Top-level marketers at the Association of National Advertisers' Masters of Marketing annual conference last month in Phoenix keyed in on the impact the rapid technological changes of the last few years have had on their branding and operations.
Esther Lee, senior VP-brand marketing and advertising at AT&T Services, said that two or three years ago people felt overwhelmed by communications. “What's fascinating,” she continued, “is two or three years later, we're hearing that technology is enriching their lives. People say they love this technology; it brings them back together.”
Lee said AT&T wasn't feeling much love itself a few years ago. “We were a well-known brand but not yet a well-loved brand,” she said.
To counter that, the company embarked on a major rebranding effort. “Relentless innovation for human progress has been our brand platform for the last year and a half,” Lee said. That platform is what's behind AT&T's “Rethink Possible” campaign, she said.
IBM Corp. has also gone through a major marketing transformation in recent years, starting with its announcement in late 2004 that it was exiting the rapidly commoditizing PC business. At the time, PCs generated $10 billion in annual revenue for IBM.
“The PC was the last touch point IBM had with the individual and business user,” said Jon Iwata, senior VP-marketing and communications at IBM. Now that it was focused on what Iwata called a “global solutions, b-to-b boring thing,” the company took a different approach to its branding.
“We didn't focus on brand recognition,” he said. “The goal was relevance.” This meant emphasizing “corporate character.”
“Character trumps everything else,” Iwata said. “Products come and go. Charismatic leaders come and go. Workforces come and go.”
Ann Lewnes, senior VP-global marketing at Adobe Systems, discussed her company's major push into digital, which now accounts for 74% of its marketing budget.
“Digital lets us tell richer, more compelling stories and connect more closely with our customers,” Lewnes said. “Auditing [of digital] lets us measure everything and prove everything.”
Lewnes said several times that “marketing is the new finance.”
“In today's economy there is no room for guesswork,” she said. “We used to follow strategy; now, marketing is helping to determine strategy.”
Antonio Lucio, global chief marketing, strategy and corporate development officer at Visa Inc., described how marketing operations have changed at his company since it went public 3½ years ago. Prior to that time, Visa had five separate “regions,” each with its own CMO. After the company went public, the regional marketing teams became part of the global team, said Lucio, Visa's first global CMO.
The native Spanish speaker characterized Visa's new marketing approach as “global y local,” which he said was preferable to the term “glocal” that's sometimes bandied about.
“Technology is causing markets to become both more global and local,” Lucio said. Visa has responded to this trend, he said, by pushing “global discipline and local dynamism.”
That approach will be on display next year as Visa capitalizes on its sponsorship of the Summer Olympic Games in London.
“There is no more global event than the Olympics except FIFA [the World Cup soccer tournament] maybe,” Lucio said. “We're going to need to leverage our global skills and our local skills more.”