How boardrooms must react to a world of devices, data & social media

How boardrooms must react to a world of devices, data and social media

So much of a brand’s future success now depends on how they manage the mobile, social and digital revolution. The rise of Big Data is a paradigm shift for global and local businesses. Next-generation business leaders recognize the need to invest in these technologies including e-commerce and analytics but spending alone is no substitute for strategy. In this new age for brands, organisational structures should be changing along with their capabilities, making IT & analytics an extension of branding and part of a company’s DNA. Smart leaders must recognize the value of information and the value in Big Data. They need to manage it like all other assets on the balance sheet, giving those responsible for its gathering, interpretation and deployment a seat at the boardroom table.

Three explosive shifts in the competitive landscape for brands

Explosion of devices: 75% of the globe now has a mobile phone and mobile traffic data is expected to increase 13-fold by 2017. Any brand intent on capitalizing on the way we buy and interact in the future, must be optimized for not just online commerce, but mobile commerce and all forms of digital interaction. Brands must provide fluid experiences across a multiple devices from PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets to TVs and even cars. Strong brands are a promise to the consumer and every contact affects the delivery of that promise. Therefore, as the touch points with consumers increase, brands have more opportunities to differentiate themselves from competitors and meet or exceed customer expectations.

Explosion of data: Social media and connected devices have lead to an explosion of consumer insight. Software can now not only capture every conversation about a brand in blogs, comments, news, and social media but use natural language processing to decipher the nuance of language like sarcasm and word play. Newer generations of devices will also collect information from our physical bodies and environments. This potential level of insight means that analytical rigor has to become a core competency for brands. Marketers have to become data scientists in order to fuel innovation, improve products and services, generate better retail offers, deliver more contextually relevant ads and anticipate customer needs before they are actually expressed.

Explosion of social media: People have always been the channel by which a brand’s most effective advertising is done in the form of word of mouth. But today’s consumers own and control a brand’s message to a large extent like never before. Where the customer was once at the end of the communication chain, simply receiving massages from brands, they are now at the center of a vast network, actively filtering, editing and disseminating their own message and experiences. They have become co-creators of brands.

The way consumers prefer to receive brand messaging has also changed. Too many marketers treat digital and social media like a traditional platform – targeting consumers with ads. A brand’s digital presence must be consistent with the reasons their consumers use new media – to interact, be entertained and solve problems. Great brands create content and platforms their followers can share and use as an extension of themselves.

Elevate the CMO and CIO to create a brand and data-driven organisation

The modern brand-driven organization is characterized by three distinct characteristics which set it apart from less brand-focused organizations: the right boardroom mindset toward and beliefs about branding, the right skill sets to build and manage brands and allocation of the right organizational and financial resources to build sustainable brand equity.

Although, brands can now develop strategic roadmaps based on the most precise information that has ever been available, 40% of the worlds’ largest organisations still fall into the category of traditional marketers only venturing into analytics, but still largely relying on hunches and experience when implementing insights. Even while many brands get the listening stages of data analytics right, the majority still fail when it comes to implementing change because those doing the listening don’t have the power to change what needs to be fixed. This is where structure, not just strategy requires a shift.

Many boards of directors are notorious for being insulated from the voices of the customers in their organizations. After all, the primary function of boards is to provide financial oversight. But if the brand and the data are viewed as a critical asset of the organisation, a change in the executive team must be considered carefully.

Together, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) are an extension of the customer within the organisation and should earn a seat at the table where the future of the business is determined. Such a change requires, not only a courageous CEO, but a CMO and CIO who recognise the paradigm shift required in how they perceive their roles.

The CMO must take responsibility to make consumer and brand relevance key to every department and since every transaction and data-point passes through their systems. The CIO is the one person who best understands where the technology is going and how it can be applied. Both the CMO and CIO roles should no longer be about deploying strategy or technology as handed down to them, but as a sources of innovation, transformation, revenue-generation and customer satisfaction. With the rate of technological change increasing, brands should also apply an innovation-centred approach by continually investing a small percentage of their budget in unproven areas to identify areas that could ignite future business.

The world’s most admired businesses have customer-driven IT as part of their DNA and those that are behind the curve can expect their IT function to change significantly in the coming years. How organizations embrace data and technology from a branding perspective will separate the winners from the losers. Consumers are dictating the terms at which they want to interact and do business with brands and the majority of brands are falling short of expectations.

Together, the CMO and CIO roles are poised to lead brands through this change if they embrace new responsibilities and are given the authority and voice within the organisation to do so.