Organisation-wide change agents: Megan Brownlow on today’s biggest marketing challenges
Marketing speaks with PwC’s Megan Brownlow, about today’s challenges for marketers, and how changes in media and tech will influence relationships between marketers and the C-suite.
With more than two decades’ experience working with brands across TV, radio and online, Megan Brownlow is well-suited to spot, discuss and leverage marketing and consumption trends. She discusses today’s changes in technology, media consumption and work, and the challenges and opportunities they present for marketers.
Marketing: What do you think is the biggest challenge for marketers these days?
Megan Brownlow, non-executive director and former partner, PwC: There are two, and they’re related.
The first one is having a data strategy that goes beyond your marketing function. Everything marketers do now involves data; that’s been true for a while, but we have more certainty now. For marketers to succeed within an organisation, they need to be a change agent. Where marketers can add the most value within an organisation is to evolve the data strategy for the organisation. And since marketers are the gatekeepers and the owners of so much data, they’re in a good position to widen that lens to other parts of the organisation.
Having a connected-up data strategy that goes beyond just the marketing function, is the first big challenge.
The second big challenge is an organisational structure challenge, about the nature of your function and the department that you run. Historically, it was fairly clear what the roles were, who the direct reports should be and what you needed to brief in to a headhunter when you were recruiting. Job descriptions were pretty set.
Now, the personnel that you find inside a marketing department can vary so significantly that not only does it mean you need a really clear view about the organisational structure of your department and what the roles do, but also your hiring practices need to be quite flexible.
You need to shift to looking for people who have an aptitude for learning. They might not necessarily have the technical skill set that you want but if you pick for aptitude, you can train them into being the person that you want.
So better understanding of the business needs and operations feed into better recruitment and team building too?
And then that makes your people more flexible, too. As the needs of the organisation change, you can evolve your people’s skills.
It’s hard to find good people. Particularly if you’re hiring Millennials, you want to make sure they have attractive career paths. One of the most important incentives that young marketers are looking for is to have a path that involves constant learning. So if you get a person who has an aptitude for learning and they don’t have the exact right skill set, but you can put them into a training program that gives them that skill set, it kills two birds with one stone. You get the skills you want, but you also satisfy the learning needs of that young marketer, and that might keep them with you for longer, and that’s much more stimulating for them. A win/win!
How are changes in media consumption changing things for marketers? Do they make it easer or harder?
I think they’re making it easier for those who do it well. One of the major challenges marketers have always had is: how do you talk to the CEO and the CFO about the value that you deliver? The CEO and the CFO have historically always looked for data. And what media consumption is doing now is more clearly connecting behavioural change with marketing activity. You can show that more clearly now.
It gives the marketer the data that the CEO and the CFO have always wanted. It’s a more direct correlation. And I’m not just talking about performance marketing, that bottom of the funnel stuff. That’s not it. I’m talking about more sophisticated ways to attribute all sorts of marketing activity, including brand activity. There’s a danger that we get so seduced by that bottom of the funnel activity because it does give transactional data. But I think there’s also a real opportunity to get more sophisticated in the measurement of brand and what value brand gives, in a way that is understood by the more numeric C-suite.
What about the changes in developing creative campaigns, brands and fostering engagement?
From a consumer point of view, we see a number of changes, a number of factors applying pressure. One is the increasing choice for consumers and activities that are newer. Like the uptick in podcast listening, for example and the uptick in esports consumption.
The second thing I’d say would be that the changing media consumption is, in summary, a digitisation or a shift to online forms of media. And what that delivers is much more granular data that can be used and analysed to understand that media consumption. So you’ve got the opportunity to do really exciting things like deliver different assets over time. You can communicate with audiences with a sequential series of assets that tell a story, for example, like mini episodes.
Because you know who that person is and where they’re up to in the ads that they’re seeing, you don’t hit them with the same ad. They get the second episode in the story. And I think we’re seeing more and more things like that, that are very exciting.
The other side of changing media consumption, from a marketer’s point of view, is that you can think about what the new channels deliver, what they can contribute in terms of the creative asset.
Audio streaming is a great example of this. There are attributes of audio that can’t be matched anywhere else. And so how do they get brought into the creative process when the creative assets are being created? How do they get thought about alongside the strategy and the big idea?
What considerations should marketers have when developing campaigns these days?
Actually think about what the new channels can contribute in terms of differentiation when you’re preparing a campaign, and experiment with them. Because one of the advantages is there’s less clutter in those newer environments. You can stretch your wings a little bit and try things and learn quickly. You get feedback very quickly and you can change course quickly. That’s one thing.
I think that there’s also an opportunity to draw feedback data from different sources now and create something where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So you’ve got your own data, your own sales data, your own marketing data, your own CRM data. There are all of these sources of first-party data that you can now integrate with third-party data and media data.
That gives you such a fascinating opportunity to play with targeting. And in your campaigns, you can really be specific. It’s more than just geo-mapping. It’s knowing what the target audience is doing at a specific time. The two key things with campaigns: one is, think about the attributes of the newer channels and how they contribute to the creative is the first point.
And the second point is, think about what the aggregated data can tell you, when we put first-party and third-party data together.
Are there any brands doing great work in the space that stand out as great examples for you?
There’s a couple. There was a case study I saw that the IAB Audio Council looked at, for the insurance brand Choosi. Choosi did a brilliant audio campaign with an agency called Eardrum. It so cleverly designed the creative to suit the different audio channels, whether that was streaming music, a podcast channel, or traditional radio and even a mobile channel. One of the ads used the gyroscope in a mobile phone, so when you shook the phone, it did something.
That clearly demonstrated how the newer channels’ specific attributes should contribute to a campaign, that the idea doesn’t sit off as a nebulous, disconnected idea.
Another one that I’ve really liked is South Australian Tourism, which was the first on board with a podcast that was on the PodcastOne network. And it was a foodie podcast called A Plate to Call Home. And it was, in some ways, quite back to first principles. It was Gary Mehigan, the Master Chef judge, who did live reads. It was an environment that’s so deeply engaging and you’re so trusting, because you’re choosing to listen to Gary. So when he does a live read about South Australia Tourism and its new campaign – which was destination travel, the idea that you go somewhere with the goal of eating food from that specific destination – it was really compelling. It was really intimate; but that’s how the podcast environment is. And it was so uncluttered, because South Australian Tourism took a gamble to go early, and was there on its own. So it just had this whole ad break on its own. It was really compelling.