Opinion

Let’s be honest and admit that most of us marketers are Model T Ford drivers in a 747 cockpit

As she makes the transition from FMCG to martech, Radium One's new APAC marketing boss Jodie Koning argues that more marketers should have the humility to admit that haven't kept up with the rapid pace of change

I don’t know too many marketers who have made the move from the relatively traditional world of brand marketing into the ever-expanding, ever-changing and complex world of martech (marketing technology).

That’s exactly what I have just done in taking on the Marketing Director role at RadiumOne.

For me, it made complete sense, I wanted to broaden my skillset and become less of a digital dinosaur. It also didn’t hurt that I was joining a company that already had a strong and differentiated brand story.

One hundred days in and I’ll be honest, I could never have imagined the depth of the chasm between brand marketing and the martech industry.

But the biggest realisation is the gap between what marketers should know and what they actually do know, which is one of the biggest challenges facing brand marketers in all categories globally.

Why is there such a ‘great divide’? For a start, I think it’s like putting a Model T Ford driver in a 747 cockpit and asking them to fly the damn thing.

We’ve gone from the four Ps to a full cockpit interface extremely fast. Some marketers have kept pace and many (including myself) simply haven’t.

The explosion of the martech industry has also contributed – an endless array of new technology and businesses all jostling for position. This has added to the confusion and steepened the required learning curve.

I know my newness to the martech space lends me a wide-eyed perspective on how martech and marketers are apparently working to different playbooks. However, I thought it would be useful to share my early thoughts with my peers before that perspective fades – sometimes the most simple observations and perspectives can be the most valuable.

I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting I have sat for years in meetings pretending to know what various digital experts were saying, only to exit promptly and seek out Google to find out WTF they were talking about.

Or avoiding discussions with senior stakeholders about a potential digital proposal because you can’t intelligently explain it. But trust me, I know now this behaviour is common in brand-land and is far more prevalent than the martech industry truly understands. It is a great opportunity for both parties.

Martech providers should know one thing – broadly speaking, marketers know a lot less about marketing technology than you give them credit for. There’s a serious piece of market education to be done and I have no doubt that any investment of time and resources from martech providers will pay off.

Contributing to the ‘great divide’ is the lack of synergy between what the martech industry likes to think and talk about, and what marketers see as their big day-to-day issues.

During my time at RadiumOne, key topics such as viewability, fraud, brand safety and cross-device attribution are daily discussions.

Undoubtedly, these are important technical issues we need to solve to enhance the level of service we offer our clients. What’s missing though is simple and agnostic recommendations to brands on what to do about it and why.

Easy to say that’s the IAB’s job… I think we all know that it requires less blaming and deflecting the issues and more senior collaboration between brands, their agencies and the operators in the martech sector who are genuinely committed to industry health and positive business outcomes for brands.

What’s being discussed in day-to-day marketing meetings is often topics such as ‘How do we use data to drive insights?’ ‘How do we remain omnipresent to the relevant consumer, at the relevant time, with the relevant message in our fragmented landscape?’ ‘How do we better understand our consumer journey?’ ‘How do we measure success and drive ROI?’ ‘How do we make sure our agency is transparent?’ Notice how viewability, fraud and brand safety aren’t among the top concerns?

So, you may ask: what would I do differently if I could wave my magic wand?

For me, the biggest recommendation to current brand marketers is simply to be a bit more vulnerable and honest (easier said than done I know!). Fess up to your knowledge gap and stop fearing the technology world.

I’d encourage marketers to get much more curious and disciplined in the time they set aside to read/learn/meet experts in the space, to accelerate knowledge gap closure.

Consumer journeys and the marketing ecosystem are now incredibly large and complex, and it’s unwise to rely solely on your agency partners to be your source of advice and education.

Discover who the best players are and invite them in – they would welcome this with open arms and be invaluable in guiding you through the uncertainty!  Just be careful not to pick bottom feeders who will hard sell you to death and you’ll be tempted to blame me for encouraging you!

And I strongly believe that agencies have a key role to play here as well. Agencies need to become true partners in this space to facilitate a direct relationship between suppliers and clients. No more keeping your cards close to your chest to maintain control. You lost control some time ago and it’s a good thing. The three parties working together is the way of the future, to create alignment and collective focus on real business outcomes that matter.

These things work both ways. On the other side of the divide, I’d encourage martech providers to bring it all back down to earth – simple language, clear benefits, live examples and proof of effectiveness. The real cut-through is to demonstrate clearly how you can solve real business problems. Assume nothing and avoid the temptation to sell your kit for a quick win!

With the martech industry beginning to mature, consolidation will occur and the quality players will rise to the top – they’ll have few reservations about ‘lifting the hood’ as the substance will match the story…almost. Let’s face it, it’s unreasonable to ask marketers to trust technology that relies on a degree of mystery. Offering them a chance to understand the problem your tech is solving and how it is solved, will reassure them and create confidence and trust.

There’s so much noise, spin and jargon in the martech and adtech space (I’m still trying to understand the difference), but it’s not impenetrable. In my first 100 days, I’ve done a huge amount of reading and already am starting to see the wood for the trees. Even more encouraging, is some of the amazing work that is being done to better understand consumer journeys and drive real business outcomes around key metrics such as new customer acquisition, life time value and churn management.

Connecting the dots more closely between brand marketers, agencies and martech suppliers is a great thing, a necessary thing and the good news is it takes very little effort.

Jodie Koning recently became APAC marketing director for RadiumOne. She was previously senior marketing manager at Blackmores and prior to that national marketing director at Australian Radio Network

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