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Unifying principles and the CMO's big challenge with Neil Cohen

Neil Cohen, long time friend, trusted advisor and marketing consultant extraordinaire joined us recently to talk about his thoughts on the marketing landscape and emerging tech trends.

Neil keeps himself very busy and entrenched with the latest innovations in marketing and technology by serving as an advisor to multiple startups as well as international accelerators, such as Parallel 18 and Startup Mexico, as well as teaching digital marketing as a professor at SF State University.

Neil’s seen the evolution of the ad-tech and marketing landscape since the early days when digital marketing was a new comer fighting for media budgets to today’s world of programmatic ad exchanges and now digital ad spending is predicted to surpass television spending this year. Budgets have been slowly slipping from traditional television and print budgets, but still somewhat slow to gain traction even as most of us spend most of our time on our mobile phones.

This will be greatest transfer of spending in marketing history.

Today, television and print viewers make up only 4% of audience, yet still garner 14% of total ad spend. That’s all shifting.

The challenges for marketers, however, are daunting, the world has gotten more complex and the CMO is now the biggest buyer of technology, more so than the CIO in the modern enterprise. Yet, even with the new technological advances available, the modern CMO is overwhelmed, with only a small percentage are looking to change their strategies to have a truly omni-channel approach, which is what consumers expect today.

Consumer viewing and media consumption habits have radically changed, more people are cutting the cord and patience for the traditional 30 second commercial has diminished widely. People more and more want engaging branded entertainment that is compelling and interesting enough to want to share with their friends. Redbull and GoPro are great examples of brands that understand their consumers and play to them in this way. Redbull’s homepage doesn’t feature any product on their website instead focusing on entertainment, sports events and concerts. It’s an adventure lifestyle brand.

Of course the ultimate entertainment and lifestyle brand is Apple, you go into an Apple store and it is pure theatre, the retail experience is engaging and each touch point is cohesive and true to brand. Apple is in fact moving towards becoming a broad entertainment platform going forward.

Netflix is another brand that understands this and has been developing its own content in the form of shows like House of Cards, now owning the entire lifecycle of production and distribution.

We discussed some controversial brands like United, and how a brand like that could recover from recent its gaffes, Neil feels it all comes back to brand promise and delivering on the truth. United’s brand promise is to “fly the friendly skies” yet it’s mastered the art of hostile service. There’s a gap between its promise and market reality. A better brand promise would be “the most routes”, or United flies to the most destinations.

For Neil, it starts with a unifying principle, which doesn’t mean a company’s mission vision or values. It’s an overarching filter, what the company stands for as an organization.

Zappos provides a great example, the company views itself as “service” company that just happens to sell shoes. Its brand is powered by service and they pay that off in every customer interaction. Their customer service people are empowered to make decisions to improve the customer experience and even send hand written thank you notes to customers.

But a cohesive unifying experience such as what Zappos delivers requires all organizational structures to be in sync from marketing to new product development to even finance. It’s a new kind of organizational structure many larger established corporations struggle to attain.

So what will it take for CMOs to all adopt an omnichannel view of the customer?

It takes political will from the top... an examination of what is the company’s strength in the marketplace and restructuring and unifying the traditional silos that stand apart, such as marketing and sales, which typically share different goals when they should be one and the same.

Another challenge for CMO’s… the sheer volume of data they must process to plan, optimize and measure their campaigns. It’s easy to get caught up in over measurement and data collection. As Neil likes to say...

Not everything that is measurable is important, not everything that is important is measurable.

We ended the conversation with Neil’s predictions on the state of VR, AR, voice enabled technologies and the future of marketing (hint it's contextual).

Have a listen and thank you Neil for an informative rant-filled chat!

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