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3 Things CMOs Can Do Now To Build a Bridge To the Future

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[Photo by Bonneval Sebastien on Unsplash]

What type of foundation can CMOs lay down so their teams can create marketing and advertising magic in a challenging year?

This post is part of our Moment Makers series, which dives into how marketers use technology to build data-driven customer experiences that feel natural, relevant, and right on time.

When I think back to the conversations I had with clients in the spring, one thing stands out. It’s the sentiment that the COVID-19 pandemic would end in a few months, and we’d be back to business as usual by the fall.

That obviously was not the case.

It is clear recovery will take a long time in every part of the world. For businesses, COVID-19 will impact another fiscal calendar year – and possibly more. While 2021 may have a nice ring to it after the turbulence of 2020, there are still many things left to figure out.

So where do we start? I believe marketers should focus on simplification and customer experience. The former is setting up your employees, clients, and customers for success in the most efficient way possible. The latter is making sure you’re delivering exactly what each of your customers need and want, at exactly the right moment.

It should come as no surprise that these are linked – great customer experiences are often breathtakingly simple. The best experiences are created with a strong technology infrastructure and data foundation, combined with smart strategy and creative magic.

The challenge is very few marketers feel they have the tools to make these kinds of experiences happen. Only 3% believe their organizations are exceptionally effective in turning data insights into actions, according to a recent CMO Council survey.

Here are three things marketing leaders should do now to set themselves up for success this year.

1. Prepare for another transformation

As the COVID-19 crisis took hold in March, our clients were left with the daunting task of reconfiguring their messaging and media commitments.  Some of the most important work WPP did in 2020 was to help our clients adapt to this new landscape. By spring, many brands had made thoughtful shifts, adjusting messaging, product offerings, and services to ensure they remained as relevant as possible for consumers.

As we enter into the next phase of the pandemic, brands need to be prepared to adapt once again. Social distancing has brought an increase in home food deliveries, contactless payments, and streaming entertainment. What will the next shift be when a successful vaccine and mitigation strategies are rolled out? What messaging and services will resonate with customers who are trying to venture back to life as they knew it?

Yes, we’re still in the thick of the pandemic, but it’s not too early to think about how your brand will behave in a post-pandemic world.

Learn from the data of the past several months to best understand your customers and their needs. The ability to do this well is the single biggest differentiator for brands that drive impactful customer experiences.

2. This is a great time to experiment

According to Salesforce’s State of Marketing report, innovation is both a top priority and a top challenge for brands. With digital transformation efforts underway, the best way to ensure long-term success is to test out technologies that help us better understand consumer needs, optimize media campaigns, and track results.

I encourage CMOs and other marketing leaders to take calculated risks and move quickly. Build a scalable framework that enables teams to ideate, create, and deploy in an environment that provides enough performance visibility to “fail fast” and move forward.

A robust technology offering is the bedrock for this innovation and experimentation. To that end, I urge any CMO to build a strong relationship with their company’s Chief Information Officer and/or Chief Technology Officer. Bringing these skillsets together has allowed WPP to constantly develop and scale new products and services on behalf of clients, ensuring they meet the rapidly changing needs of their consumers.

3. Always focus on impact

WPP’s purpose is to build a better future for our people, clients, and the communities we serve. As with many organizations, the pandemic has both tested and strengthened this. When the crisis hit, our first priority was supporting our 100,000 employees around the world, and this remains the case, with the majority still working remotely today.

Our own technology infrastructure made the massive workforce transition possible – allowing teams to serve clients in a more agile, flexible, and creative way. Despite the challenging circumstances, many of our relationships with clients have deepened and gotten more personal over the course of this year.

CMOs must define a mission for their businesses that is relevant, authentic, and resonant. We’ve all seen the research about how today’s customers are more loyal to organizations that contribute to society, take care of their employees, and care about the planet in a meaningful way. The pandemic only deepened that feeling. Humanity and compassion are vitally important.

I’d like to share a video that we worked on with Procter & Gamble (P&G) called The Choice. It was released this summer, at a time when many brands felt a responsibility to use their voice as a platform and force for good. Our marketing challenge was to inspire and support actions to drive social equality and to do so very quickly.

The video is provocative, but P&G has a long history of antiracism work, and as a result, this content felt very authentic to the company and everything it stands for. The message wasn’t forced, and the result was powerful.

How Emirates seamlessly connected with consumers

I’d like to discuss one more client example that may inspire you. This year WPP worked with Emirates Airlines to modernize its direct and digital marketing and transform the way it interacts with customers. When the project began, Emirates operated in siloed execution channels and a mature, yet fragmented, marketing infrastructure. Its execution had somewhat limited testing, reporting dashboards, and an, unfortunately, isolated measurement approach.

In partnership with Wunderman Thompson Data Consulting, we implemented an in-house Campaign Services Team as a Center of Excellence, with specialization in Salesforce Marketing Cloud. This gave Emirates a best-in-class executional infrastructure. The in-house team has significantly reduced time-to-market for audience activation and campaign deployment. It also enabled continuity and personalization across channels.

Now, the Emirates marketing teams have access to reporting and dashboard tools to optimize the airline’s customer journeys.

The results were terrific across the board, from increased revenue to better omni-channel experiences and enhanced brand interactions.

Emirates now delivers information to its customers in contextual ways. For example, certain customers may ask, “Is my loyalty going to roll over, even though I haven’t made my status? If I book a ticket, what are the rules and regulations around refunds, changes, and cancellations?” Last, and more recently, “What hygienic precautions are being taken in-flight?”

Knowing what customers care about and delivering information seamlessly will continue to assist Emirates in building lasting relationships today and well into the future.

What’s next?

Watch Laurent’s insights from The New 20s CMO – Building Valuable Connections Using Creativity Powered by Technology virtual roundtable.

And, also view the webinar, How to Set Up Your Martech Stack in 2021.

Marketing Cloud offers solutions for digital marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, customer journey mapping, marketing analytics, marketing automation, and B2B marketing to help you personalize customer communications across every digital touchpoint — from anywhere.

laurent ezekiel WPP author image
Laurent Ezekiel Chief Marketing & Growth Officer, WPP

Laurent Ezekiel is the chief marketing and growth officer of WPP, the world’s largest marketing and communications company and a Salesforce customer and partner.

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