Branding Needs The Technology Edge
There is a quiet revolution happening in board rooms around the world. The Chief Marketing Officer whose tenures were getting cut to a few quarters, who was told to stay out of innovations, long term investments and acquisitions, is once again getting back his/her MOJO. And what is triggering this new found burst of energy? TECHNOLOGY!
The latest Harvard Business Review has dedicated its cover to the Rise of Marketing and one key aspect that is driving this is the new ways in which technology is playing a role in making marketing more exciting and more relevant in board rooms. The article on the creation and rise of Chief Marketing Technologist in companies as diverse as tech majors [obvious, huh] and packaged consumer goods maker [a toilet tissue marketer at that] made fascinating reading.
Firstly it kind of renewed my confidence in my decision, albeit three decades after I made it, to get into marketing / advertising after investing five years getting a B Tech degree [no I did not take a year extra, those days the B Tech took five years].
Secondly I realized that the problem with the term ‘technology in marketing’ is that it is often equated to the use of digital media, social media, blogging, tweeting etc. Unfortunately this is not the only way technology is reshaping marketing.
Thirdly, even though India may not be up there in terms of modern retailing and logistics, we are making strong moves to embrace technology across many areas of marketing.
So here is my list of just seven ways technology is reshaping marketing:
Product Innovation: Companies are discovering the art and science of outsourced innovation and roping in consumers into this process as well. So marketing is once again getting into the playing field. Areas such as eco-friendly packaging, reducing carbon footprint of products are all getting CMOs excited and charged up.
Production Planning: Technology is changing the way marketing works with production and how production planning works with marketing. With automated systems, and dashboards that are available across all departments, marketing is getting to have a stronger voice in the planning process.
Distribution Management: Technology is also helping marketing take better control of stocks at various points in the distribution channel. Though Indian retail is yet to get organized, the vast stockist networks of large FMCG companies are fully tech enabled. Sitting in the head office the CMO can track the exact movement of stocks into and out of every single stockist. In the case of consumer durables and automotive products, CMOs can track the same with the click of a button.
Sales Force Effectiveness: Gone are the days of big order books, carbon copies of orders and daily sales reports. At least in the tech savvy companies. Today salesmen are booking orders on their smart phones and tablets. These are getting seamlessly integrated into the cloud and to the stockist’s system. In the case of pharma marketing, India is yet to embrace digital detailing, but I think it should be here in full swing in a few years. At high end auto showrooms sales executives are already using tables to give the prospective customers a virtual test drive on their tables. More industries are bound to follow.
Exploiting New Channels: Online markets have boomed over the last five years. Book sellers speak of the day when Flipkart was launched. IRCTC of Indian Railways is soon to be overtaken by the booming online merchants. Products as diverse as clothing, books and even gold jewellery are being sold online. In a recent campaign a housing company booked 100 small apartments in a span of 7 days through just the power of search engine marketing.
Data Enabled Market Mix Modelling: Today there is data flowing in a granular form from marketing. This data combined with consumer tracks, media spends is enabling the rise of Market-Mix Modelling. CMOs who used to complain of lack of data and inaccurate data are today finding that there is enough data for them to do at least a rudimentary level of MMM. I am sure the entry of BARC and its better data metrics will make MMM even more powerful in the months to come.
Digital / Social Media Marketing: Finally we come to digital media and social media marketing. Marketers are discovering that digital marketing is not just about creating a Facebook page and getting one million likes. To be visible in social media you need great ideas and you need to back that with serious seed capital. Search marketing is becoming more and more competitive. Youtube has become one of the biggest channels as far as video content is concerned. The fortunate thing about all digital marketing effort is that they are all measurable. This makes CMOs job a lot more easy. What is the exact number of viewers delivered by the Youtube campaign? How many leads did the search campaign deliver? How many leads came from Facebook? All these questions are more can be answered with certainty. The other big area where digital media and social media will become a marketer’s friend is the way they help a marketer track consumer reactions, to products, to messages and to customer service. Will it be possible that in the next decade we will see marketing research giving way to social media research? Will crowdsourcing of opinions become a way we do marketing? Add to this the buzz of Big Data, the endless streams of data that are flowing into organizations from various touch points, we may soon see CMOs handling more technology than the CTO!
No wonder smart companies are seeing an underlying pattern to all this and strengthening the CMOs hand with a CMT, the Chief Marketing Technologist. A few decades ago some us, engineers who had drifted into marketing, were often asked, rather incredulously, what is an engineer doing in marketing. Now we have the answer, at long last!
Ambi M G Parameswaran is the author of “For God’s Sake – An Adman on the Business of Religion”
This article was first published in The Economic Times