The CMO Show:
The CMO Show: Anders SN...

Why can’t we all be Nike? What is the true value of customer data? And how can personal transformation impact marketing?

These are the sorts of questions that digital marketing futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson has dedicated his career to answering. Working alongside brands like Apple, SAP, and Johnson & Johnson, he recognises that the digital and analogue worlds are increasingly aligning, making way for what he calls the ‘digilogue’.

In this episode of The CMO Show, Sorman-Nilsson joins host JV Douglas to discuss how mapping seamless customer journeys will become a tug-of-war between the speed of digital and the experience of human connection.

The key, he says, is asking the right questions now to anticipate the equilibrium for your brand later.

“What companies need to really strategically think about is: What should be digital touch points? What should be analogue touch points? And don’t just consider that from a cost perspective, but from what will really entice and engage the consumer’s digital minds and their analogue hearts at the same time.”

Tune in to find out why the one thing that customers are craving now, more than ever, is human experience. That plus how to nail marketing with chutzpah (and zombies).

Listen to the podcast above and subscribe on iTunes and SoundCloud.




The CMO Show production team

Producers – Megan Wright & Tom van Leeuwen

Audio Engineers – Jonny McNee & Daniel Marr

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Host: Jeanne-Vida Douglas
Guest: Anders Sorman-Nilsson  

JVD:    I’m here with Anders Sorman-Nilsson. He’s a futurist, innovation strategist and author. He’s worked with companies like Apple, Johnson & Johnson, SAP, IBM and – if anyone remembers it – Xerox. Welcome to the show Anders.

ASN:    Great to be with you, g’day.

JV: What I find particularly interesting about your take on, the way society is changing, is that the more technological we are, the more advanced we become, the more we seem to crave what is real and authentic; what do marketers need to understand about this environment?

ASN:    I was sort of reflecting on this idea that increasingly, that the customer’s rational information-focussed mind – so very much digitising and mobilising – were craving real-time information that are going to help us make smarter, more rational decisions, enabled by our digital devices. But at the same time, back then, you know a lot of us were also sort of seeking to reconnect by digitally disconnecting, and I remember vividly in November 2013 being invited to sort of bond with my brother’s then-fiancé and her family. And, of course, how did we do that? We went out and – as many sort of computer connected people do – we did a Spartan race together.

JVD:    [Laughs]

ASN:    Like, that was – you know – that was the way we got back out into nature. Just throwing away all our digital devices, and going out and doing something that was kind of very fundamental, very authentic, very human, and very much a …

ASN:    And very muddy, I imagine.

ASN:    … and very, very muddy and you’ve got those sort of races – Spartan races – Tough Mudder etc …

JVD:    I’ve done – I’ve done a Mud Run before, so …

ASN:    Exactly. So, I think, you know the more digitally connected we become, we also kind of just crave getting back into nature.

JVD:    What I’m challenged with, though, and I think what a lot of senior marketers are challenged with is, at the end of the day they’re selling things. So, it’s very difficult, if you need to boost the sales of widgets, to express those widgets in an experience. What is it that – that senior marketers need to understand about customers in order to create that, that … or breach that gulf in between the widgets that they need to sell and the experiences that they need to provide?

ASN:    I would say it’s context, and a deep empathy with the customer context because, of course, we use widgets in our own lives, in a variety of different ways, and I think while customer experience, certainly, is extremely important for companies to curate great experiences, I in fact think that we’re starting to embrace something now that I label in my most recent book, “Seamless”, the transformation economy.

In fact, what we’re now seeing is that Nike – yes, in many ways they sell widgets; they always sold us hardware, right?  Nowadays, say enabled a few years ago through their digital interface of Nike Plus, they started selling more hardware, i.e. shoes and shorts, etcetera, because of the digital software. Now when I, for example, ran the New York marathon unprepared or spontaneously about five years ago with 16 hours preparation, the reason I was able to do that wasn’t the two microbrewery beers that I’d had the day before as part of my carb loading, but it was very much because of this digital interface of the Nike Plus ecosystem that could tell me exactly where I was, how far I had to go, and immediately hooked into my Facebook feed; I was getting little cheers every time somebody liked my status of running a marathon spontaneously with 16 hours preparation. Now, I always kind of knew that the last 39.5 kilometres were going to suck …

JVD:    [Laughs]

ASN:    But, at least through that sort of experience and through the digital data, I was able to better channel my blood, sweat and tears. Now, Nike is sort of taking that a step further with its Nike Running Club, which of course is an experience, contextual to its hardware or its widgets, but then really sort of taking it to the – to another level, where they’re really invested in our personal transformation, or our self-actualisation as consumers. They want you to be fit. They want you to be healthy. They want you to live for longer. And that’s a really gutsy investment for a brand to make, to be really invested in personal transformation, because I think beyond just great experiences like Tough Mudder, it’s who you can become as part of using the brand that really enables brands to kind of be the mentors in a hero transformation for their customers.

JVD:    It’s interesting, though, and … that we’re able to reference brands that are doing this extraordinarily well. I think the challenge, though, is most … that most CMOs face is that they’re not Nike. They don’t necessarily have access to either a Board that will support them to take enormous – what appear to be enormous risks, or really the smarts behind them in their teams and in their agencies, to really allow them to be part of those risks. What – what is it that’s holding us up?  Why can’t we all be Nike?

ASN:    I think partly, it’s a lack of creativity, imagination, and probably a lack of chutzpah as well. We need some more brazen audacity. Because I do see this, not just in sort of sexy B2C brands, but in fact even B2B brands are able to do this. And I frequently mention this reference, which is to SunGard. Now, not all of us have heard about SunGard, but it’s a B2B company that provide data disaster recovery, amongst other things, up in the cloud. Now, I think they’re one of the greatest examples of the fact that there’s a real consumerisation happening when it comes to B2B brands.

So, what did they do? Well, they thought about this trend that we’re seeing in IT across the world. Remember, they were increasingly talking to CFOs or people in finance. And they thought, ‘How do we educate them about what the cloud actually is?’ I mean, many of us kind of remember the good old days, right, when cloud was just a meteorological term that blocked the Sun in Melbourne, for example, right?

 JVD:    [Laughs]

ASN:    But, times have shifted. And they thought, ‘How can we communicate cloud and disaster recovery as an opex investment?’ Right?  And they needed to have that conversation with people who were digital immigrants speaking technology with a heavy accent. And they thought, ‘Let’s create a story; a context around this.’ And they thought, ‘Let’s go to the world of the consumer; to the human heart in all of us.’ And they said, ‘Zombies.’

JVD:    Okay, now you’ve got my attention.

ASN:    ‘What would happen to your data in your organisation when the zombie apocalypse happens?’

JVD:    [Laughs]

ASN:    ‘Is your data in your office – in New York, in Boston, in Shanghai, in Stockholm – is it safe from the zombies, or would it better sit in the cloud where the zombies can’t get to it?’ They staged an omnichannel campaign around it, that of course was both digital and analogue to appeal both to digital minds and analogue hearts, and it was one of the most successful B2B campaigns in the history. So, this I think is a beautiful way of telling stories, but also realising that we’re fundamentally all consumers at heart, and the art of storytelling is no different in the B2B context than to a B2C context.

JVD:    So, tell me then what this mean for the customer journey?

ASN:    I do think that we’ve switched the conversation massively towards a context, right, and that context is what … how, essentially, the future might look for a particular company, for a particular individual. And I think that presents a massive opportunity for, really, companies to go along with their customers on a whole different, and a much more enjoyable journey: where it’s not just about doing digital due diligence and having to compare features, and apples and apples, and sort of having the old school version of ticks and ticks, right, in terms of ‘Hey, our software does this compared to our competitors’; but instead, go ‘We tell the most engaging story.’ Which actually, also then taps into potentially the sort of irrational parts of the buyer’s persona or psychology as well. It’s been said that we do buy on emotion and then we post-rationalise it afterwards, right?

JVD:    I think it’s been said on this show, in fact. [Laughs]

ASN:    Exactly. And I think that is why it’s so important for all of us to become great storytellers.

 JVD:    Okay, so let’s bring it back to 101, where, where do you start?  We’re, we’re wanting to move down this, this customer journey route. We want to understand, get more empathetic, understand what stories are going to engage our customers. Where do you begin to make that transition?

ASN:    Well, I think some of it could also happen by a little bit of just trial and error and testing, and iterating on what your product is and what context it actually fits in. One example of this – and I think it’s very conveniently branded and labelled – would be a device that I use a lot called the GoPro Hero.  Now, at a time when camera companies – read Kodak, for example – were going out of business, someone else thought, ‘Is there actually a space for digital cameras, and if so, in what context?’  And of course, for that particular consumer who happened to be a surfer, they thought about, ‘How do we actually strap a camera onto the board and get some really cool footage?’ Right?  But, it didn’t just stop about the product, right. They took the kind of thinking way further than that, and they thought, ‘How do we create a community of other people who are into extreme sports, who want to kind of be the directors of their own life’s movie, or even soundtrack?

ASN:    Banks and fintechs are now starting to take the idea of the customer journey and creating seamless customer journeys very, very serious. One of our banking clients is – is Westpac, and they credit their fusion of the sort of global and the local, the mobile, and the bricks and mortar, based on this idea of Digilogue – digital minds, analogue hearts – with really their bank branching transformation, focussing on: what are the kind of things that people need to go into branch for?

And is it really the transactional everyday items, or could those be better designed via, say, the mobile interface instead? And they’re looking at, ‘How do we actually transform the physicality of a branch office?’ which is still critical in many parts of Australia and in local neighbourhoods, etcetera.

JVD:    So, is that why we’re seeing trends towards sort of artisanal goods, towards things that are handmade, are hand crafted, or even made by – by the person who’s giving it to you, rather than something that’s bought?

ASN:    Yeah, absolutely. I mean, a few years ago, we saw the New Zealand brand – and a brand I have a strong connection with as an outdoor lover – the New Zealand brand Icebreaker. When they thought about digital disruption, they thought ‘Hey, let’s not fight the consumer trend of going into a store and then scanning the barcode and doing real-time comparisons on, in real-time, incentivised by Amazon to build their big database of real-time pricing.’

But, they thought about ‘How do we actually use the kind of farm-to-table trend? How do we get to the heart of provenance, but do it in a digitally enabled fashion?’ So, they of course – they being a brand that deal in natural textiles from Australia … sorry, from New Zealand; merino sheep (and that’s very funny, obviously always in Australia) – they thought about ‘How do we really communicate the authenticity and the provenance of our goods?’ And they created not a barcode, but a “baacode”. This is kind of the best of Kiwi humour, right? And so, when you go into store, you just scan that baacode, and the whole supply chain, all the way back to the farmer and his/her sheep – the sheep station in the New Zealand alps – springs alive to you via the digital interface, which sort of integrates these two worlds together. And that’s something, truly from a storytelling perspective, that I think brands need to embrace.

JVD:    Okay. Where are we going to? What is a marketer going to look like in, let’s say, two to five years’ time? What skills are they going to need? What aptitudes are going to really stand them in good stead?

ASN:    A lot of the IT spend will be owned by marketing in the future. This means that the role of CMOs needs to shift. And they need to stop separating the idea of traditional marketing and digital marketing. It’s just marketing. And many organisations, in fact has someone who is the Chief Digital Officer, who is sitting next to and competing for budgets from the Chief Marketing Officer, for example. These silos need to be broken down, because it’s incredibly important that we get that it’s just one omnichannel, one seamless experience of your brand that is critical.

And of course, the other thing is just how empathetic and how human and how personalised we can get when we really step into the data and the patterns about our customers. I mean, already what we’re seeing is that cyber criminals and cyber thieves and “black hats” are now tapping into your databases. Whether you are Sony, or one of the big banks, or Nintendo, we’re all getting digitally hacked today. Why?  Because cyber criminals know the value of the data that companies have about their customers. It just doesn’t seem that the brands are really aware of the kind of treasure trove of data that they sit on. Here, CMOs need to get a lot better.

JVD:    So, really we, we’re talking about CMOs coming more into this technical realm, and – and getting a deeper understanding of it in order to be, to be effective in, in coming years

ASN:    Well, getting more #human through technology.

JVD:    [Laughs] “#human” is a great place to, to wind it up then Anders. Listen, thank you so much for coming on the show and, and sharing these insights. I think, I think we’re going to get a lot out of them. I’m going to rapidly transition into, into a segment we call 21 questions.

ASN:    Awesome. Fire away.

JVD:    Excellent. What are you grateful for?

ASN:    My mum.

 JVD:    Do you like rain?

ASN:    Yes.

JVD:    In the movie of your life, who would play you?

ASN:    My brother.

JVD:    Your brother’s famous?

ASN:    Ha, ha. Not yet. He might be once he plays me.

JVD:    [Laughs] Excellent. What’s your greatest career fail?

ASN:    I think trying to help my mother turn around her failing menswear business in Stockholm, Sweden, when she was a very hesitant hero in that transformation.

JVD:    Beach or mountain?

ASN:    A mountain where I can snowboard down to the beach.

JVD:    [Laughs] I think we’re going to have to be in Japan somewhere for that one. Best ever career advice?

ASN:    Head high; think strategically.

JVD:    Summer or Winter?

ASN:    Aussie Summer’s looking pretty good at the moment.

JVD:    It’s looking pretty hot at the moment. Who is your hero?

ASN:    Yoda.

JVD:    [Laughs] That’s a great one. If you weren’t a marketer, you’d be a …?

ASN:    Ooh. Probably taking over the family business in menswear retail, fourth-generation, in Stockholm, Sweden.

JVD:    So, the business survived then?

ASN:    It’s still there. It’s still transitioning. It just turned 100, but it’s got a long way to go.

JVD:    Excellent. Chocolate or strawberry?

ASN:    Strawberry.

JVD:    And what did you have for breakfast?

ASN:    This is going to sound very hipster, but chia seed pudding with Aussie mangoes and some organic milk. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

JVD:    What would you rather have had?

ASN:    Oh, bacon and eggs doesn’t go astray, or even soldiers with soft-boiled eggs is a delight.

JVD:    Soldier toast, excellent. With googy eggs.

ASN:    That’s it.

JVD:    What was – what was the last conversation you had with your parents?

ASN:    It was a Facetime conversation with my folks on Sunday, planning out Christmas in Australia.

JVD:    Scrunch or fold?

ASN:    Fold.

JVD:    If you could change one thing about the marketing industry, what would it be?

ASN:    Bringing back the humanity through the digital interface.

 JVD:    Can you ride a bike?

ASN:    Yes.

JVD:    What’s your greatest frustration?

ASN:    Bad customer service has to be one.

JVD:    Which is why you enjoy using Twitter so much, no doubt.

ASN:    Absolutely; to the great delight of a few. You can check out my Twitter feed @asormannilsson for some recent rants.

JVD:    [Laughs] Touch, taste, sight, hearing or smell: which would you sacrifice to save the rest?

ASN:    I would keep touch, and I would probably sacrifice sound.

JVD:    Fascinating. Dogs or cats?

ASN:    Dogs.   

JVD:    Favourite book?

ASN:    “Joseph Campbell: a hero with a thousand faces”

JVD:    If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?

ASN:    Lucas.

JVD:    [Laughs] I’m sensing a Star Wars theme emerging here, yeah?

ASN:    I didn’t say Luke. Lucas is close enough though.

JVD:    [Laughs] Fair enough. Anders, thank you very much for joining us on the CMO show.

ASN:    Great to be with you.

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