Consensus At Summit: Target Humans, Not Customers

“Customer first” has become the mantra in this era of digital marketing. But the message from the “Marketing Innovations” sessions at Adobe Summit EMEA 2018, in London, was that companies have to go further.

Consensus At Summit: Target Humans, Not Customers

by Michael Nutley

Posted on 05-16-2018

“Customer first” has become the mantra in this era of digital marketing. But the message from the “Marketing Innovations” sessions at Adobe Summit EMEA 2018, in London, was that companies have to go further. They have to think “human first.”

Penny Wilson, CMO of social media management platform Hootsuite, used this expression first during her session on “Human connection at scale.” She talked about the business opportunity created by social media’s power to bring communities together and turn them into audiences. However, she also warned that to tap into that power, companies have to put humans first. Brands must use the customer as its compass, she said, referring to Virgin Airlines CMO Claire Cronin’s comments in the keynote session.

To be human first, Wilson argued that companies have to be customer-obsessed, listening to customers and empowering their organisations to respond in a way that shows respect.

“Social media is a unique opportunity to hear the raw, unvarnished truth at scale,” she said. “Then you have to have relevant content—content people want to view and share. That shows you have respect for the customer, that you value their time, and it’s how you build attraction to your brand.”

The next step is to educate employees in social media skills. “All the different elements of the company need different training because they all interact with the customer differently,” she said.

A Person, Not A Purse

Christian Majgaard, former head of global brand at toy giant Lego, encapsulated the human-first concept when he discussed picturing the customer as “a person, not a purse.”

The latter “makes us think of them as something we throw products at,” he said. “We need to understand the entire life of the customer.”

As an example, he recalled that while customer satisfaction research at Lego’s theme parks was all positive, a chance conversation with friends revealed an unexpected stress point for parents.

“Kids want to run off and play after lunch, but dad wants another beer. That’s stressful,” he said. “So we made sure that every cafe has a play area within shouting distance, so the parents can watch the kids while they finish their lunch. Then there’s another play area a little further away but still within waving distance.”

Meryem Tom (pictured, top), U.K. country leader for Alexa Skills at Amazon, highlighted the same point in her session, “Alexa, give my brand a voice.” Her advice to brands looking to develop a presence on Alexa was simple: “Decide what problem you’re trying to solve for the customer and why voice is the right way to solve it,” she said.

Marketers need to “think voice-first,” Tom added, and to think what value they’re going to provide to the customer.

“Invest in design,” she told delegates. “Designing for voice is different from all other design. The worst thing you can do is create an experience that fizzles out in a few months. So constantly iterate, bring in fresh content, and respond to testing.”

What’s In It For Me?

The need to understand the customer as a complete person was discussed in nearly every session, from the ones directly about marketing, right through to those about personal development. In her session “Taking action and building consensus for your idea,” serial entrepreneur and angel investor Dale Murray, CBE, talked about imagining the person you’re pitching to having “WIIFM?” tattooed across the forehead: “What’s in it for me?”

“Think about what you can do to help them achieve their goals,” she said. “It’s true of marketers, too; you have to understand what your customers want.”

A similar sentiment was evident in a session on “Talent unleashed,” when Gordon Thornton, senior vice president at Sony Interactive Entertainment—the executive in charge of Sony’s PlayStation Store and PlayStation Network Services business—discussed the business rationale for hiring a diverse workforce.

“There are 79 million PlayStation consoles in the world being played by every type of person,” he said. “If our organisation doesn’t represent all those people, how can we possibly develop products for them?”

Less Pushing, More Helping

The “human first” point was also hammered home in the last session of the event, when Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights, and Stewart Rogers, VentureBeat analyst-at-large, discussed “10 predictions for our data-driven future.” Rogers suggested that the growing emphasis on personalisation via targeted media and through intelligent agents such as Siri, would change the nature of advertising.

“It’ll become less about pushing a message and more about helping that person at that moment,” he said.

This echoed a point made by Econsultancy founder Ashley Friedlein in an earlier session. Talking about the modern marketing mix, Friedlein suggested that moving budgets from advertising to content was the right thing to do.

“I’d spend less money on advertising and more on the product, on content, and on customer service,” he said. “Then creativity is having a rebirth because while you can make incremental improvements with data, step changes come from creativity.”

Modern Marketing Model

Friedlein also spoke about the need to redefine the marketing skills and competencies for the post-digital era. He discussed Econsultancy’s Modern Marketing Model (M3), which was developed as a replacement for traditional models such as the 4Ps, 7Ps, and 4Cs. And he pointed out that while no previous marketing models have talked about customers and customer experience, the M3 model talks about both.

Another M3 aim is to unite digital and classic marketing. Friedlein argued that digital marketing is just another part of marketing, and that although it’s mainly tactical, it should still inform strategy. He insisted that all marketers should understand both.

“A digital marketer who doesn’t understand and embrace classic marketing won’t become CMO,” he said. “A classic marketer who doesn’t embrace digital marketing shouldn’t have a job.”

Acknowledging the fact that a CMO’s average tenure is half that of a CFO, he urged his audience to embrace customer-centricity and the understanding of data that powers it.

“If you can develop CX and data skills, you won’t be out of a job,” he said. “You’ll be CEO.”

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