The client of the future will be an experience creator because consumers today demand a lot more than just a product and a service. They will also be eclectic, as collaboration becomes key between brands and their partners.
These were the views of Moritz von der Linden, vice president for Asia Pacific at Mars Petcare and Rowena Bhagchandani, chief executive officer and co-founder at BLKJ, who spoke on a panel at the first Agency Acceleration Day APAC organized by The Drum.
“Consumers today are looking at the values of a brand, they are looking at interacting with brands and they are looking at a holistic experience when they interact,” von der Linden told moderator Ranji David, the director of marketing services in APAC at the World Federation of Advertisers.
“I think our job will change completely in the sense that we cannot just produce a good product and then basically talk to people about the attributes of the product. It is about creating that experience that consumers are willing to actually spend time with us and interact. And then potentially, honor us with a purchase. But at the end of the day, we need to earn that.”
Agreeing, Bhagchandani added: “The client of the future will be very eclectic. I think they can also be a master of a lot of things, but yet be able to be highly collaborative to be able to bring it all together.”
The evolving role of the marketer
Reflecting on how his role as a brand marketer has changed, von der Linden shared his view that brands were talking at the consumer without talking with the consumer all the time.
However, with the rise of the likes of Facebook and Google, he observed that the job had become a lot more multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional.
“One of the key things that have changed already in the company tomorrow when we talk about the type of future that’s rapidly changing at this moment,” explained von der Linden.
“It’s quite coincidental that we are sitting in Facebook. I mean 10 years ago, Facebook didn’t exist and was not a way to interact with consumers, so it wasn’t any part of our skill sets in the past to have a relationship with the senior stakeholders at Facebook and to create partnerships with the likes of Facebook or Google.”
He continued: “The marketing leader has to create an environment for the team to thrive and then has to have a team of experts. There are too many disciplines that one has to excel at today to be a great marketer as an organization for the marketing leader to be an expert in all of that. Being humble enough and admitting that to yourself as a marketing leader, that’s probably the first step because that’s quite difficult.”
Bhagchandani pointed out that as marketers become multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional, chief marketing officers are being renamed as chief growth officers as they are starting to deal with things like growth, innovation and digital transformation.
That meant that marketers are now like the master of the orchestra, she added, as they have to jell everything together.
“They need to know a little bit of each and they need to know a little bit, but also need to know what they need to, who they need to access, what are the right ways they need to be able to address each of the needs that they have,” she said.
“So you need to kind of know what each, who are all the various pieces. And of course, you need to be sure you have the right people and the right partners in place to be able to deliver this discreet, memorable piece basically.”
The biggest change and challenge for marketers today
The availability and the possibilities around data is the biggest change for marketers as it allows them to grow closer to the consumer, it was claimed.
Von der Linden said the fact that marketers now can understand consumers in the whole purchase decision journey was exciting because it used to be research that gave marketers some insights into the consumers, but data offering real insights and behaviors and especially real behaviors, was something marketers did not have before.
“I think that’s the biggest change in how to deal with that change is probably also the biggest shift we have seen and we also have to deal with. Because obviously, if you take an organisation from 10 years ago, it was set up either on the client-side nor on the agency side to deal with what we are dealing with today,” he explained.
However, that change has brought its own set of challenges, which von der Linden said is not ideal for a marketer to deal within the next two years without agility.
“The agility point is key because change is happening so fast, none of us can actually have the luxury of sitting still and just observing. We need to be part of this change and we need to lean into them and learn with the change,” he explained.
“The CMO now also has to create that safety and that environment for people to learn and to fail. Because there’s a lot of stuff out there that is new. Not all of it is good, but we need to learn our way in.”
He added: “Things used to be easy because it was just TV that was the channel of communication at the consumer. Physical retailers were where the place was shopping was done and basically a couple of big guys that are fighting with each other. It was very easy to work in that environment because you know who you’re dealing with.”
Concurring with von der Linden, Bhagchandani added that data, digital and the ability have allowed marketers to be able to access any information and to actually do something with it, which means it has opened up so many possibilities.
For BLKJ, which has a team of 80 people, she said it is important to have the right team and the right partners to access and collaborate with to be able to take the insight and the data that it has and create a diverse solution that makes sense.
“The second challenge also makes sense outside Singapore too, in different markets. So how can you do that? And without having BLKJ officers in different parts of the world, so what are the right ways you can do? How can you do that? How can you access this in a way that makes sense for clients? It’s also fast. It allows them to be agile enough to be able to do something with the data,” she explained.
“So for me, that’s really exciting because that was something in the past that you get. It’s like, “Oh no, let me access my network partner’s office in this place and all of that.” But now there are so many options in the world that I’m open to using so that I’m really excited.”
Future-proofing the marketing department
As marketers take on additional roles and take on different challenges, it means their teams have to become cross-functional as well.
Giving an example, von der Linden said Mars Petcare has moved away from a traditional set up of having marketing leaders in markets and marketing teams underneath them.
Now, the brand’s digital teams work cross-functionally with the teams that take care of clients and retailers to ensure that the marketing team actually deliver information specific to the online channel.
He explained that Mars Petcare is also testing a marketing operations team, which is being trialed in the United States, with the view of rolling out globally to become the backbone of the marketing operations and allow the specialists to excel in the fields.
These teams will deal with the agency relationship when it comes to media agencies, creative agencies and data providers. Mars Petcare hopes this will create an environment for specialists to avoid dealing with the difficulties of what is happening around them in other areas.
“We have got all these disciplines that I mentioned earlier that we need to excel at and you don’t have those that jack of all trades. You have actually different capabilities sitting with different specialists and integrating those and making sure that people have the space to work with,” explained von der Linden.
“We see some options in what we call the operations manager, marketing operations roles, where we basically bring in roles that we haven’t had before, where we have teams that take care of setting up the environment.”
Marketers also have to admit they do not and cannot do everything, said Bhagchandani.
For example, at BLKJ, Bhagchandani explained the agency knows where its strengths are, which is design and creative, and helping brands with their creativity and strategies.
However, as the agency seek to remain relevant, she said BLKJ had to look at what is the best way that they can get the data and insights, and translate it to really good work.
“We have actually had to look at a model that even includes, in some cases, the ability to bring some solutions that traditionally would be outside the agency, but bringing it in house, because if we don’t, we are not able to optimize our performance. We’re not able to be able to put something out there and see very quickly is it working or is it not working?” she said.
“If you asked me three years ago did I think it was something that I was thinking a creative agency needed to happen, I would have said no. But those were some of the changes we had to make because you need to stay very relevant. And you need to be sure if you are accountable to that performance that is at the end, you will do whatever it takes to ensure that you deliver the best product to be able to deliver that number.”