A Review of Day Two at FOM15
My final post in the FOM15 will add some additional insight from the second day of the FOM event and complement the themes identified during the first day.
My experience on the first day was dominated by the tension between a “brave new world” and time-tested fundamentals. The second day shifted the focus of this tension to the challenge of maintaining strategic clarity in the face of a whirlwind of change in the tools available to marketers. The best way to describe this is to start by comparing the beginning and end of the day.
The day began strongly with a keynote presentation from Anthony Thompson, Chairman of Atom Bank – the UK’s first mobile-only bank. (Atom is launching soon and it is worth following its evolution). A mobile-only bank felt to me like a very niche proposition. Until I learned that mobile is already the largest channel through which people in the UK access their banking. It is predicted that in two years’ time it will be larger than all the other channels together.
In explaining the decision to launch Atom, Mr. Thompson provided a simple point that is so obvious we often forget it:
Good marketing is good for customers
In other words, good marketing creates value for customers by giving them what they need, when and how they need it. Good marketing is not about improving conversion rates, response rates, products per customer, etc. All of these typical KPIs are the result of giving customers the experience they want.
He provided a clear example from the previous bank that he launched – Metro Bank. Metro Bank have installed coin-counting machines in their branches so that customers can easily count their coins and exchange them for notes – free of charge. There is no direct ROI for this action, which has cost (so far) approximately €3 million. The ROI is indirect but very real: providing customers the experience they want contributes positively to all the bank’s revenue streams.
With my apologies to Monica Lewinsky (we had to miss her speech to catch our plane back to Barcelona), the day ended with the world’s largest marketing lesson (a certified Guinness World Record). Advertising “legend” Sir John Hegarty and the CEO of one of the UK’s leading digital marketing agencies joined forces to lament the depressing lack of creative quality that characterizes digital communication. And it is not an emotional lament, it has very real consequences for brands and business: appalling engagement rates and worrying levels of adblocker usage. (See the previous blog entry for a more detailed explanation from the FT.)
The point was nicely summarised by John Hegarty in the following line about how we are using the new digital tools at our disposal:
“…we are failing to create persuasive ideas and focussing on mere promotion”
While communication is not as important as the experience with the product / service itself, it also forms part of the customer experience with the brand. If we use data and digital tools to treat the customer’s experience with the brand as a simple sales funnel, then they will do what we deserve: switch off, tune out, go somewhere else.
If that was the beginning and the end, what happened in between? Despite many presentation titles and session introductions with the right words, the dominant theme was using data and digital tools to optimize the sales funnel. There was token talk of using data and digital tools to be a “helpful assistant”, but the conversation quickly returned to the expected KPIs: conversion rates, response rates, AOV, etc. Of course we need these KPIs – as results, not as our purpose. (An interesting exception was Naked Wines.)
Not surprisingly then, there was much discussion of the “creepy factor” of using data to personalize marketing messages. As we “stalk” customers and try to offer them ever more targeted communication at every moment in their purchase funnel, we become increasingly promotional: desirable for the deal yet undesirable as a brand. All demand fulfilment and no demand generation. As the senior European Marketing Director from a leading FMCG company commented to me this summer:
We’re increaslingly organising our teams into specialist units around the data and optimization of the latest tools. Who is doing strategy? Who is thinking about the brands we need to build?
It would be easy to write another three posts about the details of these sessions. I’ll save any readers from that and close with a more personal summary of the experience at FOM.
I went to the event with a desire to see (and expose our participants to) the latest in marketing practice. We certainly got that. More importantly, we got some healthy reminders of what is truly important if we want to do “good marketing”.
I also went to the event with a certain idea of how providing this experience to our participants could lead to some interesting KPIs for our programme. I thank some of the event speakers for putting things back in their proper order: the goal is to provide value and excellent experience to the customer (what they perceive as value and excellent). At some point, I should look at the KPIs as validation. Right now, I’ll stick with the main goal and the examples of concrete value that our participants have taken from the visit to FOM. And in the spirit of this series of posts, the twenty-eight “thank you, that was an awesome experience” is a fitting end.