The Marketors’ Annual City Lecture 11th October 2018

Marketing in the 21st Century

Guest Speaker Guy Daniels
Head of Corporate Marketing Europe, Cognizant

This year’s City Lecture was hugely popular, with nearly 100 attendees representing more than 30 Livery Companies plus guests from local business schools. The audience was treated to an hour of quality content from Guy Daniels and a lively Q&A. Guy’s theme was: Will technology make the CMO obsolete?

The evening kicked off with a welcome from the Master Baker who went to some lengths to explain that their profession had not been responsible for any fires in London! Master Marketor, Richard Christou, then re-capped his theme of ‘The 2020 CMO’ and set the scene for Guy’s talk on the impact of technology and the challenge to galvanise the business for the benefit of the customer.

Guy started his lecture by reaffirming the role of marketing and why we need it. The best marketing is simple in conception but hard to execute. The theme he returned to on a number of occasions was that marketing matters more than ever in the 21st Century. The focus needs to be on basic questions, like: who are we talking to, what is on their mind, what are we offering, are we differentiated and credible, can we evidence and incentivise; questions which are now more important than ever with the merger of technology and marketing .

Marketing sometimes gets a negative press [See Douglas Adams, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] but the discipline of marketing matters as it helps an organisation be coherent and grounded. That said, there are existential challenges placed at the door of the discipline now, which make a renewed focus on the customer more important than ever. Know your customer, make what they want rather than make them want things. [See John V Willshire at Smithery.co.]

Guy had recently experienced some bad customer service, in this case from a broadcaster during a house move, and this seemed to resonate with many in the audience. Guy’s observation was that the value of the customer was not considered at a time of change, rather the provider appeared interested in minimising the cost of the touchpoint. However, this should be considered in the context of organisations that are facing huge and complex change themselves.

Again, Guy returned to the point that at such times the voice of the customer needs to be heard. Where is this voice if marketing is not represented at the most senior levels in business? We have to be more passionate and credible than ever if we are to be believed in organisations that are subject to volatile and ambiguous forces. It is for marketing to demonstrate its value at a time when the value of marketing is needed more than ever. Guy suggested a three-pronged ‘profile’ for marketers who now need to demonstrate value by combining sales capability with creativity and strategy. He also warned marketers from getting wrapped up in complexity and ‘marketing speak’. Engaging with the company requires the ability to communicate effectively in simple terms and keep the business focused on purpose - not allowing complexity to blind the organisation to its core purpose. Marketing has a key role in championing this.

Yet marketing is following a technology path and focusing on efficiencies and cost reduction, rather than its effectiveness. [See Tim Ambler, Marketing and the Bottom Line].  In the technology sector, Marketing has in recent years been subordinated to CRM systems which are used for opportunity management rather than customer insight.. This is undoubtedly important, but the primary concern is with converting leads to wins, whereas more incentives to develop new leads is needed.

It is widely accepted that marketing and innovation are two critical forces to drive sustained growth in business, and marketing needs to get its head up out of the tactical detail and return to the strategically important, and often quite simple, questions around what customers want.

At this point Guy moved to discuss the exploitation of data and some of the underlying ethical issues. He noted that data gets used a lot to review the past. But as an industry we are now finding ways to use data to make predictions about an individual rather than a segment, exemplified by the recommendations platforms like Apple Music and Amazon make to us. Guy argued that the likes of Google and Facebook know more about us than we do about ourselves, and that this raises critical issues around whether the maturity of these organisations aligns with the power and responsibility they have. [See Yuval Noah Harari, various including Homo Deus.]

All large enterprises are becoming data businesses. The combination with increasingly powerful technology means there is more access to powerful analytical capabilities like artificial intelligence that will help customers make

choices. Yet the ethical implications are yet to be fully understood. For example, are people not being given the benefit of full choice? [See Joseph Turow, The Daily You.]

Guy proposed that large and well-established enterprises have an important role here. Whilst you may not be ‘born digital’, and you may be facing tumultuous change to become ‘digitally transformed’,  long running companies have a valuable asset in established governance which will help them get to grips with  the ethical implications of data. Guy hypothesised that ethical dilemmas will, in future, be the domain of a triumvirate of skills between philosophers, software designers and lawyers in the firm.

What of the future of our profession? In Guy’s view [we will be working in a world of integrated platforms which businesses will seek to monetise in several ways. But over and above the technology we must think about the skills we need to continually put the positive forces of marketing and innovation to good use. In recent years the concentration of data has led to a focus on data and analytical skills. Again, like the CRM focus, this is important but not enough. Guy believes that skills from anthropology, sociology and psychology will be needed and fused with the data to ensure that content and ideas are sophisticated and well targeted. [See Neil Gibb, The Participation Revolution.]

It’s the basics again: know your customer. To do that we have to understand how the mind works. For example, how humans are known to post-rationalise decisions. [See Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow.] However, sometimes the truth is clouded by the wave of technology excitement we can be swept up in.

The opportunity for marketing is to ground business and its use of customer-facing technology in human values and insights. As the world becomes more complex it becomes yet more important to see the big and simple issues that are at stake. Even though some might be drawn to the data the ethical and moral issues become ever more important as the complexity increases. [See the work of recent Nobel prize winners Paul Romer and William Nordhaus, or a short summary in The Economist October 13th 2018.]

Marketing must retain its higher purpose. More time should be spent understanding the data and technology should not only be concentrated on cost reduction. Truly enhancing the customer experience will need a variety of skills combined around the central problem of understanding who the customer is.

So, will technology make the CMO role obsolete? Only if we let it. In the end, marketing needs to retain its orientation; to be empathetic, treat customers as human beings and make meaningful connections.

You find a full transcript of Guy’s Lecture here and the full video of the lecture here.

Court Assistants Karl Weaver and  Lesley Wilson

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The Worshipful Company of Marketors is a City Livery Company. Members of the Company are on the way to achieving, or have achieved, mastery and excellence within the Marketing profession.