way that you talked about, right? Anticipatory, immersive, but yet having that business graph to be able to optimize those linkages between the data, the technology, and certainly the whatever, the experience interface.
And of course, the automation and the AI that helps empower that, that's a great summary. So just before we wrap up, you are a person. You're just prolific. You're thinking about these things. So, I'm just curious, and I'm sure the audience is also curious as to what other topics are you researching or pondering about that are taking brands from status quo to become the market leader or market disruptor? What are the other concepts that's buzzing around your brain that you think you want to maybe write another book on?

R "RAY" WANG: So, if I were to write a book today there are two book ideas I would do. One is more tech related. The other one's a little bit different. The tech related one would be about the metaverse economy, or DeFi, decentralization, where new digital worlds are going to play.

The gap between the analog physical world and the digital world, how do those interfaces and interactions occur? And of course, how these transactions are occurring with blockchain DeFi. With what's happening with cryptocurrencies and new types of coins with NFTs and what's happening with the representation of digital assets. That's where we see this future on the metaverse economy.

WILSON RAJ: Cool. Well, we can't wait for that. And in the meantime, I would encourage our audience to pick up your book. Ray, any tips there?

R "RAY" WANG: Yeah.

WILSON RAJ: Everybody Wants to Rule the World. And it's not the Tears for Fears song. And by the way, I had a quick question on that one, Ray. Did you have to get permission from those guys or?

R "RAY" WANG: You actually don't for book titles, but we do—

WILSON RAJ: OK. I was wondering about that.

R "RAY" WANG: If Curt Smith is listening around, happy to sit down with you, catch up, maybe we'll bring you in to actually do a cover live or something fun. But yeah.

WILSON RAJ: That would be something.

R "RAY" WANG: That would be awesome. So. But, hey, tips on the book. Really simple if you're building a digital giant there's five lessons learned. Here's the cliff notes. Disintermediate the customer account control, build the biggest network, compete for data supremacy, figure out digital monetization models, and play the long game. That's how digital giants work.

WILSON RAJ: And there you have it, folks. Great spot to wrap up this discussion. Pearls of wisdom there, but I would encourage everyone to get the book at your favorite bookstore. That's it for this week's episode of the Reimagine Marketing Podcast. Thank you, Ray, for joining in.

R "RAY" WANG: Thanks a lot, Wilson. Always a pleasure.

WILSON RAJ: Same here. Now if you enjoyed today's show, be sure to head on over to – all one word – to join in this conversation and discover more fantastic bonus content, you can obviously also subscribe to the series on your favorite podcast platforms. Just search for Reimagine Marketing. So, stay in touch and share your topic or guest ideas by also emailing us at – all one word. So, till then, don't forget to join us for another episode. And thank you for listening. Have a good day.


Episode 6

Episode 6, Season 2: People-First Approach: How to Implement Successful MarTech Rollouts Around the Globe

STEVEN HOFMANS: Hi there. And welcome to the SAS Reimagine Marketing Podcast. My name is Steven Hofmans. And I will be your host for today's session on how to implement marketing solutions across the globe. During this episode, we will try to answer questions like, what are best practices to share knowledge during a rollout? When should you centralize or decentralize a part of your marketing organization? How do you infuse and scale innovation? And how do you measure success of such a rollout? To do this, I have invited Geert Moens.

Geert has gained extensive experience in the world of marketing, first as a CRM consultant, and later on as a program manager for Digital Worldwide at Atlas Copco, making him for me, the perfect sparring partner to share key insights on what makes marketing solution rollouts so successful. Welcome to the show, Geert.

GEERT MOENS: Thank you. Thank you, Steven.

STEVEN HOFMANS: As you know, every guest that comes to my episode has to bring a quote. So, what is your quote? And why do you find it important?

GEERT MOENS: OK, Steven. Yeah, for me, people aspects are the most important aspects. So, the quote I chose is related to that. So, people are key to value. For me, it's always about people. You can choose the right technology. You can implement it in the right way. If you don't have the people on board to deal with the process and the projects that you have, it will always be a failure. It will never get the results that you can reach with the right people on board. So, for me, people are key to value is absolutely valid for everything you do under marketing.

STEVEN HOFMANS: And what do you do? Do you first get the people on board and then choose the technology? Or the other way around?

GEERT MOENS: I think it's a little bit a combination. Most of the time, I think it's first, you choose the technology. Then you choose about the approach that you want to change, and the people comes most of the time latest in the picture. But it's very clear that whenever choosing a technology, it already starts with the people – the sales guy of the technology provider that cannot motivate people internally, that is not the trust of the organization, will never manage to get the solution on board. So, I think it starts on all the levels that people are key.

But the key, the people, that will have to do it at the end, are most of the time, the local country people, the people that are really working in the organization. And these ones you do not always choose. And these are already in place doing other topics and whatever you bring in, will have to come on top of their normal daily activities. So, a big part of the key of the people aspect is indeed training the people, changing the mentality of the people, and preparing them for the new challenges that they will have. So, it's a bit a combination. For some aspects, you choose the people first. But in most of the cases, you have to motivate the people to join your initiatives.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So, I retain really from this, people and trust. I think, trust what you emphasize, trust it starts at the beginning with the vendor and the technology vendor all to the end of the people. And having a common ground on trust is actually also key for having success.

GEERT MOENS: Absolutely. It's definitely one of the things that I believe in strongly, that the trust of the people is key to build a good team, to build a good atmosphere of the things that you're doing. The trust in the people is very important. It should go bottom down. The people should trust the messages that you bring, that you have thought about it, that the plan is right.

But also, the opposite way, around the moment, you give the people the authority to do things on their own level, that you trust them, and that you give them the guidance, and that you let them go, and that you believe that they will do the things that they are supposed to do. So, trust is indeed key on all of these aspects, during the whole implementation, but also during the rollout afterwards.

STEVEN HOFMANS: OK, thanks. Great insight, great insight. Thank you. So, I went a bit to look at your profile. And I looked at your resume. And I noticed you have been working in digital and CRM programs since 1998. For those who can't remember 1998, it was a time that we were running with CD-ROMs to install software on computers. And USB sticks and flash memory cards weren't invented yet. I mean, during your career, I think yet you have seen really a digital revolution. And I was wondering, through the course of your career, how has marketing changed according to you?

GEERT MOENS: Yeah, it has changed a lot in these years. But the key always has come back. I started as a CRM consultant at a certain moment in my career. And at the end, it's all about putting the customer first. That was definitely the statement. Put the customer first at that time. It was with limited technology comparing to what we had today. Limited insights, you had to build and believe that it was the right way to focus.

And also limited surveys, whatever is the result, there were not a lot of examples of companies that did focus on customers in the right way and got great success with it. There always were cowboy stories about, yeah and that company has done it great. But it was not always clear that what was the key for the success in the different companies. But putting the customer first is important that they want. And is still an important aspect of today.

The focus has been changed. We have a lot more insights. We build up a lot more insights. Now it is all about personalization, about marketing automation. Use the knowledge that you have about your customers. In the old days we could only dream about that. We knew a lot about the customers. But using it on the right way, on the right spot, was a very difficult situation. It's also about what you share with your customers is also a lot – completely different. In the old days, it was a one-way direction. We communicated to the customer and hoped they would respond. These days with social media, with a lot of focus on interactions on your website. There's a whole new world opening in customers showing what they really want, customers being involved, what they really want. And it's more and more important to differentiate on these kind of aspects. It's not good enough anymore to just share information.

Whatever you do, you need to make sure that you create a kind of an experience for your customers and that only goes with bringing that extra service and extra experience that the customer is referring to. So, it's really a lot more difficult these days to have your product that's important, to have your services. But also, to bring them in a way that the customer sees added value for them. So, I see a huge evolution in the last, these 20 years from one direction communication into a completely double interaction.

And in all the knowledge that you have, if you don't use it anymore today, you look like a fool to your customer. If he raised a complaint, and half an hour later, whoever contacts that same customer and has no clue about that complaint, is making himself a fool. People are not accepting that anymore. You don't accept that for every service that you buy for yourself. So, for the services that you deliver as a company, people are just not accepting that anymore.

And that for me is a very big, big change and a great evolution, if you look it from the right perspective. Yeah, customers are much more empowered than they were today. And I hear everyone saying that. But it's really the case in everything you do.

STEVEN HOFMANS: And that's what is interesting. Atlas Copco is coming, it's a manufacturing company. And even in manufacturing, you see the trend. So, what I understand is that it used to be more about advanced communication and pushing actually more advertising-related communication. It has totally changed to data-driven marketing. If you're not in data-driven marketing today, you're actually making a fool of yourself. That's what I understand from the conversation.


STEVEN HOFMANS: And when in the program, right? You worked 18 years at Atlas Copco. When did you start implementing this change and making a first digital move at Atlas Copco as a program manager?

GEERT MOENS: Yeah. The first thing Atlas Copco, I worked a few years on a kind of distributor portal. And then afterwards, I took the responsibility of all the websites of Atlas Copco. That was the first project where we initially launched all the website from a global approach. Before that, every website had a local team. Difficult to manage, difficult to maintain. We start approaching it from a global level.

So, we did. And we pushed on a kind of web content management system all over the world to all the different countries. But at that moment, it was seen as high technology, because it was multilingual. It was also looking a lot on SEO. So it was, for these days, it was really the way to go. We were very early in the process in Atlas Copco.

But afterwards, you saw that the world is completely changing. There were always new things coming on top and new aspects. Products became more important. E-commerce became more important. At a certain moment, and I don't know exactly what time it was, also the more analytical, analytics were always there, but in the beginning it was just have some statistics.

But at a certain moment, the role of analytics became more and more important. So actually, when that switch happened, it's for me very difficult to mention. But we saw step by step, more and more focus on the analytical part, more and more focus on the marketing automation aspects, more and more initiatives on personalization.

I am not saying that in Atlas Copco, all of these are already in place and are already implemented. But you saw the initiatives going. You saw the interest going. And in a big company, it's also nice to try and eventually fail, if there are things. If the company is, there is the power and the capabilities to try out something in one country, in a few countries, and then see ah, it's not yet a success, we wait for it. And we push it. And we see later how it works. So, you really have that possibility. I'm not sure that it was used to the optimal level. But the possibilities to experiment with certain aspects are definitely there.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So, the first phase actually at Atlas Copco was making sure that there is one global brand by standardizing the websites, and making sure that whatever website that you would visit in the world it would have the same feeling. And once actually that standardization is done, and you have one unified brand, actually your next step was to start implementing more personalized approaches towards your global customers.


STEVEN HOFMANS: Is that correct?

GEERT MOENS: Yes, that's correct. The first initiatives were also purely financially driven. Rolling out a website in the country has a certain cost. Moving it to the global level has a much lower cost. In the beginning, it was mainly also driven by financials. What can we do for the money that we have? So, in the beginning, it was really focusing on the budgets and doing a return on investment for every initiative that you take. At a certain moment, the focus was more and more towards the experience of the customer. So that's indeed an evolution that you see in a lot of countries. Yes, in a lot of countries.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So, actually, cost was the main driver to change things in the beginning. And now it's really about, OK, we see that experience of the customers becoming more valuable. And it's not always tangible probably, to measure what the value is when you give a good experience.

GEERT MOENS: Yes. And in a big company as Atlas Copco, we also have quite a lot of – yeah, every country is different. You have a lot of countries. And also, you have a lot of brands. So, there are brands that position themselves on the highest level in the market and position products that are higher standards of the Atlas Copco products.

But they were also that were more for the lower for the more common functionality. So, you had different brands. You had different countries. Each of them has a different approach and a different need for their marketing. There were countries that were not as mature as the other ones, so they really wanted to do the basics, while there were countries that were state-of-the-art on a lot of functionalities. They wanted to go really far. So that balance you have in big companies as well, the speed of the countries is absolutely not the same.

And in Atlas Copco, it was even made more complicated with the number of brands. There were quite a lot of brands. And each of them had their own marketing approach. Some of them focused on distributing. Some of them focused on direct customers. Some of them on the combination. So, it is a really complicated setup and landscape to deal with that. And one of the keys, in my opinion, was to listen to the countries, and listen to the brands, and to make sure that they can do the things that they really make see for themselves as differentiators.

STEVEN HOFMANS: That's what I find very interesting, because what you actually describe, it's a very complex landscape, right? It's global. It has different kind of views for every kind of market. So, are you being responsible at that time for the rollout of a marketing automation package? Where do you start? If I'm tomorrow becoming the program manager of a global company for the rollout of a solution, where should I start? What is your experience as a program manager to make a good start?

GEERT MOENS: Yeah, I had the advantage to start when there were not that many expectations. So, a lot of the things that we did were new. So, when you start rolling out something that no one else has tried, then you learn on the way. You learn on the fly. And that's one of the aspects that is maybe an interesting focus point. But you learn a lot on the fly, on the road.

So, you see that despite the fact that every of these new technologies is different, and every of these has their own key differentiators to make it success or not, it is still a certain pattern that comes back. Trial and error, correct fast, listen to the people, see what works, try to read about a lot about these kind of initiatives. So that was the key how we did it.

If today you start with, in a big company completely from scratch. I don't think it's always from scratch, because they have a backlog of initiatives they already taken, some of them successful, some of them less successful. So, you take a certain reputation with you of things that you have to overcome. So, making sure that the onboarding everyone is, I think even these days, more important than years ago. So, make sure everyone is on board of the initiatives that you want to do. And make sure that there is a lot of room for potential enhancements. You learn on the fly. You learn step by step. So you have to make sure that there is enough room for incorporating what you learn during the process. STEVEN HOFMANS: And do you start with, for example, a smaller country like Belgium? Or do you go immediately for a big fish like United States or Brazil? How do you choose where to start? It's not an easy one.

GEERT MOENS: No, it's not an easy one. It's not an easy one. Yeah, whatever you choose, there's always a risk involved. If you start with a country that is too small, and it is a success, then they say, yeah but it works in a small country. But it's not applicable for a bigger country. If you start with a bigger country and it fails, then it becomes a problem as well. So, I think it's a wild guess that you sometimes do. You try to look for the countries where you have a trust in the people. It goes back to the trust. So, where you trust the people that you say, OK, whatever you do, they will listen to the advice that we are presenting.

I can tell you, in all these years, there were countries that promised to do in a certain way and never delivered. There were also countries that you never heard about them and were a pain in the arse until the moment they start delivering in a way that you said, I've never seen this in the company before.

So, it's a little bit about trust and knowing your network of people. And yeah, it's a guess. I could say it's a guess. There is no best approach. The only thing is what works to limit that risk is to balance out, is instead of in a company as Atlas Copco, you have to roll out to 180 countries. So, whatever you do, if you start one by one, and you do have one country every three months, it takes you, yeah, you're going on your pension for every project you do. So that you cannot do. So, you have to make sure that you roll out faster.

So, I would also say in the example, that most of the time we took a bunch of countries. We took a few countries, and a bigger one, a smaller one, et cetera. So, you combine a few countries. And then you roll out to these countries. But it's a risk. It's a risk. It all depends on good luck and good guidance of making sure this it is a success. But it's always a risk.

STEVEN HOFMANS: And when choosing countries, when doing this, what are typical caveats that I need to take into account? What are the booby traps that can be laid out when rolling out a program globally?

GEERT MOENS: Yeah. I would definitely say the practical things. Make sure that you focus on taking countries in the same time zone. Taking countries in the same language. Taking countries in, with the same, a little bit same principles. So, but don't take the most extremes. Don't take a country in three languages combined with a country where they hardly speak any language. Don't take a complicated brand together with a simple brand.

So, try to find a good balance, that it is practically that you can explain everything. If every country has a completely different way of working, then it will be complicated, because you're still learning. And you cannot focus on changing everything at the same goal at the same moment. So, I would definitely say, focus on making it easy for yourself.

I remember a situation where we rolled out a training program. And in four weeks' time, I had to travel during three different time zones. Afterwards, it's fun. I'm not saying that. But afterwards, you have to recover for a few weeks, because you're dead tired. So, I know it's a bit, it looks a bit stupid, but keeping in mind that the people that has to do it still have a life and still have to survive whatever you do, is very important. So, I would definitely say, if you choose, be very pragmatic. And make it easy for yourself, for the people that have to do it.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So, key really is finding similarities between countries that are more or less similar, equal?


STEVEN HOFMANS: And taking into account both cultural aspects as well as company or organizational product? Say, you said from a product view they need to be, or a brand view, they need to be kind of similar. But also, from a cultural point of view, they need to be kind of similar. Otherwise, it's hard to get success.


STEVEN HOFMANS: Actually, when working with these different countries. We also discussed that every country has its own opinion. Some countries are small. Some countries are bigger. Then from a corporate point of view, everybody wants to centralize everything, because that brings efficiency gains.

But decentralization is also these efficiency gains, because they maybe better know the local culture and market. So how do you decide when to centralize something? When to say, we are going to centralize the marketing department, for example, and this program for those countries? Or to say, we are going to decentralize and say, OK, in this matter it makes sense to have a decoupled organization and to sell at your own course.

GEERT MOENS: Yes. Yeah, of course there are multiple ways to deal with that. But what I have good experiences with, is to be, again, a little bit pragmatic and split in different categories. So, you take, there are countries that definitely have not the capacities to do anything. There are countries that are in a process, that they are maybe capable of doing something, but maybe not have the maturity to do it, but are probably interested to learn. And there are countries that are definitely saying, yeah, we are more than capable of doing it on their own.

So, you split them. You take an approach that handles these three different types of countries. And then it's a matter of who do you find, what countries in what category. And what we most of the time did was based on some figures. How many articles that you create? How many initiatives have you taken in the past? How many people do you have in the team? And create a kind of list.

Five people, ah, you belong in the top category. Three people, you belong in the middle category. No person, you belong in the lowest category. So, make a kind of a split based on some basic rules. That's the theory. And then you inform everyone about the category that they’re in. And then the negotiation process starts. Some countries think, yeah, can you push us in a different category? And we are not capable of dealing with that. Can you not lower us? But if that's the key country, then you don't want to lower them.

So, it's a matter of negotiating with each country in what category they belong. Also, a very important motivator is the cost. And I don't know, maybe it does not make sense at the first sight. But the higher in the category you want, the more you have to pay globally to participate. So, a country that wants to do everything on their own, you charge them higher prices than the countries that are lower in the market, because you believe if they can put the effort on the local level to assign people to focus on it, the return on investment should be higher. So, they have also a part of that profit should also go to the global program to make it affordable for everyone.

So that's also an aspect that you look at. The more authority you give, the higher the prices are for that authority. So, it makes a bit, it looks a bit contradictory, but that's really the way we handled it in Atlas Copco, because to make sure that…

STEVEN HOFMANS: You buy your autonomy.

GEERT MOENS: You buy your autonomy, yes. Actually, yes. And of course, you give a global services link to data. If a big country pays a lot higher, you give them a faster response on ‘in case of emergency’ tickets. You make sure that every automated monitoring is focusing on their country. You make sure that the process of supporting them in their process is as good as you can deliver for all the countries. So, there is a certain trade-off on the price.

But actually, it's the local country that decides, yes, I want to do this on my own. I believe in this functionality. I believe in this aspect. I pay for it to make sure that I can implement it on a local level. And yeah, of course, if it's about cost, it's always about negotiation. If there is a crisis and countries come back and say, yeah, but we paid so much the past years, can we not negotiate? And in a few years' time, you see a country growing. And the general manager sees it as a next step on the level to success in the Atlas Copco world to make sure that they can also level the digital aspects to a higher level.

So, they actually want to get in that higher level automatically as well. So, it's a very tangible and political discussion. But it worked, I think. If you don't have that pricing and that cost aspect, people will just, all of them want to be in the top category. And most of them probably will not be able to deal with that. And if you buy that pricing, people really have to motivate and really have the effort and make sure that they bring the added value for their local country, but also for the group in total.

STEVEN HOFMANS: You talked about that you use kind of parameters. And you looked at past success they had.


STEVEN HOFMANS: With different programs. You talked about the size of the team. So that makes me kind of wonder, how do you measure your success of a program? Of your program globally? And how do you measure local success? What are good parameters to look at when rolling out a technology, like a marketing solution? What are good parameters to look at success? And how have you been evaluated, actually, on that success? How does a manufacturing company look at that?

GEERT MOENS: Yeah. That's a difficult one, because success is not always purely a return on investment. At the end, if you do digital initiatives, you want to sell more. That's the key element. But it's very difficult to see the result of your initiatives you do. During the past years, we have been more and more implementing result-driven initiatives.

So, lead generation, for example, was something that in the past was not really – there was always lead generation on your side, people could send a request. But the last few years, lead generation has become really a topic that is followed up on an almost daily basis. How many leads do we have? And what do they bring until the end of the results?

So, following the chain from a customer trying to look for something, until the customer actually buy or not buy the products. That lead generation was an important measurement for success. But that is an aspect that we only focused on the last few years, because before that, it was not available.

So, the average success was probably on the parameters that were not always the most relevant. How many visitors do you have? Do you see an impact of the changes you make on your website? But actually, 100% measuring return on investment of your customers to the digital initiative was, and is, still very difficult for bigger companies.

But it doesn't make any negative aspect on the fact that it is important to measure. There are definitely initiatives that you can do. And you can perfectly imagine and put some initiatives towards your initiatives that you do.

I give an example. If you improve your website on look and feel, then you can definitely measure, what is the experience of the customers on that? What is the satisfaction level on the customer? And a better website, a nicer website, does it automatically return in more product sales and more service sales? That's more difficult to measure. But it is any way possible to make your local goals and to compare your goals with the goals of the other countries.

STEVEN HOFMANS: Was there ever a look at, for example, what we call usage metrics? Because some of the metrics are sales driven, which is indeed high level. But you, being a program manager of that digital rollout, that you looked at the volumes of campaigns that were being used, the amount of user adoption of a platform, more customer success metrics. Were those also part of the program to evaluate it? Or was it purely looking at revenue?

GEERT MOENS: No, no, no. We also did this more user-based figures. I know one of the communication managers in Atlas Copco that had problems selling his new ideas into the company. And he made it 100% result driven. He said at a certain moment, if I do this initiative, and I bring in so many more visitors, so many more. And he put really criteria on his list of objectives, if I manage to reach this, do you automatically give me approval for my next initiative? And he started doing it that way.

So actually, negotiating at the first start, I will give you these results. You give me the next time the budgets again. And I like that aggressive approach. It's a little bit assertive on some aspects. And it's also – but he takes responsibility. And I like that approach. I like the fact that he dares to take the responsibilities and links it to results. So, he says, if I can make the return on investment, on the key parameters of success of my project, give me the possibilities to do it again. So, I really like this kind of approach. Do something. Take responsibilities. And also, deliver them afterwards. And that could be the restarting the circle.

At a certain moment, we have tried to implement that on a global level. Of course, it is very important to put whatever you do, is to put some results into your key performance of the year. So, if you're a communication manager, it is good to link success on the digital aspect, success on the website, into your yearly objectives. In Atlas Copco, everyone had personal goals for their task. So, link it to the goals so that you have your bonus linked to it. That's always a good way of dealing with it. So, I always like that.

People are awarded in their bonus for the initiatives that they support and the success that they have. But that's also something that on a global level, you cannot offer that to everyone. You can propose that to the countries. But that authority on global level is not big enough to push that into everyone's goals for the next years. But of course, in some countries I did it. And I think it works for everyone. What is measured and what you get rewarded for, you focus a lot more on it. So, if it gives you that extra motivation to do it in the right way.

STEVEN HOFMANS: Awesome. Awesome. I'm coming to my last question of the session. And imagine that my job is done, and 12 months after implementing, the whole project falls apart. And it's a complete failure. It happens, right? Not every story is a success story. So, what are, me being the program manager, what are the potential things I've missed?

GEERT MOENS: Yeah. Of course, every case is different. But I think that, and this is a very dangerous pitfall, is that it only starts with implementing. So of course, you need to have your goals and your objectives. But most of the time, the projects are very tricky the moment they are implemented. You get a lot of attention. You have the momentum in the organization. And at a certain moment, everyone drops out. So, the people going back to their own desks, and going back to their own jobs. And that's always a risk that you have, that people are not continuing the actions that you are initiating. It's always a tricky situation.

And I think that most of the projects that will fail after a year, they will lack for continuation. I think that's the most difficult in bigger companies, to, after the project, becoming a real program, and making sure that the programs are followed up in a good way. There is no magical solution for that. Every project is, every situation is different.

But I think the only way is to create the kind of community. I think it’s, make sure that people are continuously talking about it, focusing on it. But linked to results, if the first few months you don't reach the results, then it comes a negative atmosphere about your project. It's a lot more difficult to correct it afterwards. So, I think you need to be very sensitive for the internal feedback that you get about certain solutions. If it is not a success because you just don't reach the goals, then yeah, then it's maybe not bad to stop the project.

But if it is not a success because the company has not put the right efforts in it, then maybe it's a missed opportunity. So, I think it's always a matter of evaluating that in the right way. I hope that in bigger projects that you start in a way with the possibilities to roll back or to stop when it is not a success. So, start with a kind of pilot thing to avoid that bigger failure at the end.

I know that some people refer to it – try fast, fail fast – something like that. But I don't like that fail aspect in the sentence. I think it's more a matter of keeping that in mind upfront. If you're focusing on new technologies, people have to accept that you try something. And you evaluate success afterwards. But I understand if it's a successful pilot, and then you roll out globally afterwards. And it becomes a failure for the rest of the organization. Yeah, then it will be anyway successful in a few countries. And then you can let the bigger countries that for which one it is a success, you let them continue. For the ones that it is not a success, you let it slowly go down. You let it stop slowly. And then you see afterwards what happens.

Maybe in a few years' time, there is the market again. And it's ready for that new initiative. Maybe it never will come up. I think it's in the global world with all of these local different cultures, et cetera. I think it's normal that not everything will be successful in all the countries.

And I think companies need to be a lot more aware of that aspect and be a lot more open for that. But I know that if you're working on a project like that, it's not nice to spend a year, one and a half year, or two years, maybe on a project, and then see that half of the world is not ready for it. I think people will see it as a personal failure.

And sometimes maybe it is a little bit linked to the person implementing it. But in a lot of cases, it's linked to circumstances. So, it's a tricky situation. I don't want to cope with that too often. But it's, I think – and in these kind of things, I think communicating transparent about the risks of the projects, about the things you need to do to make it success, are important.

I think that a mature project manager in this case would look at the risk, would communicate about risks, would come at a possible failure upfront, and then do his best to avoid the failures. But it's a tricky situation.

STEVEN HOFMANS: Thanks, Geert. Thanks for sharing your insight. It was again, a blast of an episode for me. I learned a lot, right? Trust. Everything starts with trust. I think trust is important in the beginning, from the vendor to execution. I heard the word value. If your project is valuable, right, it will keep on living on. And it's not because two countries fail that the project is a failure. You learn something. The countries that have implemented and are successful, they can go on. And with the countries that remain, those you can try new stuff. So that's very interesting. I would like to thank our audience for listening and hope to see you soon again. Have a nice day. Bye.

Episode 5

Ep. 5, Season 2: Match MarTech with Customer Experience Goals


WILSON RAJ: Today, modern marketing must harness the full capabilities of the business to provide the best customer experience. Delivering on this promise requires a whole new way of operating. Marketing departments need to be rewired for speed, collaboration, and customer focus. It's less about changing what marketing does and more about transforming how the work is done.
Hi. I'm Wilson Raj, and welcome to this episode of Reimagine Marketing podcast, "Match MarTech with Customer Experience Goals." I'm joined by my guest, Scott Brinker, who is the editor of the renowned marketing technology blog called Chief Marketing Technologist, and he's also the VP of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot. Welcome, Scott.

SCOTT BRINKER: Hey, it's great to be back here with you, Wilson.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. I have to say, the conversation that we had-- and again, for the audience, if you're tuning in, you can certainly check out a previous conversation that Scott and I have had around martech, the perils and promises of martech. So check that out.
Again, I think there's so much there that I think we just wanted to unpack a couple more questions around some of the topics we were discussing. So we're ready to roll.

SCOTT BRINKER: [LAUGHS] Let's do it. Martech awaits.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. We'll dive in. And most of the audience would know about the marketing landscape. Of last count, we have in excess of 8,000 marketing solutions or applications or apps, right? It's just mind-blowing. You're absolutely right. You once said, homegrown martech is like homemade pizza. I love that.
So given what you've seen in the last five, six years with your landscape evolving and then exploding, what do you make of that statement now? Does that still hold true for you in current build versus buy conversations?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah, the whole build versus buy debate, it certainly isn't limited to marketing or martech. But it's interesting, because 10 years ago, for those companies who were really pioneering digital marketing, the truth was there wasn't a lot of commercial technology available for this. And even the technology solutions that were there, I mean, they were limited in the boundaries of what they delivered. And so a lot of the pioneers, particularly for larger companies, simply invested in saying, well, let's build out our own technology to do this.
Now over the past 10 years, as you referenced to the martech landscape, exhibit A, we have a plethora of off-the-shelf commercial martech solutions to draw from. And so that was where I kind of made the remark a few years ago of, like, OK. Well, making your own martech at this point, it's like making your own pizza. I mean, yeah, you could, but why? I mean, you pick up the phone. It's the hot, delicious pizza on your doorstep in 30--

WILSON RAJ: And you can add pineapples on top of it, right?

SCOTT BRINKER: You could if you were, you know, wanting to--


SCOTT BRINKER: I'm not going to attack pineapple choices on pizza. [LAUGHS] To each their own. Live and let live. But the reason I actually raised this up in a recent post on my blog is because it's not that simple anymore. And the reason it's not that simple is because there's still truth to the fact that you probably do not want to be reinventing the wheel. You don't want to be building things that from a comparative advantage perspective, it's just much easier for you to buy off the shelf.
But the difference is we are now truly going through digital transformation where companies are not just having pieces of their organization being powered by digital technologies. The whole organization is becoming digital. And the way in which we engage with our customers, our products and our services either are entirely digital. Or even if they have real-world elements, they're now serviced by a layer of digital technologies to support that.
And the truth is at some level, you get to a place where the customer experiences you're building, the digital products you're building, the behind-the-scenes workflows that you create to deliver those products and services. They become unique to your business. You can't just buy it off the shelf, plug it in, and it just automatically-- automagically starts generating profits for you. It'd be nice if we can do that.
And so increasingly, we're having to find this balance of saying, well, let's buy as many of the things as we can as foundational systems. Let's not waste time and energy where we don't have to. But we want to get more and more savvy now about being able to have a layer on top of that that really is the unique secret sauce for our own digital business.
And so I think, yeah, [LAUGHS] maybe you don't want to be having your homemade pizza now, but you're going to have your own candles. You're going to bring your own bottle of wine. You want to put it on your own plate.

WILSON RAJ: You know, I think that's a huge point in terms of that build versus buy debate, right? We just-- I think will still be ongoing, is this notion of from a customer perspective, we have a new tech-infused buyer where digital is pretty much serving up that rich, deeper, more immersive user experience.
In fact, we did a survey on the future of CX called Experience 2030. And one of the things we found was that the consumer, about 70% of them plan to use some kind of smart AI agent to control their immediate environment, their home, even the garage, the lawn. About 60% expect drone or some kind of autonomous vehicle to then deliver their purchases.
So when you look at these additional interfaces that are going to be coming in-- and they're coming at a fast clip-- the marketing that needs to happen to keep pace with that, yeah, you can't be just building it, right? Or even buying it at the same rate. It has to be sort of an and proposition. Your thoughts on that?

SCOTT BRINKER: I think you're absolutely right. I mean, it's not build or buy. It's build and buy. In fact, this is one of the themes I feel like from the past 10 years to this next decade, it's like these things that we used to think of as dichotomies-- build versus buy or products versus services, or in the marketing world it was suite or best of breed-- this new decade we're in, it's basically none of those are these exclusionary dichotomies. And it's like, oh, well, it's actually build and buy. It's not products or services. It's very often like services supporting products and products supporting services.
And even in the martech land, it's not suite versus best of breed. It's basically platform ecosystems, you know? People have 10 pull systems and then they attach and integrate all sorts of specialized apps around that. And yeah, it's exciting to be in a world where we're looking at it from a more coherent and harmonious--

WILSON RAJ: Yeah, I like that. Balanced, coherent, harmonious. And we're going to come to those dichotomies. Especially we'll deal with this one. But I've got lots of questions on the other one, right? Best of breed and suites.
But then in terms of build versus buy, do you think, Scott, are there some scenarios or settings where maybe one is better than the other, right? Understanding that it's very nuanced, but are there, from a marketing ops perspective or marketing content or planning, are there scenarios where maybe one might be slightly better at least start with?
We look at the mid-sized businesses, for example, right? They're constrained by resources. Can you shed some light there? I'm just interested in your thoughts if there are scenarios.

SCOTT BRINKER: Oh, absolutely. And I think, again, it's really a question of layers. So let's pick a really clear example, which is your website. As a marketer, your actual website content, your information architecture, if you've got some sort of app-based logic on how people sign up for something or engage with it, you're building that. You have to build it. You just can't snap your fingers and open a box and magically the whole website is there. So that is the sort of stuff we have to build.
But then you go to the layer below that and you're like, OK. Well, the actual digital experience platform on which that is built, the digital asset management system that is getting content into it, the underlying web server technology that's managing HTTPS connections, you would have to be out of your freaking mind to be building that stuff at this point, right? I mean, this is all commercial, commoditized solutions.
Leverage the heck out of that and then put your energy on building the things that you can't get off the commercial market. Because again, they're just entwined with what makes your business your business and different from everyone else.
And so I think if you think of that as one clear example, we're seeing that same sort of pattern now elsewhere, you know? I do not want to build my own CRM. I don't want to build my own marketing automation platform.
But I might want to create a little bit of custom logic around, like, OK. We get certain feeds of data from some of our digital touchpoints, and we have our own machine learning algorithm that we think is best to interpret that data to match people to segments. I might actually want to build that little piece, because it's just so unique to my particular business. But then I'm plugging that piece into this infrastructure that's largely commercially available software that I got off the shelf.

WILSON RAJ: Got it. For the audience, this is that huge-- I think it's not so much where we use build, where we use buy. I think that principle around differentiation, at least the way I hear it from you, Scott, is really important.
So anything that gives the brand differentiation, the customer experience edge as it relates to that particular organization, in that particular vertical, for that particular customer segment, it's a build, right? Because that's where your brand DNA probably is expressed.
The other stuff can be operationalized through standard systems. But then the magic is in integrating those two. So I think that's a great way to think about it and to clarify, right? Because there is no right or wrong answer. It's sort of, what's the principle here in terms of using build versus buy?

SCOTT BRINKER: Exactly. Just getting really smart about leveraging what we can from the market, but also getting very strategic about, yeah, what is a unique advantage for our particular company?

WILSON RAJ: Cool. Now, I'm going to add another thread to this principle that you just really nicely just elucidated, and it's one of your favorite topics around low code, no code, right? So where would that necessarily fit into this market? Obviously, it's a build. But then are there also off-the-shelf kinds of stuff that you could do? Where would that come in or fall on the range? Or is it the same principle applies? How do you look at it?

SCOTT BRINKER: No, I'm so glad you brought that up. I think you're absolutely right. So there's these layer of things we buy that just come for us, like pretty much out of the box they're ready to go. But then yeah, you start to add this layer of build on top.
Well, how do you build? Well, in some cases, it's things that really do require an expert software engineer to build a particular microservice or some custom logic in JavaScript that you're going to plug-in.
But increasingly, for a vast number of these things that we need to, quote, unquote, "build," we're actually using no code, low code tools very often in the commercial platforms that we purchase to configure and design and create these components not necessarily with JavaScript, but if I'm sitting at a Workflow Editor and I'm designing, OK, this trigger here, I want this action to happen here. And then based on this decision here, I want these two other things to happen.
You now have all these workflow tools where people are not software developers. They're marketers. They're general business users. But they're able to pull these things together and implement them and launch them. But still, that's building. We're realizing actually there is a much wider spectrum of things we can build and a much wider universe of people who can do some of that building.

WILSON RAJ: All right. Scott, now I want to kind of add maybe just another thread to this build and buy principle. Many analyst firms, they have a taxonomy to describe martech stacks, right? It's very simplified.
You have the system of data or systems of record. And then on top of that, system of insight. Then above that is some kind of system of engagement or delivery. Again, very simplified. I think your 8,000 martech apps would certainly range all through that stuff, right? And then some. And so the question becomes when you think about that build or the low code, no code, is it safe to say maybe for that brand differentiation to occur, more of the build would take place in that system of insight, because it's so specific to that brand?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah, it's a good question. I actually think traditionally the biggest area of differentiation is actually the engagement, because the experiences become increasingly unique to the particular business.
But I think you've got a really good point, because as those experiences become richer and the data that we're feeding in from these, we have the opportunity to create models at the insight level that, yeah, just become very specific to our business. And again, this might not be something that people are having to code up in Java or JavaScript, but even having a business user or an analyst or a data analyst person being able to model, say, OK, here's the way I want to organize the inputs from different customer touchpoints into a propensity model for what we want to do with them next.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. And that's where I think visualization would come in, right? Not visualization in terms of reporting, but how do you do it in visual analytics, right? Visually analyzing so that business user who may not have all those algorithms can do something, get some business value out of that. That's fantastic.

SCOTT BRINKER: I mean, I know I'm preaching to the choir here. I mean, you guys are SAS, right? I mean, there's such an art that people can do with data. And the people who now have this combination of incredible tool sets for this and then they've sort of conceptually got the ideas of how to orchestrate them together, and then we're giving them this wonderful toy store of all these new data sources that are coming in, it's-- yeah. I know a fair number of people who are in the data analyst and data science world, and these are happy people. There's a lot of fun stuff going on right now.

WILSON RAJ: Yep. There's a lot of data to be had there as well. So no, we've talked about that debate between sort of build and buy. There's another big debate. And actually, you talked about it in terms of best of breed versus integrated stack. So again, there's some data, again, I think that was featured on one of your blog posts. It's a report that came out of the UK around data platforms where they talked about what other types of software or data platforms that the business is using.
And I'll just read out the stat here. From a best of breed perspective, it was about 32.5% best of breed. Integrated marketing suite, that's about 10.5%. And then a majority, 38%, was some kind of in-house, custom-built develop and vendor solution, right? And then you have a smaller number of purely in-house, around 15%, 16%.
And so just as that debate around build or buy, integrated or not integrated. Are there also same principles or different principles that can apply to this argument to say, hey, it's not just all here and all there? But what are your thoughts there, Scott?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah, this is such a fun topic. I really do think today in the world we are living in, the suite versus best of breed debate is-- it's really irrelevant, because I don't know of any suite at this point in time that doesn't have basically open APIs and ecosystems of people integrating to them.
And when people talk about best of breed solutions, there are very few marketing stacks out there now where just everything lives in its completely own isolated silo. These things are often purchased now based on the integration capabilities that they offer out of the box. So I kind of think this debate is last decade. Yeah, the new decade, it's software. It's APIs. It all works in the cloud.
But I found the stat about the hybrid model, this thing and folks saying, OK, well, almost independent of suite versus best of breed, what we're doing is a stack that has some combination of stuff we buy off the shelf commercially and some combination of pieces that we build that are unique to our business.
And what I thought was fascinating is to be honest, for all the years that people have been asking this question about suite versus best of breed, I haven't actually seen a survey where someone asked the question even of like, oh, well, you're also intermingling some of your own stuff in there too. Which is crazy, because actually, it makes a ton of sense that people are doing this.
And to now finally have at least-- I mean, this is just one survey. Take it for a grain of salt. But to have at least one data point that's like, yeah, actually, a lot of people, a lot of companies are blending these two things.
To be honest, I actually think this is some of the best evidence that digital transformation really is happening. I mean, people have been talking about it for years. It's become almost this hackneyed phrase. But the reality is, hackneyed phrase aside, businesses are becoming more and more digitally driven. The way in which they operate internally is digital. The way in which they engage with their customers or their audience or their partners is through digital.
And as part of that, they end up creating pieces of software and they end up using a whole bunch of other software. And we've now got data that, yeah, quite a few companies are now at that state. It's great. I love it.

WILSON RAJ: It's really positive, you're right, because this is actually real proof around-- it's concrete. You can see this in terms of, it's not just an airy concept around digital transformation, right? There is hybrid. We are actually coding. We're also using best of breed in scenarios that would then help them differentiate, but also reduce costs as they get maybe more integrated suites for that efficiency. So it's fantastic.
Now, you did something also-- you went beyond this, right? Beyond just best of breed and integrated where you made some connection to, as an analyst, Ben Thompson. He has a website called Stratechery where he had very interesting thoughts around aggregation theory, which there's a lot to it. But sum it all up, it's just a completely innovative way of thinking. Rather than sort of stacks or vertically integrations, it's sort of solving customer problems in a very unique way. So can you speak to that and how that applies to integrated and best of breed?

SCOTT BRINKER: Sure. Yeah. This is an observation that I've been sort of slowly becoming aware of over the past year, which is for these martech stacks-- in fact, not just for martech. But again, let's think more broadly for the entire business stack.
There are increasingly these products that were designed to thrive with a heterogeneous stack, right? I mean, for years, we had this thing of, oh, well, the way you solve the challenge of all these different software apps is you try and consolidate them all into either one suite. Or if not that, you try and get one product that acts is the absolute center of gravity for everything else.
And as much as that vision is wonderful and it works in certain contexts, for the overall business, there's just too many things happening. It's just-- there's too much innovation and too many products.
What we're finding now is there's a set of these technologies that are saying, OK. What if you were going to have a heterogeneous stack as the new reality, that this was just the world we were going to live in? There are challenges to that, right?
There's challenges of, how do we make sure we're getting the data to some sort of unified core? There's challenges of, how do we manage work flow across these apps that are created by different developers? There's challenges from identity access management and control perspective. There's challenges from a data governance and privacy aspect.
Those are real challenges you have when you have a heterogeneous stack. But what if we started to build products that that was their mission in life, was to be able to say, oh, I mean, let's pick something like data governance and privacy compliance. There are now these tools out there. I mean, there's actually a whole little category of them.
Companies like OneTrust and DataGrail and all these folks that basically their mission, say, whatever different apps you have, we will connect to your different apps, to your different databases, and we will provide a layer on top of that of the auditing capabilities, the monitoring and visibility capabilities that you can actually enforce good privacy compliance without having everything unified on just one single app. And there's a ton of these.
And so I kind of feel like, yeah, this is where that connects to Ben Thompson's aggregation theory, is he's looked at a number of these models out in the market with things like the dynamics of Facebook and the iPhone and stuff--

WILSON RAJ: Google, Googler.

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah, of how you have this sort of aggregator that serves as a way of matching supply and demand where the supply and demand might be very heterogeneous on either side. And sort of the value of that aggregator is to match the two together to help them unlock value from each other.
And then in a really weird way-- and I know this is-- I'm, again, super nerdy with this stuff. This was one of my more nerdy posts, so thank you for [LAUGHS] calling me out on it. But you know, in many ways, these products that are working across the martech stack or across the broader business tech stack, they're kind of almost serving as aggregators within the systems of data of our own businesses. So kind of the dynamics of software are continuing to evolve in front of our eyes.

WILSON RAJ: Right. It's so awesome to geek out, because I do encourage the audience, especially not just marketers, to actually take a look at this post-- we'll definitely add that to our show notes-- because it's a philosophical approach to how we look at integration. It's aggregation and solving a really key customer issue, whether it's privacy or personalization or loyalty, but I think it's worth a dive there.
I want to shift gears to something else. We talk about martech and marketing ops, and that's certainly a key driver of today's modern marketing organization. And this layer of function typically sits between-- on the top we have the marketing vision and strategy, and on the bottom you have on-the-ground marketing and CX delivery, right?
So how do you rationalize this? And you have your new rules of how marketing of five rules-- again, the number five. Can you walk through those five rules of how the marketing tech and operations connects with strategy and with execution and that framework there?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah. Wow. This number five. We were talking about this in our previous episode.

WILSON RAJ: It keeps popping up.

SCOTT BRINKER: Your five trends, my five trends, you know? There was packing, and this vaguely reminds me of something Monty Python Holy Grail skit around--

WILSON RAJ: There you go. We'll bring out the coconuts.

SCOTT BRINKER: [LAUGHS] Exactly. All right. So what is my favorite color in martech? So yeah, I mean, part of what I realized is in this whole new rules of marketing technology and operations is that a lot of marketing operations leaders were really being put in a position where they had to balance these things that seemed-- I mean, just opposing by their very definitions.
And the two examples I have were like, OK. We have all this demand to centralize. We want to centralize our data. We want to centralize brand control. We want to centralize privacy management. All good things.
But at the same time, there's all this demand to decentralize, to empower more teams at the edge of the organization to be able to build things faster, to be able to self-serve there needs, to be able to experiment. And so you're trying to, as a marketing ops leader, like, OK. Well, how do we do really good centralization and really good decentralization?
And then the same thing is on a different access here about the balance between technology and people and humans, right? On one hand, hey, how do we leverage more technology? How do we leverage more automation? How do we leverage AI?
But at the same time, how do we make sure that our brand is not just for customers, but even our own internal employee experience? That we have a soul, that we have-- we're able to connect the humanity to it in a way that people relate to it and relate to us, and that there's empathy to this.
And again, this is something as a marketing ops leader, right? You are trying to optimize the technology side. But the really best marketing ops leaders are also the ones who are so attuned to the human impact and the human touchpoint there.
And so yeah, I put those two things on a grid and we sort of went around the circle of like, OK. These are the different aspects of what it means to be able to deliver that. And then right at the center of that, the fifth rule was, OK. You're going to map this out, and you're going to have your ideas of how you think it should be done. This is great.
The next final rule is just be prepared for continuous change, because the way in which you do this today, next year, you're going to need to do things differently. Two years later, different again. We just kind of have to embrace continuous change as our new reality.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. And that's what I love about some of this thinking that you have. They're not just independent rules, right? It's balance. We live in a very complex world. And so these rules, while at first blush they seem like paradoxes-- wait a minute. Centralized and decentralized? Yeah. Access to data is centralized. Access to intelligence is centralized.
But what's decentralized are the experiences, the emotions as it relates to-- so the journey or moments of truth. And then in terms of having that agility at the core.
And of course, AI versus humans, right? What can we automate? What can we make it on scale? And then what are the things we can bring? That sort of judgment, creativity, empathy, emotion, et cetera. So I think thinking of it, again, in terms of a more holistic nature is key. And again, we'll have those notes there for our audience to ponder over and then hopefully reimagine marketing.
Just as we wrap up here, next couple of minutes, so Scott, you're a prolific thinker and a writer. What's next for Scott Brinker here? What upcoming topics very quickly are you kind of researching or pondering that you can share with this audience so that we may look forward to talking about it at some other podcast?

SCOTT BRINKER: Wow. You know, because I've become known for that martech landscape, every now and again people send me landscapes that other people created for very different industries. And a couple years ago, someone sent me this landscape of somebody who created a landscape of something like thousands of craft beers, and the producers of craft beers and how they all fit together. And I'm like, oh my goodness. I chose the wrong industry. What was I thinking? [LAUGHS]

WILSON RAJ: You're going to be the landscape guru.

SCOTT BRINKER: [LAUGHS] So like, yeah. When I think about what's next I'm like, hmm. [LAUGHS] Yeah. Maybe there's something beyond martech. But yeah. OK. Now in the martech side, I would say the topic that I am most interested in at the moment is this journey from big data to big ops.
And we talked about this earlier, the reintegration of marketing stacks and marketing ops into a fabric of the broader, entirely digital organization. I think we are really entering uncharted territory in, how do we run this? I mean, it's not just the systems architecture perspective of it.
It is the management approach to this. How do we collaborate in this world where we can just do so much and everyone can all do so much? But as we're doing this all in parallel, keeping the right things synchronized, keeping the right things open for experimentation, aligning operations standards across all these different contexts.
This is a big, huge, wonderful, very challenging, exciting mission for us to undertake. And so yeah, I'm just really fascinated and starting to peel away at the dynamics of how that evolution is happening.

WILSON RAJ: Well, Scott, it's been a pleasure. We can't wait to see what you uncover from this next big idea that you're looking at, big data to big ops. It was a great spot to wrap up this discussion. Again, I want to thank you, Scott, for being on the show.
SCOTT BRINKER: Thank you so much for having me. It's always a pleasure to chat with you, my friend.

WILSON RAJ: You too. You too, Scott. We'll do it again. Well, that's this week's episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. If you enjoyed today's show, be sure to head on over to nemarketingpodcast, all one word, to join the conversation and to discover more fun content. You can certainly subscribe to the series on your favorite podcast platforms. And don't forget to join us for another episode. And as always, thank you for listening.


Episode 4

Episode 4, Season 2: MarTech Perils and Promises


WILSON RAJ: Marketing technology, or MarTech has suddenly become both more important and more problematic. Marketers must consider how to tame the profusion of technology and harness it to work more effectively, both for the customer and the brand.
Hi. I'm Wilson Raj, and welcome to this episode of Reimagine Marketing podcast, The Perils and Promises of MarTech. And today I'm so excited to welcome a special guest, Scott Brinker. He is well known as the editor of the blog. He's also the VP of platform eco-systems at HubSpot. Welcome, Scott.

SCOTT BRINKER: Hi, Wilson. It's great to be here with you.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely.

SCOTT BRINKER: The perils and promise of marketing. I love it.

WILSON RAJ: Yeah, I know. I thought you would like that, that alliteration, but also I think sort of the dual-edged nature of the topic that-- Now, Scott, frankly, you had been on this for a long time. I think, if I remember correctly, I mean, I do remember this quote when you started in 2008. And there was a whole premise where you feel that marketing is really a technology powered discipline, and therefore marketers have to infuse this tech into their DNA.

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah. And again, it's not to take away from the larger mission of marketing which is to find and engage and delight our customers. It's just that, in the past 10, 20 years, and accelerating even more in these past few years, the ways in which we reach those customers and engage with them are through all these digital channels. And to be honest, to do that, we're leveraging all sorts of amazing software. And so it's not that the software is somehow the top of the pyramid or the focus of what we're trying to do, but it's the enablement. It's the capability. It's how we actually achieve brilliant and amazing marketing in today's world.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. So let's kind of start from the top. How did this whole charting of the MarTech landscape start? I mean, there had to be some pivotal moment were you decided, you know what, I'm going to do some kind of a graphic out of this. And now that super graphic has really become sort of a hinge point for all kinds of discussions around digital marketing, digital strategy, digital transformation, as it relates to marketing. So how did that idea come about?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah. Well, I think there were kind of two pivot moments there. So the first, as you mentioned, when I started writing my blog, I was really on a mission to help persuade CMOs that they needed more technical talent inside their organization just because marketing was becoming a true digital profession. And at the time, not everyone was buying into that.

WILSON RAJ: No, I think it was a hard sell, Scott.

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah. The world of IT and software seemed very far away from the world of marketing. So I remember, for one presentation, for a group of CMOs, I decided, all right, let me help them visualize this. And I put together that first slide of around 150 marketing technologies I found at the time. And it was entirely just to help people appreciate, oh my goodness, just how much technology is there in marketing. And again, even with just 150 at the time, it seemed mind blowing.

WILSON RAJ: That was mind blowing. Yeah. That's a lot.

SCOTT BRINKER: So that was kind of the first pivot. I think people were like, wow, OK, yes. There is a lot here. And then I remember the second pivot moment was, after doing that for a couple of years where it kept doubling year over year, in 2014, when all of a sudden it was like 1,000 solutions on the side. That was then like, OK, we're now going into some uncharted territory. This is a new dynamic.

WILSON RAJ: It's a new dynamic. It's a new threshold. Absolutely. So at that point, when you hit that mark-- I think, in the more recent one, we hit, what? Like 8,000 or something in 2020? And interestingly enough, about half of those things, I think like 2,000 plus, was around content and experience design. Another 2,000 was around social media. And then we definitely had quite a bit, almost a little over 1,000 around data, data management.
So when we hit that 1,000, that was a pivotal moment. Now, we're closing 10. Are we going to get there?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah. In fact, actually, one of the reasons we haven't yet produced a 2021 version is the landscape just continues to grow so much it is an incredible logistical challenge to figure out, how do we research them all? How do we get them all on a slide, where we're actually trying to rethink the whole approach.
But to give you some sense of this, because I'm now not the only person who does this, there's people-- I don't know. These icon landscapes have become a cottage industry for so many tech areas. There was someone a couple months ago who put together a landscape of just marketing technologies associated with virtual events and video conferences. And just that landscape, focused on just that narrow category, had over 800 solutions mapped into it.

WILSON RAJ: Oh man. That's hitting that 1,000 threshold, that you mentioned, that was for all of MarTech.

SCOTT BRINKER: And now it's just this.

WILSON RAJ: It's crazy. And you know what else, Scott? You talk about the landscape. I remember, in the earlier versions, it was this very elaborate block diagrams. Right? And your latest one, it looks almost like a map from Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings II, or something like that. It's just islands and peninsulas and all kinds of geographical features going on there. So I'm really excited. I'm definitely looking forward to see what your other rendition, once we hit that 10,000 mark, will look like.

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah. Actually, I have to credit, it was the graphic designer who was helping me with that last one who-- The reason it is this sort of crazy free-form map is because the amount of time it took to constantly size and resize things within a rectangular box. And then the moment you come up with another logo, you have to go in and you have to resize everything and rearrange it. I mean, the graphic designer basically revolted, and said, not doing that anymore. How about we just put them here. We'll draw a line around them. I'm like, actually, that's kind of cool.

WILSON RAJ: Yeah. It seems organic enough. Right? So here's the thing. So you have seen this growth, this landscape evolving from 2014, even prior to that, all the way up to now. So what are the things that you're seeing that are pretty much the same, whether it's capability wise or thematically? And what are the things that you're seeing that are different, maybe that wasn't around even two years ago?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah, great question. Well, I think the things that remain the same-- and I'm actually both happy and sad that they remain the same-- is I think the themes of what marketers generally want to leverage technology for are pretty constant. Right? I mean, we're still in this mode where we're like, OK, well, we want to find the right audience. We want to get them the right message at the right time, which is, frankly, where marketing should be thinking. That's our goal.
It's just, as the technology environment in which we're operating just continues to evolve, and there are new channels, and there are new tactics, and there are new audience preferences and all this, the technology to actually deliver on that promise continues to evolve. But, yeah, the overarching mission remains wonderfully constant. So that's our north star.
I think the things that are changing-- Boy, there's so many we can dive into. I'll highlight two. And then we might come back to them in this conversation in more detail. But one of them is this whole no code movement. And when I talk about no code, I don't mean just building apps without code. I mean this whole idea of saying, you as a general business user, you as a general marketer, to have more and more of these tools that you can create things, that not so long ago, you couldn't create on your own.
You would have had to hire software engineers or graphic designers or different experts. And for a whole bunch of things that we as marketers want to do or we want to experiment with, the costs and the barriers to doing that, it didn't make it worthwhile. But so many of these no code tools, they give a whole other level of things that now become accessible to us to experiment and try.
And then the second thing that's really interesting right now is really the reintegration of marketing into the rest of the organization. For the past decade, you could argue, a lot of this advancement in marketing technology, in a lot of cases, it happened independent of the rest of the organization, for good reasons, actually. In a lot of cases, the rest of the organization wasn't even ready to move forward at the speed that marketing needed to move forward with.
But things are changing. Part of this whole digital transformation is the recognition that it's not just marketing. It's the entire organization that becomes digitally powered and engages with customers through a digital interface. And so now there's all these really interesting things happening around how do we take all the marketing technology and connect it better with the rest of the organization, and vice versa. How do we harness more of the things that the rest of the organization is doing and leverage them in marketing?

WILSON RAJ: Right. I think, Scott, those two points, firstly, that low code, no code, that aspect, as it relates to marketers, is such a very fundamental difference between marketers of yore and today. Right? Not that we have to be coders, although it might seem that way, but the ability to be technologically savvy enough to understand where these apps, how they work, how to integrate. What's the data flow? What's a process flow? We're definitely going to dive into that because I think there's some interesting market reactions, or expectations at least, from the management level in terms of that.
And then the other one is, yes, right place, right time, right content. But then, boy, this has exploded to something broader than just marketing, kind of a business impact. So let's kind of take the first element around skill set. I think you referenced this, Scott, in one of your blogs also. A CMO council survey where there was a question around where the C-suite thinks that marketing has a gap, or a hole.
And the first one was 42% of that C-suite said that it's the modernization of MarTech, that includes the org, the systems, and the operations. And then right, I would say, close behind that, at 40%, was proficiency, technical proficiency. That kind of speaks to your low code, no code kind of point there. And then the others that followed was around that old chestnut, data, at a 37%, and everything related to data.
So when I looked at this, Scott, when I looked at what we think the acceleration of digital savviness in tech, especially since the COVID, and we hear that digital transformation has accelerated from years into months, I'm surprised at that first one, that modernization of systems and operations, with that 42% of the C-suite would still think, hey, marketers, you guys have a long way to go. What's your read on that? How do you read the stat?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah. I mean, this data was surprising, but to me, it kind of makes sense through the lens of-- In some ways, I don't feel it's entirely fair to the marketing org because I do think marketing actually made tremendous advances, in many cases ahead of the rest of the organization. But I think where this is a perception issue, but also a bit of reality, is I do think marketing got a little bit too isolated on the MarTech stack.
And the problem with the MarTech stack is nobody else in the organization has visibility to that. And I think, in particular, what happened here, over these past couple of years, was a real acceleration of digital transformation of the rest of the business. The C-suite, all these other peers of the CMO, are looking at how they connect systems across the organization. And I think for a lot of CMOs, and I'll push some of this down to the marketing ops and marketing tech teams too, they were so focused on the MarTech stack, that I think we may have been a bit slow to catch on to this opportunity to say, OK, there's actually a second generation that's happening here. And it's not just our stack. It is the collective business stack. And how do we feed and work with that? And so I suspect that's part of what we missed.
But then also the digitally savvy, this sense of saying, oh, well, the C-suite doesn't necessarily think we have enough digitally savvy managers. I think that's fair. I don't think this is actually isolated to marketing. It's just the war for talent right now is so intense. And even organizations where they have great marketing operations, and great marketing tech people, very often they have a few people who are really amazing at that, and then perhaps they have a broader organization that's good at many, many things, but not necessarily as strong and really leveraging the state of the art technology.
And I think this is something that, for marketers, my takeaway from that would be, you can't just hire all this because this is the challenge, is the competitive war for talent. But it's like really leaning more into the enablement and training and development of internal talent. For years, marketers, we're so used to making such big investments in quote unquote "sales enablement," sales people better sell our solutions. It's almost like we need to take some of that energy and that creative insight and apply it to marketing enablement.

WILSON RAJ: Marketing enablement.

SCOTT BRINKER: That's helping our own marketing teams actually leverage all these capabilities that we're building out better.

WILSON RAJ: Scott, that's a huge point. You're right. Marketing traditionally-- and we still do-- we support sales. Ultimately, we have to show business results. From a C-suite perspective, that is typically revenue, profitability, reduction in costs, those kinds of things. Those are the numbers that C-suite look at. They're less interested in click through rates or use off assets. They have to be transformed to some kind of business metric. So I think you're right. How do we then enable?
And I love that point about perception stuff because I've seen a lot of brands, even at SAS, that acceleration of digital savviness. We're not the only ones. A lot of brands, CPG, retailers did that, accelerated in 2020. Right? I've never seen so much digital savviness, literally. And also experienced it for myself when I go to my bank or my grocer and so on. But I think, overall, in terms of what's the net effect of the business and other parts of the operation, that's where we have some more work to do there.

SCOTT BRINKER: And it's for the better, actually, because I think it's going to be a two-way street. I think, actually, because marketing does genuinely have so much experience that we've acquired over the tool sets and the tech stack that we have been using over the past 5, 10 years, I think we can bring a lot of insights to other functions of the business of how to leverage this and how to think of the right moments with the right customer.
But also I think we'll learn at that. I mean, if we just pick an area like the modern data stack, not just for marketing but for organizations as a whole, and how we're managing. This is obviously an area you guys know a lot about, but the whole analytics pipelines and machine learning. I mean, there's just so much that's advancing now throughout the rest of the organization. And I think there's so much marketers can learn from their peers in those organizations to, oh, that's the data set you have there. And, oh, that's how you're like. Yes, yes this is actually really well, we can use this.
And so I think it's actually going to be an incredible renaissance of this reintegration of marketing with these other functions. I think is going to be wonderful for everyone. And so I kind of expect that, two years from now, if they do this survey, it's going to be very different--

WILSON RAJ: It's going to be very different.

SCOTT BRINKER: --reception.

WILSON RAJ: I love the way you addressed it in the first. You were right around that modernization is certainly a perception and then that notion of technical savviness. We have a shortage of talent, but also at the same time, what can we do to do better marketing enablement? And then that's what that third element, that data piece, good customer data, but 37% of the C-suite said, hey, we've got some gaps here. That is the peril but also the opportunity, the promise, in terms of how we can activate that.
Now what can, from a data perspective, Scott, looking at it strategically, what can marketers, at all levels, from the CMO down, from her organization, leading it, to executives, to practitioners, to actual data scientists or marketing analysts, as it relates to data, what can we collectively do to up that number? Is it looking at different data sources or more of it within the org or slicing it into more infinite proportions? What are the things we can do to get that number up, that confidence level up?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah. It's a great question. I think two things come to mind. So one, I mean again, marketing has traditionally had some very specific sources of data. It's the data that we pull in through our advertising channels. It's data we pull in through social media. It's data we pull from engagements on websites, which is great. That's been awesome.
But what's happening here, in the broader digital transformation, is we are seeing more and more digital touch points being created for customers that aren't about marketing touch points per se. They're actually the delivery of the service, the delivery of the product. I mean, you mentioned going to your bank, and how that process, and the way you use those apps, it's just totally different. And I think one of the greatest opportunities for marketing is to be able to make sure we are getting plugged into and instrumenting these behavioral activities of what customers are actually doing with our digital services and products at different points.
In SAS, obviously, this whole thing around product-led growth. Or if you're an app developer for the iPhone or Android, all these tools, the Pendos and whatnot of the world that people are using. I mean, oh my goodness, this is a goldmine of real data about real customers behaving in a way, and then using that to both understand them but also then to find the ideal opportunities where we can serve them better from a customer, marketing, customer lifecycle perspective. So yeah, I think that's probably the single greatest one.
But I think it's also connecting that flow in the other direction. Just as we want to be able to pull data from all those digital products and services, I think the data that we have from channels that we traditionally own, we should be doing a better job of feeding that data to those same digital products and services so that they can use that in the context of just personalizing the actual customer experience of their usage.
And so again, I think I'm just going back to that same theme of saying the opportunity to re-integrate marketing and MarTech with now a more savvy overall digital organization. I feel like a kid in a candy store just about about it. I mean, there's just so many opportunities with that.

WILSON RAJ: I think it's so important for the audience listening, and especially marketers who are listening in, that they get the sense of optimism. Yes, there are some perils of modernizing the stack, as well as improving in efficiency, our skill sets around data literacy, for example, or AI and so on. And one is, be the insights engine, not just for marketing, but for the business, and CX at large. And secondly, to be the collector, aggregator, of all the data that comes from literally every part of the organization. Right? And then play it back, either to them as part of the CX cycle, or to be able to revamp strategies. So I think that's a very important point, Scott, that you raised in terms of getting the confidence of the C-suite up.

SCOTT BRINKER: It's a great time to be in marketing.

WILSON RAJ: I love it.

SCOTT BRINKER: It's a challenging time, but it is a great time.

WILSON RAJ: Cool. OK, we're going to shift gears a little bit and take a little bit more panoramic view. The 2030 seems to be sort of this-- It's almost like a finish line for everything. So SAS, in late 2019, before the disruptions and all that, we did a world-wide survey around the future of experience, customer experience. It's called Experience 2030, where we had five different themes, themes around smart tech. From a consumer perspective, there's a lot of value there. Immersive tech, adoption of AR, IR, virtual reality, those kinds of things. Digital loyalty in the future. It's less about programs, but more about loyalty to the entire brand and experience. Obviously, data privacy, how that becomes a key part of the customer experience. And then this notion of agility and automation.
So we had these five drivers. And interestingly enough, I think you partnered with WPP, which is my former employer in a previous life, also with a 2030 title. I think you also had, about five. Is it five or four trends or something like that?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah, it's five.

WILSON RAJ: You hit the 5 too. And let it be known to the audience that this was done absolutely independently. So tell us a little bit about that research title, and then what some of the top line findings and your observations with that, Scott.

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah, it makes me wonder, like, ah, all these people independently around the world, all of a sudden, get the idea of the number five, 2030. There's going to be some big event there. Yes, maybe it's the singularity.

WILSON RAJ: It could be.

SCOTT BRINKER: Maybe it's the aliens land.

WILSON RAJ: We could be responsible for that.

SCOTT BRINKER: But even if none of that amazing stuff happens, and it's simply a pinnacle for modern marketing, we'll take that.


SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah, so the five themes, I love the five themes that you identified. And I think they're not mutually exclusive. I think they're actually complementary with the five themes that we leaned into. The five things we had were, not surprising, this no code citizen creator capability. I think just amazing what we can do today. Play that out over the next nine years, it's going to be mind blowing.
The second was a little bit abstract, but it was basically about getting people to think more about these patterns of platforms, networks, and marketplaces. I mean, so much of business has been organized for now the past 50 years around really this concept of hierarchies and chains. We have our value chain. We have our supply chain. We have our distribution chain. You know, and there's still value to those mental models, but in the digital world, there's this new set of models that are just proliferating inside our companies, in our supplier base, in the way we reach customers, and are these platforms networks and marketplaces. So really understanding those dynamics and how to leverage them.
The third is what I call the great app explosion which is a little bit like the MarTech landscape. But it's bigger than the MarTech landscape. I have a stat from the folks at IDC that they expect, in the next two years alone, there will be over 500 million digitally created apps and services out in the world. Now, not only--

WILSON RAJ: Imagine doing a landscape for that, Scott.

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah. I'm waving the white flag there. Time to pick a new profession. But I mean, they're not all going to be commercially packaged SaaS applications. In fact, it's almost like an iceberg. The vast majority of them will be below the water line, as custom apps and digital services businesses create themselves.
But still, this is Mark Andreessen's prediction from a decade ago. It's like software is eating the world. And rather than keep fighting that, or keep saying, oh, well, this is just a blip. And it's all going to consolidate into one or two major software companies and we're done. We just need to embrace the reality that we live in a world of, for all practical purposes, infinite software. So how do we harness that? How do we actually make that a good thing?
And then that leads into the fourth trend which was talking about the shift from an emphasis on big data, just figuring out, oh my God, we've got all this data, how do we collect it? How do we store it? How do we analyze it? To increasingly, this challenge of why we call big ops because it's now how do we actually operationalize on that data? The operationalization of our businesses around that data, it's like not just one spot here, one spot there. It's like everyone in the organization. I'm using this for my algorithm here. I'm using it for this app here. Using this with my agents on the phone over there.
The metaphor I give people is if you imagine the world of big data as this faraway data lake, that we can think of the world of big ops, it's the same amount of water. But it's an interactive water park. And everyone's there, and they're coming in. And how do we make sense of that? How do we govern that new reality?

WILSON RAJ: And that's why your marketing enablement piece, I think, would fit in that, as part of that broader ops. So that's fantastic opportunity, yeah.

SCOTT BRINKER: Definitely. Definitely. And then the last topic was harmonizing human and machine. AI is just becoming more and more practical in how we can leverage it in so many different contexts. But I think we're still trying to learn like, OK, how do we do this? What's good for the machine to do? What's good for us to do? And where are the magical intersections where, actually, us working in tandem with these machines let us do outcomes that are beyond anything we could have imagined five years ago?

WILSON RAJ: I resonate with that last point especially. I always felt like humans are better at thinking meta, so judgment. We have that creativity to do messages and codes and things that would hit the human soul, the human heart. And we're also comfortable with dissonance. Whereas AI, I think we can do a lot of outsourcing of a lot of cumbersome, repetitive tasks, and then therefore free up humans to do a lot higher-order value add in marketing.
So I'm a big proponent of that last point. It's fantastic. Wow, there's so much. And we definitely have to carry on this conversation, for sure. But I think there's a great spot to wrap up this discussion, especially as we look at the things that you mentioned with MarTech 2030, the overlay against Experience 2030. Now, where can we find some of these great resources? Obviously, your blog. Any other spots you recommend?

SCOTT BRINKER: Yeah. Actually, the blog


SCOTT BRINKER: And that's chiefmartec, without the H at the end.

WILSON RAJ: That's right. That's the tricky part.

SCOTT BRINKER: Long story.

WILSON RAJ: We'll get that story in one of our conversations.

SCOTT BRINKER: But also, yeah, I'm @chiefmartec, the same spelling, on Twitter. So yeah, if you have a question, and you can reach out to me, always happy to engage with people. I'm continually learning as much from everyone else. Trying to just share some of that back into the world. So I'd love to engage with people around this stuff.

WILSON RAJ: And we'll make sure that all these are included in our show notes. Thank you, Scott. Has been fantastic as usual. I'm always energized after talking with you. So if you have enjoyed today's show, please head on over to eMarketingPodcast-- all one word-- to join in the conversation and get even more bonus content.
You can also subscribe to our series on your favorite podcast platforms. Just do a search, Reimagine Marketing. And you can also stay in touch by emailing us at reimaginemarketi So this is Wilson Raj. Don't forget to join us again for another episode. And thank you for listening. Have a great day.


Episode 3

Ep. 3: Digitizing Beauty Experiences


WILSON RAJ: From virtual try-on features to AI-enabled skincare analysis, the pandemic and ensuing disruption have accelerated innovative and immersive technologies. And with a further emphasis on health and wellness, beauty brands have had to evolve from a one-dimensional category to something more holistic and inclusive. Hi, I'm your host, Wilson Raj. And welcome to this episode of Reimagine Marketing, Digitizing Beauty Experiences. Welcome, everyone. And I'm really excited to introduce our guest today, Kelly Mahoney, vice president, customer marketing at Ulta Beauty. Welcome, Kelly.

KELLY MAHONEY: Thank you, Wilson. I'm happy to be here.
WILSON RAJ: As we are, too. So this is such an exciting and, I think, very interesting topic given the state of affairs, past the pandemic and now as we move to 2021 and to the future. And I know that, in your role, you've got a huge responsibility. You lead the global loyalty and CRM team. You're responsible for that journey from start to finish and the personalization across touch points. So tell me a little bit more about that role and some of the pressures that you're facing there.

KELLY MAHONEY: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, customer marketing at Ulta Beauty is all about really engaging and connecting in as authentic way as possible with all of our members. And we're so fortunate that we have well over 32 million active members. So you're right, it's a lot to be responsible for. We manage our Ultimate Rewards program. We manage all of the customer contacts that we deliver across all of our channels with our guests.
And to your point, a big focus of our team right now is, how do you personalize every single connection?


KELLY MAHONEY: And from, you mentioned, the pandemic, a big focus this year is just how do we re-engage? How do we welcome our customers back into our stores, online, and do it in a way that keeps them coming back to Ulta Beauty?

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. And that will be a huge focus of our conversation today. Now also, from your experience perspective, you had a wealth of experience, but one really caught my eye here, you've had a significant number of years in the oil and gas industry, I think at least something like around 10 years or so?


WILSON RAJ: This is really interesting. So how has that industry shaped your perspective on what you're doing now with Ulta Beauty?

KELLY MAHONEY: Yeah. I always like to say BP was my home, so to speak. It's really where I grew up, from a leadership perspective. And I look back with such fond memories of my experience in BP. I ran their loyalty, their point of sale for North America. And it was a fascinating industry. To have that challenge of trying to find ways to differentiate your brand in such a low involvement category is definitely not an easy task. But the brand itself is just so highly differentiated, a lot of it can be applied to beauty, believe it or not.


KELLY MAHONEY: And that's what I've been doing. I mean, I agree, it's fascinating. And there's a lot I can take from my experience at BP over to Ulta Beauty.

WILSON RAJ: We'll see some of that transference in-- because, I think, the industries, while they're different, there's definitely the same challenges, in terms of reaching your brand affiliation and connecting with suppliers and consumers, so definitely interested to hear a little bit more about that.

KELLY MAHONEY: Absolutely.

WILSON RAJ: So now, getting on to this topic around this tech-infused beauty consumer, I saw a recent report by McKinsey that says-- this is pre-COVID research-- nearly 85% of all beauty product shopping took place in the brick and mortar store. And today it's closer to 60% online. And another stat from that research also showed that basically beauty sales declined as much as 30% in the first half of 2022, according to McKinsey.
So I think the health of beauty brands and the industry that you're in, Kelly, is tightly, tightly connected with the ability to try out new products or have on-site consultations with advisors. So how do you view recovery when these sorts of in-person experiences have basically fallen by the wayside?

KELLY MAHONEY: Right. Yeah. I mean, in March of 2020, we had to close our entire fleet of stores because of response to the rise of the pandemic and, obviously, the health and safety of our guests and our associates, absolutely our top priority. But that meant we became an online only retailer overnight. We had to accelerate, I would say, about two to four years of Omnichannel innovation in a matter of months.

WILSON RAJ: Wow, that's incredible.

KELLY MAHONEY: Right. And to your point, and you hit on it, in our category in particular, it's all about the art of discovery and exploration, and it's a moment of fun, and it's a moment of joy. And so what was on our minds is, how do we bridge that? How do we bridge that gap without our brick and mortar stores open? And we leaned-- we leaned into our shopping experiences on digital to deliver that.
So things like our GLAMlab-- which we were so fortunate to have invested in GLAMlab. That's our augmented reality technology that's embedded into our app-- this ended up being a key tool that we used to really amplify ways to explore. So this is things like foundation, that are typically difficult to find the right shade, we were able to bridge that in a digitized way to help support finding the right shade of foundation, as an example.


KELLY MAHONEY: It also allows you to try and makeup. You can try on new hairstyles. And it's fun.

WILSON RAJ: That's a key point, I think, to make this-- still keep that fun, that discovery sort of DNA experience as part of it. Now, not just beauty brands, I think retailers at large because of the disruptions and so on, they had to-- they were forced to actually rethink their marketing efforts, moving from some more transaction oriented interactions, so maybe cheap deals or discounts, to something that's more value oriented. And you hit on some of those. And we're going to delve into those a bit later. We talked about experiential. Now, what's your take, as far as Ulta is concerned, from your brand perspective?

KELLY MAHONEY: Oh, absolutely. It's all about this idea of moving from transactional, functional to experiential, emotional. And we start, really, with our brand and our purpose. So about two years ago, we were on this mission already, to move our functional branding purpose. And so you might know, all things beauty all in one place is very purposeful. We will always keep that purposeful message, because there's a lot of value in having all things beauty all under one roof. That's inherent to our brand value proposition.
But about two years ago, we started to move, because we started to recognize that beauty is meaningful, and it's very, very highly emotional. And we wanted to play more in that space. So our bold new purpose is, bring the possibilities to life through the power of beauty. So we've been on this journey, and only accelerated it really, over the last 18 months or so to amplify the meaningful role that beauty plays in all of our lives.
And we believe we have the power to really influence that through our branding, kind of our North Star, and then everything we do to personalize all the different touch points across all the different channels that we're interacting with our customer.

WILSON RAJ: Kelly, what you said there is-- I think it's got huge ramifications for all brands, or in terms of their branding. And the beauty all in one place, it's not a bad thing. It's certainly valuable and functional. But I think this notion of bringing to life the beautiful possibilities, that's that aspirational, that emotional connection. I believe all the things that you do from a CX perspective definitely falls out from that. So I think that that's such a cool thing.

KELLY MAHONEY: Thank you. We're very proud of it. And we continue to invest in it. We launched our ad about two years ago. And even in the midst of the pandemic, we felt it was important to continue to lean into that, and especially as we started to note that people needed this from us. Our customers actually needed us to amplify sources of joy and light during what was dark times. So it was just kind of coincidental in some ways, that we had already been on this journey. And it allowed us to really amplify content that resonated during the pandemic and resonates now, ongoing.
WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. And I think, Kelly, here's another thing for our audiences, I think the brands, the leading brands that actually invested in marketing during this difficult time were the ones or are the ones that are continuing to be resilient. So there's no pulling back. The ability to launch such a big brand campaign in the midst of that is such a brave, and bold, and certainly, I think, a gutsy move that I think serves you well.

KELLY MAHONEY: Thank you. Thank you, very much. I mean, we had to be nimble in that moment. We had to act swiftly. We definitely had to reroute things, to ensure that we were hyper relevant in our communications during that time but without moving away from our bold purpose, which is to bring the possibilities to life through the power of beauty.

WILSON RAJ: Excellent. So this is an excellent segue here, to kind of now get into that, now, how do we merge all those things, that personalization, that brand purpose to build that loyalty. We acknowledge that consumer behaviors have changed as in-person engagement has been forced more into a digital, or maybe you could call it physically distant model. Now in your opinion, do you think this is temporary, or is it going to last? Is it-- how is this going to net out for you guys in the next couple of years?

KELLY MAHONEY: Yeah, as I mentioned earlier, we were an online only business overnight, fortunate to have the 32 million active members in our loyalty program, many of which pivoted along with us to our online shopping properties. No, the answer is, this idea of showing up where your customers want you to be, that's never going to change. Now, we are now leveling out, and we're seeing a return to brick and mortar, because it's a lot of fun to go into our stores and explore and discover. But we will always pivot where our customers need us to show up.
So our focus is still very much on delivering Omnichannel experiences, whether that be buy online, pickup in store, or whether that be even more personalization within our online. And how do we enhance that, even within our brick and mortar?

WILSON RAJ: Gotcha. And that is a key thing in terms of what's the mix, in terms of really giving the best experience and therefore, also value to the customer. Now, you said something that's really important, so that personalization now. Clearly, the type, and the intensity, and the depth of personalization that you do at Ulta requires tons of data. Now, that data has to be protected in order to not just gain trust but continue to maintain and build trust.
So you're caring for the personal well-being of your consumers of the brand, but you're also taking care of their data. So what's your philosophy in terms of building that trust to reinforce these engagements and continue building relationships with your clients?

KELLY MAHONEY: Oh yeah, definitely. Trust is paramount with our members. And I think, at Ulta we build that in a variety of ways. You hit on this idea of privacy and ensuring that the way in which we are tending to the data that we have about our guests is done with the utmost security and credibility that we could possibly deliver to our customers. So we take that very, very, very seriously.
From a marketing standpoint, at the heart of it, we talk about trust, more about authenticity. So showing up to our customers everywhere we show up with our customers, we want to show up in an authentic way. We think authenticity is really what builds trust. So how our associates are showing up to our guests in our stores by providing credible guidance, by the way in which we're communicating, understanding who we're talking to when we're personalizing, it's highly relevant. And it's delivered in channels that our customers want to see those messages. That's really what we mean when we get to trust, is showing up in an authentic way.

WILSON RAJ: Mm-hmm. And that seems, from a data perspective, there is certainly a lot of collaboration with-- as you're responsible for customer marketing, that involves such a wide swath of things right there-- CRM. There's loyalty. Now, who are the stakeholders that you connect with in the management team, broadly, to really build that trust that you just talked about?

KELLY MAHONEY: Yeah. So data is at the heart of everything that we do, from a building trust and building authenticity with our customers. And you don't do data by yourselves, for sure. So it's very much a cross-functional effort to deliver anything in a personalized way. So we partner very closely with our data and analytics team. We are almost symbiotic. As one team, they attend all of our team meetings. So they're ingrained and embedded in the customer marketing team, high focus with the partners in IT. So I have regular connects with our IT partners and our IT leadership.
But also our digital and our e-com teams are included as well. We have an agile pod that we work in. So we actually apply agile methodology to the way in which we go to market with our customers, from a marketing communications standpoint, which consists of all of those stakeholders that we just talked about, including creative, because creative is such a core component to really getting personalization.

WILSON RAJ: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.


WILSON RAJ: I love your concept of the agile pod. I've heard different kinds of structural teams and stuff like that, but this notion of a pod, it's self-reinforcing, and, I think, Kelly, you used the word symbiotic. That is such a great word to describe collaboration. It's not just one way or one dimensional, even few dimensional. It's-- everybody gets benefit from that. And so I think it's how you've orchestrated that or externalized that from a team perspective, it is really commendable.
So just related to that, as you shift your brand, you have shifted from that transactional function to something that's more meaningful and personalized, the changes in your clients, the younger generation, that Gen Z, the millennials, how do you see them in terms of this digitizing beauty, all this orchestrated digital beauty journeys?

KELLY MAHONEY: Yeah, I see it as a must have. And I think that's probably true for every retailer out there, a must have, to be operating in a personalized way across all of your digital platforms, it's an expectation. That's how we see it. And so for us, it's license to operate. It's part of our table stakes right now.
And we are so fortunate, because we started this journey three years ago, four years ago, maybe, just getting the data right and getting the data housed in a place that allows us to scale and allows us to access the data so that we can actually activate. I think that's a mistake that many retailers have made, is that the data is there, but how do you activate it? And we're so fortunate to have the 32 million active members that we've talked about. You know, having access to first-party data is such a luxury. It's a differentiator, even, especially in the landscape that we're living in right now.


KELLY MAHONEY: So it's really, it's all of that that's allowing us to be able to action against highly personalized experiences in the digital landscape, to create that sort of human connection when there isn't a human.

WILSON RAJ: You know, Ulta has always been sort of in the forefront, in the category for digital innovation. We talked earlier about the virtual GLAMlab, and I know that there's a host of other very innovative immersive interfaces that you have created for your clients. Could you talk about some of them?

KELLY MAHONEY: Oh, absolutely. About 18 months ago, we created a digital innovations team. And their focus is all about in a plane, really figuring out new technologies that we think our customers will love. And one important one, outside of GLAMlab, that we talked about, but another important one is the skin analyzer. So the skin analyzer is an important one because skin is a difficult product to sell.
Makeup, you can try makeup on. And you can see whether or not that looks good, whether or not you like that. Skin's different. Skin's about problem resolution. And you don't necessarily see those results immediately. And so we figured out this tool that you can use on your mobile app, and it allows you to analyze your skin and provide you with recommendations in the moment, based on what the tool has noticed.
Maybe it notices that you have wrinkles, and we can help you with some anti wrinkling. Maybe it notices that you have some dark spots from sun damage, and it can offer you recommendations on products. So this has been a really great tool for us, where we're kind of combining a bit of play with the idea of solving a problem, and then adding personalized recommendations that are even split out based on price point, too, so going a layer deeper and trying to really get to a place that the customer, then, will convert and purchase those products.

WILSON RAJ: Right. I think, to me, what you've described, Kelly, is beyond hyper personalization, because you're right, makeup on the skin, you can certainly personalize that, but getting into individuals' skin tones, skin conditions, and then from there going from the inside out, that is a true audience of one person in the entire world. So to me, I think using things such as AI and data for that is such a cool thing.
Now, speaking of data, in your opinion, from a beauty brand perspective, are there other sources of data that has been maybe underutilized or maybe left uncaptured that could actually drive even more valuable insights?

KELLY MAHONEY: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think we have a tremendous amount of data. So we have over 95% sales penetration, member sales penetration. So we know everything about what's going on with our members, what they're buying from us. The area that we've been focused on, and these tools like GLAMlab and skin analyzer really help us get underneath more about preferences, and browse data, and how customers are engaging with us.
Because in our business, we're not a every week purchase. We're a about three times a year, on average, type of frequency business. So the more access that we can get to that non-transactional data or that preferential data is really important to us. And that's why we've done some things like rate and reviews. And we are looking for feedback loop all the time in our personalized recommendation, to understand, are we getting it right?
I love-- and this is not an example of Ulta Beauty-- but I really love how Stitch Fix has their, it's almost gamified, way of learning about their customers' preferences. And I've found myself just waiting for a doctor appointment and running through the Stitch Fix app. We want to continue to create access to that type of data.

WILSON RAJ: Yeah, I love that example. And I think that's, I think really illustrative of not just the beauty brands but, I think, all retailers, in terms of creating those moments that stick. And it's not an opportunistic thing. It's something like, as you say, Kelly, of value. Can I make my skin more healthy and then how that linked to overall well-being.
So and I think even your brand, the new brand, beautiful possibilities, takes it from, should I say, the word skin deep to even something that's even broader, health, a lifestyle kind of thing. Are you finding that kind of reaction from your consumers?

KELLY MAHONEY: Yes, well, I would-- absolutely. I mean, beauty and wellness intersect. And we've really taken note of that. And so where we can step in and provide that guidance becomes very meaningful, very, very powerful. And that leads to what we like to call brand love. We're moving beyond the idea of just even loyalty to this concept of brand love. That's our ultimate goal, is we believe all the things that we're doing, all of the digital innovations that we've just talked about. The application of our data to create personalized experience is not to create loyalty, of course it is, but really the ultimate goal is love, an emotional connection.

WILSON RAJ: That's great. So I think this is a good point here to kind of do a little bit of crystal balling. I mean, you're already doing so many innovative things. I can't for the life of me, at least from where I'm sitting, think of like, wow, what's the next thing for beauty brands at large?
So from where you're sitting, and being right in the midst of this thing, what are some of the trends that you think are interesting or that might be more mainstream in a year, or two years, three years from now, or a business model that's changing, what's your take on that, Kelly?

KELLY MAHONEY: Yeah, I've thought a lot about this, obviously, in my role. And I know that industry-wise we've been talking about personalization for so many years, but honestly, I'm going to say it again. I think it's really about getting personalization at scale. That's what the trend is, and that's what's on the horizon. It's no longer these point-based solutions or these channel approaches to personalizing, but how do you integrate so that you're creating, in our case, a beauty journey that's personalized for the customer, wherever they are? And that's what's on the horizon. And I'm not sure we can point to any retailer that's really got that down pat, but that's certainly-- that is our focus.

WILSON RAJ: I love that, personalization at scale, certainly in the moment. And you're certainly employing all kinds of great technology, certainly AI, real time data, immersive tech, such as augmented reality, to help you do that but do so not just throwing some technology there, but I think you've got a much broader strategy in view. That was very clear from our conversation here.

KELLY MAHONEY: Well, thank you so much. It's definitely a-- takes a village. And we have an amazing team at Ulta Beauty. I couldn't be more proud to lead the customer marketing team and be a part of this amazing fast-growing brand.

WILSON RAJ: Thank you so much, Kelly. I think this is a great spot to wrap up this discussion. That's it for this week's episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. If you enjoyed today's show and content, be sure to head over to to join the conversation. You can certainly subscribe to more of the content on your favorite podcast platforms for show notes, and bonus content, and also hear previous episodes and guests. So thanks for listening. And I will see you on the next episode of the Reimagine Marketing podcast. Take care


Episode 2

Episode 2, Season 2: Experiential Tech: Happier Customers, Increased Profitability

JUSTIN THENG: Today's consumers not only expect a lot from brands, they also capitalize on AI, IoT, mixed reality, and other immersive and emerging tech. This puts tremendous pressure on marketing organizations to reinvent their operating models so that they can act in the moment. But if you think about today's consumer expectations, they're pretty hard to meet, and you haven't seen anything yet.
Tomorrow's level of customer experience and personalization will need to be even smarter, more immersive, and more trust enabling. The question is, are brands and consumers ready.

I'm Justin Theng. I'll be your host for today, and I'm joined by Professor Matt Kuperholz. Matt was trained as an actuary but has been practicing data science for the last 25 years, focused on AI for the last 20.
He's PWC Australia's chief data scientist and a partner in their consulting business. He was awarded by Australia's top analytics leader by their premier industry body, and one of Australia's top 100 knowledge workers by then prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and the Office of the Chief Scientist, and most recently, one of the global top 100 tech innovators. Matt, it's great to have you with us.

MATT KUPERHOLZ: Thanks, Justin. Thanks for having me.

JUSTIN THENG: Matt, could you for the sake of the audience, just-- I mean, I've given an outline. You've obviously had an illustrious career. Can you give us a bit about your journey to this point?

MATT KUPERHOLZ: Sure thing. I guess it started back in 1972 when I was born, at the same time as the first microprocessor was born on a chip from Intel. I don't think that was a coincidence. Instead of sleeping with teddy bears and stuffed toys, I slept with toasters and irons. I've always been a massive fiend for technology. I still remember when my relationship with computers started in the late 70s and has been a continuous love affair ever since.

As a child, when you're good at maths and you want to get into business, there's not too much choice back in the day. So, I became an actuary. But I also studied computer science, and I was looking for a way to bring those two disciplines-- or actually, three disciplines. That's maths, computer science, and complex problem solving-- together, which I guess is what we call data science nowadays. But when I was put through University by an actuarial firm in the early 90s, we didn't know it as data science.

It's just the direction my career took first with the actuarial firm. Then jumping into an AI startup company that I was a general manager for. I had my own web development company. And I then started my own consulting firm in data science after we sold the AI firm, but quickly found myself with one main client, that being Deloitte, and started a great adventure with them, building an analytics practice in the early 2000s around the world.
I've since left Deloitte where I joined PWC as a partner and have been on a similar journey with them. Obviously, the market has changed substantially. I still remember Justin talking to clients in the early 2000s and saying, this business problem you're having, it's quite possible we can solve this by using the data that you've collected in your operations. Could you imagine when that was a completely novel idea and no one was thinking that way, to then everyone thinking that way, but no one being able to do it?
Like shooting fish in a barrel, the golden age of data science consulting, to nowadays where it's taken as a given that we are collecting and working with ever-growing-- in fact, exponentially growing-- amounts of data. And our customers and citizens expect that we're using the evidence at our disposal to best service them. So that's kind of the journey. Lots of technology, lots of nerding out. It's been great.

JUSTIN THENG: Yeah, you've been an entrepreneur as well as a consultant. And it's interesting that you said you've been on this journey for 20 years. I wish the listeners could see this. There's a visual behind you. You've actually got motherboards-- it looks like motherboards-- in the background just up on the beams.

MATT KUPERHOLZ: Yeah, I do a little bit of art in my spare time. I love the creativity merging with technology. Incredible global events like Burning Man make me very excited where you see technology as art, and I think that's one of our crowning achievements is the miniaturization that goes into electronic computing, and I find it quite beautiful.

JUSTIN THENG: Incredible. Matt, are you reading any books or blogs at the moment? How do you stay up to date with such a fast-moving industry?

MATT KUPERHOLZ: Yeah, look, I usually have a couple of books on the go. I have a bunch of websites I read regularly. It's interesting with AI. The field is growing so incredibly quickly. I think I'm at the cusp of-- well, certainly I don't have my arms around all of the detail, but I just feel like I've got my arms around some rough idea of everything that's going on. But with its exponential growth, it's becoming even more challenging to do that.

However, books, I guess pretty different. I'm a big fan of science fiction, so I'm reading a book called "Cryptonomicon" By Neil Stephenson. My girlfriend's been a practicing Buddhist for over 10 years, and I've just started chanting with her, so I'm reading an introductory book called "The Buddha in Your Mirror." and I've been playing a bunch of chess through COVID and lock down, so I'm rereading a classic called "Lasker's Manual for Chess."

JUSTIN THENG: Incredible.

MATT KUPERHOLZ: And also, I read every year "How to Win Friends and Influence People" from Carnegie—

JUSTIN THENG: Dale Carnegie.

MATT KUPERHOLZ: Dale Carnegie.

JUSTIN THENG: Yeah, yeah. Good old Dale.

MATT KUPERHOLZ: It's a good reminder.

JUSTIN THENG: I saw a super chessboard the other day. Somebody posted it in one of the Discord channels that I'm in, and it's four rows of all the pieces. So black has 4 kings. White has 4 kings with 4 queens. And you have to checkmate all 4. That'd be incredible to play.

MATT KUPERHOLZ: Wow. Yeah, there's actually been this movement of chess computing getting so strong that instead you rearrange the pieces or try novel arrangements of boards to mix things up a bit.
JUSTIN THENG: Now that's actually quite an unintentional but quite a good analogy for what it's like to be in marketing at the moment, or even CX for that matter. Anywhere where you're touching customer data there are so many moving pieces, and the competition always seems to be talking about the best moves that they've got. And but in reality, when I speak to CX leaders and CMOs, the general feeling is that wow. We're really early on in the curve. To me though, it's a really exciting time to be a leader in marketing. What are your thoughts on that, Matt?

MATT KUPERHOLZ: Look, I agree. A theme that you'll see me coming back to quite a few times in this chat, Justin, is that of the exponential times we live in, which is not my idea. It comes from Singularity University, and Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis, two futurists that run it. And just quickly, the background to that is acknowledging that computing power is growing exponentially. We know that with Moore's law. But also that many other things, the storage of data, the communications, AI, a whole bunch of technologies are actually exponential in terms of their performance per dollar.

And their third point is that all of these exponential technologies support and reinforce each other. So when you're able to interact with the real world through IoT which is exponential, and automation which is exponential, and gather exponential amounts of data and crunch it using exponential computing power, and then find the hidden patterns with exponential AI, and then service individuals through a combination of all these technologies, it very quickly means the ability to market, or more importantly, relate, with individuals automatically in a cluster of one that understands their needs, aims, wants, and desires, is incredibly powerful.

And it actually brings that kind of win-win situation. With exponential technology you don't have to be robbing Peter to pay Paul, but rather you can actually have happier customers and a more profitable company. And I think that's the trend that we're on. Although when you sort through all the hype, I would propose, especially in Australia, that marketers are underutilizing the technology at their disposal to really take advantage of what is possible in a data driven world with regard to servicing customers.

JUSTIN THENG: And Matt, with so much exponential opportunity, why do you think it is that marketers are underutilizing the technology at their disposal?
MATT KUPERHOLZ: So again, Justin, it's really complex to sort through all the hype. The skills of doing this are in high demand. It's usually not a single technology out of the box that will gather all of the data, but rather an experienced data science led approach that says, in your organization you have latent assets in your data. Those assets are your operational data sets about the customers or the market that you're facing into, the customers that you have, the customers that you've lost, every marketing campaign you've run, every physical point of presence or virtual point of presence, every product you've sold, every price you've changed, every product your competitors sold, and marketed, and discounted in the process they've offered.

And then you've got geospatial and temporal overlays as well as the opportunity to enrich with social data and external data. We're talking about a very complex environment. The most successful marketing analytics campaign I've ever run, which was still many, many years ago, has not been bettered in terms of the response and the value delivered was for a 200-year-old North American bank. It was the most successful campaign they'd ever run.

We used AI to consider 17,000 metrics for each of their 10 million customers. So, to actually find the right offer for the right customer, we were simultaneously considering 17,000 different things about them, which is an incredibly high dimensional data set. And it's challenging to find the signal in the noise in such a large number of dimensions, but my personal belief evidenced through years of practice is that generally the more data the better. The more I know about you and are able to compare what I know about you with someone else, the better.

Which is why also in a digital world, the ability to experiment and test many, many different permutations and combinations on subsets of our customer base and learn from what succeeds with different customers and double down, essentially A/B testing across the whole alphabet, is another way to generate and work with data and technology, but something that's also relatively nascent in most companies marketing operations.

JUSTIN THENG: With 17,000 data points I think it was that you said, how does a human trust that the outcomes, the decisions that are being made by the AI, are appropriate, that maybe the model that was used is appropriate? How do you go about that?

MATT KUPERHOLZ: So, let's not talk yet about my latest obsession being responsible use of AI, which is appropriately governed, ethically sound, and the performance is unbiased, fair, transparent, explainable, robust, and secure. Let's put that to one side. Imagine I have some black box, and in this case, it's an AI that has built a model looking at the interrelationship between 17,000 variables, and we're trying to predict an outcome, which is your response to a certain campaign through a certain channel.

A very old trick, and not just used with AI, is that idea of withhold testing and cross-validation. Which is if I randomly choose for my 10 million customers, 1 million customers that the model is not allowed to see when it learns. So let's say in this case, I learned from 9 million customers. And in the remaining 1 million customers, I have some known outcomes, campaigns they responded to positively or didn't respond to.
I then disguised that from the model, rewind carefully in time to what those customers looked like before that campaign, passed it across the model, see what the model thinks, and compare it to the known outcome. So, you can always use historical data, in a way, to test and validate the models you've trained on, as long as you're very careful and very scientific about avoiding something called information leakage. But essentially, to sum it up, you've got data where you know the outcome. You use that to test your model.

JUSTIN THENG: That's obviously more than just technology. That's a thinking process. How do you go about leading others, Matt, to think in this way? I mean, there is a balance, I believe, between this behavioral science gut instinct, knowing how people tick, knowing what to look for and what questions to ask. And then, like you said, the huge data sets. Now how do you go about leading a team, for example, your own, to thinking this way or thinking through a challenge?

MATT KUPERHOLZ: It's not just our team. We actually have a service now that most of our clients have analytic teams, which is uplifting their analytics maturity as well. And all of this is very technology independent, Justin. It's not about a particular approach, or piece of kit, or even data set, or industry or problem domain. The answer is, you have a standard yet flexible process, an analytics process, and we use one that's actually over 20 years old.

But whichever one you use; you'll find that the good ones all have the following in common. They don't start with an analytical problem, or a data problem, or a technology problem. They start with a very clearly defined business or societal problem. We need to know-- and you mentioned it in your question-- we need to be very clear on what the question is we're actually seeking an answer for. And then we need to be equally clear at the tail end of this whole process, and what are you going to do with the insight.
I often say, OK, so your question is, I have a problem with customer churn. I would like to know which customers are likely to leave me next. And I say, well, OK. Here is a magic wand, and this magic wand represents everything in the middle of that process. Finding the data, engineering the data, running the models, running the predictions, tuning the models, et cetera. This magic wand is now predicting with 100 percent accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity exactly which customer is going to leave you next month.
How do you bank that money, Justin? What do you do next? Then you have to realize that your question was different. Which customers am I able to save with the offers at my disposal at the right investment in terms of their potential lifetime value if saved? My question is not about who churns. My question is about profit maximization through savability. So, you realize that when I put it to you that the analytics is not the hardest part, that I will give you-- if I give you this magic wand, you still are miles away from banking the money.

You've got cultural changes. You've got marketing execution challenges. You've got possibly legal, ethical, or moral challenges. You've got staff challenges. You've got all kinds of different things that mean it's much greater than simply analytics. But nevertheless, the answer to the question is, this whole thing starts with a process of getting the question right and at the tail end knowing what you're going to do with the answer. And in the middle, there's a very structured way of thinking about taking data on a journey from the operational systems to an analytic data map, choosing the right technique, applying that technique, rigorously testing it, for example, through the cross-validation I described earlier, and then deploying and executing.

JUSTIN THENG: In your experience, what is the level of-- I want to say data capability-- of the marketing people that you talk to? What level do you think that they're at? Because I know that from a more customer analytics background or data analytics background, the leaders tend to lean more into that. But you mentioned a lot of soft skills. What do you see out there in your conversations?

MATT KUPERHOLZ: So Justin, I'm a pretty harsh judge.


MATT KUPERHOLZ: I don't score many companies in the world, or governments, as making full use of the incredible value of the data at their disposal because, in fact, the value from data is unbounded. The questions you can answer when you join it together and find patterns in the right way are theoretically unbounded, and practically levels of value that are very rarely attained. The best examples of attaining them are your AI first entities. Your Googles, your Facebooks, et cetera, that are built on a data and a data mining model.

Everyone else, in my opinion, is falling short. And that includes almost every Australian company that I look at them and I say, hey, whether you are digging stuff out of the ground, putting stuff on the shelf, or moving stuff from a to b, I can find you incredible efficiency simply by looking at this great asset of your data. So, I don't score anyone as doing anywhere near their full potential. Now within that harsh criticism, I must say that marketers are even further south of there. But that's OK because it is early days. It is comparatively early days.

But on the other side of the coin, your customers are very soon going to be overwhelmingly represented by digital natives and those that have grown up expecting treatment at an individual level-- relevant treatment at an individual level. I mean, I buy something online, and then I find from the cookies with that thing I keep seeing ads for the same thing for weeks afterwards. And I'm like, what a fail is that. I've just bought that set of, in this case, electric drums for my daughter. Why are you showing me ads for electric drums? You know, that's just a Mickey Mouse example of a technology getting it completely wrong.

JUSTIN THENG: Yeah, absolutely. There's an anecdote that one of our customers shares of his. And I won't say the brand because I don't want this to become a product demo. But his wife walked into his own stores, bought an iPhone, and left the store, and was being retargeted with iPhone ads. Exactly what you just described with the electric drums, and she actually complained to him and said, I just bought an iPhone. Why are you spamming me with-- and there is a role for that real time piece there. What's something in the last 12 months, Matt, that you think might help our listeners?

Now I want you to be completely honest because I'm going to be the black sheep here first. I don't like the phrase marketing as a standalone function, quite frankly. I have always seen marketing and sales as part of the revenue generation pathway, and now customer service is also a part of that because we're looking at customer lifetime value, or average order value, cut size, that kind of thing. So, when it comes to data-- and I'll let you answer the question in a second-- but when it comes to data, I think you've touched on it a couple of times now, it's a bit overwhelming.

And I feel like marketers, one, don't have access to the real tools that others might, like in predictive data analytics fields for example. And two, I think there's this kind of, I want to say, the legacy version of marketing, which is very gut feel, very what makes people tick anecdotes, that kind of thing. And three, the upcoming generation of marketeers, if I could call them that, who are data hungry, who are consumers themselves, they don't have as much of a feel for what makes people tick.

And we saw that during COVID. When all the data became difficult to use, more and more difficult to use, and things stop working. Funnel stopped working. Facebook stopped working. Google Ads stopped working. What do you do next? So, there's that skill gap there. So, what's something in the last 12 months that you think might help our spread of listeners?

MATT KUPERHOLZ: Yeah, I'm going to give you a couple of observations I've made because I think they are ultimately exciting and heading in the right direction. The first point is that end to end view not just of your customer, but of your position in market and your entire relationship not being about revenue maximization from marketing but being profit maximization across the whole value chain. From acquisition through to retention, it's actually about a present value of the lifetime profit, not the revenue, right? Because it's a tradeoff.

And you may actually realize that you have a different relationship with the household, not just the individual, and that you should consider the individual in their business context as well as in their personal context. So, all of these are-- it's important to look wider than that, than just marketing. But instead, the whole, as you said, get the provisioning right in the first place to stop complaints in customer service.
Build a relationship where they trust you and they want to interact with you, and then your marketing is a completely different proposition. In fact, it might be pulled and pushed in a different way. So that's one idea, and I've seen that greater sort of horizontal integration. I've seen a bunch of interesting AI first contact strategies where you start to build a relationship with an always on customer service AI agent that's starting to blur the lines between marketing service and just relationship building.

I've seen some really interesting advancements in what we call privacy enhancing technologies, which means if you're organization A, and there's organization B, let's say it's a Telco and a bank, and you would both benefit from sharing data about your mutual customers, and in fact your customers would benefit as well, but there are privacy constraints and other reasons why you can't simply hand over your customer data to each other, privacy enhancing technologies, which are relatively new, allow you to get the benefits of sharing that data without actually sharing it through things like home and morphic encryption and zero based proof.

So that's an exciting development because you remember my earlier remarks about the more data the better, even when you share it between organizations, especially with the right ethics and permission from your customers, that's even better. And the final advancement, which I think is hopefully a trend that will continue and will solve many of the challenges you were talking about, Justin, which is we've seen marketing being taken more seriously as we've seen CMO's join the boardroom table. What today's companies are going to massively benefit from is CDOs and CAOs, chief analytic officers and chief data officers, being elevated to that executive level and considered part of the most senior contribution to a company's ongoing livelihood.

When you take data seriously enough to elevate it to the board level, guess what? It's going to permeate through marketing, through service, through operations, through employee wellness and safety. By recognizing its relevance and putting it up at that senior executive level-- obviously I'm biased making this observation-- but you'll see a few major Australian companies going in this direction already, we will start to see the benefits more fulsomely captured.

JUSTIN THENG: And who owns the narrative, Matt? If a CDO or CAO gets elevated to the board level, who owns the narrative of what the data is saying?

MATT KUPERHOLZ: Well, they must be in tune with the needs of their fellow board members, right? So, what are the questions that the chief strategy officer needs to answer to pull the company in the direction of its strategy and purpose? What are the questions that the chief marketing officer needs answers for? What are the questions that the chief financial officer or the chief operating officer need answers for? The chief data and analytics officer is going to furnish them with answers to those questions, and there's only four types of questions we ask in the world, and in fact, in analytics, Justin, which is broadly, what has happened.

Help me accurately report on the past. What is happening? Help me segment, classify, and understand the present. What will happen? Help me forecast the future. And what should we do about it? Help me optimize between choices of scarce resources. And any and every business and societal question can be put in one or more of those four buckets. And any amazing analyst can answer the question with data.

JUSTIN THENG: Do you know what? In that short phrase, and I know you probably saved that silver bullet until last, that answers a ton of questions. If a marketer or-- well, let's say if anyone who's looking at what's best for the customer from a lens of profitability as well as customer satisfaction, those two together, if they were to just ask these four questions. What happened? What has happened? What is happening? What's going to happen? And how can I do something about it? That's brilliant. Matt, it's not-- sorry. Were you going to say something?

MATT KUPERHOLZ: No, no. Just to agree and to reinforce that all of those questions can have hard, and reliable, and verifiable answers when the right analytic technique or techniques are applied to data that's engineered in the right way.
JUSTIN THENG: Brilliant. And that's not necessarily the head of marketing's job, but the job of the head of marketing is to ask the right questions, know where to find the answers, and know how to get the answers.

And what to do with them. Ask questions that are actionable with that magic wand. Pretend you've got the magic wand, and now show me how you're going to bank the dollars.

JUSTIN THENG: And let go of all the vanity metrics. All the stuff that doesn't matter.


JUSTIN THENG: Now it's not every day that I get to talk to one of Australia's top 100 knowledge workers and the global top 100 innovators, so I have to ask your views on the future as we start to wrap up. Are there any industries or developments, big picture-- you even mentioned societal questions earlier. I'm very interested in that. Are there any developments that are inspiring you about the future?

MATT KUPERHOLZ: Yeah, absolutely. These exponential technologies when pointed in the right area, and I fundamentally believe humans are good, mean that we start generating even more value from even scarcer resources. So, look at the fact that we knocked out a vaccine in under a year. Look at the fact that AlphaGo, that was originally a Go playing computer using a new form of generative adversarial networks, has now solved protein folding. So just quickly, protein folding, a notoriously difficult NP complete problem.

And if you start to solve it using AI, that means you are going to make incredible leaps forward in drug discovery and personalized medicine. So, we're going to do away with horrible things like cancer. The leaps forward we're making in environmental sciences and renewable energy now just make good commercial sense, not just good moral sense. I'm incredibly excited about those technologies and what they offer the world. AI in general, I think, is one of our crowning achievements as a society if we step up to the plate and acknowledge that it brings with it a whole new risk profile which we need to address responsibly as well. But on the whole, I think it's a very bright future for us.

JUSTIN THENG: Brilliant, and I couldn't agree with you more. And what I love about our chat today, Matt-- and thank you for sharing your insights-- what I love is that we went very technical, but at the end of the day, technical in terms of process. Or at least for some of our listeners who maybe aren't data scientist, probably were like, wow. How do I achieve all of this and how do I get my head around all of this? But I mean, as you summarized it earlier, the four steps, the four questions, I think summed it up perfectly.

But it is true that the same advances that we're seeing in our technology for marketing is actually an overflow of the advances that we're seeing more broadly. And you're right, AI is a crowning achievement. It brings with it a whole bunch of questions that we need to answer at a societal level, and we need to answer at an organizational level. We also need to answer it at a personal level. What information am I willing to give over? So that's a very fascinating topic, and probably a podcast all of its own.
MATT KUPERHOLZ: Sure. Well, I've spent the last couple of years focused on that, so I'm happy to pick that up another time, Justin.

JUSTIN THENG: Great. Thanks for joining us today. Guys, thank you for listening and joining us on Reimagine Marketing. This has been Justin Theng. I've been joined with Matt Kuperholz, and I look forward to seeing you next time.

Episode 1

Episode 1, Season 2: Marketing Planning: An Objective Without a Plan is Just a Dream


SPEAKER 1: Hi there, and welcome to the second season of The Reimagine Marketing Podcast. My name is Steven Hofmans, and I will be your host for this episode. In today's sessions, we'll talk about marketing planning. We will try to answer questions, like can marketing planning and agility go hand in hand? What do you do when your marketing plan ends up in bad results.
And to find an answer to these difficult questions, I have invited the lovely Sandy Kirchhoff. Sandy holds a master of science in marketing and has held different marketing positions at Office Depot, from retention manager to head of campaigns and, today, senior manager of commercial marketing. She's always planning for an awesome customer experience and a good return on marketing investment, making her the perfect sparring partner for today's topic. Welcome to the podcast, Sandy.

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Thank you, Steven. Glad to be here.

STEVEN HOFMANS: Oh, happy to have you here. So let's start with my favorite part of the show, which is your marketing quotes. Every time I invite a guest, I ask them about their quotes. So I'm very curious, what is the quote that you prepared for your audience today.

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Well, it's not directly related to marketing, but it is related to what we're going to be talking about today, marketing planning. So my favorite quote-- probably my favorite quote life is from Benjamin Franklin. It's "by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail".

STEVEN HOFMANS: Wow. That's actually a good one for this session.

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: It is, isn't it?

STEVEN HOFMANS: If you don't plan, you don't know where you're going to. Oh, I love it. Thank you. Very surprising. Oh, it's great. I'm very excited to have you as a guest today. I'm really excited also about the topic marketing planning. It's not always a very fancy topic or sometimes the audience is looking at the topic of, OK, should we do marketing planning? Yes or no.
So really excited to have you here and also have you from your experience and your background from Office Depot. So just to allow the audience to get to know you, can you explain a bit your journey at Office Depot, where you started, and how you became the commercial marketing director at Office Depot.

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Sure, Steven. No problem. Oh, gosh. I've been with Office Depot-- well, Office Depot Europe for about 10 years now. I started as a data quality executive that was looking after making sure all the different marketing teams were entering proper data into our campaign planning tool. And that wasn't an easy one because we were scattered across different locations, all the marketing teams were separated.
Some were looking after online, some were looking after offline. So it was just kind of making sure everybody's working in the right way in the same tool. And I think that really helped me in the role that I am today. And I think that's also why marketing planning is so close to my heart because I have been doing that since the beginning.
And I've kind of gone onto a journey over the last couple of years of just consolidating across Europe. So as part of Office Depot's history, we've been looking at creating more synergies and efficiencies by consolidating countries, consolidating channels. And I've always been part of that process and making sure everything's set up correctly and bringing all the different marketing teams together. And just having been there for the last 10 years and helping shape the Office Depot that it is today or the Viking that it is today, which is actually our e-commerce brand that we operate under in Europe, that's kind of brought me to my role today.
And I think my planning and being a little bit of a nerd when it comes to that has kind of helped me in my role today.


STEVEN HOFMANS: What I like is that you start at the foundation, right? It's all about it starts with data, having good quality data, gaining insight from that data. And then you can steer, I assume, your marketing plan. One of the things that I find very interesting is you talked about aligning different countries. You talked about making sure that we are all going in the same direction.
Having these diverse set of cultures, what are the challenges or what is the advice that you can give? How do you align the marketing organizations with those different backgrounds or different cultures and make sure that they still have their own local touch?

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: I think you just got to do it somehow. I mean, it's really important to be aware and to be conscious about the different cultures that are in the different countries, so really understanding the mindset that particular cultures have and some don't have. So I think with me being a German, I'm very aware of the fact that I can be very direct, I don't like to smooth things over.
But I know that's not appreciated in all the different countries. If it comes to more English-speaking countries, it's much more about being polite. So a little bit having more stereotypes in your head, but I think being open is probably the most important one. Being open to understanding that things are different at different countries and just, together, trying to manage through that. And I think it's about gaining the trust of everybody.
So it's not about forcing something from one culture from one country into another one but really doing it together as a team and by including everyone as well. So I think when we started doing this, it's about involving all the different countries from when we used to be separate by country, and then just looking at what's the best way forward and trying to get people to understand the benefits because it is more efficient to consolidate across the countries.
And I think, let's say, the more natural ones-- so for example, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are much more natural to consolidate rather than trying to combine the German or the Dutch market. So I think just by taking it step by step but taking the learnings from that, that will help in coming to a European approach. But also never forget countries are different, customers are different in the different countries. So we have a lot of 80-20 rules in place, but probably the same applies here as well.
So on average, we can probably consolidate and combine 80% of all our activities, and then we can specialize for the 20% that's needed.

STEVEN HOFMANS: Yeah, it makes sense. I think also that the way you explained it is everybody needs to-- everybody has his own culture, but also the customer has his own culture. I remember you talking about having like-- is the French customer, is it the same customer as the German customer? Is it the same customer as the Dutch customer? Or do they all shop differently?

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: At least what we can see in our customer base is they're all kind of different. So we can see French customers, for example, they have a much higher affinity for free gifts and for things being more colorful when it comes to free gifts. So there, if we choose-- for a backpack, for example, we'll typically go for a colored one. Whereas in Germany, a black backpack would be working much better.
But we can also see the decision makers are quite different. So again, a typical situation that we have is the secretary will be placing the order in Germany, whereas in the UK it's much more the head of the business or one of the managers that will be placing orders. Also, the genders can differ quite a lot across the countries. The Dutch market, for example, is a very gender-neutral market where we have equal share.
So the customer is different in the way the customer likes to place orders, the way the customer likes to be incentivized. All of that needs to be taken into account into a marketing plan. And we'll make the adjustments and the adaptions that's needed across the different markets.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So, actually, when you look at the planning perspective, you have indeed a fixed amount 80-20, but actually what I'm hearing now is that that 20% can go very specific because every market has its very specific needs, you need to adapt your promotion strategy to every market. So probably customer journey, also, you have a very specific customer journey strategy per country as well as they shop differently in the different countries.

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Yeah. So we'll standardize where we can. For example, we might be standardizing certain email campaigns, certain printed media, but then we push it out differently to the different segments depending on the market. So even though, within a channel, we can adapt to that specific country or to that specific customer, it doesn't mean the material cannot always be standardized. Or we might decide to do a promotion on paper, but what paper we promote might then, again, be different per country.
So it can go down to a very detailed level, but from a high level point of view we will standardize and then adapt. But it's true, so it can be in the channels, it can be in our promotions. So there's a lot of different angles that you can look at it from.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So every country can still have a number of freedom in how they implement their promotion budget or the promotion assets. Sometimes when I discuss with companies I hear that rigidity goes hand-in-hand with planning, while I think there should be room for agility. And I think, with COVID-- So we are in December 2019, your plan and budgets are ready. And then you kick off the first quarter and everything works fine, seems promising because you built that whole nice marketing plan based on your 80-20% rule.
You have a local strategy. But then, at some point, COVID kicks in. And you need to or you need not-- I don't know-- to adapt your whole marketing plan. How do you handle such a situation?

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: I think for us, we handled it very well. And I think this is where people sometimes get the wrong thought in their head. Just because we plan doesn't mean things are set in stone. And I think that's one of the first things that I'm hoping I can eliminate through the session today, is to get that out of people's mindset, is that planning doesn't mean you can't change anything. So what we'll do is, yes, we'll create a 12-month plan.
We'll create that ahead of time. And obviously, COVID was something nobody had foreseen or at the speed that it came up. But if it's not called COVID, it was called something else. It just might have been smaller or slower, but something will always come along that will make you adapt your plan. So we've handled it within our regular process which, again, brings back that 80-20 rule.
So we have a 80% fixed campaign plan or marketing plan where we leave 20% room for adjustment. But even when we talk about that 80% plan, it's quite high-level. And we'll go through refinement sessions throughout the year. So, even though I have a 12-month plan, I'll revise it and refine it every quarter to make it more specific. I'll do that again on a monthly basis.
And then I'll even break it down onto a weekly basis. And by going through those different refinement sessions, I'm much closer to the campaign goal. I have dates, and I can adapt either my target group, my offering, my promotion, whatever it is that needs to be altered for that specific period of time. So even though I have an 80% fixed plan, there's still a lot of room for us to change. And we've handled COVID that same way.
We've gone through those refinement sessions. We've just done them slightly more frequently or give a little bit more room for ad hoc than we would have previously done. But in general, our standard campaign planning cycle that we've implemented a couple of years ago-- and that's really been kind of trial and error proof-- we've been able to use during this time. And that's given us a tremendous amount of security.
So as much as I run or, within my department, have a marketing planning team that does all of that, that creates this huge marketing plans for the next 12 months, I think we're very agile and very flexible in the way that we're running our activities because we always leave room for doing this.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So the impact of COVID is more about the fact that, OK, the plan, you put in more agility and more flexibility in this case but you also increased the frequency of planning reviews, maybe, to adapt to the ever changing market. Because that's what I understand, is that the market is changing faster. So the frequency goes with it. The faster the market is changing, the more frequency you'll have reviews of your planning session in comparison to before COVID. Is that correct?

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Yeah, absolutely. And I'm sure, as for the majority of retailers, we could really see product life cycles changing as well. So the demand in certain assortments that have been there before have decreased. At the same time, demand has come up for assortment that wasn't as big before or as popular or new assortments. For example, with those rapid tests that you can do at home, that's something that didn't exist before. How do you market that and make that available to your customers?
But I think for us, the most important thing as we have been able to rely on our existing processes that we have implemented over the last years as having planning a fundamental part of our business.

STEVEN HOFMANS: I found very interesting the fact-- and this is, I think, a reality that many retailers had during that COVID period. You said some demand was higher, and then the demand got lower for other products. So how do you handle that from a marketing perspective? Do you start promoting certain products that nobody wants anymore? How do you-- because you have that stock, so I'm very--

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Yeah, obviously, I don't think anybody ever expected we were going to have a worldwide crisis and running out of toilet paper


STEVEN HOFMANS: Yeah, that's true. Nobody wants to starve without toilet paper.



STEVEN HOFMANS: That's funny. No, good. Interesting. Next, so you have the planning aspect. And then what comes in with planning is also being able to track marketing activities, being able to track in what state your campaigns are. How did people react to the fact that you could see, OK, we are in this planning stage, you need to spend this amount of time on campaign? We're going to track where you are on your marketing plan and we're going to evaluate.
How did you succeed in that specific change? I don't think it's something that you can do over a day. But how did that work? How did you go to that tracking perspective and being able to allow an evaluation of the things you're Doing?

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: When it comes to measuring our campaign success or our marketing success, overall, there's a lot of different things that we would be looking at. So whereas, historically, we've been much more focused on looking at product performance or looking at the performance within individual channels, as part of the transformation that we've been undergoing at Office Depot Europe to transform into an omnichannel business, which very much means breaking down the silos of looking at channels individually but looking at the customer and what the customer needs and, to a certain degree, not looking at the channels anymore. And I think by doing that as well during the last year, that has helped us understand the customer better and also what works and what doesn't work. Because it doesn't make any sense for us to measure, for example, catalog performance when we don't know if our catalogs are reaching our customers anymore because we're not sure if they're at home or if they're still going into the office because we're still sending most of our material into the offices. So it's really looking at it from a customer point of view and measuring the customer, not the channel, and then bench-marking ourselves against competition or against what the market is doing.

I don't think looking at traditional office supplies-- obviously, during COVID, they've been decreasing. So it's not only that they're decreasing with ourselves, but they're decreasing overall. So it's how do we benchmark against what's happening in the market, but what other categories can come in to compensate for this? Which is then perfectly fine because, if we can compensate our sales through new categories or through increasing things like disinfectants, toilet paper-- I think that's going to be one of my favorite examples out of COVID times, is the amount of toilet paper we sold.
No, but you're going to have to start counterbalancing your product sales by shifting your focus into categories that weren't as high on your radar as previously. And then, in terms of your campaigning or your channels, it's going to be different. We've had a tremendous amount of increase, obviously, on our website; customers coming more to our website than potentially calling in to our call centers, which has also been still quite popular in some of the countries. And it's understanding that shift that customers are going through, and then trying to make sense of it, and also accepting it, that this is the way that things are going and times are changing.
But by not looking at an isolated channel anymore, so potentially looking at certain call center KPIs, they just might not be relevant anymore. So as we've gone through this change and the customer changing and the market changing, it was really important for us to also change our KPIs and the way that we measure because some of the more traditional KPIs are just not as applicable anymore as they've been before. We've been testing quite a bit to see what works, what doesn't work.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So what I find very interesting here is that people behave like they're KPIs. I understand. So you went from maybe a less customer-centric organization if you look at KPIs because its channel performs, a lot of that amount of people that are coming on the website, amount of email opens. But if you start evaluating people in that way, I understand that what you're saying is then people start not thinking about the customer but thinking about the performance of their channels.
And you guys made a total shift to saying, OK, those channel performance, it's a negative. It's interesting to know, but what we actually want is we want to put the customer at the center of our organization and start working with customer-centric KPIs. Is that correct?


STEVEN HOFMANS: Yes. So, from my perspective and from the audience perspective, what are good examples of customer-centric KPIs that you would track to allow to understand how good the customer is in relationship to Office Depot?

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Well, two fundamental things for us that we're looking at is customer journey analytics; how many touch points, how is the customer interacted with before they place an order with us. Because that really gives us a good understanding of the combination of channels or touch points that are needed to get that conversion, the same as with attribution modeling. So really, how much of the final sale can we then attribute to those different touch points?
But then it's really looking at what percentage of customers are active and actively coming back to us. How many multi-buyers can we generate? How many of the new customers that we gain during this COVID time are staying loyal customers with us? Have we been able to increase the share of wallet of specific customers?
Breaking it down to the different customer segments or not looking at the entire customer base, but looking at the smaller customers or the larger customers. Do they behave differently? Because it's quite easy-- and I think this is the trap that a lot of people will fall into, especially on a more senior level, is they tend to look at the sales. How much sales do we generate? But sales is a product of different things coming together.
How frequently does your customer come? How high is the order value of that customer? That's what makes your sales. And those are the KPIs you should be a lot more focused on than just saying 'I want to grow my sales' or 'I want to do more'.

STEVEN HOFMANS: That makes sense. How do you measure brand awareness, for example, if you run brand awareness campaigns because you want to be top of mind. And you want to say, OK, give me two office suppliers. The first one should be Viking or Office Depot.

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Of course, always.

STEVEN HOFMANS: From a marketing perspective, you need to invest but I understand that it potentially doesn't immediately generate a sale. So you need share of wallet. Very important, I understand. Amount of customer journey touch points, attribution modeling is very attractive. So those are techniques you would recommend to the audience to use to look at, really, from a customer journey perspective.


STEVEN HOFMANS: I have another important questions there that I sometimes across. So the attribution modeling, it helps you-- which team helped to consolidate the sale or which channel or campaign contributed to a specific conversion. The question I often get is, how do you make the link to, OK, we have the attribution modeling, do you then use those results to adapt your marketing budgets in the different channels for each country? Because I can imagine that every attribution model in every country could be different.
Or how do you work with the results of your attribution modeling and journey KPIs? How does that get fed back into the marketing planning system?

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Oh, I was already afraid you were going to ask me a very analytical question.


SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Or you're going to get me into trouble with my data science guys on how they built the attribution model. No, but indeed. So we do look at attributed sales across the different countries, across the different channels, and how that shifts on a month-by-month basis. And then we will adjust our budgets accordingly. So we do very actively work with this.
So, again, we have a process in place of reviewing this on a regular basis and then looking at do we invest or not invest into specific channels. So we will adapt our budgets based on this, yes. And the same goes with our journey analytics. But it's been a process of getting to that point. It's not something that just happens from one day to another.
Everybody has to learn to work with the data differently because there's-- in the first instance, it seems like there's winners and losers because some channels will get more sales attributed, other channels will get less sales attributed. So there's a degree of change management that needs to go with this.

STEVEN HOFMANS: No, makes sense. But you talk about your 80-20 rule, and we've talked about it in the beginning about you set your marketing plan and your campaign planning 80-20. Then we talked about adapting agility, flexibility in your planning. It's also 80-20. So you have your marketing plan set 20. But then again, at the budget level, you're saying, again, every evaluation round or every time you sit together, you also there, I assume then that your budget is partly fixed but, based on the outputs of the attribution models, you start shifting your budget to get better conversion and results.

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, again, that's one of the major benefits that we have of being a centralized European organization, is we can not only shuffle and move our budgets around across the different channels, but we can also do this across the different countries because there's very few decision makers that come together for all of Europe. So we can really see how markets are shifting, how our sales are shifting across the different channels. Because there's going to be a lot of country-specific impacts, such as seasonality and holiday periods.
And we can-- constantly might be a little bit too much-- but on a regular basis, we can review the numbers. And then we can, together as a group, decide if we want to start shifting some of those budgets across. And that really makes us much stronger as a group. But here, again, the most important thing is I think we do this-- it's a joint decision. So we have the owners of the channels, we have different marketing teams coming together and kind of reviewing this together.

STEVEN HOFMANS: That makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. We talked a bit about evaluation attribution modeling is a way to evaluate your marketing efforts. Whenever you put in measurements in place, people are a bit scared. And then they ask you "we've been doing marketing for five years and we got good results, now you start measuring. What should I do when the results are bad?"
It's a hurdle that people are afraid of to take. They say, "but maybe I don't want to show you that I have bad results. So what do you do as a marketer when you have bad results, right? And how do you communicate that to your manager? And how should an organization look at that?

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Well, it's a culture change. So you need to let your people know that it's OK to fail sometimes or to make mistakes sometimes. So I think, before you start changing those KPIs or also be aware that people might be afraid of, all of a sudden, you start measuring something you haven't done before, you start measuring things differently. Because, ultimately, you're trying to do something better for the company and trying to get better results for the customer.
So if somebody does deliver bad results or not as good as they have been previously, as long as you understand why they've changed or what didn't work and you then optimize and move on from there, there's no reason anybody should be worried about things being measured. Because you can obviously only improve and get better if you know what's gone wrong and if you can start measuring it but then also afterwards measure the success if you've done something right. So I don't think anybody ever needs to be afraid of putting those measurements in place.
But it's very much the responsibility, I think, of all the different management levels to let people it's OK for things to go wrong sometimes.

STEVEN HOFMANS: When you change that, when you communicate, when you allow people to have bad results, did you see an impact in the organization? Was there more experimentation, more creativity? Or do you see any benefits of having these type of cultures where you foster fail fast, actually, it's almost, right?
SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Yeah, it is. And we can see people are a lot more open, willing to share. But we have been testing quite a lot in all the different campaigns or channels, so we very much have an established test and learn culture. But again, that's taken time to grow. Somebody needs to take the first step and say 'it's OK, and I'm willing to do this.' But it also sometimes takes management to stand in front of the employees and say, you know, I've made a wrong decision or we've done something that wasn't right, but we've learned from it and we've moved on.
So I think if you lead by example as a manager, then your people will start to feel that. But also don't punish people. Don't tell them something's gone wrong or something's bad. But give them that comfort blanket of it's OK sometimes if things don't go as planned. And one will catch on from the other.

STEVEN HOFMANS: It makes sense. It's leading by example. I assume you, as a manager, also sometimes have bad results or take wrong decisions.


SANDY KIRCHHOFF: No, of course. And at least the way I like to manage my team is, or just the way that I am is you can hold me accountable for everything I do. if I've done something wrong or something didn't go as planned, I'll just say it as it is and move on from there. Don't dwell on the past, but look at the future. What can you do because you can't change anything that's happened in the past anyway?

STEVEN HOFMANS: No, that's true. You can learn and build together, I think. Build together on the roads to success. We're coming to the end of this episode. What can you say to organizations that are at the start of implementing marketing planning processes? And what are your best tips and tricks for those people that are starting that marketing planning journey?

SANDY KIRCHHOFF: Start small. Don't try to cover everything at once. Start off with one channel, one market depending on where you're coming from. And really find the best way for yourself of how to organize the different teams, and then start adding on.
Because if you try to do everything at once, it becomes overwhelming and it seems like an impossible task to do. But if you really start small with consolidating two countries, for example, then you'll start to see the natural and right next step. And don't have your mind set on planning means you need to fix things. Always make sure that you have enough head space to say there's flexibility and room to change things.

STEVEN HOFMANS: OK, interesting. So Sandy, I really learned a lot during these sessions about having customer journey KPIs, having your 80-20% rule is something I'm also taking home. And then the last one is don't try to eat the whale at once. Try to drop it in pieces.


STEVEN HOFMANS: Do it piece by piece. Thank you for joining this podcast. It was really fun for me. Thank you for that. And on this bombshell, we'll end this episode. Have a great day, everybody.



Season 1 Transcripts

Episode 10

Episode 10, Season 1: Reflections & Projections: Season One


SPEAKER 1: If consumers are amplifying their digital expectations, it's imperative that brands keep pace. Hello I'm Wilson Raj and welcome to Reimagine Marketing, where we explore how marketing organizations are reinventing themselves in the age of the digital consumer.
Today's episode is reflections and projections season one. This episode marks the end of season one but certainly not the end of the podcasts. Plans for season two are underway. I'm joined by one of my co-hosts, Steven Hoffman. Welcome Steven.

SPEAKER 2: Hi Wilson very excited to be

SPEAKER 1: Here yes. Absolutely, I do remember it was several episodes ago where you and Justin Sang one of our other global co-hosts talked about what this show is all about. And the idea behind it and some of the topics that we want to explore.

SPEAKER 2: Now correct for me it was a very exciting journey. I had the opportunity to learn a lot during those different podcasts. And the difference host you had and I had. And I'm really excited that we can today discuss some key learnings, that we had during our different podcasts.

SPEAKER 1: And absolutely and talk about key insights and unexpected moments you know there were absolutely a lot of them in all of our episodes. So it'll be exciting to just give our listeners a taste so that they can go back and check things out and keep in touch with us.

SPEAKER 2: Yeah, correct, well. So you had quite some podcasts and one of the podcast that struck me the most is the one with the butcher house as a madhouse. I was really impressed that a butcher house is measuring actually the volume of traffic, before their doorstep. And just trying to adapt their marketing strategy based on, for example, the weather, the amount of traffic, that's really impressive. That doesn't sound like your next store butcher shop.

SPEAKER 1: Steven it definitely does not sound like your next door. You are your friendly neighborhood butcher. I'm sure they are friendly. But I think in that episode it was really cool because the whole discussion there with our guests Bernard Ma, who is strategic advisor and now a futurist it was all about immersive tech.
How do you use technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality. How does it powered by AI to really create these immersive experiences. And there were a lot of huge examples that were featured in that episode. IKEA, Dulux, Rolex and so on.
But then this particular one this butcher shop was fantastic, because this is a family business. And they were able to get onto the idea that, what if we knew what is happening outside our shop, along the footpath, around the town, around the neighborhood, maybe we can serve them better.
And that's exactly what happened Steven, where they started putting these sensors out there as you mentioned, to measure foot traffic and volume. They also invested in mobile applications to send alerts to their customers when they were nearby. And then the last we heard was that they were now expanding the types of data they were going to be using.
But I think the beauty of this is that this is a small neighborhood shop. So I think the big takeaway is that you don't have to be a giant brand, to do data analytics and use AI and things like that. The size doesn't matter. You can be a small family concern like this and still use the technology to serve customers.

SPEAKER 2: I think it's also a nice example of the things we talked about in the first episode. And looking at a customer journey, and really not looking at all the ads. OK, how can we better serve our customers from a marketing perspective. But also look at the customer journey itself the process. And how can we use data throughout different interactions and processes and we have with our customers.
And really even as a small business, try to get to our customers delight. And that's what I found really impressive about that podcast marketing is for everybody and data and analytics is for everybody. So that they'll really was for me an unexpected learning.

SPEAKER 1: And that's a great summation Steven of that episode.

SPEAKER 2: So another thing I found really interesting was one of the quotes and please explain to our audience what the quote was about. This is a fact that CRM. Everybody looks at it as a technology. Right a way to go forward and improve internal processes. But it's actually a strategy how should our audience interpreter that?

SPEAKER 1: Yeah that quote came from one of the episodes called digitizing southern hospitality. Where we had the president of Twiddy & Company, which is another family business in real estate vacation rentals in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And he said it this way exactly is what he said he said CRM for us is not a technology. It's a strategy.
And therefore being a strategy, what they think about is, again, how do they serve their clients, their business partners, the community. First and foremost putting that in the center and then layering the technology on that. One of the interesting things Steven, is that the way they made CRM into a strategy was actually to have an all hands meeting. With their data scientist, with their analysts, with marketing people.
Clark said that this meeting was open to anyone in the company that could come in once a week. Look at the data, ask questions, and then be able to take actions from that. Whether it's process improvements or switch their collateral or whatever that is. So I thought that was a great example of how you make CRM firstly a strategy for us. And then allow the technologies to support you.

SPEAKER 2: I think it's also a nice example of the fact that CRM should be part of a special club within the organization. It should be about collaboration and involving really the whole company in that same strategy. Otherwise you won't take the full potential of your CRM strategy. If it's not approved by everybody known. So I like really the example that he says the meetings are open to everybody and everybody can contribute and think with us to reach our goal or universal goal. So I really like that.

SPEAKER 1: Yeah, Steven. That goes back to your earlier point. When that data is for everyone, not just for the customer for their benefit is for the internal collaboration as well. Now speaking of quotes, now you had a couple of interesting guests. As well that had certainly interesting quotes.
And I would never think of this in terms of AI or data analytics should be like the paparazzi. You could choose when you could turn it on or off. That was really something. That can you speak to that in a context of that particular quote and the idea behind that.

SPEAKER 2: I think was a quote by Mika and I really, liked it because it made me think in a different way about how data is being collected and used. Today you don't have really a choice when do you want to share your data.
Do you want to share your data and do you want to get for example personalized offers. Do you want to get newsletters et cetera. Every time you go on a website your data is being collected. And what Mika is actually referring to with a record is that, should we as citizens as consumers be entitled to more ownership of our data.
Today your data is owned by the telco provider. It's owned by the retailer they have your shopping card data. And actually if you start thinking about it. Why don't we get the opportunity to centralize our old data, all our data and being able to share it with who we want to share.
And I think if you imagine that you go to a new Supermarket and you can give five years of your historic transaction data, to get a personal treatment I think that should be allowed or that I mean, that should contribute to the general perspective of having better consumer and customer relationships.
So it really struck me for me that data should be owned also by the person itself or maybe not only by all the companies. What is your perspective on that Wilson? For me I had two European guests. And it was very interesting about you coming from the US what is your perspective on that?

SPEAKER 1: I think we're definitely drafting in that direction Steven. Clearly what's happening with Google the whole not wanting to support third party cookies, at the very recent announcement by Apple to basically get rid of ad tracking on apps, in their app store all this is really to your point Steven.
Pointing to a little bit more control on the consumer end for the benefit. And then therefore making the brands work a little bit harder and smarter and more transparently, to gain not just gain the trust but then to be able to then engage on the consumer's terms.

SPEAKER 2: It makes sense I think first party data is going to be one of the most important data pieces to act on. So that's why I think it could be important that you can decide with my first party data my 60 customer profile. Who do I want to share with. It could be an interesting take for one of maybe of the next sessions will have on one of the further episodes.

SPEAKER 1: Absolutely Steven and also I think in your podcast I was just a very interesting discussion with you and your guests around the balance of processes. Internal facing processes around data governance and stewardship and journeys. And then what does that external look like. I think there's some tension there. There are some really interesting points there Steven.

SPEAKER 2: Yeah one of the remarks of Rubin was that I'm explaining the target story. Everybody is familiar with the target story and the dad and his pregnant daughter. If not, then please go listen to the episode. And he said to avoid these type of things that call that we first focus on internal processes, like for example the smart scale where they say. Yeah we are scanning automatically our fruits. So that it's being added to the cash register and this allows people at the cash register and the salesperson to talk to the customer and provide a better customer experience.
So he said which I first focus on internal processes and then go to external processes. But on the other hand, my personal opinion is, shouldn't you be experimenting from a marketing perspective. The only way you would learn what works for your audience is to put experiments out there see how people react. Look how sensitive it is, and do some analysis and then scale it. What works scale it to your bigger audience.
So start small experiment and then grow from there. I don't think you should first do all your internal processes. And that's not what we're even meant by the way. But I think there should be a balance between both. And there are I think process efficiencies from a customer experience point of view. That you can gain but you shouldn't be waiting to also use that same method to provide better customer experience for your customer outside. Because I think your competition might be trying at the same time and you could lose competitive edge.

SPEAKER 1: Yeah I think that's definitely, is going to be a hard balance. And think to your point Steven talking about experimentation. And we know from a marketing perspective it's not just simple A/B testing. You can do multivariate, you could do all continuous testing, the right very dynamic over a range of items, whether it's offers or content and timing, et cetera. And then asking to what works best. But at the same time you're right if you're constantly experimenting but not having a point of view, then you might miss some big targets there.

SPEAKER 2: And it shouldn't always be like with a commercial objective I like the example of the Black Dog Institute. Where they are their Black Dog Institute is an organization that takes care about mental health and they were adapting the text on their website to better serve actually the people that are visiting their website.
You have to understand that a person is going to school and is having a depression is something totally different than somebody who's at the end of his career and having a bore out of depression on that stage. So also there are it's about having personal conversations and setting up experience to adapt your message, your websites, your content to every specific persona. And the only way you can do it is by experimenting and see what fits which profile.

SPEAKER 1: Absolutely now these things are all working together. As we can recap some of these things is really difficult to separate loyalty, trust, digitization, real time journey orchestration. It is hard to separate all those things into different pieces. They all have to work together and in our series, we have a range of conversations with Daniel Newman that really hit on all of those things through our research findings. So again the world is getting kind of more integrated from a marketing perspective and there's the opportunity but there are also challenges there.

SPEAKER 2: Definitely.

SPEAKER 1: Cool as we've told our listeners this is certainly not the end of our series. This actually is going to be the beginning of a new one. But let's give a taste of what some things that we are curious about. And maybe some of the topics that we like to explore more in season two.
And I know Steven in having conversations with you and certainly Justin, who will join us back in season two. There were some really exciting things that you had lined up with your guests and some of the topics that you're going to be exploring. You want to care, to share some of those with us?

SPEAKER 2: I think one is fan experience. We have the euro zone in Europe coming up at the European soccer qualifier, that year in soccer European soccer games are coming up actually. So fan experience is a major topic we are still not allowed to travel a lot stadiums cannot be fully exploited.
So how do you bring that European experience that those different European soccer how do you bring them in the household. So that's going to be a very important questions because I think those marketers working at the different unions, national soccer unions in Belgium and the Netherlands, for example they all have to come up with a quite bold marketing strategy to try to bring I think that same experience to everybody household.
I think another one is going to be marketing planning. And the reason of marketing planning. And how should you organize yourself around marketing planning. And marketing planning it's a hard topic not everybody likes to be tracked not everybody likes to put everything in rigid plans so having agility in your marketing planning, having creativity in your marketing planning, and having a plan actually right like you need really a dashboard so one of the quotes was you really need a dashboard that allows you to steal your organization. If you don't have a plan, you cannot steer in the right direction you cannot adopt it. So very interesting conversation there for season two around marketing planning.

SPEAKER 1: Man I can't wait to even and speaking of that fan experience, I think is a great topic and maybe we can have a separate podcast around that whole Super League thing. Man that was really something I think it really spoke to the power of the fans. In terms of what they expect from these clubs.
It was Super interesting you address I can't wait and you're right planning can be market is obviously as an afterthought, but can't wait for your conversations about how important that is and how dynamic it needs to be in today's digital world. For season two I got a couple of things. One is obviously the evolution of customer experience. We've always been focused on engagement, which is great but now the question becomes how do we make that more participatory. How can consumers not just engage but participate with the brands in the journeys and content in customer experience.
And then of course, our favorite topic is around that whole AOI powered, marketing, customer experience. That important balance between offloading very complex tasks to AI but then balancing that with human intelligence, human judgment, human creativity. I think that will still continue to be an important topic as we move forward. So wow definitely a lot of things to look forward to in season two.

SPEAKER 2: Yeah very interesting and also on both of the topics you mentioned looking forward to hearing more about him. The second one is about choice and control why, why everybody talks about implementing and automating customer processes. But we always need a human touch. Without a human touch, it won't work. So very interested in that conversation and see how that works out.

SPEAKER 1: Yeah Steven I think that's a great place to end this episode, we start with AI and technologies, and then there's the human touch. So I love how we just got really brought it home there. So that's it folks for season one of the Reimagine Marketing Podcast. If you enjoyed today's show please head on over to emarketingpodcast, all one word. To catch up on all of your off season one content and other bonus materials.
Please stay in touch with Steven and Justin and myself and share your topic or guest ideas by e-mailing us at ReimagineMarketingPodcast all one word at Now we're also super excited to share that you will now find us on our own dedicated channel. Just search for Reimagine Marketing on your favorite podcast platforms and subscribe. So they can continue to catch us as we drop new content later this summer. So don't forget to join us when we return with more personalities, paradigms and practices on the future of marketing and CX. Thank you for listening.


Episode 9

Episode 9, Season 1: Digitizing Southern Hospitality


Wilson Raj: In a socially distant market, the hotel industry is among the hardest hit. Like many industries, hospitality will see both substantial and subtle shifts in the post-pandemic era. Hi, I'm Wilson Raj, and welcome to this episode of Reimagine Marketing, digitizing Southern hospitality.

In this episode, we'll examine a set of recovery scenarios for the travel industry, especially in the hotel sector. On the consumer side, we'll look at what guests say and will make them feel safe when traveling, including contactless check-ins and checkouts, and an added emphasis on trust. I'm joined by Clark Twiddy, president of Twiddy & Company. Welcome, Clark.

Clark Twiddy: Wilson, it is a pleasure to be here today. Thank you for having me.

Wilson Raj: Oh, absolutely. This is definitely a topic I've been looking forward to because it has so many ramifications for our listeners. They are the consumers. They are affected by what's happening in the travel and the vacation rental markets, and also, I think there's lessons to be gained for other organizations as well.

Clark Twiddy: Absolutely. You and I are going to have a fun conversation today on a host of topics.

Wilson Raj: All right, so before we start off, just a little bit of context setting. Now, I know that Twiddy & Company is very unique, Outer Banks vacation rental company. I mean, you guys have literally almost all your employees live in the Outer Banks, or in the surrounding areas. And you have over 1,000 years of combined years of experience amongst your employees. So tell us a little bit about your journey from where you started, I believe it was in the military, to where you are now in the sector.

Clark Twiddy: Yes, interesting story. We're very fortunate Twiddy & Company is a highly focused company on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Eastern North Carolina. The Outer Banks literally is a sandbar between the Atlantic Ocean and the mainland of North Carolina. We are a second-generation family business, have been in business now for almost 44 years, are very fortunate to employ almost 200 folks in and around mainly the Outer Banks area. And broadly, our job is to get people to visit the Outer Banks, and then deliver a great experience while they're here, in such a way that they may consider returning.

So, going back to answer your question, as a second-generation family business, I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve in the military, in the intelligence business to be specific. And what we found there, to no surprise, was a massive amount of data that we were trying to enable people to make actionable and better decisions in real time with.

And as we began to develop and explore systems to process that data, I took that challenge, and when I came back home and was able to come to work here at Twiddy & Company alongside our professionals, bring that challenge, and what we had learned from that challenge, and apply it to a business that had not unsurprisingly, but certainly at a different scale, an awful lot of transactional data.

Wilson Raj: Absolutely. And it's so perfect because it really, this is the first part of our headline right, digitizing Southern hospitality. So, we're definitely going to talk of that digitization part of it. Now tell us a little bit about-- everyone has got this picture about Southern hospitality. Can you just encapsulate what that means to our audience who are listening in from all over the world?

Clark Twiddy: Absolutely. And obviously it's changed. Like everything else, it's changed remarkably in the past 12 months alone. The definition that I would offer today is probably something that anyone in the world would recognize. Imagine walking in a living room of a friend and being made to have a wonderful experience. To answer your question, I think the modern, as in today definition of Southern hospitality, is combining the ease and comfort of a digital interaction with the trust that your individual experience is unique and important. So imagine being a guest at a wonderful home, and the way you would feel in that home, that's Southern hospitality.

Wilson Raj: I love that definition, Clark. I think to me, if I were to repackage it, I would say that Southern hospitality is really global hospitality.

Clark Twiddy: It's imagine going to a wonderful home, and having a wonderful dinner, and how you feel when you leave, that is Southern hospitality.

Wilson Raj: Absolutely. So, with that, kind of let's get into the macro factors that are really, I guess, impacting your team, and I think the industry at large. Now, the health of hospitality brands, such as vacation rentals, are absolutely linked with the ability to travel, right? So how do you view recovery when travel bookings have really taken a nosedive?

Clark Twiddy: Wonderful question, and something we've all been reading about broadly. And I think two things really happened over the past 18 months particularly. Number one, the arrival of a global pandemic. That was, and I'll quote Churchill, an economic steel curtain for the industry that accelerated a lot of movement within the industry. We often say we innovated more in six months than we would have in 10 years at that time. Couple that pandemic with the arrival of large-scale public equity competition in the form of VRBO, Airbnb.

So, you had this collision in the competitive landscape, but then more broadly, a fundamental disruption in access. All of these hospitality companies, to your point, were traditionally rooted in personal interaction. And when that link was severed, hence that evolution. So those two things combined, I think, to create a pretty interesting dynamic within the global travel and tourism industry.

Wilson Raj: Absolutely. I think that's what-- We'll talk about and be able to unpack that because that notion around rethinking personal interaction is really key. Recently, there's a spot in the Wall Street Journal around this topic, and there was a stat there that was mentioned in the article saying that TV commercials promoting travel websites, and that would include, obviously, hotel, vacation rentals, et cetera, have doubled in the 50 days ending April 12th, compared to the previous 50 days. And this was a stat from, A media measurement firm.

And so clearly, travel brands are rethinking their efforts, right? They're moving from more transaction oriented, the cheapest deal first, to something that's more value oriented. And it's also being supplemented by digital technologies. For example, in our Experience 2030 Pulse Report that was just done recently, 63% of consumers said that they would visit a remote venue or a location using AR, VR, a mobile in this coming year. So how do you see that shift, and how is it affecting you, and what are your observations there?

Clark Twiddy: Well broadly, I think you nailed it. One of the conclusions that the travel and tourism world came to, over the past six months particularly, is that everyone, existentially, knew that they needed to increase both the reach and the range of their customer relationships so that when we began to think that the pandemic, the worst of the pandemic was behind us and vaccination rates began to increase, there would be a pent-up demand to go experience something.

And guessing the timing of when that would be, but more importantly being top-of-mind to those travel decision makers, is what I think is driving a lot of, to your point, this advertising, this reach in range. To me, one of the takeaways has been we've all heard the acronym, for example, CRM customer relationship management software. I think it's gone from a software to a strategy. CRM is a strategy to broaden and deepen customer relationships, to be more relevant to not only their travel decision making, but to their lives through the pandemic. And I think whether you're big or small, fast or slow, the good players have arrived at that conclusion.

Wilson Raj: I love that statement that you made, that CRM is a strategy, not just viewed as a technology, because I think therein lies that magic for transformation certainly in your industry. But I think any other business, whether we are a small, mid-sized business, or even a large enterprise located in Europe, viewing it as a strategy and then fitting in those pieces is critical thing. So, let's then shift a little bit to that strategy, and then we'll talk about the technology as you have laid it out.

When we talk about, certainly in this sector, the key is how you enhance brand agility, adaptability, and resilience. And it's all about that individualisation that you mentioned earlier. So certainly, from your perspective, and maybe from a Twiddy perspective, what are brands doing in the space to recreate the physical in digital environments, while satisfying consumer motivations for that in-person type of touch?

Clark Twiddy: I love that question. And you and I literally could talk about this for days.

Wilson Raj: Absolutely.

Clark Twiddy: In the spirit of brevity, to me, we start with a definition. Socrates always said start with a definition. You and I know that agility is something that every business, probably across the world, is thinking about. For us, not only at Twiddy, but I think more broadly in the travel and tourism world, we define agility as something in between two contrasting poles, if you will, two extremes.

One, you have the pace of change. And in our business, the pace of the change in consumer preference and consumer behaviors around travel. And then as a firm and as an industry, our speed and our ability to respond to that change. And you can imagine the smaller the gap between those two things, the more agile the company. The larger the gap, the less speed there is to react to those changes, the less agile we are.

To answer your question, I think what we're seeing right now is trying to be very fast and digitally relevant with each and every one of our customers, and at the same time, we also do not forget for a moment that this is still a people business. And I love a quote. Paul Volcker, who for many years was the Secretary of the Treasury, wrote a book one time and said that "The laws of economics cannot be depended upon if we disregard human nature." And I think in turn, apply that quote to our industry, the laws of how we understand digital transactions, and how we seek to broaden the reach and range of those transactions, has to be placed in context with the very human judgments and trust that we place in those interactions.

So, in short, we try to do two things to replace our tradition of physical contact. We try to be enormously digitally relevant, ease and comfort, that definition of Southern hospitality we talked about, but we also seek to drive and reinforce trust and credibility as if you could read our body language and we were standing next to you. So, we combine those two things.

Wilson Raj: So, Clark, as we think about these recovery efforts, with vaccines taking place globally at varying rates, now how has consumer behavior changed in terms of in-person engagement is being forced all into a digital mode, or maybe even a physically distant delivery model. Now is this going to be temporary, or do you see this phenomenon lasting? What's your thought there?

Clark Twiddy: Short answer is I see it lasting. I think we would all agree that humanity, at some point, will flow like a river forward. It cannot be contained for long. I think we'll see travel confidence return fairly rapidly. We've all read several headlines recently that begin to see the lifting of some domestic, in particular, travel restrictions.

So, I think we'll see that very much go forward. But at the same time, to use that same analogy, technology does not go backwards. So, I think we'll see people return to the pursuit of travel experiences, but with a different expectation around their technology and the ease and comfort of the digital interactions they want within their larger experience.

And I think, to that point, it's important for the travel and tourism industry to understand that we're no longer competing simply within our own industry, that across the pandemic, if you are getting groceries delivered to your home from an app that takes you 30 seconds, if you are using streaming content that is instantaneous, we're now competing in those spaces as well, because consumers are embracing that kind of fast digital experience based on trust and credibility. So, I think it will move forward but in a different way.

Wilson Raj: Wow, that's absolutely salient point there. I really want to hone in on that concept you talked about, travel confidence, on two lenses. One is from a macro scale, Clark, how is the industry building that common trust to reinforce relationships with clients and partners? And the second lens is that your philosophy at Twiddy & Company, because I know that part of your DNA is really that successful relationship that rewards all parties, the clients, the property owners, the suppliers. So, let's talk about that macro version, building that common trust. And then what are you doing specifically at Twiddy in that regard?

Clark Twiddy: I think trust is enormously important, even though we are now obviously seeing that trust play out, in many cases, in digital interactions, just like the one you and I are having today. But I think to keep trust, particularly when safety is a question, trust, I would argue, when safety is related, becomes enormously important.

There has to be regular and relevant communications. There has to be transparency in much of what we do, to an extent that we are simply not used to, but we have to embrace that. Now broadly, I think the things we have to understand are that if we aren't talking in our customer's language, we're wasting our breath. So, we've got to make sure that as we educate guests, as we inform some of their decision making, as we respond to the smallest requests, we have to do so in a very timely manner. And we have to do so in a language that is accessible to them on a smartphone.

So, we do a lot of that in terms of touch points with customers and transparency. We answer proactively, I hope, a lot of what if questions. In an age of volatility and uncertainty, travel risk is more relevant than ever. And I think, transparently, we have to embrace that as well. So obviously, I think we have to be transparent on that digital interaction, but at the same time, we have to be accessible and model trust and credibility so that people can trust that digital experience.

Wilson Raj: Right, so you're now bringing together strategies, bringing together the technology in terms of-- And I can delve a little deeper into that, the mobile, some of those interactions, what they're doing on digital fronts, but also there's that people aspect, because this is a people business, whether they're virtual or they're in-person. So, I just want to shift to those capabilities.

Now I know we started at the beginning of this conversation, your focus, back when you're in the intelligence arena, focus on data and insights there. How has that unfolded here? How are you making use of data to inform those strategies, and to be able to build that travel confidence, if you will?

Clark Twiddy: That's a great question. So, I'll use an analogy, and I bet it's one we would all agree on. So, within the United States Department of Defense, there is an embrace of data. This goes back decades, even. And yet we would agree that the closer that data becomes to the actual decision maker, the more relevant it is. So, imagine if we just confine data to, for example, the Pentagon, the physical space of the Pentagon, when in fact, we know it needs to be right in front of the 21-year-old, or the 19-year-old who's standing on a mountain. That person needs the same data that the person in the Pentagon does.

Now apply that same thinking to Twiddy & Company. One of the things we did was take this fingerprint recognition of our customers, this knowledge going back to our definition of Southern hospitality, that each customer is unique and important, and it's critical that we get that information, at scale, to the very front line of our organization. So, within our organization, for example, we removed any even unintentional barrier to the sum of our knowledge.

So, we've integrated, for example, Salesforce information, with some of our analytics information, with some of our marketing information. And the newest employee at Twiddy & Company who is fresh from a two-week training pipeline will have the same data on their laptop that I will, as someone who's been here now for more than a decade. And I think one of our insights was deploy analytics and insight to the front line and give the front line the authority and the drive to use it quickly to make sure that each guest feels unique and important. And I think that's been a big takeaway for us

Wilson Raj: Wow. I mean the way you have rendered that is something that I think any, even huge enterprises, would love to execute on, which is that transparency, intelligence being sent to all the stakeholders. They're diving into the same set of intelligence for the purpose of customer service and customer satisfaction. And so, I think, again, you have that strategy, but you have built this technology backbone with data and analytics to be able to do that.

Now in terms of the analytical side, whenever a small and mid-sized business think of analytics, it can be a scary thing. Like wow do you need to have tons of PhDs? Or how do you make analytics accessible, like for example to that new employee who just joined a week ago, so that he or she is just optimizing on it and immediately serving guests?

Clark Twiddy: Two facets, I think, to that. Number one I'll start broadly, and then number two I'll apply that practically in what we do in our day to day lives. Broadly, I think it's very important that if we embrace data analytics, and the use of data insights, we do so within a more broad data culture. And that is to say that as a culture, the sense of belonging we have, and the shared commitment we have to a higher purpose, which we would define as our culture, must include data-driven insights on behalf of our customers and clients. And I say that a little differently to say we have to trust the data we have, and we have to use it in our decisions.

When we talk about trust there, we model trust externally in the organization to our clients and customers. We also model it internally. So, going back to that brand new, two week employee, it's a little uncomfortable from a leadership component, but everyone in the company has access to the same data that I do. And that way, our own team, I think, trusts the data more than they would if there was a perception that they didn't have all the information.

More practically, every week, we have a research and development team meeting here at Twiddy, and it includes people here at Twiddy, it includes folks who work remotely in California, for example. And there are about 25 to 28, even 30 people in that meeting, once a week. And at a company that is almost 200 people, that's a big chunk of the company. And we're very candid in the way we do that in terms of how we discuss challenges and how we source insight in that meeting.

Here's the key. Anyone is invited to attend that meeting, as long as you participate and can contribute. Which is to say, everyone is expected and encouraged to use analytics and data science as a part of the customer and client experience. So, I love that because when we first started our journey on data analytics, it was a four-person team. It slowly grew and grew, and now that is probably, and I say this candidly, the most vibrant meeting we have across the company on a regular basis is that analytics and research meeting because that's where we see creativity and innovation moving at its most rapid pace.

Wilson Raj: Wow, Clark, that's absolutely fantastic. Imagine that an analytics meeting becomes the most exciting meeting during the day. I think that should be really a goal for any brand to be able to arch to because of the insights, and the learning, and not only that, the collaboration that comes with that. So, I think that is a fantastic best practice. Now let's just pivot a little bit, keeping on the subject. Data sources, are there for yourself, and maybe for the industry at large, are there data sources that you think are still left uncaptured or underutilized, that could drive more valuable insights?

Clark Twiddy: Absolutely. There are always new data sets because we are always learning more about our customers, we're always getting more customer experiences, and as a result, our data, what we're learning, is ever, ever-increasing. So, for example, we have, being in business now for 40 years, we have an existing customer base. But through the use of technology, we are always learning more about this customer base, their habits through, for example, an application on your smartphone that has geolocation. We are learning more through booking behaviors in terms of time of bookings, things like that. And we're learning more about the human side of this.

I'm adamant that if we describe ourselves as, for example a luxury destination, luxury is not a price point. It's an experience so we're learning more about those experiences all the time. We're always looking for new data sources to bring about in terms of what are we gaining, travel insights? What are we seeing, large scale, with our competition and the competitive environment? What data do they consider to be important? So yes, lots of additional data out there.

Having said all of that, the most important data we have, bar none, is our vibrant survey relationship with our customers and clients, because if we listen closely enough to our clients and our customers, they will show us the way. And then I go back to that earlier definition of an agility. If we're able to listen to our customers in a meaningful and fast way, and we're able to respond to that, that's the best data of all. So, it's very important that we have a robust feedback mechanism at every touch point of our customer experience.

Wilson Raj: You know that's a super powerful approach, Clark, that the customer or the client sentiment is almost like the weathervane that then puts every other data that you talked about, bookings and so on, amount spent, into perspective. And then you're able to arch on that. I really, I think this is really unique in terms of how you've operationalized this through those meetings, I believe.

Clark Twiddy: Going back to that research and development meeting, we have put an emphasis, since the arrival of the pandemic, in that meeting, on survey integration. What are our customers saying about this? Not just what do we think, what are our insights. but what do our customers inform us as well on some of our decision making. And I think that survey component has never been more important to the vibrancy of our organization today, but also 10 years from now. And I hope that becomes part of our data DNA, for lack of a better phrase, is vibrant customer feedback.

Wilson Raj: That's a great point, Clark. So, speaking of 10 years from now, what do you see as some of the interesting trends that are on the horizon, or more specifically, what are the considerations for accelerating not just the recovery, but resiliency in the hospitality industry?

Clark Twiddy: I love that question, and it's something we talk about every day, both across the industry, even more focused in our particular geographic focus, but even, I think, across businesses around the world, everyone is thinking how do we increase resiliency? How do we become less vulnerable in an era of vulnerability? How do we become more certain in a time of almost unfathomable uncertainty? And to answer your question, I think we do two things looking forward to say 2030, 2035. I firmly believe this will still, and forever be a people business. People will feel the emotions around a vacation.

So, for example, a vacation isn't six bedrooms, and a kitchen, and an oceanfront pool, and a beach walkway. It's a family memory of my five-year-old daughter running down that walkway and jumping in the ocean. And we feel that. But at the same time, we will need to hallmark that experience with every facet, like a diamond, with an ease and comfort of that digital engagement. And I think that within all of that, within the recognition that this is still ultimately a human feeling, a human experience, that will have to be structured around a digital transaction.

I'll return to something else I said. There also has to be enormous trust and credibility. And I think that occurs through transparent accessibility and empathy. Across our country, across the world, for example, over the past 12 months, we've seen multiple fault lines, particularly here in the United States, whether it's the pandemic, whether it's financial questions, whether it's questions of diversity and inclusion and equity. All of those things are related to trust, and as a result, even the Harvard Business School has begun to focus on the trust crisis that is going across America in our institutions right now.

The only way our human experience will trust the digital interaction is that it will always have to be based on a credible and trust-based validity and belief in that experience, in that digital interaction. So, I think to do any one of those things is necessary, but not sufficient. The only way to make a sufficient experience is to do each of those things consistently and reliably, and then going forward to 2035, creatively.

Wilson Raj: Thank you, Clark. I think those are powerful statements. I think my big takeaway from this is that the heartbeat of modern customer experience is certainly in data and analytics, but then the soul of modern customer experience is in that human touch that you mentioned. So great spot to wrap up this discussion. Thank you both so much, Clark, for being on the show.

Clark Twiddy: Wilson, my pleasure. I would love to come back any time. Great job.

Wilson Raj: And you're most welcome. That's it for this week's episode of Reimagine Marketing podcast. If you enjoy today's show, be sure to head on over to To join the conversation and discover our fantastic bonus content, you can also subscribe to the series on your favorite pod catchers for show notes and hear previous episodes. Again, I want to thank Clark, and we'll see you on the next episode of Reimagine Marketing. Thank you for listening.


Episode 8

Episode 8, Season 1: Ethical AI Meets Privacy – Avoid the Paparazzi Effect


STEVEN HOFMANS: Hi there, and welcome to the SAS Reimagine Marketing Podcast. My name is Steven Hofmans and I will be your host for today's session on artificial intelligence and ethics. During this podcast, we want to answer questions like, what is ethical and unethical customer experience? Do we, as consumers, need to act to have better ethical AI, and how do you organize yourself from a company perspective to have ethical customer conversations?

To do this, I have invited two experts in the domain of ethics and AI. The first guest I would like to introduce is Mieke De Ketalaere. Mieke is currently the Program Director AI at IMEC and has specialized in robotics and artificial intelligence during her studies. Over the last 25 years, she has worked for several multinationals, including IBM, Microsoft, SAP, and SAS on all aspects of data and analytics. She's a frequently asked speaker on the topics of digitalization, demystifying AI, and data privacy, and recently released a new book, Wanted AI Translators.

The second guest is a well-known person in the Belgium retail scene and probably sitting on one of the biggest data mines in Belgium, the shopping behavior of millions of Belgian citizens. Ruben Missinne is the Division Manager of Business Analytics, Intelligence, and Digital Transformation at Colruyt Group.
Colruyt is known and proud to be very active around ethical and sustainable business practices, and Ruben holds a Master's in history and business administration, helping different teams grow across departments and making an impact on customer experience and society. Welcome to the both of you and thanks for accepting my invitation to this podcast. I'm super excited to have you both here today.

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: Thank you, Steven.


STEVEN HOFMANS: So let's start with my favorite part of the show, your quote. You both have prepared a quote. And Ruben, I hope you don't mind the courtesy tells me that ladies should go first so, Mieke--


STEVEN HOFMANS: --what is your quote, and why did you choose it?

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: So my quote for today was that digital privacy is like celebrity, so we should be able to decide ourselves when to use it when we want something, and then to turn it off when we don't want something. And I very much refer it to an attitude of a celebrity who decides when he or she wants to be seen in the external world and who gets angry when too much information is being given away for free about her or him, and so that's just like digital privacy to me.

STEVEN HOFMANS: Yeah. That's actually very interesting. I like the angle of the celebrity because today, you also have paparazzi, so you don't always control what is being shared of your private life and what is being shared. So very interesting angle, thanks for that. Ruben, what have you prepared for today?

RUBEN MISSINNE: I also brought a quote. Artificial intelligence has the potential of democratizing big data, but it will be the most trustworthy organization that will prevail, not the most competent. I see today a lot of organizations struggle with building up the craftsmanship around AI, but I don't think, in the long run, that will make the difference. I really believe that it will be the ones who keep the trust with their customers who do this in a nice way, this whole AI thing, looking at data, using data, and giving back to the customers, those are the organizations that will do good in the long run.

STEVEN HOFMANS: Absolutely. So actually, it's also a callout to not the technique itself, where you have people who are very, very well driven in building models and being experts at that, but it makes me think of Mieke's book as well, AI Translators Wanted, that the people who are best in translating AI into meaningful value for the consumer that actually, they will prevail. They will win the business. Does that make sense?

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: Yeah, absolutely. And it's the fact is that it's more than data technology, it's the people and processes behind the whole thing all combined together that will make a successful company, increase the adoption rate.

RUBEN MISSINNE: That's absolutely also how we look at Colruyt Group towards this AI. It will never take over the role of a colleague of us. It will never do something a co-worker is responsible of. It'll help our coworkers and make sure that they got extra information, they got extra insights on a certain situation and the realities of our customers, but it will never take over the responsibilities that stays with the people within our organization.

STEVEN HOFMANS: To rephrase it there, then, it's like a smart assistant that is helping you, guiding you, but actually the decision is always taken by a human, a person that actually will then go for the best offer or the best solution at that time?


STEVEN HOFMANS: Very, very, very interesting. A bit about your backgrounds. Mieke, you have worked for a long time in artificial intelligence. What was your first encounter with artificial intelligence, and what were the challenges back then when it comes to artificial intelligence?

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: Yeah, that's a very good question. In fact, my first encounter with artificial intelligence was in 1992 during my studies, where I was one of those lazy students that wanted to automate everything in my life. And so when I encountered the fact that artificial intelligence was basically a system that had the ability to learn by itself, to make decisions by itself, I was quite intrigued by the fact you could create systems that would give a forecast without doing many, many calculations yourself.
And so my first encounter was during my master thesis, where I was asked to create a system that was going to forecast the energy consumption of a certain region in Germany. And back then, I already realized that there was a direct link between the computer power that I had, the data that I had to my availability, and the accuracy of the decision it was going to make.

So it's something that escalated over the last 25 years, that those that had access to bigger systems and bigger data sets actually also won that level of accuracy. And so yeah, that was my first encounter and that was also the limitation that I saw back then.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So the access to data and energy or power will result in, back then, in competitive edge. How did that change today? Is it still the case or did it change these days?

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: Well, it was still the case of the last 20, 25 years, that those that got access to bigger environments to do the many calculations that the AI needs basically also had the opportunity to create models that were more accurate, which meet certain competitions or research tracks, which give them more money for true investors that give them, again, a possibility to increase their investments in data and in systems.

And it became a circle that was going around, and around, and around, because the focus was on accuracy of the systems, not on energy efficiency. And that's something we've seen changing over the last two or three years that we look behind the fact that our system should just be accurate. They should be accurate and they should be energy efficient. So it is something we definitely see changing now the last two, three years.

STEVEN HOFMANS: No, especially with the global warming, I think that's a very important topic. Thanks, Mieke, for the insight. Ruben, to your background. In 2005, you graduated as a historian with a thesis on the student life in Leiden during the 17th century, which actually is, for me, a very interesting background, looking at the fact that today you had a data analytics and digital transformation, two worlds that seem actually quite distant from each other. What sparked your interest for artificial intelligence?

RUBEN MISSINNE: Well, to be honest, I don't think that those worlds are so much farther away from each other. If you look at what we are doing as a historian, looking at that information from the past, looking at your sources, and checking them out, making sure they're reliable, and you're putting your conclusions down. In fact, what AI does, it's also all about understanding the context today. I think the world and society has gone a little bit more complex in the last past years, and we'll head up to do so.

So I think we really need technology. We really need solutions like AI to really understand our environment very well, or our context very well. So it's also about looking at information, making your conclusions, and bringing in the insights to the decision makers within Colruyt Group or any other organization in that fact. So I think it's a small step.

And to be very honest, it was not a choice for me to go and do this on AI. It was an opportunity within Colruyt Group, where I had the possibility to bring in some teams to create a new corporate department on information management within Colruyt group, I think already five years ago. And that included, of course, also data science and everything around analytics.

STEVEN HOFMANS: Very impressive. I think maybe for me, as an outsider, it seemed distant, but the way you explain it, you see that you base yourself on all data and then you try to make conclusions. Actually, historians make perfect sense to be drawn to the business analysis and the data world. And it's maybe a callout to historians to join the AI practice.

RUBEN MISSINNE: Absolutely. I don't think it's my fault, but within BA&I, we have several historians working.

STEVEN HOFMANS: It's interesting. It's interesting.

RUBEN MISSINNE: Don't think there's positive discrimination, but you never know, of course.

STEVEN HOFMANS: There's a higher likelihood that you get accepted. So if there are any historians on the show, please try Colruyt. I think there is a nice opportunity there.

Taking us further down to the ethics part, because the show is about artificial intelligence and ethics, Mieke, when we think about artificial intelligence and the dangers that come with it, people often think about weaponizing artificial intelligence, which is indeed a known risk. But when we talk about ethics in AI, when it comes to serving citizens and customers, how do you define what is ethical and what is not ethical, and should we be vigilant as citizens for artificial intelligence towards consumers?

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: Well, I think, first of all, ethics by itself is a very broad domain, so you can tackle ethics from different sides. You can tackle it from the fairness that all the major decisions are making. Who is going to define what's fair and what's not fair? Is that the person who creates the system? Is that the business who wants to implement the decision, et cetera?

So I'm requesting for that part to have a multi-disciplinary team that looks into it before, so prior to a system gets created, to define altogether what's going to be a fair decision, if it's from an HR perspective, or if it's from a decision that needs to be made on who gets hired and who doesn't get hired. And we see that fairness has a contextual link to wherever you live in the world or even in the regions, even in Belgium, fairness can be defined in a different way. Let me give you a simple example.

If we would look into a Google search and we would say we look for a CEO, typically in the past, there were only male pictures shown. You can say, OK, well, that's because the data that was used to locate the training for that system was mainly filled images from male CEOs. So Google had to artificially change that, but then they had a choice to make either they say, well, we make it 30/70 because there's 30% female CEOs and 70% male CEOs, or you can say no, no, let's make it 50/50 because in the world, there's 50% women, 50% men.

So who is going to define what the system should spit out? Is it 30/70, 50/50, or 5/95? So these are very difficult things to tackle and I think every company going into an AI system where you're going to make a decision on a humans or not on an industrial environment, you have to do this by design, which means at the time you're going to define the system, you're going to have to define the fairness part. That's a difficult one.

But then ethics has much broader field as well. It's about unconscious bias that might be in your system. So let's say that if we would dig the CVs from Colruyt, I understand, though, if you have studied history, there might be unconscious bias in the systems to make sure that the historians get the more quicker access to getting a job at Colruyt-- and I'm just joking.

RUBEN MISSINNE: Yeah, I was also.

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: That's how it works. It takes data from the past in order to make predictions towards a future. And so getting out unconscious bias that's in the systems. As well, it's not always on gender because people think wait, if we don't take the gender part, we're fine, but that's not what it really is.

For example, even email address can say something about your age. If I have an email address that ends with Google, that might say something about the fact that I'm between 20 and 50 years old, whereas my parents will never have a Google email address. So it's not that transparent as people think of this. It's not that easy as just taking out a couple of variables in order to make sure that you have no conscious bias in your system. So these are all points that needs to be tackled, so ethics is a very broad domain.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So I think the first thing I take away from your answer is that by definition, data is almost biased because of the way it's been generated, right? And what you're saying is when you are starting to work with data and towards humans and taking decisions, that somehow, there needs to be a human touch in there. And there's maybe a ethical or moral compass, like the example you gave, saying maybe we should do 50/50 for CEOs, while naturally grown because of society, it has been different in the past.

So does that mean we should have rules or somehow society defining what are moral guidelines to take into account when you are developing artificial intelligence, or how do you see that in practice?
MIEKE DE KETALAERE: But it's contextually different answers. Something that can be very well accepted here in Belgium might be completely different than India. And there is the question, so if you have your systems developed in India, or in Poland, or overseas, who is going to define that? So this transparency needs to be happening much earlier in the system and that's not done yet.

RUBEN MISSINNE: And so it's about being aware, I believe, about the context and then it's not about rules. It's what is implied underneath and what is the context that is creating around it. Would we be doing projects with a data science team to look at the usage of data, and which kind of data you should use for specific solution on creating as less bias as possible. And if you're creating any, then be very aware of it and make sure that it doesn't steer too much towards a specific solution. Absolutely.

STEVEN HOFMANS: OK. That makes sense. So bias is something very important. When I look at personalization in the cases that have happened, I always had one known story is the Target story. There is a rumor saying that one day, a dad called up the Target store or the Target marketing organization saying he received baby promotions, but actually, nobody's pregnant in his house. And a couple of days later, it turned out that his daughter was pregnant.

And while you can say it's inappropriate, the models were very effective in having those kind of promotions. Ruben, from an artificial intelligence manager's point of view, did you experience any ethical artificial intelligence issues when solving or handling requests from your business partners, and how do you make sure that everything remains ethical at Colruyt?

RUBEN MISSINNE: And I think it's very important that you know what is the level of craftsmanship and the level of maturity you have as an organization around AI. This is something new. This is something where biases get in. So if you're not aware of your maturity level, you're doing things that are on the edge. For Colruyt Group, we're really experimenting with these opportunities, where we're doing some nice pilots.

But those are pilots that not-- and in the range of creating problems like these, these are mostly the pilots we do, look at optimizing our internal processes, helping our co-workers that they can spend more time and interaction with the customers, for example, and so on. So I really think this is an example that speaks for itself. But if you're not totally aware of where you are with artificial intelligence in your organization, then it shouldn't try to do problems like this.

STEVEN HOFMANS: I think very clear what I see is that you actually using experimentation in the first place to see what is possible, and then, first, focus on improving your internal operations, which is actually a way to get to know what the possibilities are for artificial intelligence, and then you move on and once you're familiar with the topic, you move on to more complex issues. I think that is actually a very nice step for the audience on how to grow your artificial intelligence capabilities, analytical--

RUBEN MISSINNE: And you can already create some impact for your customers. For example, we did a test in one of the shops where, with a camera, we can determine which kind of fruit or vegetable somebody is bringing to the checkout register. By doing this and allowing the AI algorithm to recognize the products, the person who is at the checkout doesn't know the code by head and giving it into the system, but the algorithm sees this as a tomato or this is a banana, this is whatever.

This gives the co-worker the opportunity to really go into interaction with the customer and create an impact with our customers with somebody who has time to communicate a little bit to you, to be friendly, and so on. What we think at Colruyt Group is very important to go into a good connection our customers, and you create these kind of possibilities by bringing these innovations into that well-known checkout process. So you really can do something with an impact on the customer. We didn't focus on AI and innovations, but without creating too much trouble, absolutely.

STEVEN HOFMANS: I like that perspective because it's not only about how do you serve the customer in their shopping journey, but it's also about how can you put a smile on the customer face by doing small things and making time for him so you can interact for him. So that takes a whole different lens than when you're just looking at interaction points and trying to improve that customer experience, but you're really going by using artificial intelligence, freeing up time to get to that customer delight. I really like that lens that you're taking there.

If we go back to the organization of the society, Mieke, and how consumers can be protected from unethical artificial intelligence, I saw in your book you were talking about oath of Hippocrates. You have notaries and you have, in this case, doctors that need to lay down a note that they will respect the patient and do good. Do we need something similar to protect us from bad artificial intelligence?

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: Yeah, I think the responsibility should be with all people involved in the AI. So, of course, the oath is one that I proposed to bring in to the engineers, but I wouldn't say that it's only the engineers that need to take responsibility in order to be complete, but indeed. So engineers get all excited or data scientists get all excited to use technology to do something innovative, but they sometimes lack the complete picture of how it will end in the complex processes we have in our world.

And so that's where bringing ethics into the courses at University or having to sign an oath to understand the impact they can have with the solutions they're building, that's absolutely something important to highlight. However, when we look at the word fate which is always linked to ethics, I explain the fairness in the accountability, but it's also about bringing in the transparency and explainability.

And so in the oaths, what should also be there is that if you create a system that makes an automated decision, you should have the ability to make sure that as far as you can go with these systems to make them explainable and transparent. So I believe that by creating systems like this, it will increase the adoption ratio and it will also recreate a trust that's sometimes lacking right now. Citizens or customers or even business sometimes don't trust the systems because they're not explainable enough.

And so in this oath, next to the responsibility you take, it should also highlight the fact that, as far as you can go, make sure that you make systems that are transparent and explainable in order to reinstall the trust that's very hard needed right now.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So next to fairness, transparency is very, very important. Ruben, Colruyt, being a company that really finds doing ethical business practices very important, how do you develop an inner compass to guide you and your teams to giving transparent and fair AI to the different consumers? Is there is a kind of self-assessment they need to do, or how do you organize that to make sure that the values are in there?

RUBEN MISSINNE: I can see that the focus on ethics around AI, but to be clear, this is not something new for Colruyt Group. AI activities are activities such as we have any others within the organization, and everything we do is based on the culture and the values and the identity we have as Colruyt Group. So it's not because, oh, here comes AI, now we need an ethical framework, no, we have our framework, we have our values such as simplicity, respect, togetherness, readiness to serve, and so on.

And those are stay and will be the guidelines for all our colleagues to handle the activities they approach within Colruyt Group. And of course, this also stands for the data scientists who are building up the models and doing AI, but it's not something new.

I think it's very important as an organization that you really make sure that those fundaments are created are into place and you can translate those kind of values towards frameworks on the rules and how to handle things. But it's important that the framework is shared, and that's already a very big step, I believe.

STEVEN HOFMANS: So what you're saying is it needs to be embedded in the culture, in the company culture, and when it's embedded in the company culture, it's not because there's a new kid on the block. And being the combination of ethics and artificial intelligence, that you should panic as an artificial intelligence manager normally. Those things are covered from a corporate culture. It should be in your values and you should translate it to the practices you're doing. But if you have that covered, probably that should be fine for an organization. Is that correct?

RUBEN MISSINNE: Yeah, I believe so. If you have these strong fundamentals we have, a very cultured organization, and we put a lot of effort in our values and making sure that everybody knows them, everybody follows them. Everybody has the opportunity to really learn what they stand for, and how they can be applied. Absolutely. If that fundament is there, that's OK.

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: And I really liked that statement, that it should be in culture from right from the start because you see too many companies that now are creating, around the AI, ethical codes and ethical committees, and that's just a tick in the box. You really feel that it's just to have something in case they got a question from the press. But like Colruyt and Ruben are doing, it's absolutely great to be an example for many out there that you just put it into the basic culture of company.

STEVEN HOFMANS: Yeah. Even one interesting thing I saw was a self-assessment of the European institution around trustworthy artificial intelligence and for me, it was I know Europe is busy on it, but they're also working on framers, and they're working on those practices, but actually, if you have it governed at the right level in your company, there shouldn't be any involvement or any further steering from Europe. Is that the way I can understand this as well? That the self assessments of Europe, they're interesting, but actually, every company should find out themselves what is ideal for their customer, yes or no?

RUBEN MISSINNE: I really think this can help, such an assessment from the EU. It's like a checkbox. You can bring it over, look at your activities and what you are doing, and making sure that all the things that are out there are also taken into account within the activities you have as an organization. But once again, when the fundament is right, it just a reference check afterwards, then it is something that should be implied.


MIEKE DE KETALAERE: I think it's a bit more complex than that. I mean, our AI's no bigger than medicine. At the moment, you can't be an AI expert. There's so many flavors to AI. There's so many sectors involved in AI. And I think that Europe is doing a fantastic job in making the first steps towards that ethical framework.

However, what I see, and we also analyze that in a questionnaire towards companies, is that the translation on the how to do it. So it gives us a good answer to what needs to be done, but not how to. I think we can meet the next year to translate into how to because whatever you're going to use, if it's an image recognition, voice recognition, whatever, there are different technologies behind it to make it transparent.

You can't expect a company that starts with AI to know all these techniques. So we are currently helping companies through a structured approach and methodology to find the right techniques for the AI solutions they're implementing, and so that's where I think we still need to work and collaborate from an engineering point of view together with Europe to put up framework into a workable methodology.

STEVEN HOFMANS: OK. So Mieke, continuing on that point, my last question is, is how should companies then prepare for what's coming for the future when they didn't think about we need to still do business in 2030 with the setting we have, what should they prepare for? What is your best tip you can give them to the audience?

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: Well, I think what it is is you see they're jumping too much still on the hype. We are walking through Disneyland getting inspired by use cases we've seen in the press, et cetera, not knowing what's happening behind the scenes. So I think if there would be basic knowledge at all levels within the company of what AI is and what it's not, and based on that knowledge, create a multidisciplinary team around it and have the discussions on what they're going to develop by design.
So that's ethics by design. That's security by design. That's customer experience by design, et cetera. I think if this would be in place, I think the solution that will be out there will be less intrusive and it'll be less dangerous as what we see right now. So it's bringing everything back to the design phase on the table and then talking a multidisciplinary approach about it. I think that's what's needed.

STEVEN HOFMANS: OK. Interesting. I would like to really thank you for this very interesting discussion. My key takeaways for me are fairness, it was one of the key words that was mentioned a lot in this conversation, transparency towards your customers, and transparency on data, and then multidisciplinary teams that can help set the right boundaries around ethics. I think that's also very interesting. I would like to thank you again and on this bombshell, I wish you all a pleasant day.

RUBEN MISSINNE: You're very welcome.

MIEKE DE KETALAERE: Thank you, Steven. Thank you, Ruben.

RUBEN MISSINNE: You as well.

Episode 7

Episode 7, Season 1: Experience 2030 – Actions for a New CX Operating Model


WILSON RAJ: In prior episodes, we focused on the key themes of the global Experience 2030 study, smart and immersive technologies, loyalty in the digital age, and the evolving nature of trust. Hi, I'm Wilson Raj. And welcome to the Reimagine Marketing podcast. Today's episode is "Experience 2030-- actions for a new operating model." And we'll talk about some key actions that brands can take now to prepare for customer experiences in the future. I'm joined by Daniel Newman, Principal Analyst and Founding Partner of Futurum Research.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Let's start at the very top. We've acknowledged that the world is largely digital. The consumer is more connected than ever before. How do brands engage the digital consumer?

WILSON RAJ: It's multifaceted for this one. Firstly, it's obviously to use their technologies that are prevalent, in terms of whether it's AR, VR, artificial intelligence, drones. And the fundamental question to ask there is what value is being added to that customer journey or those moments of truth? And really, at the end of the day, look at the technology and translate that to human terms. Put the human into every engagement.

What emotional needs are we looking into-- what informational needs, what transactional needs, what support needs? And I think once we get that, again, that outside in view, then we can then put the technologies around those need states, and be able to use things such as data management, or AI, and other technologies to be able to then start building those moments of truth or experiences in a very streamlined fashion. And I think part of it, too, we cannot overlook the importance of privacy and security as we delve into those interactions.

DANIEL NEWMAN: So the other thing I think is really important, too, is that we put the humans back into every engagement. See, I think because technology is proliferating, because we are more connected, a lot of companies are sort of mistaking the fact that we are human data points, and replacing that we're also human. And so companies that are going to be very good at engaging the consumer are going to make the technology more transparent, and they're going to put people really at the front, but knowing that people want digital experiences. So it kind of comes back to being tech focused, but understanding that deep below lies humans.

And then, I think the other thing that they're going to be very, very focused on that stays on that particular topic is security and privacy. Now, in the edition where we talked about that at in depth, we basically looked at the fact that customers feel largely out of control. So in order to engage the digital consumer, giving them back control, it's giving them control of the experience, but it's also making them feel like they have some level of control in their data.

So let's talk about this CX divide. How do you think brands can work towards narrowing the gap between the perceptions that they have versus what consumers really feel?

WILSON RAJ: I think the big gap here is really in the uptake of technology. What we have found here through this research, or the research seems to suggest that consumers are a little bit ahead in terms of their embrace of technology and their use of technology. Albeit there are some areas where consumers are a little bit reticent, or they're exercising caution, such as facial recognition and other kinds of things that we saw in this report. But by and large, they are pretty open to adopting.

Now, I think that part of this perception gap is also a technology gap, because the marketing or the customer experience platforms on the brand side is not accelerating, or is not upscaling, at the same level that consumer tech is taking off. So I think fundamentally, if we were to boil it down, how can they bridge that gap? But then also, how can they prioritize-- from all these endless touch points, from all these endless permutations of customer journeys, and moments of truth, what are the most salient ones that truly make a brand preference powerful, and delivers profitability and loyalty?

So to that, they have to turn to that data, maybe use technology such as AI and other advanced analytics, to help do all that heavy lifting for them, so that the people there-- the customer experience leaders and marketing leaders-- can now reframe, redefine, and be more strategic in their thinking, and augment the technologies to be able to build those and bridge that divide.

DANIEL NEWMAN: And this study is ripe with data. And if you haven't read the whole thing,, it's available for you. But data really is the key. There's still too big of a gap between data available, the insights it could create, and decisions being made.

And one of the big opportunities to improve is simply stop making decisions that data doesn't support. Get the data organized, move it quickly, fail fast in order to innovate forward. It's not about failing is good, but it's about the data will help you get through some of your biggest challenges. And I think that's one of the biggest ways to narrow the gap.

I will, having said that, give a little bit of word of caution to marketers out there. There is fatigue. Our research did prove you can be overzealous. You can overcommunicate. You can drive your customers wild with too much-- too much engagement.

So make sure you're balancing that. And by the way, the data will tell you. The data in terms of things like response rates, and open rates-- well, those were the old days. But that data told you something. And the data now that's available for how people engage, where they fall off sites, where their carts get abandoned, that's all hints and clues of over engagement and under engagement and how to get deals done.

So don't forget to use the data, and then pay attention to where those fall points are. Because you can create a lot of loyalty, but concurrently, you can also create kind of a bitter or irritated group of customers. And the last thing you want out there are consumers that are saying the experience is overwhelming. It's almost as bad as the opposite.

So let's talk about digital trust. This was an important topic. Our show went deep into this. But let's give some quick tips to the brands that are out there listening to this about what can they do to build trust while staying data driven? Because, of course, you could stop collecting data, but that's not a real option.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. I think the first thing that brands must do and should do is that they should view data privacy as a competitive differentiator for customer experience, rather than the necessary evil of compliance or governance. So flip the script. Don't look at it as an albatross hanging on your neck. But take the opportunity to look at data privacy, the balancing personalization and privacy as a strategic differentiator.

And so look at a couple of ways where you could build that trust. Ultimately, it's a trust exchange between consumer and brand. One tip here is to internally look at your data stewardship capabilities. Make sure that you have governance, authentication, security protocols in play.

Make sure that you have properly defined retention times for data. How long are you going to use that? How are you going to get rid of those things? Who has access to what? So there are a whole plethora of things in the report that we have shown to be able to do better data stewardship, or what we at SAS call digital guardianship.

Another element is communicate transparently. Not just in your comms-- outbound comms around the use of data-- but provide avenues or mechanisms where the consumer can look at their data, check on it, make sure that it's in compliance with their requests, and to remove it if possible. And then, the last tip I would say is use as little data as possible to be able to understand the customer.

I know, coming from an analyst company, that seems to be an opposite. But again, you have at your disposal very advanced predictive algorithms and models. You can use that, on very little data, to get very accurate signals and be able to orchestrate interactions with the customer without asking for a lot.

DANIEL NEWMAN: It's not always about more data. It's about the right data.


DANIEL NEWMAN: And I would say, the only ads I'd have is every industry can benefit. Some industries, as our research showed, have much more of a distrust. Don't let that discourage you from making investments in trust. I think every industry will have outliers that will actually take advantage of something like this to differentiate themselves. I do see the divide getting bigger with digital trust, and companies that embrace transparencies, companies that invest in trust, and make consumers feel like they have some level of control are actually going to step ahead and differentiate themselves significantly.

Onto loyalty, another big topic-- Wilson, what can brands do to be more loyal or to create more loyalty from their customers?

WILSON RAJ: I think we said it succinctly in our-- one of our episodes that dealt solely with loyalty is don't just do loyalty programs, be, be a loyalty company. That means infusing points of interaction that are building trust, and loyalty, and affinity even before they become customers at every step of the journey.

And that is through either saving them a lot of attention by outsourcing the thinking for them, by reducing barriers to their journey, or by truly surprising them-- giving them those moments where we are shocking them in a good way, and surprising them by giving them contextual relevant interactions. I think that's a key thing. And don't make that a program. Make it programmatic around the journey.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, and definitely make it easy for people to do business with you, and not just the procurement part, not just the swipe the credit card or pay. Think about every step. Think about the fact that every industry has a slightly different journey, but where the customer tends to come on the ramp and where the customer tends to go off the ramp. And how do you A-- keep them on the ramp longer, and how do you B-- make it easy.

So when they want to learn about the product, when they want to ask questions about the product, when they want to engage with a service, all these different things, how do you make it easy enough, create that visibility, reduce attrition, convert at a greater rate, and then make them want to become advocates? So it's really about building advocacy. So it's beyond even loyalty to creating advocates that are going to go out on social, and into their digital realms, and really talk positively about your brand. That's going to be a big part of loyalty into the future and into 2030.

So here we go, advancing the customer experience into 2030, what recommendations do you have for brands as they drive towards the customer experience of the future?

WILSON RAJ: I think ultimately, it goes back-- I think Daniel, as you said, it is about the customer as a human. So our technologies are not supposed to replace the human elements that we are accruing to in terms of their purpose, their passions, their proclivities, in terms of why and how they're engaging with you as a brand. So I think that technology should make us more human in dealing with customers, not more technical or more technological in dealing with them.

So I think it seems to be often state-- a statement that's very common-- be customer-centric. But I think it takes on a different nuance into the future. And again, for us at SAS it's around that use of data in a very responsible way to create those moments of truth, those touch points that resonate with customers as humans first, and then customers second.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, start with people. Put the people at the center, the customer at the center. I'd say commit to innovation. What is innovative today won't be innovative tomorrow, so don't ever be stagnant and complacent.

Embrace privacy, as I mentioned earlier. I won't touch on that much, because I already covered it. And we talk a lot about failing fast, and failing forward. And I will continue to beat that drum. It's not ever about failing, and failing is never the actual intent. But it's about how quickly can you understand the customer, understand what works and what doesn't work, leverage innovation, and technology, and data, and analytics to gather and garner that insight, and move on to the things that are working?

Use data as your guide. Incorporate the tools and technologies-- AI, machine learning-- to help you do it faster. And then, put people to use. Because with all this automation and all this technology, we're going to have a chance to upscale our workforce, to get more out of every single person that's part of our organization.

And at the core, those people will always be critical. The best people will always be critical to creating the best companies, no matter how much technology is involved in any experience that is created. And with that, that is the playbook. If you want to see it, we give a checklist at the end of this-- detail, 4,000 respondent, 2030 forward-looking research that we did over the last year.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely, and yes, there are tons of helpful, practical resources.
Well, that's all the time we have today. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in. If you enjoyed today's show, head on over to to get more resources and content.

You just listened to the Reimagine Marketing podcast. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, or Google Play, or any of your favorite podcast platforms. And we'll see you at our next episode. Take care.


Episode 6

Episode 6, Season 1: Experience 2030 – The Evolving Nature of Digital Trus‪t‬


WILSON RAJ: It's clear that consumers consider personalization a key aspect of a rewarding customer experience. There's no doubt that those brands that can create personalized engagements with smart, immersive tech will also boost loyalty and profitability. But there's a catch. Customers have serious concerns about how their data is being used, stored, and shared.

Hello, I'm Wilson Raj. And welcome to the Reimagine Marketing Podcast. Today's episode is "The Evolving Nature of Digital Trust." I'm joined by my guest, Daniel Newman, principal analyst and founding partner of Futurum Research. And we're excited to talk about how brands can offer that perfect blend of trust and technology.

DANIEL NEWMAN: I think anybody who's provided their data, who uses social media, understands that sort of balance between giving their data and receiving an experience. And as time has gone on, we've seen more and more visibility out there in the market, from data breaches, to how my data is being used, to even very, very world issues, like elections and how privacy and data can be utilized to possibly manipulate or change outcomes. Well, in the world of customer experience, our relationship with brands comes down to our ability to trust that we can give data and get an experience.

Wilson, I was told early on that nobody will complain when an experience is too good. So as long as the data being given creates an experience that is really, really good, people will never mind it. But in our survey, we dug deep into this topic. We wanted to find out, is that true? And in the future, will that be true?

But before we dig into some of the data, I always am curious when I meet people or when I talk to people, how do you feel about trust? Are you willing to just splash your data out there, Wilson? Or you like me, and being in this business, have you become a little bit jaded, a little bit cautious with how you share your data with brands?

WILSON RAJ: You know, Daniel, I would certainly count myself within the masses. And certainly, the research "Experience 2030, The Future of Customer Experience"-- and by the way, you can find this research on in all of this detail. And certainly, this area of digital trust is well handled in that paper.

But coming back to on my experience, I'm like probably all consumers, where I'm willing to trade some privacy for relevant, real-time personalization. Now, there is a fine balance to strike in between my desire for privacy and my desire for personalization. I think this is really the hinge point from the brands I interact with-- whether they are retailers, or banks, or telcos, or whatever the situation would be-- in terms of, how do they make me feel known and welcome while preserving my privacy? That's the hinge point.

DANIEL NEWMAN: And it doesn't seem like there's a lot of consensus just yet on how that's accomplished. It seems a lot of brands are actively out trying to collect data, both actively and passively. And if you want to understand what I mean by that, well, if you want to download an asset, "Experience 2030" at, you may have to fill out a form. That's an active participation in sharing data in return for a very, very good report

But a passive experience might be something like location services turned on when you're using an app on your phone, or cookies that a website can collect that look at how you're shopping or what you're looking at when you're on a website. So there are many ways that we're giving privacy and giving data in exchange for experiences.

And there are some really interesting stats in this study. We looked at things like, do people believe that brands can keep their data private? And about 54% of people said yes, they believe so. And so while that is the majority, Wilson, that also kind of is concerning, because that means a lot of people don't trust brands right now.

And I'll give you another stat. 73% of people are concerned with how brands are using their personal data. Now, you, your work, day in and day out, serves the purpose of helping brands use analytics more effectively to get better insights about their customers. So this is probably a data point that you're really going to have to take into the boardrooms and into the meeting rooms. 73% concerned with how brands are using their personal data. How do brands correct that?

WILSON RAJ: Now, I think that the onus is back on the brands. So from a SAS perspective, clearly, our whole mission is really to turn a world of data into a world of intelligence for our customers across the world. And because we deal with data, one of the things that we have incorporated into our operating rhythm or our mindset is this notion of the principle of digital guardianship, where as a company, as SAS, because we deal with data, because we deal with lots of data that come from both passive and active interactions from a customer perspective, we are certainly putting in mechanisms in place that help meet those expectations of rising privacy.

So for example, things such as model governance, things such as data governance and data security, putting in protocols in place to secure all that data. Whether it's on the cloud, whether it was on premise, or whether it's in a hybrid mode, it does not matter. So we are actually putting in those digital guardianship principles in play from a governance, but also from a technology perspective. How do you limit the lifespan of a model before it ages out and before it starts collecting other extraneous data?

So I think that's the key thing from our perspective. And I suspect that other brands will have some element of digital guardianship for themselves. For example, having retention dates for how long they keep data, securing that data. And also from the other perspective, how do you communicate how that data is used through very clear terms and conditions? So to me, all that comes under digital guardianship.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, I think that's an important topic. And I think another insight that we really pulled out of this, our team of analysts that reviewed all this at Futurum, is control. And I think we're going to have to move towards a future where there is more control that the individuals have over their data. Because one of the big takeaways was people's lack of trust kind of comes back to a feeling of being out of control with how their data is collected and then where it goes. And I'll give you a couple of data points there.

One, people's fears and concerns about how they're being tracked when they shop. That can be online, but also in a store. 64% said they don't like when they're tracked or recorded on camera, at an event or any public place. So people don't really like being on camera. And 57% of people don't want to be part of any facial recognition. And we already know it's moving that way, but the majority of people don't want it.

Now, that's sort of a lack of control on premises, if you looked at it that way. Now, let's talk about a lack of control in the background. People want to know if they can get to the data and say, hey, Facebook, what do you know about me?

We all have heard those stories. There's hundreds if not thousands of pages on all of us that these data companies, these social companies, for instance, have. But asking for that info, it's almost impossible to gather, because there's really no responsibility at this point for that to be clearly showed.

Well, 78% of people want to be able to know what's been captured. And then they want to be able to change it. They want to be able to update it. They want to be able to delete it. Well, as of right now, that's not a reality.

And this is kind of an interesting thing looking towards the future, Wilson, is 61% feel they have no control over the privacy they need for themselves, their family, and their children. So there's a trust issue that's being created by control. But I also think that's an opportunity from the data for brands to utilize that to differentiate themselves. And we'll talk about that more in a future podcast where we really dig into recommendations for each section of the study. But that was really, really interesting, and we see it as a clear opportunity.

Now, I want to move into a new topic, because another part of the survey we focused on was trust and untrusted brands/industries. And there was a lot of very interesting data. We looked at over 10 different industries, and we looked at what was most trusted and what was least trusted.

And Wilson, I'd love to hear from you. I'm sure going into that, you probably had some thoughts of how that would land. How did the rankings land compared to how you kind of felt they would land, and any takeaways you have from that?

WILSON RAJ: I think that the findings aren't very surprising. Typically, even in other surveys, we've found that folks who are dealing with banks or with health care or health data, there seems to be a higher sense of secure data, simply because there's higher legislative forces that may exert it on those organizations in terms of a higher standard of data governance, a higher standard of data access and security.

Now, I think to your earlier point, brands, regardless of whether they're on the low trust or on the high trust spectrum, regardless, moving to the futures, data privacy now becomes a competitive customer experience differentiator. I think that's a key thing. So instead of looking at it as a negative, as a governance thing, organizations can look at that as a customer experience enabler.

So the more they can make consumers or prospects feel that their data is secure and is used for the express purpose of providing them with relevant, contextualized, personalized interactions, then the more consumers will trust those brands. And I think part of it, as we alluded to, is providing mechanisms for individuals to be able to check and review their personal data to ensure accuracy, to ensure that the data is used properly.

And also to your other point, you gave the other word, "control." There's giving them complete control to be able to take that data out, so there's data portability there, and also to be able to request different dimensions of that data to be used in different ways. And that's all that is the consumer power right there.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, I have to say-- and to be clear, we actually looked at over 25 industries and then broke it into kind of top 10's. And then the way we broke it down further was we looked at most trusted and least trusted, or you could, quote unquote, call it "not trusted." And there were some fascinating data points that came out of this.

First of all, Wilson, and what really blew my mind was, of all 25 industries, only one, one industry, actually had a greater level of trust than distrust from the 4,000 respondents, and that was health care. And that number came in at 51% trust, so just over the line. That's a huge opportunity. It would be easy for me to jump in and say, that's a huge problem. But what I see is the cream of these industries are going to rise to the top and leverage technologies, utilize communications and transparencies, to end up helping consumers trust individual brands within industries.

Because there's always going to be the best of breed. There's always going to be your outliers. There's always going to be those that, unfortunately, abuse and take advantage. And hopefully, what ends up happening is those companies that really embrace this opportunity are able to differentiate themselves, and not only carry their industries forward respectively to having greater trust levels, but carry their companies to being those more successful organizations at 2025, 2030, and beyond.

It was interesting to look at who's not trusted, because the top three are really-- it's crazy, but top three are all areas where we would typically garner the information we use in our lives to make decisions, from elections to where we make decisions on what things we buy. The highest not trusted number came out at 47% for social media. And we all know-- and we'll talk more about this throughout this series-- that's a big recommendation engine for where we decide to buy things.

The next one was news, advertising, and publishing. Well, that's another source of information that consumers use to make decisions in B2B, B2C, B2B2C. Those are big outlets, right? We read and we learn and we consume.

And the third one was government and public services. So we're saying we don't trust our social media, we don't trust our news, advertising, and publishing, and we don't trust government and public services. So that kind of creates this scary divide between where we get our information and how do we use this information to make purchasing decisions.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. And I think a lot of it, if you look at the back of these things, such as social media and some of these other things, is driven back by algorithms. Look at, like, recommendation engines and so on. More and more, you would read in the news how companies such as Google and Facebook are using very advanced data analytics to parse through that data to be able to provide in surface content, which the algorithm, however it's tuned, thinks is the right one that the consumer or the audience wants to look at.

Now, again, I think that brings up another point around the efficacy of those algorithms. How are they tuned? Most of this is black box, where, from a SAS perspective, we believe more in a blue box, where we lock it down so that you don't mess around with it. But however, data scientists have an opportunity to govern those models, to test those models, and to make sure that they are reducing bias in those things.

So I think the interesting concept here is that as we get to a more data-driven, more algorithmic construct of customer experience, there's also this danger of distrust, because now these models or algorithms somehow are not necessarily neutral. They've been tuned, and they may be acting off data sets and recommending things but then maybe masking others.

Now, I'm not saying that's intentional. But that's why I think, when I maybe talk about digital guardianship, it's not just making sure that your data is secure. It's making sure your algorithms are secure and making sure your algorithms are updated and they are truly learning and taking into account all those data points to provide the most optimal recommendation or next best action.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Great omnichannel experiences really should take into consideration where the customer, where the consumer, wants to be contacted and enable that. And so to your point, though, some people want automation, and some people want an AI chatbot to communicate with. Some people want a company to pick up the phone and answer their questions.

And trust is created through those different channels. If they have a great experience, some people are completely willing for that passive, automation, technologically driven, algorithmic communication, and other people really still want human-to-human. And companies being able to deal with that will be able to create trust faster by enabling the right experience in the right channel.

I want to talk about one more thing in these industries. In this study, one of the things we did-- it is a global study, and we covered the whole world. So we had 4,000 respondents from all over the world. And it was sort of interesting. We looked at Asia-Pac, Europe, Lat Am, Middle East, and North America separately.

And just a quick stat on each. I figured I'll give that, because depending where in the world you are-- and we hope you're all over the world. Asia-Pac actually, for instance, had a higher level of trust overall. There wasn't a single industry where their level of distrust was higher than their level of trust, which is a positive thing to see in parts of the world. And that might mean there's some learnings from the way Asia-Pacific based companies are run that they've been able to garner this greater level of trust.

However, in several other regions, specifically Europe and North America, there's a trust crisis. So in Europe, it's an average of 39% are not trusted versus only 32% trusted. In North America, no industry has 50% plus consumer trust, and 18 of the 25 have negative trust rankings.

And then you have areas like Lat Am, where the government is their highest distrusted, quote unquote, "industry," which if you follow the news, there's probably a lot of reasons you could get to that. And then in the Middle East and Africa, it's their media.

So you see, Wilson, this disconnect between where we get our information and who we trust is so significant. I can only imagine that as we move on to the final part of this show and we start to talk about overcoming the trust gap, it really does start with the companies. It starts with the brands and the industries being able to communicate to people information that they can use. So let's talk about that as we come together. Did you want to chime in on the regions? WILSON RAJ: Yeah, absolutely.

DANIEL NEWMAN: All right, go ahead.

WILSON RAJ: On the Asia-Pac stuff, you're absolute right. They are way ahead in the use of digital, in terms of algorithms, to be able to just do their daily lives. And let's take facial recognition as a form of authentication, right? Now, that market is projected to double to 9 billion between 2018 and 2024, just a couple of years from now. That's research by Model Intelligence.

And then if you look at in China particularly, companies like Ant Financial services group, which is an Alibaba entity that operates Alipay, and then Tencent Holdings, which runs WeChat, they already launched facial recognition machines at pretty much tons of these point of sales, in retail, in banks, and so on. So they're basically removing that last barrier between the body and payments, right? So even taking away wearables and whatnot and just using biometrics, facial recognition, to be able to pay bills. That's happening right now in China. Now, the adoption then, I won't say that they trust those brands, but there definitely is an aggressive adoption of technology where it's now run by biometrics.

So I think in Europe, with things such as the Data Privacy Act and so on, there's an opposite shift where the notion of data portability and privacy is paramount to the consumer. And those are having impacts also in the US in terms of consumer protection laws and so on.

So I think at the end of the day, it still goes back to the fundamental question we talked about earlier. From a customer perspective, there are two expectations. Number one, know me as an individual. But at the same time, you have to do what it takes to protect my privacy. So that those dual expectations, which seem to be in opposition to each other, is what brands have to reconcile today and into the future.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, so let's talk about some of the ideas overcoming consumer trust. First, securing their data. About 6 out of 10 companies say that's the number one thing. That number is too low. It really needs to be 10 out of 10. Every company needs to prioritize that.

And then when it comes to the evaluation of that, less than half of companies actually think they need a continuous evaluation of their privacy security policies. That number needs to go up and needs to be more frequent, because those that are trying to breach and take advantage of data and abuse data are always going to be evolving. It's the same black hat/white hat issue that's always taken place with cyber security. So that number needs to go up.

Brands need to enhance the requirements of their partners. About 51% of companies really want to see a standardization among their data security with all of their customers. This is a best practice. You can't have an ecosystem where you're very secure but then the data is being released out to partners that you don't really know how the data is being used. This is a big deal moving forward.

And transparency is a big deal. 48% of companies strongly agree on the value of a proactive approach to transparency. Well, to me, that feels low. We know that companies need to sometimes investigate an issue before they publicize it because of all the collateral damage. We're business people. We're understanding of that.

But at the same time, having breaches and then hearing later, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, that executives had time to unload their stock before they actually announced a breach is problematic. There's no coming back from that.

And well, in the age of the internet, people's memories are very short, Wilson. I think we are getting to the point where we're tired of it. We're tired of hearing about our data is being breached. This goes back to that lack of control. Putting people back in control starts with getting your house in order. It means getting your data secure, having policies, making your ecosystem work. What recommendations did I miss, or any others that you want to give to people?

WILSON RAJ: To the last point around governance and security, I think the point is absolutely crucial, that things such as fraud and risk assessment-- now, you don't have to be in banking to do fraud and risk assessment, or insurance. Basically any vertical-- You could be in education. You could be in government. You could be in retail, hospitality.

But things such as fraud detection, risk assessments, credit risk, all those kinds of things from an analytic perspective are not just confined to the back end, but now have direct impact to the customer experience. So I think looking at those kind of functions within organizations today and bringing that to the fore in terms of asking, now, how can I use my fraud or my risk assessment capabilities, not just to mitigate risk, but to enhance consumer trust? That becomes a pivotal question.

So now it becomes more strategic. As opposed to playing defense, now you're playing offense and trying to really build that trust. I said earlier, doing what it takes so it's not just the great campaigns or great personalization or great relevance, but it's the entire company and all the different functions working together to, number one, secure that data, and then number two, provide transparency in ways that we mentioned here to earn that trust.

And that's it for this week's episode of the Reimagine Marketing Podcast. Thank you all for tuning in. If you enjoyed today's show, please head on over to to gain access to our free resources. And don't forget to join us next week for another episode. Thank you for listening.


Episode 5

Episode 5, Season 1: Experience 2030 – Loyalty in the Digital Age


WILSON RAJ: Loyalty begins before a customer becomes a customer. Brands that succeed in the coming decade will be the ones that transform themselves into loyalty companies, and not just have loyalty programs.

Hello, I'm Wilson Raj. And welcome to the Reimagine Marketing podcast. Today's episode is Loyalty in the Digital Age. I'm joined by Daniel Newman, principal analyst and founding partner of Futurum Research. And we're going to talk about how brands can build, sustain, and strengthen this elusive brand loyalty.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Wilson, we all know what and a good loyalty program looks like. And we know the importance of a good loyalty program. You and I, for instance, we're travelers. Our work has us all over the world. You were just in South America. I make multiple trips-- six continents in the last year. I'm a One World flyer. I've memorized my American Airlines rewards. I'd read it out, but no one would care. But the fact is, I know it. And it's because these companies have built programs to earn loyalty.

But as a whole, there's some industries, whether it's your airlines, whether it's your favorite cup of coffee, or maybe where you like to eat out for your quick take meal all the time, where a program is the difference between success and we'll say failure in terms of building a customer program that keeps people coming back.
But in a lot of industries, it's not programmatic. It's not having a rewards card, it's not an app. But it really comes down to doing so much more as it pertains to building customer loyalty.

Wilson, welcome back to this show. Big topic, excited to talk about it?

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely, I think you and I, between the two of us, we probably have, like, 20 loyalty cards, right, as it relates to hotel rewards, and airline travel, and car rental? And I think therein lies the opportunity but also the challenge.
Because loyalty programs, by and large while some are better than others, is predicated on one thing and one thing only. It's all about transactions. It's all about how much we bought, how much we flew, how much we stayed in different hotels, how much we purchased.

And so that is something I think I'm excited talk about this research, is going to the future, just basing loyalty programs on the volume of transactions or whatever those metrics may be for different industries isn't going to cut it. In fact, I think we would be bold enough to say that loyalty programs are dead. Long live loyalty. And so let's unpack that a little bit more.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Absolutely. And I think we could start with some data. Because, well, we talked to 4,000-plus respondents. And in case you haven't tuned in to any of our earlier episodes, this is a global study. 4,000-plus, 2,000 brands, 2,000 consumers. You can get the full report at There's so much info. Let's unpack it.

42% of consumers say three or fewer brands provide a high level of customer satisfaction. Now, to give a little more context, it's three or fewer consistently provide that, of brands that people engage with. Overall, people don't find, Wilson, that they get a great experience.

And so when you say brands, they're talking about every experience in their day. They're talking about where they eat. But they're also talking about B2B relationships that they might have through work. Three or fewer, when people on average engage with hundreds of brands. It's a very significant data point. And as I've said in some past episodes, it's an opportunity.

But it's also somewhat alarming. Because when you go up to, say, six or 10 brands that consistently create a great experience-- 12%, Wilson. People only have a few brands in their mind that really consistently create great experiences.
And I want to give you one more data point. But there was a study that came out a few years ago that said something like 89% of companies in the year 2017 intended to compete and differentiate themselves on customer experience.

So all these companies that, a few years back now-- we're looking into 2030 and this is a few years ago, said that they were going to differentiate and compete on customer experience. But our survey panel doesn't agree. Our survey panel does not feel. So this is a perception gap right here.

WILSON RAJ: It's absolutely a perception gap where brands are putting a lot of effort into building customer journeys, into personalizing and making them really real-time and contextual, while there's still that value around special recognition, right, or rewards from a consumer perspective?

And I think there was another stat in there that also caught my attention, around that 50% of the brands consider quality as the highest rated factor that drives consumer loyalty. So the quality of the products or services offered in terms of not just the price, but the quality. And I think the touchpoints have to be considered as drivers of loyalty. Brands have to close that perception gap.

So not just again, we talked about earlier as an end loyalty program, but around the journey itself as they're interacting, how can they build loyalty and efficacy in terms of that brand affinity? That is really the challenge. I think from a data perspective, there's a lot that can be done.

Brands can help consumers what I call save attention. That means do the thinking for them. Outsource, deploy, use AI or hidden intelligence to make recommendations and free up that attention that is so crucial to brand affinity.

The other one is they could shorten these journeys by incrementally improving each step of the journey, removing any kind of barriers or any kind of pain points, and then defining those expectations on the fly in terms of quality and expectation. So those things can be done on an incremental basis and not just to have an end loyalty program in mind.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, I think there's so much about continuous improvement that's going to be key for experience and experience creation heading into the next five and 10 years. I think a lot of companies want to solve it overnight. But a lot of it does start with things like getting your data in order, having the right set of data, start building the right analytics, incorporating machine learning. And we'll talk more about that when we dive into the tech.

But from a loyalty standpoint, one of the areas we really focused on was the attributes that create customer loyalty. So we looked at today, what drives loyalty. And then it's Experience 2030, so we asked well, what about five and 10 years out, what's going to drive loyalty? And just to kind of give a top three today, the top three is pricing, which is a little scary because so many companies believe that you can overcome pricing by providing more quality. But quality comes in second. So right now it's still special pricing at 39%, with high quality products coming in at 35%, and speed-- and you can ask Amazon, who has made massive investments to get to same day delivery in so many instances-- that came in third at 31%. So that's today.

Now let's just jettison into the future. People seem to think pricing will be surpassed, usurped by quality. So well, 39% say low price is number one today, 56% say quality in the future. So maybe brands are onto the right track by moving towards a quality model. Pricing then falls in behind at 53%.

And then there's a big drop off. But in third at 24% comes to special recommendations and upgrades. So companies personalizing experiences seems to be shooting up. Now, I would actually suggest put my analyst and futurist hat on and say that number will be higher. That's the difference of people who can't quite see what's going to happen and what will happen. But they're on the right track. They get the fact that getting more personalized, getting more specialized is going to make a difference. When you saw this top 10 list, sort of, how did you react?

WILSON RAJ: You know, I'm in the same-- putting the SAS hat on, I would say that the third component around contextualisation, around personalization, rising to the top will become the key impetus for building loyalty. As we talked about earlier, you know, the early activators of loyalty, they're still around rewards, based on transaction, right, points, amount spent, miles flown, et cetera.

But as we move into five years from now, 10 years from now, the quality is always a given, right? That's your brand promise. But more and more as we talk about loyalty being embedded into the customer journey, it is really about adding two more dimensions to the reward and transaction.

The second element that we added is value. What value, what incremental value along the journey, whether even before you become a customer all the way until you become a brand ambassador, and all points in-between, what value are you offering them in terms of ease, convenience? There could be an emotional component to the brand, whatever that may be.

And then the third element is recognition. Are you recognizing me not just as an individual, but also my lifetime value to the organization? And I think when you add the rewards, the recognition, and the value components along the customer journey, then that journey becomes a pivotal enabler for loyalty.

So I think the key thing here to remember is that loyalty starts even before you become a customer. So when I'm trying out things on your site, when I'm checking out something on your shopping cart for the first time, wow, that is an opportunity to build loyalty by the experiences that are being provided through that interaction.
DANIEL NEWMAN: Absolutely. And one of the things that we keep coming back to, because of how we designed the survey to have brands and consumers, is this perception and reality gap. And so I started off the show talking about it's not about brands and consumers having a lack of alignment. But to some extent, there is some lacking alignment that needs to be discussed.

So I earlier provided those top three being today, the low cost, high quality, and immediacy of availability. Well, those were at 39%, 35%, and 31% respectively, by the consumers. Well, brands seem to think quality is number one, with 58% believing it's that, then at 50% being cost, and 45% saying availability. So it's interesting. Because they actually had the same top three. So it means they're able to put their consumer hat on and they're sort of empathic to the customer and what the consumer is thinking.

However, they're overrating how one thing can be a differentiator. And clearly, how I see this, Wilson, is that consumers actually probably weigh three or four or five factors into loyalty, whereas brands might feel like it's one or two. And that's why such a high percentage is being attributed to a single attribute.

So for instance, we see 39% at number one being the low cost by consumers right now, with 20% being the 10th item, which was consistency of brand and image. Well, the brands just overrated each of them. And their number one was high quality at 58%, and offers, adds information different than consumers expressed interest but relevant-- so that would be recommendation engines, for instance-- at 40%.

So consumers are putting a number of items together to get to maybe that 100% if you add them in aggregate. And brands are putting everything-- they're seeing them at 40% and 50% rankings for their importance. And so it comes back to a thing of the alignment is they see similar, but they're overestimating. And I think that's an opportunity for brands to realize it's not going to be one or two things, it really does come down to how you do each thing correctly. And with technology, everything from recommendation engines, to corporate social responsibility, to app-based notifications, to just being available to pick up the phone, these are all things that aggregate to create loyalty.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely. It is a cumulative effect, right? Just as you can't-- the loyalty program itself enough-- to be a loyalty company, you have to be cumulative. There's just absolutely no way around it. In other words, all your business functions, whether it's marketing, sales, service, support, there could be mid-office operations, has to be gelled in to that notion of loyalty.

How am I rewarding? How am I building value for the consumer? And how am I recognizing them along those points? And I think from a data perspective, this is where it's exciting from SAS, because we see a lot of our customers using data along the journey to build those points.

So a good example of that multifaceted loyalty engine would be Orlando Magic. Now, for them of course, for sports franchises like that, the season ticket holder is the epitome of the loyal customer, right? Because I bought a season's worth of tickets and I'm guaranteed-- well, at least from a revenue perspective, right, I spent that money.

But they go beyond that. For them, it's an immersive experience from the time you leave the home to go to a Orlando Magic game, you sign into the mobile app and you're getting pre-game data about your favorite players in real-time. As you near the venue, the app directs you to your parking spot and then gives you turn-by-turn signals to your seat where now you can actually order what you had the last time, you know, a hot dog or a burger. And then you could even-- while you're enjoying your food and watching the game, you could call the mascot to do a selfie with you.

Now, along all those points, what Orlando is building is experiential loyalty, not transactional loyalty. And that's what five years from now, 10 years from now, is going to be that difference. And so they're building fan experience. I think to me, a good reminder for our audience today is hey, we all want to make-- not just make it a customer experience, but make it a fan experience of your brand.

DANIEL NEWMAN: I think the owners in marketing leadership at the Orlando Magic have spent a little time experiencing the magic of Disney, not so far away.


DANIEL NEWMAN: Because so much of what you're saying makes me think about the princess that shows up at the dinner of your seven-year-old daughter, and the eyes light up. And I say, that child will grow up someday, and have a family, and return to Disney. And it will be a moment like that, that immersive experience.

And it happens in other places too, Wilson. It happens-- I talk about Starbucks all the time. They really do understand how to do immersive experience. From end-to-end, their stores, starting with their whole third place concept, it's a place where people come, and they settle in, and they work. And the baristas are very personable.

They're also well-compensated and cared for because that translates into better experience, because they get tuition reimbursement and they feel like they're part of a company where they can grow. And they pass that along to the consumer.

But then it actually continues to expand to the app, right? Where the app is very well-designed. It tells you what you've ordered, it tells you-- you've got your little stars, and you can get your items after you spend so much. It connects to your pay systems, whatever your preferred method of payment is.

And it just makes that whole-- from the time I decide I want a cup of coffee to the time I get my cup of coffee-- experience so seamless. So you have your loyalty program. But the loyalty really is in the fact that they're getting to know you, they're delivering relevant information to you. Each time you go into the store, it's consistent. That journey, each shopping journey is similar, and familiar, and makes people feel good.

So it can be the Orlando Magic at a stadium. It could be your favorite theme park. But it could also be something as simple as your everyday cup of coffee. And one of the things specific that I thought Starbucks does so well is the utilization of technology. And that kind of brings us to the last part of our loyalty section, was what are the technology features that drive consumer loyalty? Wilson. What were some of your takes on some of the tech data that came back from the survey?

WILSON RAJ: You know, I think all the examples that you mentioned in terms of Starbucks, and Disney, Orlando Magic, and Carnival, even the cruise lines, they're using the same sort of point of presence, beacons, et cetera to be able to harness a more immersive experience for folks on the cruise, right, whether they're on the ship or off the ship.

And I think a couple of things, coming in from a technology perspective, number one is a sort of a customer data platform. And I use that term very openly. To me, I'm not going to a specific CDP definition. But there is a customer identity capability in terms of trying to identify folks on a one-to-one basis in terms of not just all the transactions I've done, but also with Wi-Fi, with beacons, you know, location-based services in terms of where they are physically, where they are digitally on a journey. So having an ability to be able to collate and coalesce all those different data points that speak to my customer state is absolutely crucial.

And number two, there has to be obviously an application of analytics. So all the things that we talked about, whether it's Disney, or Starbucks, or Orlando Magic, these brands are using advanced analytics, generally powered by machine learning or AI to be able to do those recommendation engines.

Now, if you look at Amazon, which is another good example, they have about 20-plus, maybe 21, 25 data science systems. So you have recommendation engines, which are connected to pricing systems, which are then connected to content, which are then connected to inventory, and so on.

And any time there is a signal in one of these systems, let's say from a consumer demand, it sets off a chain of events that then orchestrates the right pricing, the right inventory, the right content recommendations, delivery options to that specific signal. So again, the application of analytics along the customer journey, not just broad customer journey, but specific points, and articulating that and orchestrating that from an experience perspective is something else from a technology perspective that really weaves everything together.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, and it was interesting to see what consumers and brands look at when it comes to driving loyalty around technology. Consumers are quite simple in this. The number one thing-- real-time product order tracking. That's what they want, 31% said that. Ironically, brands didn't have that in their top five.

So either a, the brands have skipped to the future and they're not even thinking about the blocking and tackling, pardon the sports analogy, or they just don't rate that as highly. But I can say as a consumer, even as a business buyer, the first thing I think about after I procure anything is, when do I get it?


DANIEL NEWMAN: So that, to me, is either, like I said, almost a survey faux pas where they just missed that answer, or it's a little bit of a wake up, like hey, do the basics first. Because the first thing that the brands were focused on was mobile, mobile apps, having a mobile app experience. And that was number two for the consumer. So they weren't wrong there. But start with the basics.

Some of the other areas that were interesting was high-speed access to site. We've heard those stats probably over time. And if you're a marketer, or an experienced designer, or a business owner, you've probably heard things like consumers only spend a few seconds waiting for a site to load. Or if an app is slow or difficult, they bail. So that certainly ranks very, very highly.

Brands are very driven by things like tracking offline. And you're starting to see that with the proliferation of IoT. Consumers don't have that high up on their list. And that kind of goes back to our Trust episode, which I hope you'll take some time to tune into, which is another area that Wilson and I cover and that's covered throughout this study. So that's kind of like that today.

But let's just flip for a minute and look into the future. So when we asked people to start thinking ahead, this kind of shows maybe not so much even a gap, but where brands are probably spending a little more time thinking to the future and individuals are spending a little less time. Individuals, consumers are saying from 2025 to 2030, they're now becoming very interested in that mobile experience.

Well, I think brands are like, we're past that. Now they're starting to think about ordering from your smart speaker in your home. They're thinking about 5G and how important it's going to be that, when you're in the subway underground, that you're still getting one gigabyte per second speed so that you can shop and buy an experience.

So consumers, I think are-- this is where they really need brands to start tying in and helping them see the journey and experience it themselves. Because consumers don't have always the full picture. If you're talking about over 2,000 consumers, not all are tech savvy. Not all of them necessarily are focused on what might be next. And that's where CMOs, and chief digital officers, and analytics leaders need to start to sort of paint the picture for consumers so they can see the future.

And this became very, very clear because topics like automation, artificial intelligence, 5G, and smart speakers-- only smart speakers really made it onto the list for consumers. But those were all on the lists for building loyalty through technology in 2025 to 2030.

WILSON RAJ: I think this is a good example of where now this time the brands are over indexing on technology. Because through this research, we have seen how consumers are adopting technology typically generally at a faster pace than marketers are adopting marketing technologies, right?

But here's where there's an over-index, and then leaving the fundamentals behind in terms of, again, you know, how easy it is, how handy is the experience, how enjoyable is the experience. These are all hallmarks of loyalty. And I think if brands would just to fixate on a couple of the key things, what makes a moment of truth is really-- there are three elements, right? There's informational-- I want to know something, I want to know how to get a price quote, I want to know how to return something. So that's all these informational elements that are baked in throughout the journey.

There are transactional moments where they want to do something. They want to actually order something or they want to exchange as an action. And the last one is they need help. So they want to do something, they want to know something, and they need help with something.

Now, when brands wrap all those things up into a nice emotional experience, right, which is really the brand promise, then you have something that can always be building loyalty throughout. And again, this is where that data that could be used in analytics can be used to inform the intelligence to power those experiences.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, there's so much to loyalty. And it's such an important topic for the customer experience of the future. As we head into the next 10 years, attention spans continue to get shorter. The options become greater. The world has been opened up. Everybody can pretty much access all goods, products, services, supplies.

Disruptive forces are coming out of nowhere. And this is going to increase the need for brands to basically pay attention to customer experience and to building loyalty for their customers. Is it overshooting on technology? I think it's making it easy, is what it comes down to. If the technology makes it easy, people are going to adopt it. If technology feels like it's a lift, if it feels like you're asking me to do more work in order to embrace the new technology, then it's not going to drive things forward for loyalty programs.

But that's going to be really a key activity of the brands over the next five, 10 years, to make technology transparent, utilize it in ways that consumers are having that better experience but don't really realize it. And we see this every day. We mentioned our examples throughout this show when we talked about the Magic, when we talked about at Starbucks. Most people haven't thought about all the technology that has gone into making these great experiences great. But the results have been happier customers.

So loyalty really starts with the basic building blocks of what do consumers want, how do we make it possible to deliver in the most seamless way possible? But don't underestimate the importance of the aggregate of several different attributes. And that's probably my one other big tip here. Don't put too much weight into just quality or just pricing. Put effort into everything. And understand that your experiences are being weighed across the board. Your company's social corporate-- corporate social responsibility statements to having immediate availability are all weighing in on what makes loyalty for a customer.

Wilson, I'm going to give you the last word here on the topic of loyalty before we bring this one to an end.

WILSON RAJ: I think at the end of the day, especially into the future, loyalty will be a cross-team game. So it's not just the marketing department or the loyalty group, for that matter, or even support and service. It is going to be an all-team game. It's going to be full collaboration. There has to be full data transfer and transparency between all these groups to be able to build loyalty into moments of truth. And that's where the battle will be won.

And thank you, everyone, for tuning in. If you enjoyed today's show, head over to to access more free resources and great content.
Join us in the next episode, where we'll address the issue of Digital Trust and how brands can offer the perfect blend of trust and technology. Until then this is Wilson Raj, signing off.


Episode 4

Episode 4, Season 1: Experience 2030 – Immersive Technology > Bridging the Customer Experience Divide


WILSON RAJ: Consumers are dipping their toes in immersive technology, whether they even realize it or not. From Snapchat and Instagram filters, to heads up driving displays, to augmented reality shopping experiences. It's all creating entirely new ways for brands to engage with their consumers.

Hi, I'm Wilson Raj. And welcome to Reimagine Marketing podcast. Today's episode is Immersive Technology, Bridging the Customer Experience Divide. I'm joined by Daniel Newman, principal analyst and founding partner of Future in Research and we're excited to talk about this topic.

When we think about immersive technologies, ultimately it really draws down to one huge thing, contextual and in real time. That's immersive. The technologies around it are really cool as the research, by the way, you can find that on And we're talking about augmented reality, virtual reality, beacons. I mean everything that envelops today's modern consumer and also into the future. But ultimately, Daniel, when we net it out, when we look at these findings, and we look past the data and look at what consumers are really asking for, they want it to be contextual, situational. And they want it to be in real time.

And we need to talk about that, too. Because real time is not always every time, right? It's more about the right time.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah. And let's talk about what consumers are saying.


DANIEL NEWMAN: Because the start here, is most organizations are in some phase of digital transformation. Many organizations still are combing through what that even means. But when you ask consumers about technology, 48% of our 2000 consumer respondents said they have too much technology in their lives already.

Well, if we're progressing towards more technology, this means we need to apply the technology better, because otherwise it's fatiguing the customers. 42% are saying they've spent too much money on tech that hasn't really helped them. So this is a gap. This means that consumers are making investments in devices and in hardware and in compute and in tools and technologies that aren't actually making their lives better.

So immersive technologies can form the heart of customer experience. But that comes down to the technology being applied correctly. Now a little context on this, the long and short is, 360 degree view of customer has been and will be the epitome of what marketers are trying to get at.

WILSON RAJ: And that term, 360, I think that is something that we heard, at least my career , 20 years ago, in a different tech company. And it still resonates today. And I think moving into the future, that's still going to be the mantra, around the 360 view. Now the question is, can we really get a 360 view, now?

Humbly, I would say probably not. Not a full 360. But we can certainly get close to that amount. And another data point here, that was interesting, is that consumers, they want to be enveloped, maybe to give us that 360 view. And they want a 360 view. So for example, with regards to AR and VR devices in their home today, 61% of consumers reported that they had no AR and VR devices today.

However, by 2025, 60% of them will expect to use these technologies as part of an event or a brand experience. So consumers are looking for a 360 view now. The question is, can us brands do something about that, in terms of what we talked about earlier, from the right context and interacting them at the right time.

DANIEL NEWMAN: And it's such a big question. I can still remember the first time I put a Gear VR on my head with a S7 Samsung. And I experienced the World Cup, the 20-- I think it was back in, was it 2014, the first time I tried it? And then it was really, really rough.

And then it was in 2018, it had completely hit the next phase. And I can only imagine, by the next time in 2022, when the lighter devices, the faster connectivity, we're going to feel like we're standing in the middle of the stadium. And that is where we are going.

But from where we have been, it has been a process. And it has taken some time for us to, ultimately, get to where we want to go, Wilson. It may be interesting though, to just kind of go piece by piece and talk about what the different technologies are.

Now as a reference of time, you know we're in the early part of October in 2019. One major company that's well known for having a lot of customer data is Amazon. And they recently launched 14 new hardware pieces, Amazon Echo. Everything from a oven, a smart oven, that can tell you, and you can watch what food is cooking at home, to a ring that you can put on your finger that has a haptic sensor that lets when you're getting alerts on a device, and then can connect to the earbuds that they've now built, to read your messages in your ear.

Now people can say, oh, they want to be a competitor of a hardware tech company. To me, it's the enablers of that 360 journey. Now there's all kinds of implications here. Do people want that much connectivity? Do they want their data being shared? Do they want their smart assistant in their pocket all the time?

But to get to 360, we've got to get to people's data outside of the home and in the home, outside of work and at work. And that's kind of the direction we're seeing go here. So as we go from, like I would say, the least to most immersive here, I would say, the first immersion is having technologies that are capturing all of our data inside and out, which is going to get us closest, Wilson, to that 360.

So you're seeing companies start to do it. They're starting to build tools and technologies that can start to-- what are we buying? Where are we buying it from? Where are we shopping? Where are we eating? What are we doing? Where have we been?

That's a good start. But to get the rest of the journey, people have to really participate and they have to stay connected all the way through the day.

WILSON RAJ: That's absolutely right. And I think even that starting point, which I think we could safely call that the notion, whether it's real time marketing or real time predictive analytics or real time intelligence, whatever you want to call it, that notion of real time is really key. And I think we need to parse that a little bit more. Because it goes beyond just the ability to market or to establish a connection in real time.

I think one way to look at this, especially today, and especially as we move into the future, is to differentiate between customer facing real time and what we call operational marketing real time. So a customer facing processes will be things that-- how we executing on your strategies. And that's where the data and analytics capabilities can allow customer experience leaders to create value for their consumers and prospects throughout the journey.

Now real time operational processes will be really more about the real time capture of data, analysis of that data, and then decisioning of that data to be used, either at that point of need, which is now, or it could be sometime later. So I think it's a misnomer to call those things real time, because data capture is always done in real time, to your point, Daniel.

But then the execution has to be algorithmically done so that it is executed at the appropriate moment, along those touch points and across those media devices, whether it's an oven or a ear bud or a smart TV or an Amazon Echo. And I think that therein lies that opportunity, to be able to hinge and connect all those things together for that immersive experience.

DANIEL NEWMAN: So we'll call that immersive technology one, which is the bot, the AI, the smart speaker, voice assistant, that we're going to see entrenched in our daily lives at home. But also we're going to start to see more of that kind of technology being used in the workplace. There's no question about it.

Whether it's Microsoft assistant on your Windows machine or it's Siri on your iPhone, we're not just using that for personal. We're using that to schedule meetings and appointments and to help us find documents on our computer, which is all immersive technologies. But then there's the next one, and you mentioned a little bit about this, which is those augmented virtual mixed and extended reality experiences. Different companies use different vernacular.

But 54% of brands are investing in this. So companies, certainly, are seeing the point. I still remember, there's one wine company that, you hold up your camera in front of it and it makes the labels go augmented reality. So you're seeing basic things. You're seeing Pokemon Go getting people chasing coins all over town. These are small immersive experiences.

I mentioned the first time I tried it for soccer, to watch soccer content, and how much that's evolved. But companies are starting to think about, how do we create more immersion? And this can also be in the workplace. This could be on the manufacturing floor. How do we help employees? Which is all part of experience, to develop and build new products more quickly with instructions.

So we're seeing AR and VR being rolled in, into the experiences. And you've kind of covered this one, so let's talk another thing. What about automation, Wilson? Automation of processes, automation of engagement. What do you think automation is going to do to the future of customer experience?

WILSON RAJ: I think automation is, from a technology perspective, in a hierarchy, is going to be a necessity. When we look at things such as AR and VR, and to your point, lots of brands are using it. You know, Home Depot, you can have AR to be able to look at your room and look at paint swatches and place furniture. And so the immersion there is all about creating value and is experiential, not just experience.

And I think when you're dealing with that level of data sets from AR, VR, from IoT, from sensors and beacons, that data set becomes unimaginably large. And therefore, some element of automation, in terms of automating aggregation of those, all those data sets, automating, using machine learning or artificial intelligence, in some cases, using computer vision or natural language processing, whatever the case may be as it accrues to those experiential senses, needs to occur to be able to handle that volume of data. And then to be able to orchestrate and synthesize that the right interactions in the right order.

And then after that, to be able to automatically refine those interactions on the fly. So automation now, becomes a key thing. And with automation comes automated decisioning. So we have things such as robotic process automation, RPA. The other things such as what we call intelligent process automation, which is something that we're talking about here, that systematically automates decisions and actions and data and analytics, to the point where all the heavy lifting is done by machines.

But then the human can then exert some level of judgment or creativity or emotional coding to be able to make that experience, not just immersive, but emotionally engaging, as well.

DANIEL NEWMAN: And we're looking at a future, by 2030, where brands believe that 2/3 of customer engagements will be done on digital devices. And it will be completed using smart machines. So basically, we're going to a world of human machine relationships, where 2/3 of customer engagements, 2/3, 66%. I know, I reiterate it. But I think that's important. In just 10 years, it's more likely than not, that when you're talking to a brand, you will be, at least in the very beginning, talking to a machine.

And some of us are probably already feeling that now, to some extent, with some of the chat bots. The difference is automation improves, as AI machine learning proliferates, is going to be the quality of the response. Right now, a lot of it's programmatic. They can only answer a handful of things. If you think about turns in a conversation, each question resets the bot to the beginning again.

But in the future, conversational AI is going to dominate the type of engagements that humans and brands have, where you'll have multi term conversations. It'll be just like talking to another human being where it understands feelings. It can identify locations. It can tie together multiple activities, weather, in planning of your day, for instance.

So we're going to see a lot of that continue to grow. We talked about real time analytics. One more area that's going to be immersive, but may be somewhat ubiquitous to a lot of people, is going to be Edge. So there's a huge amount of investment, I believe it's about 86% of companies that we talked to, said that they're spending significant resources to distribute computing to the Edge.

This is going to enable autonomous vehicles. This is going to enable smart cities. This is going to enable a next level retail shopping experience. So this is a pretty big one, Wilson. The Edge, while not necessarily another device, or not necessarily, in terms of what humans are feeling, that real time processing that you talked about and that ability for real time data to turn into a real time analytic, to turn into a real time experience, is really going to be heavily leveraging Edge computing.

WILSON RAJ: And that absolutely confirms that future of experience, where it is going to be more immersive. And you can't have immersive experiences without an ecosystem. So it's no longer just a brand, a consumer to brand experience. It's consumer to multiple brands, over multiple devices, yet across multiple interfaces, all the way to the Edge.

And so you know, let's say, if you take a financial, a bank, they're not just doing the core banking needs, in terms of helping someone save money or spend money or borrow money or lend money. The person wants to be able to, say, plan a vacation. So from an Edge perspective, they will be interfacing with different providers, different media outlets, and different players to be able to plan, pay for that vacation, and then go on that trip.

Transportation is involved. So the bank now it has to look at it, and say hey, I'm not just a bank. I'm working in an ecosystem. So I have to be able to move to the edges so that I'm able to be part of that experience all the way through, whatever that journey is.

And that again, takes a lot of compute power, in terms of that data that is going to be amassed. And AI and machine learning is going to play a pivotal role in terms of managing that data set, applying a almost human like intelligence to that, and then orchestrating decisions on the fly.

DANIEL NEWMAN: I think the summation of all of this around immersive technologies, Wilson, is there's so much interdependence that exists between all of these technologies. So AR and VR will expand as, not only hardware becomes more accessible and pricing becomes more affordable, but also with the growth of speed and connectivity. 5G and Wi-Fi six, which will turn into 6G and Wi-Fi seven likely by 2030, when this is turning the corner.

You are going to see Edge grow, which is going to power autonomous vehicles, but you're going to need IoT to advance and that 5G technology to continue to become more dependable and reliable before autonomous vehicles reach their point. Real time analytics, all these things, again, tie together.

So immersive really comes down to the immersion, not just of the consumer and the technology, but all of the technologies into one another. And I want to wrap this up with just a couple of interesting data points that came from the survey. By 2025, Wilson mentioned, 60% of consumers believe they will be using AR or VR as part of their consumption.

But let's jump ahead another five years. By 2030, 80% of consumers are expecting drones to be part of their brand experiences. The same 8 out of 10 consumers expect to be leveraging smart assistance in their lives. And that will completely shape the way that they are engaging with organizations and brands.

So this is just a start. But people aren't only expecting to talk to smart assistants, they're expecting the drones to be delivering their packages to their doorstep. They're expecting to be immersed in technologies that are going to be wearables, they're going to wear over their eyes. And I've said for a long time, that brands really could stand to benefit by putting technologies in front of consumers and actually reinstate our posture vertically.

Meaning, we've spent a lot of time over the last decade looking down at our devices. And I do see a huge opportunity, when we immerse people in reality, using digital as a extenuation of their experience rather than the experience itself.

WILSON RAJ: Great discussion, Daniel. Thank you. That's all the time we have for today's episode. Join us in the next episode, where we'll talk about how brands can move beyond traditional loyalty programs to become loyalty companies.

Now you've enjoyed today's show. Please head over to to gain access to our free resources and more content.

Episode 3

Episode 3, Season 1: Experience 2030 – Future-Proof Your Customer Strategy


Welcome to the Reimagine Marketing podcast. My name is Wilson Raj, and today's episode is "Experience 2030, Future-proof Your Customer Strategy. What will the future of customer experience look like? How will technologies like AI, smart devices, drones, virtual and augmented reality change the way consumers and brands relate to each other? This episode and some of the subsequent ones will feature "Experience 2030," an ambitious global survey on the future of marketing and customer experience.

I'm joined by Daniel Newman, principal analyst and founding partner of Futurum Research, who worked with us in this global research. The genesis of this research was, of course, at a marketing event. We had a good time in Boston last year at a MarTech conference. And again, all the topics were very salient in terms of AI and IoT and the future of customer experience. And there were all these technology vendors there. And I remember, after the event, we were sitting down by a-- wasn't it a trash can, Daniel?

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, it's the trash can story.

WILSON RAJ: It was a trash can. And that goes to show, one person's garbage is someone else's treasure. But while sitting around that trash can and just musing about the conference and what we felt about it, the idea popped into our head as, wow, what would the future of customer experience look like? And what would be the implications for both consumers and brands? And remember, that set off a spark in your eyes, as I think that you were on the same track, right, Daniel?

DANIEL NEWMAN: Absolutely. And for everyone out there, I'm Daniel Newman, principal analyst and founder at Futurum Research. I'm a seven-times best-selling author, including my newest book, Human/Machine. But for the longest time, I focused on everything from the new rules of customer engagement to future-proofing your organization to, now, the relationship that's being created between humans and machines, as things like AI and analytics and IoT proliferate to change the way we experience the world.

And yeah, Wilson, I do think you tell the story very well. And for people to try to imagine it, there's a MarTech conference. It's like many conferences that take place at a small conference center or hotel. You walk in, and you're thinking, it's a tech conference. This thing should be awesome. There should be big displays everywhere. You should be seeing analytics flashing before your eyes, people wandering around with virtual and augmented-reality glasses. But that's not what tech conferences look like today, right? You and I are--

WILSON RAJ: Not at all.

DANIEL NEWMAN: --planted eating lunch, trying to find a beverage, some coffee, in two chairs that look like they came straight out of any banquet hall, next to a garbage can. And we're just like, it can't look like this forever. The future is going to have to be different.

And as we sat there, we started saying, I wonder if we could take a lot of data, ask a lot of questions-- not just of brands, like a lot of researchers do, but of consumers and brands. And we can couple all this together to come back and say, what is the world going to look like in 10 years?
And that's bold. And as an analyst, I can tell you that's bold, because predicting 2020 or 2021-- that doesn't take a lot of risk. I actually write those posts. You can go on Forbes and read my Digital Transformation Trends post. And you'll see I'm pretty sound at figuring out, 80% of the time, what's going to happen in the next 12 to 24 months. There's a lot of indicators. The data is pretty clear and widely available.
But going out over that horizon, Wilson-- that's what I thought was exciting. And I think you and I sat there. And by the time we left that conversation, we said, oh, yeah. We've got to figure out how to do this. But just figuring out how to do it and then even coming to the conclusion to work together-- that was only the beginning of what's been really a year of building to where we are today.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely, Daniel. And I think the spark for this was certainly that there had been a lot of prognostications around the future of experience. We've read it in all the media, in all great publications, a lot of good research papers talking about the future of experience. And to some degree, now, the word "robotics", or "automation", or those kinds of things come in.

But I think the question we were trying to delve into was, do consumers really care? Where are they on this journey on the future of customer experience? Are they leading it? Are they lagging? And the other question that we were also interested in is-- as we unfolded the research and went about the questions and surveys and so on-- was, are brands in line with those expectations? Now, we know that consumer expectations are always sky high. They're always ahead of the brand. But to what degree are brands lagging? Or are they on par?

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, and I think the question that even builds off of that, Wilson, is, how similar are perceptions? Because some of the most interesting data that we'll share throughout this series-- and of course, we would love to have you download-- check out the landing page at, because there's a ton of data.
And in these episodes, we will share some key data points and talk about what it all means. But we will only get to the tip of the iceberg of all the data that we found here. But not only, what do brands see and what do consumers see? But what do they see the same, and what do they see differently?

We are in an analytics, AI, machine learning-powered world. But yet, a lot of companies still make decisions on gut. They still make decisions on what has worked in the past. They still are guilty of those seven words that are the biggest risk of any company-- "we've always done it that way." And the data shows that this still happens.

So the data gives us this window into the future, this exciting window of what customers think they're going to want. And then it tells what brands think that the customers think they're going to want. And then there's these perceptions.
So throughout this series, we're going to dive in to topics like customer loyalty. And when you talk about loyalty, we're not just talking about loyalty programs, but we're talking about being loyalty brands. And we talk about immersive technologies. And what are those technologies? What are those technologies that are really going to change the way people are experiencing companies? We've mentioned some of those already.

Another area we're going to talk about is privacy and trust. And this is an area that all of us knew was going to be near and dear to our hearts, because we're all struggling with this. Do we want to give all of our data for a great experience? And it's fascinating to see how people's answers really differ here.
So we're going to dive in to all these things, Wilson. But let me ask you this. Before we get into the show and start telling everybody what we found, what was maybe something that really surprised you? Or even better, what did you expect? Let's tell everybody what we expected ahead of this research. And then when we dive in to the actual episodes, we'll tell them what we found.

WILSON RAJ: Sure. I think my expectation, given a lot of the things we're reading around consumer adoption of technologies, is that there'll be more of a comfort level with technologies such as AR, such as VR, moving to the future. But then an interesting point there was around, there's still a little bit of hesitation, even into the future, around how those technologies could be construed as being very intrusive. But then, of course, a caveat to that is that there's still a need for personalization and relevance at all points of experience with the customer journey.

DANIEL NEWMAN: Yeah, I think you hit it on the head. And what I was really surprised by was, people seemed more aware of where they expect things to go. I expected people to be somewhat unsure or uncertain. Asking people to see 5 or 10 years ahead is a big task, and without all the data at their disposal for them to say, hey, when might we adopt a smart speaker? Or, when will I have multiple devices or be using sensors that will be extended the way I use my mobile device?

All these things-- people are thinking about it. And I think it wasn't necessarily expected. So when I came into it, I didn't know if the data was going to indicate that we had a whole lot of guessing and prognosticating to do, or could we really discern some of the very real trends that are going to emerge? And this data, this project, even had the outcome of a 10-year roadmap.

Now, of course, this 10-year roadmap, where Futurum Research, on our end, actually tried to lay out, in each year, one major milestone that's going to take place. And you're going to have to download the report to see that. But we look all the way out over the next 10 years, everything from where a drone might fit in to topics like blockchain and their impact on trust. So we cover so much ground.

But overall, in the end, what we really hope for everybody out there is that you enjoy the data, you find insights that help you steer your business in the direction that you want to take it, and that you find it actionable. And that this actionable data becomes your roadmap, your playbook-- which we will have an episode on the playbook-- for the future of experience in your business powered by analytics, powered by AI, powered by machine learning, and powered by all of the ways you take those technological topics, and you implement them into your digital transformation to drive the future of your business.

WILSON RAJ: This is a great spot to wrap up this fun, interesting discussion. Thanks for listening, everyone. Join us in the next episode, where we'll explore how immersive technologies can help marketers create more contextual and real-time engagement for your customers.


Episode 2

Episode 2, Season 1: Butcher Shop as Math House – Connecting with Tomorrow's Digital Consumer, Today


WILSON RAJ: In a socially distant market the use of digital, mobile, and immersive technology isn't just an option. It's an imperative. Consumers are looking for experiences that provide relevance, convenience, and safety, from the increased use of telemedicine to contactless payments and checkout. I'm Wilson Raj, and welcome to Reimagine Marketing Podcast, "Episode Number Two, Connecting with Tomorrow's Digital Consumer Today."

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this podcast. I am joined by my special guest, Bernard Marr, who is a best-selling author, futurist, and expert in digital transformation strategies and technologies. Hello, Bernard.

BERNARD MARR: Thank you so much for having me, Wilson. It's really good to be with you again. We did some webinars together recently, and I'm really looking forward to doing this podcast with you.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely, and I think the last webcast that we did was around this topic around the digital consumer and what has happened in the last year, the effects of the pandemic, economic disruptions, and then how are consumers responding to that, and then how brands are responding back. So we had a great webcast just recently, and this is really an extension of that because there are so many great points and things that you were sharing that we felt, hey, we got to get this out to the audience.

BERNARD MARR: Great. No, I'm looking forward to it.

WILSON RAJ: To get things started, I think it'd be great to talk a little bit about, again, sort of your journey. This topic is certainly not new. You've addressed it many times, but tell us a little bit about your journey up to this point as an author. And I think I'm more interested in the futurist part.

BERNARD MARR: Yeah, so I started my career at Cambridge University. I grew up in Germany, then came over to Cambridge to finish my degree. And they then offered me a job, which I thought was a great place to start your career, so I joined the faculty there.

And then I moved from Cambridge to Cranfield School of Management, where I did lots of research and also consulting work on business strategy, on technologies, on digital transformation, and how companies use data. And I've literally never done anything else. I've always been in this space, initially helping companies to use data more effectively.

Then it moved into analytics into big data, into AI. Then I broadened this out into all major technologies because AI impact everything, and then I started to write for Forbes on all future technology trends. And this is how I started.

WILSON RAJ: Fantastic. And this is something I ask pretty much all my guests on the show, at least. Do you have a favorite quote or a saying? You probably have a lot of them yourself. Something that you use as a principle when you talk to customers and clients and think about current technology and future scenarios.

BERNARD MARR: For me, the key thing when I talk to my customers is that they have to start with their customers, and they have to make sure that they really think about how they're adding value to their customers. And then they need to translate this into their business strategy, and then they need to make sure that their digital transformation is in line with their business strategy. And then their data strategy is in line with all of this. So for me, it starts with the customer, and if you always remember this, then you will be a successful business.

WILSON RAJ: All right, so there you have it. Starting with the customer, not with anything else. I think that's a huge, salient point. So to get on to our topic today, the first part we're going to talk about is really the dynamics of this new digital consumer, or we can call him or her the "tech-infused buyer." And some of the content we're going to talk about was taken from a very recent Experience 2030 pulse report that surveyed in excess of 600 respondents globally around their consumer behaviors and how brands were responding during the COVID-19 pandemic, so pretty much the latter half of last year. And some interesting stats came out.

For example, we found there's a faster, a greater, a deeper adoption of these immersive technologies. Almost 70% of consumers said they expect to use augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality to experience products and services in the coming year, so there's an uptick there. And then about 60% said they would visit a remote location or venue using these very same technologies. In other words, less in-live events. So the question is, how are consumers adapting to this new digital reality, and how is this affecting personalization from a brand standpoint?

BERNARD MARR: Very good question. So for me, we've all experienced this now that we simply had to adapt to talk to all of this because of the pandemic. Because suddenly, from one day to the other, everyone was stuck at home. We had to work from home, shop from home, bank from home, have more home-based entertainment, and more digital events.

So I think we've adopted incredibly well to all of this as a population of this world, and for me, what we are now seeing is that lots of things have shifted to digital first. And we've obviously all started to upgrade our systems at home. Initially, people were struggling. They might not have had the cameras, the microphones, the networks at home and all of this in place. Nowadays, we can do this.


BERNARD MARR: And for me, personalization has simply become an expectation of consumers, of me. I get really frustrated when I speak to a company I'm dealing with and think they should really understand me as a customer. Let's take my bank or an insurance company. And when they don't, I get really annoyed. And I think there are lots of companies still struggling with this.

I was working with a telecom company, for example, and when we started working with them, they had lots of silos. So they couldn't even see their customers holistically because if you think about this, you might have a broadband subscription. You might have an entertainment package. You have a mobile phone subscription as a family.

You might have multiple of these, and they were seeing all of these as individual customers. So to get this holistic view was initially really difficult, and if you don't have this, you then also haven't got this holistic understanding of your customers, which then inhibits everything. And you can't really do any of this personalization.

WILSON RAJ: Right, and I think when we had some previous conversations, there were some great personal examples that you showed around how organizations today are stepping up in this more holistic view, to your point, using data and these immersive technologies, but also really surprising the consumer. And we saw this acceleration of these things literally in the last year, so what are some of the things that stood out to you personally, some brand experiences, for example, that speak to what you said earlier?

BERNARD MARR: Yes, there are so many different examples, and for me, some of the companies that have started to use extended reality, I think, are great examples. Companies like Dulux, a paint manufacturer that is now enabling all of us to check out what our wall will actually look like with the different shades of greens and reds and whatever we might want to paint our walls with. I think I've definitely been there in the past where you head to the DIY shop.

You buy lots of samples. You put them on your wall, and then you choose one. And then when you end up painting the entire wall, you realize, actually, this wasn't really the color I was hoping for.

WILSON RAJ: Absolutely.

BERNARD MARR: And for me, there are companies that do this really well, companies like Amazon, for example, that have really, reimagined themselves and have thought about, OK, how do we build customer relationships? I think when you first asked me about the mantra and some of my favorite quotes, I think what companies need to do, they need to think about how they solve customer problems, not how they sell products. And this, for me, is what companies like Apple are doing really well.

And then they need to think about how do they engage with those companies, so especially building a subscription model, where you can continuously engage with them. And where offline is online, and online is offline. So if I walk into an Apple shop, which I can't do at the moment, but in the past, they know me digitally. I can pay digitally. They understand who I am as a customer.

At the same time, even at the beginning of this customer journey, I can browse their latest products, and I can even use augmented reality to put the latest iPhone right into my kitchen. I can walk around and zoom in, zoom out. And for me, they are some of the key things that they're engaging with me. They're building this continuous relationship and where I have this seamless experience from augmented reality to virtual reality to websites or physical stores, and they all seem to work in harmony, which I think is a great example.

WILSON RAJ: I think the big point you bring that is you talk about the continuity of experience more so than the consistency of experience. So the Dulux example is basically, that's something that you're trying before you're buying, right? You've gone through all that purchase awareness, and you've cut all the way down to, all right. Let me put this on the wall with augmented reality.

And I think IKEA is another one. I read just recently where they have also partnered with an AR, an augmented reality, vendor where you can actually use their app on Instagram to be able to project what a shelving unit would look like. And I've put together IKEA products, and boy, it takes sometimes months for me.

But here, it actually projects on a wall what a unit would look like. The space, you can even envision putting things up there. And then if you like it, like the arrangement, you can move it around. You can just press a button, and boom, those pieces, those units are exactly shipped to you. It's just frictionless.

BERNARD MARR: Yeah, and this is a great example for me. For me, it's absolutely vital that we think about how do we make this whole customer experience better. So in the past, if you-- and IKEA is a good example because I don't particularly like walking through an IKEA building. Because you get channeled. It should really take 10 minutes. It takes 30 minutes because they want to see everything.

WILSON RAJ: And you always end up at the meatball section, right?

BERNARD MARR: Exactly. And for me, there's still a challenge because sometimes, you look at furniture, and you still don't know. OK, I've seen this in the shop now. It looks nicely set up, but what will this actually look like in my setting? And this is where, actually, VR and AR supercedes what we can do in the physical world, where you can actually place it into your room.

And we see the same in try before you buy in makeup. L'Oreal is now allowing you to try on different makeup shades. Where you can try on hats. You can try on jewelry. And for me, this is a real differentiator if companies get this right, this whole virtual channel using augmented and virtual reality to help customers experience the product before they even buy it.

WILSON RAJ: Right. Now, before we shift to the evolved strategies from a brand perspective, just one thought I just wanted to see what you think. So have consumer behavior-- today, has it been forced into a sort of this kind of digital or physically distant model?

Is this something that's temporary maybe for this year into next year, or is that something you think that we'll carry on? Or at some point, it'll just go away? I'm just curious as to what you think this digital physical balance would look like.

BERNARD MARR: So I very firmly believe that our world has changed forever, and I believe that this will last. I believe that many things will never come back, and if I just think about some of the clients I have, some of the biggest companies around the world, many of them are now selling their real estate, their headquarters because they realize people can work from home. And if we are working from home, we can do everything else from home, so what we will see in the future is this digital first and then maybe a hybrid model where it is appropriate.

For me, what is key is that companies need to think, what is actually the value of what we've had before? And is digital better?

And if you think about this whole idea of try before you buy, one of the examples I often talk about is buying glasses. So I've taken my daughter, who wears glasses, to the optician many, many times to have her annual eye check, and then what usually happens is that at the end of the check, you then end up in a showroom. And there, you then select your next pair of glasses.

But she now is a teenager. She wants some cool glasses, and the shop usually doesn't have what she's looking for. So she ends up buying something that is the closest to what she would really like. And obviously, now during the pandemic, you don't want to go into any shop to try on anything.

And there are companies like Warby Parker that do this really well, that are offering a virtual interface. You can use your smartphone. You can use your computer, and you try on glasses virtually.

And not just this, they will use artificial intelligence to scan your face and see, OK, you're a teenager. You are female. Your head is shaped in this way, and then they will recommend glasses to you.

And I think in an ideal world, you would have this when you go to a physical shop. You have someone that really understands what would suit me and then make recommendations, but the reality that I've experienced over my lifetime is very different, that the optician usually or the salesperson sits behind a counter and says, just try on all of them and see which ones you like. So actually, the new digital first experience is better. I have a better experience, a better recommendation, better choice, and it streamlines the entire process.

WILSON RAJ: That's fantastic. And I think you really highlighted some of the key capabilities some of these successful brands, like Dulux or IKEA and Warby Parker are using. They're using or they're adopting technologies such as not just AR and VR, but they're using artificial intelligence, such as Elements. They're machine learning computer vision in that example, and they're optimizing that.

And actually, this pulse report showed that these technologies, the adoption of this is accelerating. Literally, they've been shortened from a three-year span or a four-year span to an 18 to 24-months span. So the acceleration, this integrated technology investments so that brands are now rethinking operation models.

And it's not just these technologies. They're also looking at, as you mentioned, automated subscription, chatbots, 5G, distributed ledgers, blockchain, and so on. So the adoption of technology is so fast. So what are some of the things that brands, now shifting from the consumer now to the brand side, what do they need to think about to put this in a way that's not just a tech stack, but something that adds value to this new digital consumer that we've been talking about?

BERNARD MARR: Yes, so for me, the key here is that you actually start with the customer. So the biggest mistake you can make is you look at all this really exciting technology, saying, oh, virtual reality. Oh, artificial intelligence, 5G, let's put all of this in place, and hopefully, we will have a successful business. This will never work unless we start with the customer in mind and really think, how do we add value? How do we solve their problems?

And for me, Amazon is a great example because as a business, they've always done this. One of their strategic mantras is to be customer-obsessed, and they actually have created this really nice process. So whenever they think about digital transformation, they are starting with a press release that will outline how this digital transformation has made the customer experience better. And this is their starting point, and then they go backwards and say, OK, how can we now use technology to actually implement this and make this better?

So for me, it has to start with value creation, really thinking about how I'm adding value, how I'm making the journey for my customers easier and better. And then once you've done this, you can then think about, OK, how do we establish a better relationship with our customers? This is also something really important, having this continuous engagement.

And companies like Body Shop here in the UK, they've done this really well. So they're a cosmetics company, and they have now started a direct channel that is very successful. So something that companies like Avon have done initially, but they are now building this. So they have this continuous dialogue with their customers. They have this ability to understand what customers actually want and how their behaviors are shifting.

And we've seen this in other companies, like Netflix, have had this for a very long time. They have all the insights about what consumers actually are consuming, what they're interested in, and this is why Disney was so keen to start Disney Plus because they didn't really have this. They didn't have the intelligence and the understanding of what customers want.

They can produce a great film. They can then put this out on their channels, but all the organizations, the cinemas, the streaming services that are then showing this, they're getting all the data back, saying, obviously, they're not just watching Disney films. They're also watching all these other films. So this consumer understanding was lacking, and this is what Disney is now doing well. So for me, start with value, then build relationships, and then use that understanding of your customers to drive insights to get the data and the insights that can help you to reshape your customer value proposition.

WILSON RAJ: You know, Bernard, what you talked about, starting with the customer, the value, the relationship, and then it's really this virtuous cycle. And to me, I've seen examples like this, and the term for me is this customer experience. But it's really becoming more as relevant as a service. Just like you have software as a service, basically, the customer is just expecting organizations to anticipate their needs and act on their behalf in a continuous manner, using AI to eliminate navigation here, or complex navigation, or anticipate needs, and then making smart decisions. And the one other example I've had some experience with is an online insurer, Lemonade. It's a small company. It used to be a startup in New York.

And they're using the things, Bernard, that you talked about, AI, data, forecasting, a chatbot that reviews an insurance claim, and then it checks it against the customer policy. It runs about 15 to 20 anti-fraud algorithms on it. It approves the claim, sends the wiring instructions to the customer's bank, and then lets the customer know like, hey, you've got the money in the bank. All this within 3 and 1/2 seconds.

I mean, that is truly a great example of relevance as a service, and again, all the examples that you talked about, I think the new operating model is this notion of relevance as a service. Now along with that, Bernard, I think the fundamental thing here is the data. Are brands overlooking-- are there types of data that is left uncaptured or underutilized that could really drive some of this virtuous cycle of value and engagement and relation that you've been talking about?

BERNARD MARR: Absolutely, and there's lots of untapped data out there. But this also comes with a big warning here from me because what I don't want companies to do is to fall into the trap of collecting everything just in case. Sometimes, when you listen to analytics companies and data vendors and storage vendors, they tell you, collect everything because at some point it could become useful. I think this is a really dangerous route to go along because what you want to do is you want to really figure out what data do I actually need.

And so for me, with lots of my clients, we approach this almost from a data minimization perspective where we say, let's figure out the 20% of the data that we really need that will drive 80% of our value. So when I worked with Shell, the global energy company, on their data strategy, what we then made sure is that for every bit of data they were now putting into their cloud, we said, OK. Well, let's make a business case for this. Why do we need this? What's the value of having this data?

And for me, there are too many organizations that fall into the trap of simply dumping everything they could possibly measure and collect in terms of data, and dump this into a big data lake, and then hope that at some point, this would become useful. So at the same time, there are huge untapped sources of data, so we now have data on almost anything. I remember working with a local butcher's shop here in London, and when we started working with them, the founder, the dad, who set up the business 50 odd years ago was very skeptical, saying, hey, we don't need data. We don't need AI. We have some real world challenges here that we need to face.

And so I said, OK, what are some of your real world challenges? And he said, OK. Recently, the library closed down. Now a supermarket has moved in, and I now have some real competition here. And I don't even know what I'm competing on here. Am I competing against them on price, on something else?

So I said, OK. They're all really good questions. Let's figure out how we can start answering some of these questions. So they needed to understand footfall conversion ratios, what marketing messages would work and didn't work, and what we did is we installed a little device in the shopping window, a little Euclid device that picks up our mobile phone signals. Because we all carry smartphones, and these smartphones always look for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, you have this little device that simply counts how many smartphones come past that try to connect to Bluetooth. And therefore, you have a very accurate footfall.

What we then did is once they had this information, they could then experiment with new marketing messages, saying, OK. Let's put a sign out for a week saying we beat the supermarket on all beef and then see what the impact is. The next week, let's try something different.

Let's say, OK. Come in for this family recipe that has been passed on through generations on lamb, and not only this, you get all the other ingredients, as well. You get the recipe card, and it is all locally sourced. And what was interesting is-- and of course, yes. Those messages really worked, so what this butcher realized once they had the data is actually, it was not about price.

It was really about engaging the community. It was about locally produced meat. It was about their tradition.

And so this really gave them a new focus. So for me, it's absolutely important to understand the question first and then collect the data and find the data. And there's so much data out there, but we shouldn't fall into the trap of just collecting data for the sake of it.

WILSON RAJ: Wow. Bernard, I think this is one of the coolest examples I've heard. I mean, this is a family owned butcher, and they're using data in such an immersive way, the foot traffic, the digital devices are passing by, to be able to really understand and test their messages and their value and some of the offerings they're doing.

BERNARD MARR: What is interesting, Wilson, is that this device cost $100, and they simply subscribe to a little software as a service subscription. And when they started realizing how useful this is, they then also started to think, OK. What other data can we use? What other questions have we got?

And they are now pulling in some weather data that the government makes available for free, and they can now use this to predict demand. So they know a week before the weather is going to be good at the weekend, so let's make some more sausages and burgers to get ready for barbecues and so on. So they've become a really data-driven company throughout this process, which is nice.

WILSON RAJ: It is. It's a spectacular example. I think, for them, they didn't start with all data. They started with some core data and then started incrementally adding because they were asking bigger questions, either related questions or adjacent questions.

And then from there, it's like, OK, to answer this question, I need this sort of data. I need weather data. I need traffic data, for example, and so on. So I think this operating model is something that I think all brands, all enterprises-- I mean, if this family-owned butcher shop can do something like that and be a math house and use that data in very creative ways, then I think the opportunity is available for everyone, as well.

So as we pivot to just a couple more elements, one of the things that the pulse report also talked about was around the convergence for the consumer around not just personalization, but also trust and loyalty. How does that factor in? So we've been talking all about immersion and value. There's also a trust factor because of all this data that's connected and collected. So what are some of the guidance you would have for CX professionals around balancing the personalization of privacy?

BERNARD MARR: So trust, for me, is vitally important. I've talked about the importance of building relationships and engaging with your customers, and you can't do this unless you have trust. It's a bit like in our real world, where we make friends, and over time, we build those relationships. And these are usually built on trust.

And companies that are building trust are the ones that are able to offer customers some real value and where customers really understand, OK. This company is actually on my side. So VitalityHealth, for me, is a really good example. They are a health insurance company, and what they do is they want you to be healthier. When you join them, you want to be healthier, so they are saying this is a win-win relationship.

So when you join them, they send you an Apple Watch. So you can track your own activity levels. They can track how active you are. You can then link your online shopping account to them to demonstrate that you're buying healthy food, and then you earn rewards.

So you then say, OK. I'm healthier. I then pay less for my health insurance, for example. I get benefits for this.

Or in the financial services world, where I've done some work with the Royal Bank of Scotland, for example, that wanted to develop better relationships with their customers. And I think in the past, financial services firms have always used data against their customers. So they offer them a great deal on a new financial product, and then they know that after six months or after a year, this will drop to almost zero interest rate. But we're not going to tell our customers this for a long time, and we will then earn lots of money.

So what they said is that you can't have this engagement and relationship if we are exploiting our customers, so what they now do is they actually tell their customers, OK. Your banking product, the interest rate will drop to zero in six months time, in three months time. Do you want us to find you a better product? They will now tell you when you're paying twice for, let's say, travel insurance, because as a premium customer, you get travel insurance included. And this, for me, is how you build trust, really delivering some value to your customers.

WILSON RAJ: Yeah. It's not it's not exploitative. It's not optimizing your sales numbers by selling this stuff, by saying, hey, you know what? You can save money if you do these things with us. That is a switching of that script to build that trust and obviously, to make sure that trust and data protection is part and parcel of this new customer experience.


WILSON RAJ: All right. This has been a great conversation, and we're going to head into the home stretch here. As we think about the ability to deliver these products and services and experience in this new era, as a futurist, I mean, you've probably seen this, and you've shared some of the ideas. What are the key one, two trends that you see will be coming up this year and into the next?

BERNARD MARR: OK. I've written a book about the 25 biggest technology trends that will define this fourth industrial revolution, but if I look across all these 25, the key ones are that data is now becoming a core asset for organizations, helping them to understand their customers and everything else. Once they have the data, they can then use AI to automate their business, using things like chatbots and machine vision. They can also augment and automate some of the analysis of the data.

Then 5G is a huge enabler that will transform so many business models. I feel 5G is not really recognized across businesses of how transformative it will be. Then this whole as a service revolution, so more subscription based businesses that are delivered via the cloud, and then extended reality, so augmented and virtual reality that will transform our customer experiences. They are, for me, the key trends that I am watching very closely and that are helping my clients to understand and prepare for.

WILSON RAJ: Excellent. In fact, the pulse report did surface some of these key areas around the data uptake, the acceleration of automation and smart technologies, such as AI, within the brand to do exactly those things. So that's a key part. Now, you've been speaking a lot at different events and so on, so what is the one thing that you would have CMOs or customer experience leaders focus on in response to the pandemic after-effects? If you've got to give them advice on one thing, what would that be?

BERNARD MARR: Yeah, so for me, there are two key words here. One is humility, and the other one is courage. So for me, what businesses and business leaders need to do is they need to really understand and listen and learn to what is going on around them.

So we've gone through this. We're still going through this pandemic, so really understanding what customers are dealing with, how this is transforming their world, and then having the courage to actually respond to this in a really authentic manner and where you try to experiment and try out new technology that will then help you engage with those customers better. So they are, for me, the key things, humility and courage.

WILSON RAJ: Fantastic. I think those are absolutely key principles to live by, whether you're in a state of disruption or even if things are going well. Bernard, where can they find more information? You reference a book that you have. Where else can they find more information to learn about some of the things that you're doing with regard to digital transformation and customer experience?

BERNARD MARR: There's so much content out there. There are literally thousands of articles and case studies on all of this on my website at I have a YouTube channel where I talk about all of these technology trends. I have a podcast on the future of business and technology that people can subscribe to, and they can find me on social media, on LinkedIn where I share all my content, on Twitter, on Instagram. So there are plenty of ways to stay in touch, and I would love anyone listening to connect with me.

WILSON RAJ: Wow, those were some powerful points you made there, Bernard. It's critical to create a customer strategy that is both tech-focused and human-driven, but I think your points around having humility and the courage to be able to execute on the strategies is probably the force that really drives everything. So there we have it. I would like to thank our listeners for joining us on today's episode. Subscribe to our Reimagine Marketing Podcast via your favorite platforms so you won't miss future episodes.

We'll put all the resources that we mentioned, the Experience 2030 pulse report, the resources that Bernard mentioned, into the show notes. And I would like you all to join me in the next episode, "Episode Number Three, Experience 2030, the Future of Customer Experience," where we'll talk more about these macro trends that impact customers today and how brands can respond to them in real time. Thank you, and have a great day.

BERNARD MARR: Thank you so much.


Episode 1

Episode 1, Season 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 Hofmans 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 Hofmans. 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 HOFMANS: 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 HOFMANS: 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 HOFMANS: 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 HOFMANS: 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 lifesaver 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 HOFMANS: 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 HOFMANS: 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 HOFMANS: 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?