4 Things Marketers Should Know Before Embarking on Digital Transformation

Plus, Adweek announces a new partnership with Accenture Interactive

Advertising Week attendees are hearing plenty about the marketing topic of our times. Getty Images
Headshot of Christopher Heine

No matter what kind of marketing you’re in—business-to-business, automotive, financial, retail or even publishing—this isn’t your father’s sales environment thanks to the seismic impact of social and mobile.

It’s easy to see why digital transformation is a huge topic at Advertising Week 2017 as 91 percent of chief marketing officers in Accenture’s CMO Insights Survey believe advertising will undergo substantial, fundamental change in the next half-decade because of emerging technology, compared to just 78 percent a few years ago.

“The time for change is now, and companies need to lean into it quite aggressively,” said Olof Schybergson, CEO of design and innovation firm Fjord. While speaking on the Bing Stage at a panel called The Digital Transformation of Brands that Adweek organized, Schybergson added, “A seamless transition throughout is a massive, massive challenge for most major organizations.”

Panelist agreed: Getting everyone on the same interactive page can be a bear.

Here are four key takeaways from the digital transformation experts:

A new kind of sales funnel

The automotive category has been focused on the customer journey since roughly the time when industry legend Lester Wunderman coined the term “direct marketing” in the late 1960s. As consumers—especially younger audiences—increasingly get their information via smartphones and laptops, car brands have to constantly adapt to new behavior trends and rethink the sales funnel.

“[Consumers] are considering more brands but going to fewer dealers,” said Connie Fontaine, svp, dealer and OEM relations at FordDirect. “You have to figure out what’s the right kind of information, what’s the right content at the right moment.”

Susan Bidel, senior analyst at Forrester Research, said, “It was social that blew up the funnel.”

Co-creation is key

Anna Griffin, svp of corporate marketing for the software company CA Technologies, gave attendees a peek into how her company drives innovation across departments in a unified manner.

“It has to be a function of an entire company,” Griffin explained. Sales, marketing and customer experience staffers are purposefully situated together in the office to inspire co-creation, she said, and so “they see the same data” and work “toward the same KPIs [key performance indicators].”

Griffin stressed that KPIs span the entire company, as everyone needs to be on the same page working toward a common goal from the beginning.

Bidel concurred on the leadership front. “Someone at the top has to make sure all the children play well together,” she said. “It requires enterprises to break down the silos that have been formed.”

The coming era of digital-first execs

Can baby boomers lead digital transformations for 21s century-minded companies? Can even Gen Ex execs? Griffin of CA Technologies suggested that the younger the exec, the better chance he or she probably has to direct the company through its transformation.

While Bidel noted that CMOs are still largely from an older crowd, she argued “that is changing. Digital natives are taking over those jobs.”

James Cooper, Adweek editorial director and moderator of the panel, also asked: Are CMOs for major brands typically far enough along with their digital transformations?

“I think that the digital CMO is, but I don’t think, for the large part, that CMOs in other large companies are,” Bidel answered.

Big data, big opportunities, big difficulties

Brands like Kraft and Red Bull should be looked at as large brands that have successfully cultivated first-party data with second- and third-party data, the Forrester analyst said.

By 2025, Bidel said, a key to organizational success will be “grappling with all sources of data in your data.”

She added that while someday artificial intelligence will be a huge force in data-driven business, right now companies talk about and fear it more than they are implementing it.

Get ready for the Digital Transformation Playbook 

Also, the event also served as an opportunity to introduce a partnership between Adweek and Accenture Interactive that will culminate in a 10-month editorial program called The Digital Transformation Playbook. Starting Oct. 30, the series will span Adweek’s print, online, newsletters, podcasts, live events and social media, including Twitter chats. Each month, a different chapter of the playbook will be brought to life, addressing concerns that marketers have about digital transformation and offering actionable insights.

“Experience is the new battleground,” said Roxanne Taylor, Accenture chief marketing and communications officer. “CMOs and their teams are increasingly being tasked to transform their marketing organizations through the lens of customer experience. Accenture Interactive, with its laser focus on creating and delivering the best customer experiences on the planet to catalyze business growth, is well positioned to help them in their transformation efforts, and is excited to work with Adweek to provide actionable advice and resources to chart their way forward.”

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.