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Customer First Thinking
34 minutes | 2 months ago
Digital Darwinism: An Interview with Brian Solis, Global Innovation Evangelist, Salesforce
Under pressure to act fast during the pandemic, businesses sped up their digital transformation plans, compressing their timetables from years into months. Now they face the next phase of evolution, what digital prophet Brian Solis calls the “novel economy”. For businesses to adapt and thrive, says Solis, they must take a more profound and humanistic approach to transformation.
56 minutes | 4 months ago
Agency Transformation: An Interview with Mark Penn, Chairman and CEO, MDC Partners
Slow to awaken to market disruption and too reliant on ad spending, the global agency holding companies have seen their valuations plummet in recent years. To reverse their fortunes, they need to transform their service model. MDC is leading the way, aided by an infusion of capital from the new CEO Mark Penn, who is set to turn his collection of “partner agencies” into a “modern marketing company of choice”.
32 minutes | 8 months ago
Content That Matters: An Interview with Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs
The world is awash in mediocre content, mainly because most brands struggle to find something meaningful to say. Yet in times of crisis, when people are feeling anxious and concerned, there is never a better time to speak up. The key is the ability to show empathy, Ann Handley argues. She urges brands to “do less” and “obsess” about producing higher quality content that matters.
57 minutes | a year ago
Reimagining Loyalty Programs: An Interview with Bryan Pearson, Loyalty Marketing Pioneer
Most loyalty programs today do little to make people feel more loyal to the brand. They are mainly promotional tools designed to drive repeat sales by giving away margin in the form of redeemable currency or discounts. Which is why it may be time to reimagine loyalty programs, according to Bryan Pearson, transforming them into dynamic platforms that are a more integral part of the customer experience.
59 minutes | a year ago
Brand Advocacy: An Interview with Jay Baer, President of Convince and Convert
Marketing as a discipline is going through an identity crisis due to the radical shift in the buying behaviour of people. The answer, for some companies, is to ditch the classical marketing function in favour of a broader mandate that makes the customer experience more of a corporate priority. But just fixing what’s wrong is not enough, according to Jay Baer. Companies must also offer customers an experience so memorable and unexpected, they’ll be keen to talk about it with everyone they know.
48 minutes | 2 years ago
Decoding the Future: An Interview with Mitch Joel, Founder of Six Pixels Group, and Digital Seer
Most traditional businesses are just now getting used to the idea of a mobile-first world where people spend six hours a day immersed in digital media. But as the digital economy starts to take over, businesses will have to be ready for even more tumultuous change. A new wave of disruptive technology is coming. It will usher in a post-digital age of continuous connectivity and transform how society functions: what’s been called the 4th Industrial Revolution. AI-powered smart speakers, streaming services, messaging platforms, apps, mobile commerce, 5G-connected devices, virtual and augmented reality, blockchain – all converging to transform how people live their lives. No wonder IDC is forecasting over $1 trillion in digital transformation spending this year, an increase of 18% over 2018, as businesses frantically try to upgrade and modernize their infrastructure and systems. But most businesses remain “digitally distraught”, as IDC puts it. New ways of connecting with customers means new ways of doing business – hard to pull off if the C-suite can’t see past the next earnings report. Digital transformation is not for the “faint of heart”, IDC warns. It takes an enterprise-wide commitment to change. It requires an inspiring vision of how to create an unforgettable customer experience. And it means rewiring the business to become more agile, collaborative, daring, innovative. In other words, it means acting more like “digital natives”. Since the number one goal of digital transformation is almost always to improve the customer experience, marketing should be leading the way. Yet, according to Forrester, that job is usually handed to the CIO, who’s more likely to be thinking digital-first, not customer-first. Which is why efforts at digital transformation generally run aground: siloed mentalities, timid goal-setting and risk aversion get in the way of being customer-obsessed. To act like a “digital native” demands an inquiring mind and a constant itch to defy convention. Those attributes perfectly describe Mitch Joel, the Montrealer who’s made a name for himself as a digital expert specializing in decoding the future, as he puts it. He built his reputation as a trailblazer in the early days of the digital revolution, dating back to the start-up of his digital agency Twist Image in 2002, which he later sold to WPP. Mitch writes a popular blog called “Six Pixels of Separation” which he started 16 years ago and produces a weekly podcast by that same name. He’s also written a couple of best-selling books, the second of which, “CTRL ALT Delete”, was about “the evolution and reboot of business”. So it was natural that digital transformation would be the main subject of our conversation. But first I wanted to know – how did he go from being a music journalist and publisher at the start of his career to becoming a renowned digital seer?
55 minutes | 2 years ago
Transforming Marketing Strategy: An Interview with Niraj Dawar, Professor of Marketing, Ivey Business School
Download for offline listening. In one survey after another marketing leaders cite driving growth as their biggest challenge. Judgement of a CMO’s performance invariably boils down to one measure: the year-over-year increase in brand sales. And as much as marketers have glommed on to the idea of customer experience as a differentiator, they are still mainly accountable for selling more stuff to more people. That’s why marketing strategy and planning, according to Forrester Research, “remains stubbornly old school”. Marketers see their job as spear carriers for the brand, leading the hunt for new customers. The only thing that’s changed from past practices are the KPIs: Engagement now tops ad impressions – social shares trump share of voice. But the goals are still the same: create top-of-mind awareness; lead people down the path to purchase; get them to convert. No wonder the idea of putting customers first seems so abstract. Marketers are still caught up in the game of brand messaging. That game was relatively easy to play when the choices were confined to broadcast media. But today marketers are forced to spread their dollars across a broad mix of channels, hoping to catch customers at exactly the right moment. The problem: Messages go unnoticed in an ever-expanding universe of content. Audience attention is fleeting, measured in seconds, not minutes. So how do marketers get off this merry-go-round? What should their true role be? How do they lead their organizations out of the digital wilderness? And how, in fact, do they become more customer-centric when they are still organized around brands and products? In his book “Tilt”, Niraj Dawar, the esteemed Professor of Marketing at Ivey Business school, observes that “marketing, as a discipline, has been in a funk since the demise of mass marketing clipped its ability to move large numbers of customers to buy”. He sees today’s marketers as aspiring technicians “who understand data but not strategy”. He argues that product innovation is not enough – it only results in incessant leapfrogging. His idea: Marketing must go from asking, “How much more of this stuff can we sell?”, to “What else do our customers need?”. Marketing’s new role, he suggests, should be to “take charge of the entire customer relationship”. Marketers today need to give up their channel-based strategic planning processes in favour of delivering value at every stage of the relationship. Instead of “playing a game of R&D roulette”, as Professor Dawar puts it, marketers need to figure out which customer problems the brand is best positioned to solve.
63 minutes | 2 years ago
Experience Thinking: An Interview with Tedde van Gelderen, President at Akendi
Download for offline listening. Over the past decade design thinking has grown in popularity as a catalyst for innovation. Historically, the design function has always operated on the business perimeter, answering to product management, engineering or marketing. But with today’s intense pressure on businesses to ward off digital disruption, design thinking has taken on a central role in freeing the corporate imagination. Until very recently design thinking was not even taught in business schools. The curriculum has been overwhelmingly devoted to scientific management principles which stresses measurement and process (like Six Sigma, TQM, etc). Design thinking, by contrast, looks at problems from an outside-in perspective: how people experience the world. Applying abductive reasoning, it tries to reframe the problem by factoring in the often emotional and irrational choices made by customers. To think like a designer demands curiosity – insight - free thinking – empathy - and a collaborative spirit: attributes more often found amongst polymaths than technocrats. Design thinking leads to Big Ideas about innovative products, services and business models. But to improve the usability of a product or service, a different design methodology - human-centered design – is applied. Both have their role in meeting the needs of customers. But what’s missing is a more holistic view of the customer relationship – one that takes a broader view of the end-to-end experience. Which is why experience thinking, a new evolving field, fills a critical gap in the innovation process. Experience Thinking looks at what’s important to customers – searches for unmet needs – pinpoints the desired outcomes – and homes in on the ideas that can turn a humdrum experience into one that customers will rave about. It can be thought of as the “corpus callosum” connecting creativity and innovation in order to crack the code on difficult-to-solve problems or come up with truly unique experiences. “When you take a holistic look at how people react and would interact within a set of events at specific points in time, you are implementing Experience Thinking”, writes Tedde van Gelderen in his book Experience Thinking. As the founder and President of the Toronto-based design consultancy Akendi, van Gelderen has worked with a broad range of companies over the past decade, helping them create what he calls “intentional experiences”. His framework divides the design process into four interconnected quadrants: Brand, Content, Product and Service, each with its own goals, techniques and outcomes. Together they form the tapestry of a connected end-to-end experience. Prior to founding Akendi, the Dutch-born van Gelderen worked mostly in the area of user experience design where he applied his post-graduate degree in cognitive psychology, either as a design manager or consultant. Today the company he founded has offices in both Canada and the U.K. and is considered a pioneer in the realm of experience design.
63 minutes | 2 years ago
The State of Digital Advertising: An Interview with Seraj Bharwani, Chief Strategy Officer, Acuity Ads
Download for offline listening. Ever since the earliest ads began appearing in newspapers at the start of the 19th century, advertising has been tolerated by most people as a credible source of information on products and services. But in recent years, as digital advertising has steadily grown to account for one third of total ad spending, public trust and favourability has declined sharply. Most people now feel bombarded by interruptive digital ads, creeped out by ad retargeting and resentful at the constant intrusiveness. According to Forrester Research, just 21% of the online population still believe ads are a good way to learn about new products1. Everyone else feels preyed upon, knowing their online activity is being shared by ad networks across the web. Advertisers, for their part, aren’t feeling they’re getting their money’s worth. The world’s biggest ad spender, P&G, had harsh words for the industry a couple of years ago, accusing it of waste and fraudulent practices, upset that as little as 25% of money spent on digital ads was reaching its intended audience. The world’s second biggest advertiser, Unilever, has called the web a “digital swamp”. Its former CMO, Keith Weed, recently said, “Without trust, advertising has no future”. That’s why the web has reached a “tipping point”, according to its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, who favours a total reboot. The problem, of course, is that the web’s commercial model revolves entirely around brands spending money on ads, these days mostly through programmatic advertising. Almost all of the digital display dollars are being soaked up by the duopoly of Google and Facebook, and now Amazon has entered the ring, its sights set on attracting a hefty slice of that spending. That leaves the rest of the digital publishing industry fighting over a shrinking pool of ad dollars, forcing them to consider adopting a subscription model just to stay in business. Today thousands of ad tech companies feast on US$235 billion in online ad spending2. Consumers have responded by installing ad blockers, with one quarter of US Internet users now blocking ads3. The adtech industry has been trying to clean up its act, but until they give people a better reason to view and click on ads, a day of reckoning is coming. As the chief strategy officer for Toronto, Ont.-based Acuity Ads, Seraj Bharwani recognizes the urgency to rethink the current ad-based model. He was one of the founding members of Digitas in the nascent days of the web and over the years he’s helped shape the digital strategies for many top consumer brands, among them American Express, P&G and AT&T. In this interview he shares his perspective on the past and future of digital advertising, as well as his ideas for industry reform. I started by asking him about his experience in those formative years in the mid-90s when people were still scratching their heads about what the web was really all about. 1. Forrester Data Consumer Technographics North American Online Benchmark Survey, 2016. 2. AdAge Fact Pact 2019 3. eMarketer, “Demanding a Better Ad Experience”, Dec.2018.
58 minutes | 2 years ago
1:1 Marketing: An Interview with Don Peppers, Marketing Oracle and CX Expert
Download for offline listening. In 1993, AT&T launched a marketing campaign called “You Will”. In a series of memorable TV ads, it depicted future applications of technology that turned out to be eerily accurate. Each commercial showcased a different product innovation AT&T had been working on. “Have you ever had an assistant who lived in your Computer?”, one commercial asks. Another begins by wondering, “Have you ever gotten a phone call on your wrist?”. Each commercial ended with the signoff: “You will”. Almost all the scenarios, from videoconferencing to self-service kiosks to video on demand, eventually came true (just not attributable to AT&T, the one prediction it fumbled). It was a time of technological optimism when the interactive future seemed excitingly close. That year the World Wide Web had become freely available to the public at large. Services like Prodigy and Compuserve were already offering online subscribers dial-up access to a broad range of networked services. U.S. Vice President Al Gore earned notoriety heralding the “information superhighway”. And the launch of the Mosaic browser ignited the digitization of commerce. This revolution in communications technology gave hope to marketers agonizing over the decline of mass media. And that year they found inspiration in a book called “The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time” written by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers. Just like the AT&T campaign, the book imagined what the near future might look like due to rapid technological change, specifically the rise of individually addressable media. Intended as a “guidebook for competing in the 1:1 future”, the book argued that marketing would need to “put customers first” to succeed and that would only be possible by building “the deepest, most trusting relationships” with customers. A giant best-seller at the time, the book made “one-to-one” marketing the buzzword of the decade. Soon after, Peppers and Rogers parlayed their fame into a major consultancy business. Their names became synonymous with the rise of interactive marketing. Today, a quarter century later, the future has finally caught up with many of their predictions. Peppers and Rogers belong to the pantheon of visionary marketers who laid the groundwork for the widespread adoption of relationship marketing principles and practices. Don Peppers remains an ardent proponent of putting customers first, continuing to address marketing audiences everywhere on its importance. Notwithstanding the immense strides made in technology, Peppers says that improving the customer experience “represents an immense problem to solve” for most businesses. And while many of his original ideas have become mainstream, Peppers recognizes that many businesses are still struggling to fully catch up to the one-to-one future he envisioned a quarter century ago. We started by asking if he and Martha had taken time to celebrate the 25th publishing anniversary of the book.
66 minutes | 2 years ago
Deep Learning: An Interview with Gary Saarenvirta, CEO, Daisy Intelligence Corporation
Download for offline listening. Businesses are “drowning in data but starving for insight”, as the saying goes, and that problem is about to get worse. As society becomes increasingly connected, marketers are facing a rising tide of digital interactions. Somewhere inside that massive pool of data are the answers to questions marketers haven’t even thought to ask – yet are essential to creating a better customer experience. Relief is on the way in the form of artificial intelligence. The capability to skip right to the answers without even forming the questions will be the salvation of marketers, who until now have had to rely on their own made-up rules or overworked data scientists. With AI, the analytical load shifts to machine learning algorithms that will help marketers reach the promised land of hyper-personalization. The first wave of commercial AI solutions has already made landfall. AI is being used today to improve audience targeting for programmatic media buying; make dynamic content and product recommendations; and drive demand-level pricing. Most of the major marketing automation and CRM vendors have already integrated AI capabilities into their platforms (like Salesforce’s Einstein). Companies also have the option of outsourcing the analytical work to software-as-a-service platform providers who will help them benefit from the technology immediately. One of those SaaS providers is Toronto-based Daisy Intelligence founded by CEO Gary Saarenvirta. The company, which specializes in retail merchandising solutions and insurance fraud detection, was recently awarded the first-place prize at the 2018 Elevate AI Pitch competition in a tough field of 16 start-ups. The “deep learning” platform developed by Daisy Intelligence can ingest a massive amount of SKU-level transactional data and through its self-learning algorithms determine the best product price points; adjust the promotional mix to minimize cannibalization; identify optimal store locations and layout, and much more, saving merchandisers from needing to figure it out themselves. All the retailer needs to do is turn over as much sales history as possible, and let the platform perform its magic. “Deep learning” is very much like magic because no one can ever say how it arrives at the answers it comes up with. Known as a “convolutionary neural network”, the idea was first conceived by Toronto computer math wizard Geoffrey Hinton in 1986. Since that time advancements in GPU computing has allowed “deep learning” to grab the pole position in the AI race, much to the excitement – and sometimes dread – of futurists who imagine a world where machines are smarter than humans. Remember Elon Musk’s dire warning that AI would “summon the demon”? For the time being, AI evangelists like Gary Saarenvirta are proving that “deep learning” offers clear advantages over traditional approaches to data mining and analysis, both in speed and precision. And he should know: Gary ran the analytics practice at Loyalty Consulting Group for years, and once led IBM’s analytics and data warehousing practice areas. He’s also a trained rocket scientist, having entered the workforce with an aerospace engineering degree. But today Gary’s focus is much more grounded in making AI an indispensable tool for data-driven businesses. He explains why in this “deep learning” interview which started with the genesis of the company’s name.
58 minutes | 2 years ago
The State of Relationship Marketing: An Interview with Jagdish Sheth, Professor of Marketing at Emory University, Goizueta Business School
Download for offline listening. In 1983 a Professor at Texas A&M University by the name of Leonard Berry coined the term “relationship marketing” in a paper he presented at an American Marketing Association event. His basic premise: businesses should focus more on serving existing customers. Now as obvious as that may sound, it seemed heretical in an era dominated by mass advertising. Berry never actually thought his paper was “any kind of breakthrough”; he just figured it was “foolish”, as he put it, that marketing only thought about winning new customers, rarely about retaining them. Yet at the time his argument was so far out of the mainstream that nearly a decade went by before marketers warmed to the idea. What happened to revive interest was the unraveling of the mass market by the late 1980s. Relationship marketing was deemed by academics to be the antidote to audience fragmentation. Their endorsement led to countless books, papers, conferences, along with a dedicated scholarly journal. But with the rapid adoption of CRM technology in the early 1990s the definition became muddled. Did CRM now mean “customer relationship management”, as in automated after-sale support and service, or “customer relationship marketing”, as in data-driven one-to-one marketing? The idea that relationship marketing simply meant giving customers the attention they deserve was overtaken by the fixation with technology, to the dismay of early proponents. One of the earliest proponents was Jagdish Sheth, the esteemed Professor of Marketing at Emory University. Last year in a paper he authored called “Revitalizing Relationship Marketing”, Professor Sheth ruefully observed, “The focus on ‘relationship’ in RM got relegated to ‘marketing’.” He wrote that relationship marketing was suffering from an “identity crisis” and that marketers needed to stop treating customers as “ID numbers”. For relationship marketing to mature into a higher order business strategy, he suggested, marketing must shift toward “bonding with customers on an emotional plane”, where “the brand itself acts as a moral compass”, seeking to win a greater “share of heart”. Professor Sheth favours a new “purpose-driven relationship” where customers feel connected to a brand based on shared values. He reasons that people today are drawn to brands offering a “transcendent” experience, a theory he first advanced twelve years ago in a book called ‘Firms of Endearment”. This more humanistic definition of relationship marketing shares many of the same thematic overtones as the brand purpose movement which is all about businesses making the world a better place. The convergence of relationship marketing and brand purpose might end up becoming a whole new branch of academic study. And there is no one more qualified to lead that conversation than Jagdish Sheth, given his renowned scholarly work over the years, his many accolades and awards, and his widely acknowledged contribution to the advancement of marketing theory and practice. We started our conversation by considering whether marketers needed to hit the reset button and forget everything they ever learned.
42 minutes | 2 years ago
Journey Analytics: An Interview with Lori Bieda, Head of Analytics Centre of Excellence, Bank of Montreal
Download for offline listening. Customer analytics has come a long way since banks first started building Customer Information Files in the 1990s. “CIFs”, as they were called, were the primitive forerunner to what we now call “data lakes”. Just getting access to data was the main barrier back then – closely rivalled by the suspect quality of the contact data. Today the biggest analytical challenge for banks isn’t the limitations of technology: it’s embedding data-driven decision-making into the operational DNA of the bank. Most banks still limit their analytical muscle to product cross-selling, risk management and fraud detection. But as banks face stiffening competition from fintech interlopers, eager to capitalize on the mass migration of customers toward web and mobile banking, they can see the smoke signals: either they make it easier for customers to do business with them across multiple touchpoints, or they face the likelihood of losing them to less costly providers. Lori Bieda, who heads up the Analytical Centre of Excellence at Bank of Montreal, believes that banks can only succeed if they master the science of journey analytics. People crave both the convenience of online banking and personal attention from their local branch. They expect to be able to easily open an account, apply for a loan, pay a bill, cash a cheque, or monitor their investments using any channel or device of their choice, at any time. Identifying the breakpoints in that experience – where the journey is interrupted or disconnected due to faulty wiring - is crucial to customer loyalty and retention. “I’m a huge advocate of journey analytics”, she says. Lori’s mandate stretches far beyond journey optimization. She’s also focused on cultivating a data culture at the bank: one where analytical literacy and data fluency are found at all levels of the company, not simply concentrated in a “genius” pool of data scientists. Which explains her missionary work on the speaking circuit. She’s an eloquent ambassador of analytics, promoting it as a strategic tool for converting insight into business outcomes, whether that’s higher satisfaction scores or attrition reduction or simply increasing the average number of accounts. But realizing the full value of analytics, according to Lori, means looking at many different types of data horizontally – events, click paths, transactions, interactions – to isolate the moments that make or break an experience. With a wealth of experience in the analytical field – from her formative years at the database marketing agency Rapp Collins to heading up Client Insight at both CIBC and TD to serving as Executive Lead of Customer Intelligence at SAS – Lori has the rare ability to connect data science to business strategy. In short, she is the ultimate business translator, as she demonstrates in this insightful (excuse the pun) interview.
79 minutes | 2 years ago
The Future of Marketing: An Interview with Philip Kotler, the "Father of Modern Marketing"
Download for offline listening. His book "Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning and Control", first published in 1967, ranks amongst the most influential, and enduring, business textbooks of all time. Now in its 16th edition (retitled "Principles of Marketing"), it remains the most authoritative guide to the practice of marketing ever written. Other textbooks come and go with the passage of time. But Philip Kotler’s tome has stood the test of time, in part because it continues to challenge marketing orthodoxy. Half a century ago marketing played a relatively minor role in influencing business strategy. But Kotler, a trained economist, understood that the growth rate of a company was dictated by much more than simply product and price: it depended on the medley of go-to-market strategies that drove demand (what is commonly referred to as the 4Ps of the marketing mix). Since then, each new edition of his ground-breaking work has reflected the current state of the profession, keeping it as relevant as ever, even to a generation of digital natives raised on social media. His latest (co-authored) book, Marketing 4.0, addresses even more directly the need to transform marketing practices, calling for a more humanistic model, where the goal is to move customers from awareness to advocacy by connecting more closely with their values and needs. "Marketing’s job today is to sell materialism and consumption," he writes. "Tomorrow’s marketing will be markedly different." Today Philip Kotler is the S.C. Johnson & Son Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His reputation as the "Father of Modern Marketing" was earned through his prolific writing, extensive speaking engagements around the world, and the many blue-chip companies he has advised over the years. The American Marketing Association calls him "the most influential marketer of all time". In this charming and insightful interview, Professor Kotler generously shares his perspective on the current state of marketing and the future role it will play in shaping a better world.
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