The Next Era of Marketing: Aditya Joshi on Strategists, Technologists and Analysts

Engagement Marketing


Is everyone looking forward to the holidays as much as I am? In the spirit of real relaxation, I’ll be pressing pause on this series for a couple of weeks but before I do, I wanted to share the latest in our partnership with The Economist.

For those of you just joining us, welcome. I encourage you to check out my original post about the new era of engagement marketing for context. Also, don’t miss last week’s post  — an interview with Seth Godin, who discussed the shift from transactional and mass marketing to an engagement model centered on building personalized, lifelong relationships.

But we can’t talk about a shift in what we’re doing or even how we’re doing it without defining what new skills are needed and how the role of the marketer is changing. That’s why the following interview with Bain executive Aditya Joshi is a great follow-up to Seth’s interview. Aditya led the marketing excellence practice at Bain when we did this interview recently (he is now VP, Corporate Strategy at Thermo Fisher Scientific), and worked with some of the world’s leading brands and marketers. Here are my takeaways from this insightful conversation:

  1. First and foremost, fellow CMOs, our role is going to expand. I know, music to your ears, I’m sure. As Aditya says, our “visibility, [our] profile, the profile of the marketing organization — are all going to increase”. The importance of our ability to collaborate with other functions — IT, finance — and embrace the need to set up cross-functional decision-making processes cannot be understated. Shifting toward a truly a “marketing first” world.
  2. Second, the marketing organization of the future is going to look different. In this new world, marketing organizations need different skills than they have today. Aditya comments, “what you essentially need is a modern-day DaVinci”. But those, as we know, are rare, so we as CMO’s need to create “DaVinci in the aggregate”. Aditya describes three key roles emerging as we move towards an engagement marketing model: marketing strategists, marketing technologists and marketing analysts. Each will play a critical part in creating, publishing and distributing content in a world where consumers are setting the terms for how they want to be engaged. The new organizational skill-set — and structure —  will be one of the most profound changes that we as marketers need to deal with over the coming 5-10 years. I believe that to my core.
  3. Third, marketing now needs to move at the speed of digital. That means fast. Really fast.  Aditya comments on how traditional marketing models rely on long creative cycles that ultimately provide insight/feedback for next year’s campaign. But, that model doesn’t work anymore — or, at the very least, it doesn’t capitalize on the opportunity of today’s digital world to “get real-time feedback” from customers.  At the most, marketers put themselves at real risk by not practicing “agile marketing” since, as Aditya observes, “A long cycle increases the risk that consumers have moved on to the next thing and your campaign won’t be effective”.

So much more great stuff in the interview, so I encourage you to give it a read. And for more, visit our Next Era of Marketing site, follow my blog series each week and please, as always, share your thoughts and questions.

Economist Intelligence Unit: What do you do at Bain, Aditya?

Aditya Joshi: I’m part of the customer, strategy and marketing practice and lead the marketing excellence area. I help clients become more effective and efficient with their marketing. In that capacity, I’ve helped companies in a number of verticals get more bang for their marketing buck.

EIU: Both B2B and B2C?

Aditya Joshi: That’s right.

EIU: What is the marketing landscape going to look like five years from now?

Aditya Joshi: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the big secular forces affecting marketing are pretty clear. First, the rise of digital media and channels. They’re easier to target and they’re where consumers want to be engaged now. Second, the ways big data and advanced analytics are helping to better target customers, personalize offers, measure how well they’re doing and adapt accordingly. Number three is the explosion in marketing technologies that at least hold the promise of transforming the marketing process.

That’s the 30,000-foot level. Once you zoom in, though, the reality is more complex.

It’s true that digital and mobile are ascending. Whether it’s online advertising or social mobile, those channels are taking a bigger share of the marketing mix. But traditional channels like TV are still alive and kicking. We’ve done some recent research that suggests TV’s share of the marketing mix should remain north of 40%. TV’s share may decline a bit in the next three to five years, but not by much, and it’s certainly not going away. Traditional media is still very much with us.

So at least for the next five years, it’s not a question of discarding traditional and embracing digital. The trick is how to get both to work together in an integrated way.

EIU: That’s where the data and analytics come in.

Aditya Joshi: That’s one of the places, yes. Marketers are drowning in data, but not all data is created equal. There’s a lot of noise masquerading as data. Many marketers are struggling with how to separate the good data from the bad, fill in the gaps and, most importantly, generate meaningful insights from the data using advanced analytics.

That brings up also the fact that even the most sophisticated analytics are still backward-looking. They help make sense of the past. But given the magnitude of change we’re seeing in terms of new channels, customer behavior and technologies, historical data can quickly become outdated. There’s a danger of fighting the last war.

It’s not a question of discarding traditional and embracing digital. The trick is how to get both to work together in an integrated way.

EIU: That’s now. What about five years from now?

Aditya Joshi: Digital will capture a bigger share of the marketing mix. Today it’s around 40%. In five years it will be the majority, and 60-70% in industries where the product is digital or customers are digital in their behavior. But in a lot of industries, including consumer products, analog media like TV will still be big. The trick will be how to mesh traditional and digital media. Those teams work separately now. They need to work together and build a consistent strategy. Marketers are still going to have to wrestle with that in five years.

EIU: So the future will be like the present, but the forces that we are seeing today will be further advanced?

Aditya Joshi: There will be some changes. Take analytics. One of the biggest and most progressive marketers has successfully married backward-looking analytics with forward-looking test-and-learn. Until now, test-and-learn has been a bit of a sideshow, outside the main activities of creating campaigns.

EIU: Test-and-learn? As in A/B testing?

Aditya Joshi: It can be A/B testing, multivariate testing, all sorts of testing. The point is that companies doing test-and-learn treat it as separate from the main activities like creating content, creating campaigns, rolling out campaigns.

That’s going to change. In the traditional model there is a long creative cycle. You plan a campaign, execute it, see how it runs, analyze it, learn something and use those lessons to influence next year’s campaign. In the next five years test-and-learn will become embedded in marketing work. You will create a bit of content, put it out there, get real-time feedback from customers and put out the next little bit. People are calling this agile marketing. The idea comes from the software world. Google does it. So do other companies where agile software development is in their DNA: put out some stuff, test it and improve it in a continuous test-and-learn process. That’s how marketing will be done too.

EIU: You’re keeping up with events in close to real time.

Aditya Joshi: Exactly. And that’s important because behavior and channels are changing. A long cycle increases the risk that consumers have moved on to the next thing and your campaign won’t be effective. Social media is a good example. It’s changing all the time.

EIU: The CMO function has been neglected in a lot of companies in the past, but it seems to be increasingly critical. Do you think the CMO’s prominence and importance will continue to grow over the next five years?

Aditya Joshi: Sure. Bigger budgets, more responsibility. And more bridges between marketing and other functions. Senior marketers are realizing that a lot of critical marketing decisions no longer sit neatly within the four walls of marketing. They’re shared with other functions.

Take marketing technology, for example. That’s a decision now shared between marketing and IT. In many organizations, the decision to buy a particular piece of marketing technology falls in a no-man’s land between functions.

One thing that distinguishes marketing leaders is the ability to set up collaborative, cross-functional processes. Even before a decision is made, there needs to be agreement on how the decision will be made. It sounds prosaic but it’s really important: you’ve got to agree in advance what the decision is, what criteria will guide the decision, and who will play what role in the decision process. So when buying marketing technology, you need to agree on the decision criteria upfront. You’ll also have to figure out roles. What’s the role of marketing? What’s the role of IT? What’s the role of finance? Who has what decision-making rights? Progressive marketers are starting to understand and embrace the need to set up cross-functional decision-making processes.

Yes, CMOs will have a lot more responsibility. Their visibility, their profile, the profile of the marketing organization—all are going to increase. Some of the roles will change too. But it’s going to be critical for marketing to collaborate and be explicit about how to make big decisions across boundaries.

EIU: Could you talk a bit about how roles will change? Marketing ops used to be a neglected area. With the emphasis on technology, data and analytics, it’s becoming the core of marketing. What skills will they need? How will their budget allocations change?

Aditya Joshi: When you talk about skills and roles, it’s important to distinguish between the marketing organization and individuals in marketing. At most organizations, marketing has historically been a creative function that focuses on building the brand by developing and executing campaigns. Those skills are still going to be very critical. The core of marketing is still telling a story that wins over customers.

But three new roles are going to become more and more important.

The first I would call out is strategist. Given the furious rate of change, marketing needs to understand the business priorities in terms of segments, product lines, markets. It also means knowing the role that marketing needs to play in advancing the business strategy.

The second role is analyst. Marketing needs people with the skill set and capabilities to take unstructured data from many sources, come up with the right hypotheses, find the insights and translate those into business and marketing implications. Part of this is bringing in data scientists and statisticians who understand marketing and can act as the experimenters and analysts.

The third role is technologist. There is a huge portfolio of technology solutions out there to solve marketing problems. You need people who can help you choose. They need to straddle marketing and IT. People talk about the chief marketing technologist and that is becoming more and more common.

The key thing to remember about all of these new roles is that a more analytical approach to creating, publishing and distributing content is going to become increasingly critical in a world where consumers are setting the terms for how they want to be engaged. The old interruptive push marketing won’t be as effective anymore.

EIU: So CMOs need to attract people with strategic, analytic and technocratic intelligence to a function that has traditionally been creative. Do you find that combination of abilities in the same people? I don’t think you do. A creative type can use a spreadsheet, but that’s as far as it goes. It seems like there’s a growing schism within marketing.

Aditya Joshi: I totally agree. And that’s why I made the distinction between the organization and the individual. The organization needs to have a multifaceted personality. You can’t expect that from most individuals. Very few people have left- and right-brained capabilities in the same depth and strength. Essentially, what you would need is a modern-day Da Vinci. But you know how rare that is.

EIU: But you can create a Da Vinci in the aggregate. You hire different people with different skills who combine to create a Da Vinci. That’s your ideal marketing team.

Aditya Joshi: That’s right. The organization as a whole can’t be just right-brained or left-brained. The organization has to be both-brained, which happens only when you can get both groups to work together effectively. That requires a leader who sponsors and champions the notion of getting both kinds of personalities working together. That is easier said than done, because the leader is most likely either left-brained or right-brained.

EIU: Traditional marketers who work in engineering-dominated companies often become frustrated because they feel that their creative intelligence doesn’t get sufficient respect. And I’m sure the same is true of engineers working in ad agencies.