Digital and the Future of Marketing


When we think of the future of marketing, we often think of our customers. What trends are they adopting? Which devices? Where are they and how can I reach them? But there’s a double-sided impact to the future of marketing – and that is to do with the future of marketers.

There have been some massive improvements in the world of technology – with automated content and engagement platforms seeming to do amazing work. Just look at the journalism robots created by Associated Press that now publish around 3000 stories every quarter. This is journalism content “without a human byline”. It is a cocktail of 1 part excitement, 1 part absolute dread. After all, what happens when those “journo bots” turn their attention to marketing?

It’s time for us to grapple with the future of marketing

I recently spoke at the Marketo MarketingNation roadshow – and discussed our marketing-technology future. I will leave you to watch the video in your own good time, but I will also raise a couple of points:

  • Data is not your only answer – you need to work with the PANDA principles to deliver broad and deep value as a marketer
  • You need to create not inherit the future – what is the future you’d like to see? If you have a vision for a creative and vibrant marketing career, it’s time for you to step forward and voice those ideas
  • Time to skill up – if you don’t have any tech skills, it’s time to work on that. As we rush towards an increasingly connected customer experience model, technology will feature more and more. It’s essential you at least have the foundations (this is covered in the presentation)
  • Get some digital muscle on your Board – the same principles apply to Boards. Without the digital expertise available at a strategic level, you’re business longevity will decline. It’s time to bring diversity and divergent thinking onto your Board.

How to Get Your Board Onboard with Digital


When the eConsultancy/Marketo State of Digital Marketing report for Australia and New Zealand was released recently, it revealed a number of worrying trends. Not only was knowledge of digital ranked as “very poor” in 10% of organisations – up from 4% in 2014 – but a massive 63% rated this knowledge at “Okay” or less. Only 7% rated their digital knowledge as “excellent”. All of these leading indicators of digital skill and organisational capacity are trending down. But more worrying is the dearth of digital leadership at the Board and Senior Executive levels. Only 9% of eConsultancy respondents indicated that senior execs and directors have an “excellent” understanding of digital.


While I am not proposing that Boards need a deep understanding of digital, there does need to be a rebalancing. In an era when the world’s most valuable and profitable companies are “digital first”, Australia cannot compete while 91% of our Board directors languish in a 20th Century mindset. IBM’s Global Managing Partner for Social Consulting, Andrew Grill explains this as lacking “digital literacy”. In a recent BlueNotes article he suggested:

… the issue of digital literacy remains, in my opinion, a much more important issue than it was back in 2001.

In 2015 it has the ability to affect the stock prices of publicly listed companies in the short to medium term if left unchecked …

I see firsthand how companies are struggling to ensure the C-Suite can quickly grasp the impact of digital disruption being felt across all industries. Digital disruption is not just around the corner, in many industries it is already here.

Australia has a history of downplaying the importance of digital transformation and innovation. But the clock is ticking and the threat of digital disruption is real.

At a recent MIT symposium, it was estimated that 32% of revenue is at risk over the next five years due to digital disruption. Furthermore:

One panelist went so far as to suggest that companies won’t exist in 10 years if they focus only on “traditional products.” The way forward, he suggested, is to offer products and related services enabled by digital technologies.

Digital Natives, Reverse Mentoring and Digital NEDs

Having been Chair of youth not-for-profit organisation, Vibewire, for about seven years, I have seen first-hand, the massive changes in the way that young people, think, act and work – especially in relation to digital and social media. Close collaboration with digital natives – those who were born after 1980 and have always had access to the internet – can be eye opening. But also informing and enriching. It can transform the way that you work – if you are open to it.

This is where “reverse mentoring” comes in. More senior executives and Board members can be paired up with younger employees where cross-skilling and mentoring can take place. This can be a two-way experience – where each person’s experience and skill is honoured – and new experiences and skills developed.

But how do these skills reach the Board? Andrew Grill suggests engaging digitally savvy non-executive directors. Qantas has adopted this approach, appointing ad agency boss, Todd Sampson to their Board earlier in 2015. The question, of course is, how do you spot a digital NED? Here are some pointers (hat tip to Andrew):

  • Identify someone who understands the urgency and speed of change that is taking place
  • Look for those who understand the complex workings of the enterprise and can translate this to digital
  • Seek experimenters and those with a degree of hands-on experience.

Autobots, Decepticons, Technology and the New World Order #MarketingNation


marketoWe all say that the world has changed. That the customer is at the centre of our business and marketing strategies. We say that our marketing teams are going to spend more on technology than our tech teams. And we say that customer experience is at the heart of what we do as businesses.

But is this all talk? Or is it smoke and mirrors?

On Friday, August 28, 2015, the Marketo Marketing Nation roadshow rolls into town – and the agenda promises to answer these questions and more.

With keynotes from Marketo CEO, Phil Fernandez and firebrand CMO of Xero, Andy Lark, it promises to be a great day of market and marketing insight. And also a day of action.

  • Charles Ross, Senior Editor Asia-Pacific, The Economist Intelligence Unit is speaking on the rise of the marketer: driving engagement, experience and revenue
  • Andrew Lark, CMO, Xero will be discussing the connected customer: Why and how enterprises must transform to achieve greatness
  • Jennifer Arnold, Head of Marketing, SAP Australia and NZ looks at digital engagement: Australia’s performance through the eye of the customer
  • Rose Herceg, Chief Strategy Officer, STW Group and Author of The Power Book will examine the agency of the future
  • Cheryl Chavez, VP Product, Marketo will share what’s new in the world of personalised engagement marketing
  • Lara Brownlow from LinkedIn will share five key trends for marketers
  • Chris Savage, Growth Accelerator, PR Leader, Inspiring Business Advisor will explain how you can keep yourself relevant in a changing world.

There will also be customer panels and plenty of opportunities for networking.

After the lunch break, I am speaking on the way that technology is not just changing marketing but also IT – establishing a new world order. And it is in this new world order where marketers need IT skills and IT teams need marketing skills. It’s like the world of The Transformers. Who is the Autobot? Who is the Decepticon? And what do we need to do to explore our shared future?

If you are coming along to the conference, be sure to say hello. And if not, check out my live tweeting at #MarketingNation or live streams on Periscope or Meerkat.

Google Goes Back to the Garage with Alphabet


When a company the size of Google makes a massive change in their structure and the way that they do business, it’s big news. Today, Google announced the formation of Alphabet, a holding company that will stable the portfolio of companies formerly known as “Google” – giving the organisation potentially a new lease on life and a new direction – or series of directions.

Constellation Research’s R ‘Ray’ Wang provides a laser sharp analysis of what the announcement means in the following video.

Given that so many organisations grow to a size which prohibits innovation, this restructuring offers an amazing live case study of an attempt to avoid the “Kodak moment”. The new, low carb version of Google – which generates the vast majority of revenues – will look vastly different and more tightly focused on digital and internet properties:

  • Search
  • Advertising
  • Maps
  • Apps
  • YouTube
  • Android

This structure effectively hives off the “business as usual”, high velocity, transactional revenue streams into a separate unit which will continue to be called “Google”. The new CEO, Sundar Pichai will be able to keep that digital focus while continuing the optimisation and incremental improvements that keep Google at the centre of our online lives.

The high potential, future-oriented remaining businesses will become separate businesses under Alphabet. Taking a portfolio investment approach to innovation, Alphabet’s stable features near and far term innovation ventures that are:

  • Inside us: Life sciences – biotech research through new company, Calico
  • Around us: Consumer home technology – internet of things hardware for the smart home through Nest
  • Connecting us: High speed internet service through Fiber
  • Moving us: X-lab – the incubator charged with developing self-driving cars and drone technology

And Google Ventures will continue its investments in early and growth stage ventures.

While the business implications for this restructure are significant – the most interesting impact is likely to be felt at the level of culture. Creating a culture of innovation – and maintaining it over the long term is extremely difficult. This is a bold move that brings Google back into the garage from where it came from. It sets a new model for tech sector innovation and has the potential to re-invigorate Google’s innovation agenda.

Who will be the fast follower – or copycat – to Google’s lead? Time will tell.

Surprising differences between B2B and B2C marketing


The Econsultancy and Adobe report on  “B2B Digital Trends 2015” is based on a survey of more than 800 global B2B digital marketing professionals. Seeking to understand the key priorities, trends and challenges for B2B digital marketing, it contrasts the B2C focus to reveal  similar priorities – but with a couple of key differences.

First up, the “no surprises”:

  • B2B marketers focusing on content marketing and customer experience
  • B2C marketers are excited by mobile (at 16% they’re way ahead of their B2C counterparts at 7%)
  • Personalisation and big data battling it out for 3rd spot.

There are, however, some interesting aspects relating to B2C content marketing and mobile:

  • B2C marketing differentiates experience through personalisation not content. With a limited focus on the customer journey, B2C marketers are choosing personalisation and big data to differentiate their offerings from their competitors. In my view, B2C content marketing still provides great value but needs to be rethought and reimagined (ie it’s simply not good enough to “digitise” media).
  • Mobile is hot for B2C. Not unexpected. BUT just as B2C marketers need to improve their understanding of content marketing, B2B marketers could learn a great deal from B2C mobile strategy. “Future ways of working” initiatives are transforming today’s businesses. Built on a platform of social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC), mobility is obviously a key pillar of this transformation. Expect to see more traction than the research would suggest.

Finally, some surprises:

  • B2C need greater focus on marketing automation: These days, marketing at scale requires automation. It also requires strong analytics and customer journey mapping. Not paying attention to these areas actually opens the door to market disruption by faster moving competitors.
  • Location based services scrapes the bottom of the barrel. In last place, I wonder whether marketers simply don’t understand the promise and opportunity of location based services. Considering customer experience ranks as the second most important category, there appears to be a disconnect between what customer experience can be and its method of delivery. Location services bring these together via a range of devices including smartphones, beacons, wifi and analytics. As marketers build more practical digital experience, I expect to see these figures improve.


Fulfilling the Promise of Digital Marketing


From my first line of HTML I fell in love. Like almost everybody, I started with two simple words loaded into a browser. “hello world”. And with that I was hooked. I could sense, right here beneath my fingertips, that the world was shifting.

And again, years later, working with “Koz Community” at IBM – a system that was way ahead of its time – I could tell that those amorphous “audiences” out there were coming together. Connecting with each other and with me. Us. There was a fusing around passions and interests that was closer to performance art than marketing.

Social media turned the screw yet again. Turning the commonplace into uniqueness, transforming text into experience, image into storytelling. It put the levers of the imagination into the hands of everyday people – you and I. And we loved it. We loved the freedom of expression. The connection. The gritty humanity of it all shone through with every update.

But digital marketing – for the most part – has remained lacklustre. But it’s not for want of trying. Having been on judging panels for various awards, I can see that great work is being done. Interesting, challenging, pushing-the-envelope-type work. But the work that is possible and the expectations of clients are out of sync:

  • Client led: Where the client is leading the innovation – looking for ever-newer approaches
  • Agency led: Where the agency works to educate, engage, sell-in and deliver the “new”.

The problem is that we continue to look towards “one-offs”. We think that “strategy” is to do with plans on paper. Or Powerpoint. Or Keynote. We don’t think of it as “getting closer to our customers”. We don’t envision strategy as a process of solving problems. And we don’t see “digital marketing” as a fundamental way to transform the customer relationship.

DH - From Media to Experience (3)

Take a look at the video below. Think about the way that social, mobile, cloud (and ultimately analytics) – the SMAC – are combining to create a transformative customer experience. See how paid, owned and earned media are coming together. But what is most exciting about this is the way that “art” or an artistic sensibility – creativity – is coming into the execution. It’s the “A” in my PANDA framework for visionary marketing.

I have said it before and will say it again – experience is the currency of your brand.

And until we understand this, we won’t fulfil the promise of digital marketing.

Consumer Behaviour Has Changed. Your Content Marketing Needs to Change Too


It wasn’t really until Joe Pulizzi came along and started talking seriously and meaningfully about content marketing that anyone realised that’s what we were doing. As marketers we had been creating collateral, whitepapers, insights, case studies, quizzes, articles and presentations forever. And I mean forever. But we had been producing all this content from a particular point of view – from the inside. After all, up until social media really hit its straps, we were living in a largely broadcast – one-way communications world.

And as we had our heads down, chugging away on our daily tasks, weekly WIPs and month-end reports, something strange happened. Unexpected. Unprecedented.

The audience shifted.

It wasn’t that we weren’t paying attention. It’s that we didn’t have a response. All of sudden, people were reading reviews on the web. They were taking notice of blogs – and complaining about bad customer service. In public. The closed-loop channels that we had developed no longer held any sway. Our customers – whether they loved or hated us at the time – were taking their opinions, feedback and recommendations out of our hands (and channels) and talking directly to each other. Without us.

Fast forward a decade or so and many brands have caught up. To be honest, there has been huge acceleration over the last year or two – and content marketing leaders are rapidly outstripping and outcompeting the rest of their industries. Take a look at the work that Commonwealth Bank is doing. Or ANZ with their BlueNotes initiative. Then look at other industries.

Those that are leading the way have put in place a strategic approach to content and it is paying dividends.

As a member of the ADMA Content Marketing Expert Community, I workshopped key (and continuing issues) with content marketing with leading Australian marketers. We examined the challenges and the processes, skills gaps and opportunities. We looked into ROI and analytics, native advertising and changes in audience behaviour. The resulting whitepaper provides marketers with a solid framework for becoming more customer centric.

This seismic shift in the ability to communicate with audiences from the organisation to consumers demands a radical rethink in marketing strategy. It is no longer the case that businesses can produce marketing materials to support their product cycles. For messages to achieve cut through, organisations need to have a social licence to discuss the topic, putting permission to engage squarely in the hands of the audience. Credibility and media both need to be earned.

You can download the full paper on the ADMA website.

Qantas Hackathon: Feels Like Innovation


After a busy first day of briefings and coding, the stage was set for the last, desperate rush to the midday deadline. Pitches were scheduled and rehearsed, last minute bug fixes were released and some even found time for a relaxing morning tea. But what, really could be created in a mere 24 hours. Would it be useful? Interesting? Would there be true innovation found amongst the lines of code and discarded lolly wrappers? Only time would tell. And time was the one thing that really was in short supply.

Here’s how Day 2 of the Qantas Hackathon played out.

The Cheating Strategist’s Guide to Mary Meeker’s Digital Trends


Each year around this time, the web goes into a slow motion melt down over the much anticipated Meeker Report into internet trends.

This year is no different. And as I did last year, I will encourage you to reflect on your own business and priorities before diving head first into the report. I call it the “Three What’’s and a Why”. Consider:

  • What mattered in mid 2014?
  • What matters now?
  • What are you measuring?
  • Why are these things important?

And if you’re time poor or just bone lazy and don’t want to click through the hundreds of slides in the report, you’ll love Michael Goldstein’s summary for cheating strategists. It’s 10 times the punch at 1/10th of the effort. Now that’s what I call a good strategy.

Why Digital Marketing Transformation is Important


I recently spent time with IBM travelling as part of their IBM Connect conference series in Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne. At each location, I hosted a panel discussion that centred on the “voice of the customer” – drawing out the experience and knowledge of panels that included ADMA’s CEO, Jodie Sangster, CIO of Tennis Australia, Samir Mahir, City of Melbourne’s Executive Manager, Commercial and Marketing, Lucan Creamer, Think Global Research’s Mark Tyler, and Twitter’s Head of Data Sales, Fred Funke.

I spent a few minutes with the IBM team to share my thoughts on why digital marketing transformation is important – and how you can use the “Marketing PANDA” to focus your efforts around customer centricity.