Digital transformation? Start, try it out, adapt. But never wait.
The old marketing times are over. We know more and more about our customers, which makes it easier to respond to them and measure the effectiveness of our marketing. This by no means kills creativity, but in fact creates new opportunities and actually puts marketers in a stronger position, explains John Travis, Vice President of Marketing for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in our interview.
“Now is a great time to be marketer,” explained John Travis at the Digital Marketing Symposium 2014 in Singapore, describing his view of the possibilities offered by new technology. The accomplished political scientist is responsible for the strategic and operational development and management of the Adobe brand and marketing campaigns. Travis came to Adobe from Intel, where he gained 17 years of marketing experience at an international level. At Intel, he was responsible for globally successful campaigns such as “Intel inside” and “Pentium”.
Data, facts and results are the central currency of the digital transformation. Is marketing evolving from a world of creativity into a world of control?
Travis: “My personal philosophy, one which is also shared by Adobe, is that creativity and instincts form the very foundations of marketing, as the whole point of marketing is to connect and communicate with people, on both an emotional and practical level. Even with the best tools and the best data, this fact will never change. It’s all about the emotional connection you create between your customers and your brand. But we discovered what has been troubling marketers for a long time: how can I prove my value and the benefits I can offer to customers? This has actually been the challenge for the past 25 years, but so far we’ve never had the tools to really check and provide evidence that what we do works. All we could do was appeal to people: trust my instincts, trust my creativity!”
So the new tools are creating more new opportunities?
Travis: “Yes, because I now have data and analytical instruments that I can use to report to my CEO and show what I have done and how things are going. These data are extremely meaningful and provide worthwhile insights. This makes marketers really strong. It gives them a good position at the directors’ table, because we now know so much about our customers, we can see how they behave, what they believe. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in the strategic importance of marketing. More and more marketers I’ve talked to have discovered the same.”
What does that mean for marketing practice?
Travis: “Let’s go back to the old times, previous campaigns. Specifically, a major TV campaign. It took three to six months to plan the whole thing and make sure that everything went perfectly: arrange the accompanying print advertisements, launch the campaign – and wait and see. Three to four months. Until the researchers deliver the results about how the campaign went. In terms of creativity, you’ve done wonderful, creative things, but what did you really achieve? The test elements available today have made it possible to do much more. Some people might be concerned that information kills creativity. I don’t see it that way. I can run through lots of different ideas. I can try things out, and I can change my mind, even overnight. So I’m much more willing to get involved with new things. And I get feedback. Immediately. As soon as I upload something to the website, publish a video, post something on social media – there’s a reaction. This allows all of us to be more creative.”
Is this already common knowledge?
Travis: “Just as marketers believe that they’re benefiting from this, an increasing number of creative people are feeling the same. An example of this is the Cannes Lions, the largest creative competition in the advertising world, which I recently attended. We now have a Creative Effectiveness Award, so the results of creative work are now just as celebrated as the work itself.”
Do these new findings and new procedures have an effect on collaboration within the company?
Travis: “For the customer, there is of course little difference between marketing and the product experience – it’s always the brand that they have a connection with. And they’re constantly in touch with the company, in all kinds of locations, with lots of different devices, at any time. Something has changed dramatically here. And this will also change the way we communicate within the company. Previously, marketing was often trapped in its own bunker, responsible for PR and ad placements. Now the trend is moving away from the previous campaign-centred structure towards a continuous marketing process which is reviewed from week to week.
At Adobe, for example, we have a meeting with an interdepartmental team every Monday. This meeting is attended by marketing, e‑commerce, product management and IT. We discuss the data collected over the past week: how business is running, what went well, what needs to be changed. Although each of these stakeholders in the company has individual objectives, independent of each other, we’ve all committed to a uniform matrix of goals. When it comes to the fundamental elements of our business, how many departments we want, how much website traffic we want to create and so on, we’re ultimately all responsible. Something has changed there. I like to joke that I’ve had more interaction with our IT department in the past year than in the four previous years combined.”
This strongly suggests there will be some consequences for the personnel structure …
Travis: “We need to recruit analysts, search engine professionals, database managers; we need a wider range of knowledge than ever before. However, they need to be able to work together. Take the data landscape as an example. In the past, everyone introduced a specific set of data to the discussion, and they wouldn’t necessarily fit together. We solve this issue with our “single source of truth”, as we call it. At Adobe, we have a special group called MIO, Marketing Insights and Operation, which manages all the data, puts the dashboards together and publishes the results.”
So you just need to hire new people, change the organization and everything will work?
Travis: “The main thing is to actually do something with all of the new data, because a model will never be perfect. The digital world is changing so fast that you’d never finish anything if you waited until a process was precisely balanced. You can always change an idea once it’s up and running, as you’ll be monitoring it continuously. That’s what I always tell my marketing colleagues out there – start, try it out, adapt. But never wait.”
If it’s possible to maintain and intensify the connection with customers at all levels and across all channels and devices, many will surely do that soon. Doesn’t this result in an overload for customers, who will then just ignore all of these inputs as background noise, like they do with TV advertising?
Travis: “Marketers do indeed need to watch out for this. But I don’t see it as a risk in any case. Let’s take the example of mobile phones and you as a Photoshop user. In most cases, I probably already know the best way to make contact with you, and let’s say for one particular customer, I shouldn’t send any marketing materials to their smartphone. I have data and insights about customer behaviour, but increasingly customers also tell me which channels they prefer that I use. Digital transformation in marketing means that I’m now able to deliver a truly personalized experience for each customer. Marketers who don’t strive to provide this are falling behind.