CMO Digital Marketing Leaders Summit – Random Notes and Musings
Sep 9, 2016
Last week, a few Centerline colleagues and I had the pleasure of being a part of GDS International’s CMO Digital Marketing Leaders Summit in San Diego. It was two packed days of intensive small conversations, group workshops and keynote addresses all pushing toward solving three big interrelated challenges facing marketers today:
- Increasing and improving your capabilities in digital content for modern marketing.
- Integrating digital process and technology into your organization.
- Identifying better ways to capture and use the wealth of data surrounding your organization and marketing.
Here are three random discussions I was a part of at the event.
In his session entitled “Building a Roadmap Toward Our Digital Future,” Steven Bushong, SVP of Marketing Operations at Disney, asked: “How many of you brought your IT counterpart with you to this conference?” Not a single hand was raised. The context was that the session had devolved into a discussion about how IT (not in the room) wanted to build tech for tech’s sake and that the marketers (in the room) really needed tech to be solving a business problem. I’m certain IT would complain about the exact opposite: That they’re building the perfect tech, but marketers don’t know how to use it.
The root of the issue is this: Marketing is now (at least 50%) a technical field. So the solutions to marketing problems are going to require communication strategy, content creation, channel understanding, audience understanding – and plenty of technology to power all those other aspects. The one marketers feel least secure in being able to deliver themselves is technology. So marketers and IT better start learning how to work together from the same point of view. Building that point of view may start by sitting in the same room as each other (a room like at the conference) talking about the nuances of the problems we’re solving.
Perhaps it’s time to have a conference where both a marketing and IT rep are required to go. Maybe even make the entire event a three-legged race, in which the marketing/IT partners are attached and must go everywhere together until it feels natural. It would make the nightly networking events—where there’s always plenty to drink—more difficult to navigate. But it might make them more entertaining, as well.
In my own session—“Breaking Down Silos: How To Be Fast, Iterative and Smart With Your Content”—there was a great conversation sparked by our rapid persona building exercise; one that has never come up when we’ve done it before, about “trading one set of stereotypes for another.”
We have a theory that organizations spend far too much time trying to build “perfect” personas – multiple, overly-defined descriptions of their varied audiences. Personas so detailed that they leave no room for interpretation and improvisation. And they’re definitely not to be messed with. Once they are done (to the tune of many thousands of dollars and weeks of work), they are basically framed and put on a high wall to be looked at but not really used. And they definitely aren’t intended to be changed as new understanding of audience tendency is learned through marketing action.
So the exercise is to see if you can build a persona based on only four objects. It’s a purposefully “thin” persona that can be done in minutes, and then we start making it more robust based on content experiments. After three groups in the room created amazingly workable stories about the people who might be represented by the four objects provided, the question arose: Isn’t this exercise pushing us toward stereotypes rather than audience understanding?
My answer: Yes! But…it’s a much more useful set of stereotypes we’re finding. More in-depth (costly and time-consuming) persona building efforts yield rigid, obtuse stereotypes. Like: male CTOs (also know as Chief Technology Officer, or Chief Tech Officer, or CTO/CIO) between the age of 38-46 who work for eCommerce companies and are concerned primarily with their Ferrari and the latest software-based security products. Seriously. What content are you going to be able to create—at scale!—that is going to be of any real interest to someone like that?
Instead, the rapid personas we created sounded like people. Like: Up-and-coming tech geek who got into eCommerce when they were in college, who loves their loose, start-up workplace environment, going to events to both meet people and learn about new technology affecting the way we communicate and shop. (Notice the lack of title, gender, age specification and perceived interest in your product.)
Sure, it may be trading one set of stereotypes for another, but the open-ended ones listed second leave a lot more room for interesting content creation and learning as you go; for marketing as market research!
If you’d like to do the exercise with your own team, you can get the workbook here.
Tammy Soares, CEO of Rosetta, shared some interesting findings on “the four levels of customer engagement” that her organization uncovered while exploring how audiences (buyers) approach the products offered by brands they work with. And they discussed the drivers of that engagement. I’ve condensed the parts that struck me most into these two charts:
So in order to progress to the ideal state of brand (magical) with customers, marketing organizations need to focus on increasing the five drivers in somewhat equal parts.
Not an exhaustive list of all that was discussed, debated and decided…but three things that affected the way I think of and approach creating successful modern marketing programs. I hope they can be of use to you, too!
Watching TV as a kid, I used to run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials. Those days launched me down a path that included layout and writing for the college paper; communications strategy for political campaigns; marketing strategy and graphic design for Gensler (a global design and architecture firm); and the implementation of new programming, animation and design techniques for Centerline.
Today I specialize in content marketing strategy and building digital deliverables to execute those strategies. But it’s about more than just creating killer digital content. At Centerline, we help clients succeed in the digital marketplace using a three-pronged approach: strategic (message creation, brand strategy), tactical (design, development), and analytical (measurement and adaptation). This experience-tested approach allows me to build campaigns that are both well-designed and effective for clients like IBM, GE and National Instruments.