Tomorrow I will be participating in an interactive CMO Summit at the Center for Global Brand Leadership, Columbia Business School. By way of thought starter, I wanted to take a look at the round tables and discuss with you the topics with implications from your point of reference as customers, peers, colleagues and business professionals.
The umbrella question | what are the challenges for innovation and brand building inside organizations today?
From my observations in most B2B organizations there is no central process or system in place to capture ideas, vet or test them, and execute. The marketing department is a drive-through place where product managers and sales groups come to order happy meals with fries and a drink -- advertisements, Web sites, brochures, campaigns, and press releases. Everyone goes away (sort of) satisfied, but not nourished.
Instead, marketing should be the center of an ecosystem where customer feedback and market research feed the brand experience, which in turns inform strategic innovation. Reframed as a service, marketing gains even more value through the processes of listening, advising, explaining, and teaching.
The challenge with brand building is the definition itself. When we talk brand, the internal organizational curtain comes down and all everyone sees are logos and styles. How can we make the concept come alive? A corollary to that is that because of approval processes, everyone is a marketer in perception. "Can you change that word?" "I like blue better." While at it, let's write a press release as if it were a product bulletin.
Both challenges suffer from lack of internal alignment and thus commitment towards a common language that represents the business and reflects its presence in the marketplace.
Add to that dwindling budgets and the question Pamela Kaufman, Chief Marketing Officer, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group will address: how do you build brands in a new media environment?
The Customer Experience
How are you doing in that department? Is it fair to say that it should be your customers to tell you? I write about customer conversations every Thursday at Fast Company Expert blogs. From the view point of the customer, of the marketer and brand steward, as well as the observer. What do customers want?
Find out and give it to them.
In the first roundtable, Prof. Bernd H. Schmitt, Exec. Director, Center on Global Brand Leadership will lead a discussion on "Sourcing, Evaluating, and Executing Innovative Ideas". What about managing expectations inside and outside the organization? For example with partners, suppliers, consultants, etc.
Creating Customer Evangelists
I have yet to find a better title for the act of finding and enrolling brand ambassadors in any environment, new and traditional media. There are many concepts in the book, now become a classic, by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba we should all be familiar with today:
- Continuously gather customer feedback.
- Make it a point to share knowledge freely.
- Expertly build word-of-mouth networks.
- Encourage communities of customers to meet and share.
- Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite.
- Focus on making the world, or your industry, better.
These action items can still be a winning recipe to engage customers today. How do you influence brand ambassadors in the new media environment? Francois Gossieaux and Lois Kelly, Partners, Beeline Labs, will lead this round table discussion. I like the idea of customer advisory boards.
This concept has been around for a while. It's borrowed from Good to Great by Jim Collins and expresses the idea that to carve a path to greatness first you decide who should be on the team, then what you are working on. The right people are self-motivated -- in addition to having the skill sets needed and the talent to pull it off.
Who should be on the new marketing department bus? Maryam Banikarim, CMO, Univision; and David Rogers, Director, Center on Global Brand Leadership will lead a discussion on "Challenges, Opportunities, and Skill Sets."
My take is that you need a connector, someone who sees the interdependencies and possibilities and can translate that into opportunity, content, action. Literally someone who can connect ideas and people to make it work.
Then you need a number of highly specialized global thinkers -- people who can move fast on their feet yet stay anchored in the understanding of the mission. Because they are extremely comfortable in their domains, they are not afraid to push the envelope when necessary.
A third and welcome addition would be process people who get systems and can manage complex variables.
A final note before opening the conversation with you (please disagree as necessary). Today we don't have communications issues inside organizations. We have information problems. Not enough data, facts, feedback and narrative is shared from customer experiences to research to product and service planning. Thus many of the innovation efforts we could take on to recalibrate brands and align them with what customers want fail.
Now think with me through some of you questions and discussion deliverables I can help bring to the fore tomorrow. What would you add?
I am joining talented marketing professionals and bloggers David Berkowitz, Don Dodge, Paul Dunay, Tom Guarriello, Max Kalehoff, Lois Kelly, Amanda Mooney, and C.B. Whittemore. See you all there at BRITE for an early (still) peak at the possibilities and opportunities to innovate and build brands with the help of technology.