Putting the panel together, I aimed to showcase a mix of B2C and B2B senior marketing experience from different industry sectors who could speak to how technology is changing the game, how top bands are meeting the challenges posed by the modern-day customer, and how social media is changing the dynamics of building brand reputation and sustaining brand loyalty, the latter of which forms a central pillar of my book, The Changing MO of the CMO. In fact, Beth was one of my interviewees for the book, so I kicked off by taking a page from Mashable’s recent Social Good Summit quoting her since she claimed that GE is using social media “to connect the dots”. I asked my panelists to highlight how they are evolving with the rapidly-changing environment specifically with regard to social media.
GE is harnessing social media both internally and externally, and one of the most impressive examples is the recent internal competition to come up with start-up ideas by igniting the GE community and using open innovation. Beth called it “Match.com for start-up ideas”, and while not every one of the 5,000 submitted were winners or even do-able, the program unleashed the power of the community and produced some very real opportunities. Two weeks ago, GE announced a similar program to break the code of breast cancer. GE is using social media very much as an accelerator for innovation.
Another key business-building aspect of social media was highlighted by Rob who claims that CVS are using it to influence thoughts around business design, tapping key trends such as greater personalization, and using feedback to reinvent the pharmacy space such making as the company’s Mini Clinic program more accessible and personal.
Relationship-building seemed to be another key output of tapping into social media. CVS is extending its relationships with the 68 million households currently in its ExtraCare loyalty program, Time Inc. is building community around its key titles, and FedEx is using it to listen, respond and connect to its constituencies, including its 290,000-strong workforce around the world through its “I Am FedEx” program.
The advent of social media also has brought about the need for marketers to consider broader and more diversified audiences as brand and reputation continue to converge. Much emphasis is being placed on internal audiences of course, and how consumers can influence opinion. But as well, Rob called out the “scrum of audiences” overlapping in the social media sphere, including regulators, B2B customers, consumers and other influencers.
At the same time that audiences are proliferating for marketers, a certain degree of micro-segmentation is taking place. Beth called this “microrelevancy”, and spoke to getting the balance right between mass media and special-interest groups. GE caters to a strong B2B contingency so, for example, a specific target audience could be just 40 radiologists. “Reinventing how success is defined is much more surgical,” she said. “Are we relevant with exactly the right audience? We have to work harder to do so.”
And everything is converging from analyzing to doing to measuring. GE has created little R&D labs within teams to create new capabilities in social media, elevating its ability to scale with content development over the last two years. Now the company is investing in the user experience, trying to reinvent customer service, while at the same time combining employee experience and PR and scaling to all audiences.
Elevated in terms of importance by all panelists is analytics. Rob explained the need for CVS to reconfigure how insights are gathered, synthesized and consolidated. Stephanie had just announced a new analytics initiative announced in AdAge. But while new analytics are constantly being sought, nothing is discarded. According to Raj, there is a shift from the sequential to a more parallel and simultaneous approach. Everyone is constantly learning.
New technology is allowing GE to leapfrog and accelerate its analytics. “If your’re a marketer who doesn’t like data and insights, you’re not going to have a very long tenure,” said Beth. “You gotta love this stuff.” Rob explained that insights are about taking a field of opportunity. “We want every weapon in the arsenal. It has enabled us to make the transition to focus on our top customers.”
So what do these CMOs look for in new talent? Curiosity. The exploratory. The ability to constantly re-invent yourself. Good listening skills (knowing what’s noise and what’s worth listening to). And the ability to translate.
A killer last question from the audience almost stumped the panelists: How do you make a brand social? One could argue that’s a whole other panel! “I think you make yourself accessible, more transparent, put more experts out there to provide commentary in both the good times and the bad. It’s more the PR side of marketing than anything. Opening up. Being real. Being open to judgement. Allow people to find things that are relevant and connect,” according to Beth.
“Introspection,” said Raj. “Determine core attributes of the brand and how best to communicate.”
“It means making your brand more personal because that’s what is socially transferable,” according to Rob. “You share a lot of nonsense with your friends on Facebook, but you share the important things with your best, closest, most intimate customers. And ensuring that’s what’s conveyed in the experience and touch points is what counts.”