Marketers in Asia-Pacific lack confidence in programmatic because too many different metrics are being thrown around and they are sceptical over which one actually works.
Rather than blame their agencies, however, marketers in this region need to take the lead and define their measures of success, says Liz Miller, CMO Council's senior vice president of marketing.
In a Q&A with ExchangeWire, Miller explains why CMOs are struggling over a lack of focus on critical analytics and how they need to rethink the way they are spending their budget.
ExchangeWire: How has the CMO role in Asia-Pacific changed over the past three to five years? And what drove this change?
Liz Miller: In the past five years, marketing in this region has arrived as a true business-focused executive-level position, although this varies greatly across the region. You see more chief executives looking to their senior marketing leaders to bring more than creative ideas to the table and expect business strategy and insights into the customer. Marketing in Asia-Pacific is no longer a communications or advertising function. It is becoming a true business driver and we see CMOs rising to that new mandate across the region.
However, the evolution is still in progress. There are still pockets of business leaders who view marketing as a largely advertising-driven line item cost. Ask any Asia-Pacific-based CMO and you will likely still hear stories of CEOs or COOs who ask more questions about advertising campaigns than customer experience intelligence. However, true customer-experience-driven brands (those that want the lead marketer to run and drive the business forward) are looking to advance engagement and experience through measurable, profitable results. You see this maturity in markets like Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Japan and South Korea are advancing rapidly, but have not quite caught up to the leaders that – thanks to advances in data, analytics, and digital experience – are advancing rapidly. There is much excitement in smaller markets like Southeast Asia, where young startups and agile and nimble companies are innovating from the ground up and don't have legacy systems that make integration and data connections impossible.
What challenges do CMOs in Asia-Pacific face in driving revenue growth for their organisation?
Culture. In some companies, and many that do not have multinational headquarters, but are steeped in regional business traditions, are often the most adverse to change. They will still view the business today as being products- or sales-driven, rather than customer-driven. In those organisations, it will be far more difficult for the CMO to advance the customer experience agenda. They can often feel relegated to being sales support staff and asked to develop more collateral for collateral's sake, versus creating multi-touch, data-driven demand-generation campaigns that drive richer, more profitable leads into the hands of sales. It is the difference between being seen as the business driver, versus the PowerPoint creation unit.
Asia-Pacific marketers often cite a lack of trust in programmatic and feel perplexed by cross-channel marketing complexities. What should the ad tech vendor community do to reduce the complexity and re-establish confidence in programmatic?
Stop playing buzzword bingo with us! I can't tell you how many times a day I hear a vendor tell me they are a "customer experience platform" when, in reality, they are an email distribution platform that has a new interface. It is maddening and totally frustrating. Not everyone is a customer experience platform – and that is okay.
Programmatic isn't necessarily the problem. Programmatic is a word that is thrown around in lots of different settings and it will be up to the CMO being pitched to stop and say: "Wait, define what you mean when you say 'programmatic'." Just like we are trying to bring context to our customer engagements CMOs, when put in the buyer's seat, also needs context.
We also need to address the trust issue. The reason we don't trust programmatic is because everyone has a different metric to prove a programmatic campaign worked. I was speaking with a CMO recently who told me that, in the course of one week, they heard four different metrics from four different agencies that 'proved' how a programmatic campaign was successful. Each 'metric' was 'proprietary' to the individual agency. My advice to that CMO was: "Why are you not telling your agency what the measure of success is? Why are you sitting back and letting the agency create the definition and then criticising the agency for making up a metric?"
It's on our shoulders to work with our agency partners to define metrics that are in the language of our business – that's not the agency's role.
Where, then, do you see the role of media and ad agencies fit in this picture?
Agencies are partners and CMOs need to be the leaders. Agencies are not there to take orders and just execute. They should be adding value and bringing new ideas and opportunities to the table and, most importantly, they must have a full understanding of our customer experience and business goals. They should not be setting those goals in a single campaign. Their campaigns should be enhancing and empowering our customer experience strategy. However, if marketers leave the agency out in the cold and not share what that strategy is, or worse, ask them to define the strategy in a bubble, the frustration and distrust between brand and agency will just continue to fester and grow. The first conversation with the agency should be about business goals, not campaign goals. There is a difference. If your agency doesn't know or understand that difference, I would suggest running to an agency that does.
Your report with Deloitte noted that CMOs were struggling due to lack of focus on critical analytics. Can you elaborate on this? Why is there a lack of focus? What's hindering their ability to access such insights?
There is a lack of focus because aggregating that data from across the organisation, not just across marketing systems, and turning that data into actionable customer intelligence is hard work. It demands new partnerships across the company and it demands that everyone in the organisation believes in the importance of the customer, customer experience, and intelligence. It demands new skills, new talent, and new technology. Most importantly, it demands time and budget – two things that CMOs can run really short on.
There is no lack of data. In fact, many marketers feel there is too much of it, creating an environment where we have too much noise and not enough clear signals about customer needs, expectations, and context. Because we lack the time, the budget, and the opportunity to seize the data moment, too many marketing teams have regressed to only looking at data as metrics and using the data from engagement systems merely as a justification of past campaign spend.
I often lament that this is like taking the most amazing sports car out on to an open highway and putting top-grade fuel into the tank and then only using the rear view mirror to see where you have been instead of racing into the next adventure.
'Data-driven marketing' seems to be a hot buzzword of late, but your report notes that CMOs are struggling to embrace integrated data-driven analytics. What are they doing wrong?
Too many marketers are actually engaged in 'data-driven marketing reporting' and not truly engaging in data-driven marketing. Data is being used to measure and justify spend.
Savvy CMOs are leveraging data to establish key signals and opportunities to create deeper relationships with a customer. So, there are marketers who look at data and say: "Yes, I spent well this past quarter and here is how I can prove it." That is absolutely critical, but it is not the only thing data can be used.
Today's smart CMO is advancing the customer experience in single micro-moments of engagement opportunity. It is the difference between sending out an email driving shoppers to buy more coffee during the hottest week of the year, versus driving shoppers to buy more coffee-flavoured ice cream during that same week. Data and intelligence give marketers the insights and cues to create these moments of contextual engagement instead of guessing customers want ice cream. Now you can send compelling messages about the actual flavour customers love the most, and you know that because you see the customers' behaviours and patterns in their data.
Gartner famously predicted that CMOs would spend more on tech than CTOs this year. What do you make of this landscape?
Ah yes, this is the year we eclipse the CIO's budget. I have always found the blog post from Gartner to be both brilliant and hysterical in the same breath. I think it would be more accurate to say that the CMO's budget in customer engagement technologies would eclipse that of the CIOs this year, and that is probably very accurate.
The marketing technology budget has landed squarely in the CMO's line item – and we are spending. Sadly, most of that spend is to 'rip and replace' old engagement systems that we feel were not meeting expectations. As technologies evolve, and new martech solutions hit the market, we are caught in a pattern of old solutions that have not met expectations clashing with new shiny tools that hold new promises of delivering total customer views and faster, smarter engagements.
In a recent CMO Council study, we found that, in the past five years, 42% of marketers had installed more than 10 individual solutions across marketing, data, analytics, or customer-engagement technologies; and 9% had brought on more than 20 individual tools or solutions. During that same time, marketers had gone through numerous rounds of rip-and-replace, with 44% of marketers indicating they spent more than 25% of their marketing budgets replacing existing technologies. And, despite the implementation and discarding of various data and customer experience solutions, only 3% believed they were totally connected and aligned across all systems, with data, metrics, and insights flowing seamlessly across all technology platforms. That's a lot of ripping and replacing without actually reaching the final goal of total customer understanding
How will this impact the way technology solutions are packaged and sold to CMOs?
I think this era of innovation and expansion of the martech stack will continue and the frenzy of new solutions being thrown at CMOs will just get more fevered. This will demand that CMOs really take the opportunity to, first and foremost, work with their CIO colleagues to set a map for their stack development.
CMOs must decide if they are going to stay on this ride of rip-and-replace, or develop an open martech stack that is flexible and agile enough to bring on best-of-breed solutions and, yet, still deliver data, intelligence, and engagement opportunities in real time and in line with all engagement technologies. We can't keep jumping at every new technology. We must simultaneously keep pace with customer expectations. This isn't about finding the one silver bullet to cure all of our problems anymore. This really is about building an open, best-of-breed stack that empowers rich, contextual engagement in real time, and understanding and knowing what our customer expects and where the customer is in their micro-moment of need.
And yet, your report revealed that CMOs were increasingly less involved in the development of new products, markets, customer experience, and business communications. Why do you think this is happening and how should this be resolved?
Yes, this is quite distressing. We are caught in a cycle of campaign-brain. We have become so focused on executing random acts of marketing that the critical components of customer experience, such as being part of the product, market, and experience development process, have been pushed down the priority list. These should be top priorities for the CMO, but they are still spending most of their time running meetings, checking campaign content, and reviewing budgets.
CMOs need to take a long hard look at what they are spending their time on and then taking a real look at their team. Are there marketing leaders on the team who can take on some of the more marketing operations duties, freeing the CMO to take on the more business strategy roles the chief marketer must take on? Can the budget be managed effectively by a talented vice president of marketing and is this executive empowered with real-time data and intelligence about customer trends and expectations to be able to manage the budget more effectively?
It's about empowering teams to do more valuable things so that the CMO can, in turn, take on more profitable initiatives.