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WISDOM PICKS FROM EXPERTS

MARY ANNE HENSLEY

Executive Editor, CMO Council



Since its inception, digital has been viewed as the path forward for marketers, who are able to engage, inform and connect with consumers more effectively and efficiently than ever before. From email and social media to big data, personalization and beyond, organizations are now able to capture valuable information about their customers that allows them to deliver experiences that truly delight and engage.

This has led to a competitive landscape that shifts and evolves on a daily basis, which is making it all the more imperative for organizations to deliver the kinds of experiences that stand apart in consumers’ minds. However, it has also created organizational gaps as the skills needed to remain abreast of all these changes also require new talent. While the digital future may have once seemed to be a far-off reality, one thing is certain: When it comes to digital, the future is now.

And marketers know that digital channels are critical to engaging today’s consumer. Global spending on digital advertising will reach $178 billion in 2016, almost 30 percent of total ad spending, according to eMarketer. However, according to new research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), marketers do not have the skills they need to compete in today’s digital world and, in fact, the shortcomings in this area are greater than may have initially been estimated. BCG research also indicates that marketers are still largely focused on the past—working to catch up on yesterday’s needs rather than devoting attention to develop the skills they will need for the future.

According to a BCG Perspectives piece, “Digital marketing is not only the future, it’s the present. But do today’s marketers have the skills they need to operate in a digital world? New research by The Boston Consulting Group shows that they do not— and that the gaps and shortfalls are bigger than companies assume. The signs for the future are even more troubling, as many marketers seem focused on catching up on yesterday’s needs rather than embedding into their organizations the capabilities and expertise that will be required tomorrow. The companies that act now to transform their marketing capabilities will be much better positioned to connect with their customers in the years to come.”

Capgemini Consulting’s recent report—“The Digital Talent Gap: Developing Skills for Today’s Digital Organizations”— underscores this positioning, stating that more than 4.4 million IT jobs were created around big data last year, yet only a third of those jobs were filled. Furthermore, the report reveals that the impact of digital technologies is felt across the entire organization, leading to a heavy demand for digital skills. In fact, Capgemini’s study in conjunction with the MIT Center for Digital Business found that 77 percent of companies believe the lack of digital skills is the primary hurdle to their digital transformation. Furthermore, although more than half of companies realize mobile expertise is key to digital transformation, more than 80 percent of companies say they lack skills in mobile.

Furthermore, Capgemini notes that current reports to develop digital skills are not synced with the strategy as only 4 percent of companies align their training e orts with the digital strategy, and companies are spending 20 percent of their training budgets or less on digital.

As both BCG and Capgemini conclude, traditional marketing skills remain important, but they are no longer enough. In order for organizations to remain competitive in the digital world, it is time to begin focusing on the need to expand, upgrade and better equip talent to boost digital marketing proficiency and pave the way for a successful future. However, this process will not be identical for each individual company, and marketers face a number of challenges that must be overcome to achieve this level of success.

For highlighted perspectives from Digital Marketing executives, please view this story in full here: https://cmocouncil.org/authority-leadership/peer-sphere/13

MAGGIE FOX

Senior Vice President, SAP Global Marketing

SAP

Digital Transformation really comes down to people

As the market leader in enterprise application software, SAP applications and services enable approximately 300,000 customers in 190 countries to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and grow sustainably. As the Senior Vice President of SAP Experience, Maggie Fox and her team are responsible for global content production as well as SAP’s digital experience and award-winning brand journalism program. The team is also in its third year of a highly successful company-wide digital transformation of their online customer experience, called One Digital Experience (1DX), Fox is proud of their achievements, but notes they will continue to transform as customer needs evolve.

Fox stresses that digital transformation is not uniform and every company must find the most appropriate definition and strategy for its own unique journey, and SAP’s, 1DX digital transformation program touches all facets of the organization and has the sole focus of making it easy for anyone to do business with SAP online.

"Building the digital customer experience and making that experience seamless and easy is at the forefront of our minds when we talk about digital transformation. And in order to do that properly, we need to hone in on the 'new world' of the customer journey," she says. "The marketplace is a living thing. In order to succeed as an organization, we need to meet the pace of the market. And as marketers, we are the closest to the voice of the customer. We know before anyone else the temper and tone of the customer environment. Because of this, marketing is in a wonderful position to be a strategic player at the 'big' table inside corporations today. We can provide insights around emerging trends and how we might create new opportunities. If we can deliver that to the business, it is a huge opportunity."

Simplify consumer engagement and interaction at every digital touch point

SAP customers are looking for a seamless, easy-to-use online experience to help them find what they are looking for, and digital marketing must constantly evolve to keep up with the pace of the market. One of the benefits of being a high tech company is that the team at SAP knows how to roll out technology. So for them, the transformation really comes down to people.

"For us, it is not only a technology story. Of course, having the right technology is important, and having the right technology partner is critical. But at the end of the day, your success comes down to people,” she explains. “Getting people to change and adopt new methods of doing things can be difficult."

For others embarking on digital transformation, it’s important to develop a solid understanding of the principles of change management. The key to success is motivating teams to focus their efforts on driving new processes that will support digital transformation. Most people are motivated by emotional connection, not numbers or spreadsheets.

"To quote Peter Drucker, 'Culture eats strategy.' If you don't understand the human aspect of the change you are trying to drive, you will not be successful,” Fox says. "For any transformation to work, adoption is critical to success. And for people to adopt new technologies or methodologies, they need to believe in them and understand the vision. The more they understand this, the more likely they are to shift behaviors and stop doing what they were previously doing. I cannot emphasize enough the need to communicate why transformation is important."

At SAP, another part of the reason their digital transformation efforts have been so successful is because of a robust project management office that sets up specific work streams, and a core team that remains incredibly nimble. Periodic assessments allow the team to identify risks and weaknesses in scope and role requirements, and helps keep the project on track. Also, additional training and enablement was incorporated to help employees truly understand the need for change and how it would impact the customer.

Articulate the vision, foster passion, and drive execution

"A big transformation project can sink under its own weight because people try to do everything at once rather than a small number of important things,” Fox explains. “For us, the key was setting up and establishing priorities and then delegating individuals to be directly responsible for each of those key areas. We created a system of visibility and accountability. Within that, communication needs to be open, honest and frequent. Above all, there needs to be trust. Without it, people may be uncomfortable addressing critical issues until it is too late."

While SAP's digital marketing team is 200 marketers out of a larger global marketing team of 1,400, they are a center of excellence in terms of digital marketing and content production. With the incredible pace of technology, the digital team has become not only a knowledge hub, but also consultants to other marketers within the organization. In fact, the team often trains other marketing teams on new processes or technologies.

"At SAP, we know that increasing digital skills and capabilities across the company is really important,” she says. “Modern marketers today need at least some level of digital capability, and we have become those subject matter experts in our organization."

If there is one point Maggie would drive home when it comes to transformation, it is that an investment in people—and culture—is crucial.

“To create a system of constant learning, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of the market by evaluating new technologies and customer needs and understanding what's going on,” she says. “This requires a learning culture. When it comes to transformation, technology is just a facilitator. In the end, you need to invest in people."

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Maggie Fox is the Senior Vice President, SAP Global Marketing at SAP.  She is has global responsibility for SAP’s digital experience. Prior to joining SAP, Maggie was founder and CEO of Social Media Group, established in 2006 and one of the world's most highly respected independent agencies helping businesses navigate the socially engaged Web. She has been interviewed about social and digital trends by Inc. Magazine, The Washington Post, CBC Radio, The Globe and Mail, CBC News, CTV News and The Financial Post, among others. In 2011, The National Post named her one of Canada's Top Innovators. Fox also sits on the board of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

DEAN DACKO

Senior Vice President, Head of Marketing and Products

Malaysia Airlines

Using Digital to Enhance Customer Centricity

Trying to establish a personalized relationship with every individual customer when Malaysia Airlines carries 16 million passengers per year and 340 flights per day across all global markets is not a simple exercise. Yet Dean Dacko, Malaysia Airlines’ Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing and Products, strives to bring together the various customer touch points to deliver the same value each and every day to every single customer. He feels the five-star level of service delivered to passengers on board an aircraft should also be reinforced through all other customer touch points and believes that Malaysia Airlines is well on its way to accomplishing this.

"Dealing with cultures that are different in every part of the world creates a very complex and challenging environment," he says. "There are various differences in almost everything that is done in each market, but you need to have consistency because our passengers are traveling all over the world, and their expectation is to experience one brand and one message. It's a very complex and challenging environment to work in."

Recognizing that the customer relationship is the most important asset of an organization, Malaysia Airlines places customer centricity at the core of the business.

"We recognize that each of our customers has a choice with regard to what airline they want to travel with, and it is paramount that we are able to provide a clear understanding of what differentiates us from our competitors," he says. "We recognize that we need to reinforce the customers’ value to us each and every time we interact with them, so our position and the statement we communicate is really represented by our tagline: ‘Journeys Are Made by the People You Travel With.’"

Through strategic traditional and digital campaigns, the organization demonstrates the value it places on creating positive customer experiences. Malaysia Airlines understands that consumers are on-the-go and seek digital engagement, and services are provided through these preferred channels to create personalized and relevant experiences.

"Our Journeys campaign is fully integrated, and both traditional and digital marketing tools are being exploited and leveraged in this campaign, so we use traditional television, billboard and print media to drive traffic to our various digital channels for engagement," he says. "Our approach is ultimately to cause our customers to want to build a relationship with Malaysia Airlines in a digital format. We have people engaged in building those relationships on a one-to-one basis in our 16 country sites, all with unique languages and with content relevant to each. At the end of the day, people are interested in learning more and being more interactive prior to making a purchase decision. You can't just sell to them; you have to create a relationship that enables them to distinguish value and make an informed buying decision, especially on something as personal as vacation or business travel."

About one year ago, Malaysia Airlines embarked on a structural evolution with the goal of focusing the organization on developing a customer-centric perspective. The customer relationship went from being viewed from an operational standpoint to a customer engagement perspective.

"Marketing now owns the relationship with the customer from the context of how we understand, relate to and interact with them," he adds. "Creating the infrastructure, processes and procedures to ultimately reinforce that relationship is driven by marketing."

With the objective of having a strong and personalized relationship with each customer, marketing’s ability to deliver strategic communications is contingent upon having the correct technology and data. Thus, marketing has an influence on back-end investments within the organization.

"The lifetime customer value is driven by the data we are able to capture and use to reinforce the relationship, so marketing is really driving how we create the infrastructure to capture all that data, what CRM platform we use, how that system is managed and how the data is leveraged in digital marketing and communications activities," Dacko explains. "Marketing drives how the tools are created, influences their application and ultimately impacts decisions on budgeting."

Dacko sees the significant progress made in the last year as a step in the correct direction, but in order to cultivate truly deep and meaningful customer relationships, advancements still need to be made within the organization.

"When it comes to being absolutely customer-centric, we still have a long way to go," he says. "We have a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built to enable us to create those intimate relationships. We've moved the needle quite substantially over the last year and are certainly leading our industry in how we engage audiences across our global boundaries. We have a vision for where we need to go, and I think we are well on our way to understanding what we need to do."

Since becoming more customer-centric strategically, the organization has seen substantial results. In the airline industry, unforeseen things can happen, so Dacko believes that deepening customer relationships through personalized engagements is key to increasing the bottom line.

"In an airline environment, things happen every day that have a direct impact on our customers, and it's a notion of how well we recover from those and how well we deal with them that really has the most impact on that relationship," Dacko says. "Recently, we started to engage in a more intimate and interpersonal type of relationship, and our numbers have seen a significant impact in the last six months as a result. All of our strategies to combine our advertising, marketing and sales efforts into one message and one brand have translated into direct bottom-line revenue generation that is nothing short of dramatic."

JANICE CHAN

Senior Director of Digital Marketing

Starwood Hotels & Resorts–Asia Pacific

Starwood Hotels & Resorts has a strong focus on digital marketing and has had great success in using digital to enhance the customer experience. While digital is often viewed separately from traditional marketing efforts, Senior Director of Digital Marketing Janice Chan says that digital can no longer be viewed apart from the overall marketing strategy, and not having an integrated digital presence could be a critical mistake for companies.

Chan believes that mobile is currently the greatest driver of their digital efforts due to the penetration of smartphones across the Asia-Pacific population. It is often cheaper to use mobile than desktop computers, so it is critical to reach consumers through this channel. Also, the fact that a growing number of consumers prefer to make purchases online is driving digital adoption and advancement.

In addition, digital efforts in countries like China are driven by the unique nature of the different sites and platforms they use, which have actually surpassed revenue volume and advertising dollars in much of the region.

While Chan believes the company has a strong digital presence, she says they are closer to the forefront of digital in some areas than others.

“We feel pretty good about our digital presence, our digital strategy and our content strategy, and we have the people, plans and budgets in place to maximize these channels,” she says. “Digital is owned by the entire organization—from the top down—which is great because that type of commitment is necessary in order to secure the budgets you need.”

The marketing teams are very focused on driving digital innovation in the company, and they work closely with other cross-functional teams in order to make progress. They partner with IT in order to build out the back end and develop the proper infrastructure, and she says the relationship between marketing and IT has never been stronger. As they look to utilize e-wallet services, they are also partnering strongly with finance.

“E-wallet is going to be a big area for us this year, and as an e-commerce site, we need to partner with finance in order to determine which direction is best for the company,” she says. “When you consider allowing customers to make payments on a site or to use e-wallet, it involves finance, legal, IT and more in order to make the right decisions for the company.”

When it comes to challenges, Chan says that talent and compensation have been key issues. Attracting talent and then retaining it are becoming increasingly difficult as digital becomes a priority for more companies. In terms of execution, she says localization presents challenges due to the time, budget and people needed to support multiple-language campaigns.

“We have seven languages that we have to translate our campaigns into every time, in addition to creating the original creative in English,” she says. “It’s not just a lot of time and work that’s required—it’s also very costly.”

When it comes to evaluating, testing, selecting and measuring different digital technologies and channels, Chan says the company has multiple processes in place that allow them to maximize every channel, from websites, mobile web and apps to search, social, email, SMS and more. Embracing these channels and having the right tools in place to measure performance has led to a great deal of success, but she says mobile apps still present some challenges.

“The technology around mobile apps is newer, and the industry is still developing tools and solutions to measure mobile app performance, so that’s something we’re working on now,” she says.

In terms of platforms, the company is looking to invest in popular mobile and social platforms and to localize several apps in the near future. They are constantly upgrading their desktop and mobile sites and apps to maximize return, and everything they do must be tied to ROI. Fortunately, being in the hotel industry makes it relatively easy to measure bookings and revenue.

Starwood has also seen a lot of success from its digital efforts and is proud of its digital innovations. In fact, the company has a strong partnership with Apple and was featured as a co-partner in the keynote presentation around the unveiling of the Apple Watch, which also showcased its app.

“Our app is industry-leading in that it’s not just functional; it’s also a state-aware, meaning it will change its look and feel based on where you are planning to go,” she says. “The latest feature that we have added to the app is specific to our SPG members and offers keyless check-in. Customers are allowed to select this option when they book, and the day before they check in, they go through a process to set up the necessary security within the app. We send your room number, and you’re able to bypass the front desk and unlock your room using the app on your phone.”

Looking toward the future, Chan believes that the real leaders in digital will be the companies who invest in mobile and enlist the help of the right partners to move forward.

“The speed of digital is moving so quickly that oftentimes, brands need to team with stronger partners to get where they want to be,” she says. “In my opinion, this is really the key to getting to a point where you’re leading rather than following.”

ASHLEY TOLLITT

Vice President and Director of Marketing

Verizon Enterprise–Asia-Pacific

Verizon’s senior marketing teams are committed to digital as their main channel for delivering messages to customers and prospects. Verizon has invested in cutting-edge marketing automation tools that allow teams to leverage sophisticated digital marketing programs and customer intelligence. As Vice President and Director of Marketing for the Asia-Pacific region, Tollitt measures the value of their digital efforts by their ability to drive increased qualified sales leads and by their progress against industry benchmarks.

In January of 2014, Internet penetration across the Asia-Pacific region was 37 percent, comprising 47.5 percent of total global Internet users. Mobile penetration was more than 93 percent, although 3G capability is not universally available across the region. Even so, the opportunity for digital in this area is huge and simply cannot be ignored by marketers.

“The Asia-Pacific region is poised for enormous digital growth, but the challenge lies in both developing targeted content that consumers want and ensuring the content reaches its intended audience,” Tollitt says. “It also has to be created in the right languages and delivered at the right time, which is a big shift away from the previous U.S.-centric view of the digital world, but it is vital for digital success in this region.”

Digital marketing allows Verizon customers to have intimate conversations on a mass scale, and the company’s marketing teams are also able to proactively communicate and respond to customers in real time.

“Digital makes it possible for us to be more adaptable in our marketing styles and focus on what the customer wants and will react to,” he says. “It also enables us to track those responses in a far more focused and effective way than ever before.”

Verizon and its APAC business organization have implemented a number of steps across the organization to help meet new market requirements more effectively.

“We’ve implemented a new marketing automation system that helps us to have the kind of customer conversations that are driven by their business challenges and interests,” Tollitt says. “We are also proactively creating in-roads to leverage social engagement tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Again, the end result is to ensure we’re having meaningful conversations.“

Tollitt says it is important to ensure that all of Verizon’s digital programs across the marketing mix are fundamentally aligned with the overall global marketing push, but they do allow for some flexibility for the different geographical regions.

“Digital gives us more opportunities to localize, adapt, test and do guerilla-style campaigns based on feedback from sales and product marketing teams,” he says. “We also use our engagements to get feedback on shifts in market conditions that we can further refine, improve and then apply back to the digital marketing engagement process.”

Tollitt has experienced three major challenges in the digital realm, and these include content, contacts and compliance.

“We have to make sure that we have the right messages in the right place and deliver them at the right time because good digital engagement relies on getting content to the right person,” Tollitt explains. “Compliance in Asia-Pacific is very diverse as we are a collection of disparate countries, so we have different legal and data protection legislations that we need to be aware of and adhere to. Getting a team together that can solve all of those challenges is the key to delivering integrated, localized campaigns.”

Verizon’s marketing teams employ tools for measuring customer engagement depending on where they exist along the customer journey, which may include the awareness stage and various customer touchpoints throughout the marketing and sales funnels.

“We measure our website and social media stats through global tools, and the challenge here is to make the statistics ‘talk’ to each other and form the whole picture of the customer journey rather than focusing on disparate data,” he says. “We also work closely with sales, and aligning our customer intelligence across these teams makes us better equipped to identify and act upon opportunities that may not have been engaged or converted within the sales process. We’re seeing improvements in sales acceptances across the board.”

Verizon’s current focus is to continue to build upon and leverage the knowledge gained from marketing automation and customer intelligence tools. Tollitt and his team will continue to ensure that tools are effectively utilized and will draw the insights needed to continuously improve engagement with customers.

“There is always going to be the temptation to try every new thing that digital marketing can offer, such as mobile and SMS,” he says. “The key is to look at your audience and how they will benefit from what you are doing, and then keep that at the center of your thinking.”

LASTON CHARRIEZ

Senior Vice President of Marketing–North America

Western Union

Western Union has helped to shape the face of communications in America through past innovations in telegraphy and telephony. Today the company’s main focus is money transfer services, and Senior Vice President of Marketing Laston Charriez sees a new world of opportunity for the brand that involves increased personalization of the user experience through highly desired channels like social and mobile.

Western Union is in a tough market. Money transfer services may not be a glamorous sell, but Charriez seeks to keep his brand relevant through today’s most popular social media networks.

“We use pretty much everything in digital, including Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest,” Charriez says. “We always have a pilot of some sort going on to make sure that we are on the leading edge of what’s new and understand how to make it happen.”

Western Union is looking to social media and messaging platforms for an edge in marketing. Charriez identifies messaging apps as a source of increasingly significant engagement with consumers, which feeds into a “SoLoMo” design philosophy—social, local and mobile.

“Anything we do has to work on mobile first for any digital platform because our consumers are on the go,” he says. “They over-index on smartphones and mobility, so we need to be able to reach them wherever they are.”

While the company doesn’t yet use emerging platforms like Snapchat, Charriez is keeping an eye on the growing potential of the photo messaging application.

“Snapchat as a platform for business marketing is interesting because it reaches a lot of young consumers,” he says. “If that’s where our consumers want to go, we have to figure out a way to be relevant and tell stories in the mediums they want.”

Mobile gives tremendous power to the customer, something that Western Union uses to the company’s advantage. Charriez sees today’s consumers as more informed and educated in every step of the buying process, thanks in no small part to the explosion of mobile.

“Consumers can be ambassadors of a service or product if it provides the value that is intended,” he says. “It cuts the other way when the educated customer is disappointed when you don’t deliver. They can also tell people about those experiences.”

Diversity is built into Western Union’s operations. The company serves consumers in more than 200 countries and territories and in more than 120 currencies, with an average of 30 transactions per second in 2014. It’s a wide net to cast into the consumer market, but Charriez’s team makes it simple by using scalable intimacy: the ability to be intimate and relevant to the consumer while marketing on a scalable level to produce a good return on investment. The company recently used this technique with a promotion tied to the Ramadan celebration of Eid.

“We are able to make very specific digital campaigns that are just for Pakistanis who send money to their friends and family during Eid,” he says. “They get really excited about it because of how customized it can be. The key is to construct it in a way that’s scalable but also works all the way down to Pakistanis living in the U.S.”

It’s not all success when it comes to digital marketing for Western Union. Charriez sees permission-based geofencing as both an advantage and a disadvantage depending on how customers opt in or out.

“We are able to tell customers that there’s a Western Union agent near their current location,” he says. “This is possible thanks to customers giving us permission-based geofencing. Sometimes consumers don’t give us permission, so we can’t get to that granularity. We are able to provide a really great and tailored experience for them, but our ability to do that really hinges on them giving us permission.”

For customers in any given area, permission-based geofencing also influences Western Union’s content marketing strategy.

“When the consumer gives permission, I can be certain that I’m sending the right information to people that are interested in sending money to Pakistan, for example, instead of bombarding them with information they don’t want,” Charriez says. “I can get to a level of personalization that’s relevant, but if it isn’t relevant, it doesn’t work.”

Western Union’s marketing plan follows a progressive mandate: 10 percent of everything the company deploys each day must be new. This way, Charriez and his team are forced to learn and make mistakes, something that Charriez sees as key to staying on the leading edge of digital marketing. This also means that failure is occasionally expected of the marketing staff.

“The freedom to fail is in the DNA of our organization,” Charriez says. “I’m a big mountain biker, and I’ve said that in mountain biking, if you’re not falling, you’re not going fast enough. That’s the same thing I tell my team—if they’re not falling, they’re not going fast enough to achieve the things that are going to be the big breakthroughs.”

The Western Union marketing team embraces scalable growth through experimentation on digital platforms.

“The expectation is that 10 percent of the new initiatives will become the 20 percent that we scale up, and that eventually becomes the 70 percent that we’ll definitely do as part of our process,” Charriez says. “Digital is a masterful thing because you can keep testing your way to the goal.”

Digital also holds the key to the future of content marketing and audience engagement, and Charriez predicts that artificial intelligence will be the next big thing in marketing.

“Artificial intelligence is going to move us away from analysis paralysis to real actionable learning,” he says. “I believe AI can tell us what the trends and data are saying and whether we should beta test something or look closely at something else. It can help us create fantastic storytelling powered by remarkable content that consumers can’t refuse.”

GINA COLLINS

Chief Marketing Officer

Build-A-Bear

Build-A-Bear takes consumer engagement to a new level with its unique mix of entertainment-based marketing efforts that extend well beyond the initial purchase of a product. Chief Marketing Officer Gina Collins shares how the content they deploy through their gamification and engagement efforts has transformed the guest experience.

Build-A-Bear, like many companies, uses social media as a direct connection to consumers, or guests, which adds an additional layer of personalization. Collins knows how important these digital channels are for engaging the very young target demographic of Build-A-Bear, as well as for reaching out to parents who ultimately make the purchases.

“Our millennial consumer grew up in a tech world, so they expect a lot more from us,” she says. “Build-A-Bear is balancing the weight of kids and their parents potentially interacting with us online. I think we've been purposeful in the channels we use and how we use them for interaction.”

Build-A-Bear maximizes its online presence through interactive experiences that last long after the guest leaves a store with their new furry friends. These experiences merge entertainment and commerce into a gamified engagement experience to build brand loyalty and value.

One such experience is Bearville Alive!—a content series published via YouTube that allows Build-A-Bear guests to engage in organic play with their new best friends.

“It allows you to tell stories through their eyes, whether they're talking about their favorite superheroes or sports or they're doing a craft,” Collins says. “We were excited to see how quickly we were getting engagement from our consumer base, and we've partnered with YouTube to better understand what it means for our business from a brand equity perspective.”

Another unique form of content for Build-A-Bear is the Promise Pets product line. These stuffed animals are more realistic in design than other Build-A-Bear products, with pets like golden retrievers, beagles and Persian cats. Collins says the line was created to teach the company’s guests about responsible pet ownership. Promise Pets also works in partnership with Petfinder, the largest online source for connecting needy pets to healthy homes.

The vast reach of digital and mobile has helped Collins build an engaged fan base to tell a story. She cites Pinterest as particularly successful in her efforts, but the plan also included a website redesign.

“We rebuilt our website last year to accommodate gaming, playing, storytelling and shopping to create the same consistent experience for consumers across all devices,” she says. “As a result, we saw significant metrics improvement across our channels last year. Mobile engagement specifically was up more than 200 percent from the previous year.”

This type of content stands out from typical white papers and blogs as being truly interactive for the consumer. Collins says the trial-and-error process for developing engagement strategies shows the importance of achieving the right cadence for the organization and the audience.

“A lot of times, we make assumptions about what's successful in the marketplace, whether it's on Facebook, mobile or social,” she says. “That has really been our focus over the last year since I arrived at Build-A-Bear. I partnered with my head of digital, who has a lot of experience on the e-commerce and the playing side of the business, to bring together these perfect worlds. We're excited about what we've achieved in relatively a short amount of time.”

As an experience-based retailer, Build-A-Bear prioritizes digital engagements equally with its in-store engagements to create a comprehensive and cohesive brand experience, but the constant evolution of digital environments means that Collins and her team have to shift to stay ahead of these changes.

“We're continuously working to meet the demands of the consumer,” she says. “I think that we have successfully transferred the in-store personalization experience to the website. We focus on consumer segmentation across the brand, and this renewed focus on the segment, with the ability to personalize across all of our offerings, really improved the consumer experience.”

Over the past 18 months, Collins says the brand has achieved true successes in increasing consumer engagement, which has translated directly into revenue for the company. Combined with the fact that people have such a strong affinity for the brand, this has resulted in real competitive advantage for Build-A-Bear.

“The brand that ultimately figures out the formula to successfully reaching its consumers in a meaningful way and keeps them engaged will bring them back time and time again,” she says. “As we've started personalizing and mining the data that comes from our consumers and targeting what they want and when they want it, we've seen vast improvements in the metrics that really matter.”

Looking forward, Collins says that mobile has the most potential to improve Build-A-Bear’s marketing success. It has inspired the company to create entertaining engagements for its guests, and it will continue to enable innovative ideas for them.

“For Build-A-Bear in particular, people use a multitude of platforms to engage with the brand,” Collins says. “Therefore, we have to offer a multitude of outlets for them to engage wherever they want. Mobile has created an interesting dynamic where consumers are connecting in real time. We have to be consistent, and we have to understand what the consumer wants from us on each platform.”

STEVEN BUSHONG

Senior Vice President, Marketing Operations

Disney ABC Television Group

Disney ABC Television Group (DABC) broadcasts television shows to tens of millions of people every day across the U.S. and is a part of The Walt Disney Company’s global entertainment and news television properties. As Senior Vice President of Marketing Operations, Steven Bushong and his team engage with fans and audiences across a wide mix of owned, earned and bought media, often targeting specific Nielsen demographics. The company also pulls info from social networking to gauge programming monitoring sentiment and buzz around the shows and characters. Disney ABC consistently measures how campaigns perform and how they’re produced with an overall focus on high-quality content and improved ROI.

Disney ABC allocates about 2 percent of its marketing budget on marketing technology-related spend, and Bushong says he is able to justify that amount through productivity, increases in effectiveness and the efficiencies that they have been able to deliver.

“We try to tie our modeling back to the Nielsen ratings to see the effectiveness in marketing ROI,” Bushong says. “We then leverage our model to help us make decisions around allocation.”

Bushong’s marketing operations team works with both IT and content creation teams within other networks of The Walt Disney Company to innovate and create best practices for communicating with the company’s audience. They have also created a state-of-the-art content creation platform that allows them to respond quickly to changes in storylines and messages while flexing capacity throughout the year.

“We also have technologists on our team who are really passionate about the quality of marketing content we create,” he says. “This is one of the things that allows us to remain at the forefront of our industry in this area because they understand marketing, our business and our cadence.”

The goal of the company’s marketing efforts is to drive viewership of its shows and audience engagement. The company’s television shows are marketed through either owned or paid media or earned platforms to create awareness and drive intent to view.

“My role is a relatively new one in the industry—managing the people, processes, technologies and finances that go into our content creation,” he says. “I manage our ‘content factory.’”

Disney ABC has a very detailed and longstanding marketing technology strategy that encompasses content, acquisition, creation, transformation and delivery. They also have a very tactical approach to social platform measurement to determine how they are engaging the audience on social platforms.

The broadcasting company is in the process of striving to improve communication with its audiences. Most real-time interactions take place within a small team that initiates conversations, monitors social media and responds to comments, and they are able to communicate with the audience as they watch shows.

To enable more contextually relevant advertising and messaging for their marketing communications, the company conducts A/B testing and focus group testing to gather insights around how they can improve the relevance of their content. “We have a very robust approach to data management and analysis that helps us understand the effectiveness of different media types at different moments in time during the life of a television show,” he says. “We use that to manage our marketing ROI more than anything else.”

Because the company’s marketing teams create so much content, a third-party application is used to manage production workloads. They company was also one of the first adopters of MRM technology for campaign planning and management. One rising challenge is the ability to bring these disparate tools together and develop a common platform that allows all of their systems to work well together.

“When it comes to the volume that we have in marketing for content production, our teams have had a hard time keeping up,” he says. “We’re currently reviewing all of our technology components and will be upgrading over the next year. The process is really about tying everything together in a way that is seamless and frictionless for the user.” Disney is constantly looking for new tools that will allow them to do things that aren’t already being done. “Since the time of Walt Disney all of our business segments have been innovation leaders in their respective industries,” Bushong says. “We are continuing that legacy.”

He adds, “As we go through the actions of doing our work, we want to be able to accumulate information and data that will allow us to make better business decisions and continue along a path of continuous improvement. We want to industrialize our tools, and that’s going to be really hard to do. But as long as we continue to tell a good story and quickly spin up the content in the format that’s required, then we can be successful.”