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It’s no secret the world of marketing is changing at lightning speed. Marketers are leveraging the power of personalisation to deliver great customer experiences as new technologies and user demands continue to grow.

In this episode of The CMO Show, we investigate the evolution of the marketing industry and the role of artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data and the Internet of Things in crafting a personalised customer experience.

Listen in as Lee Hawksley, SVP and GM of Salesforce Marketing Cloud – JAPAC, stops by to share his experience from more than 20 years in the software and digital media industries.

A fierce advocate of Australia’s entrepreneur-led innovation economy, Lee is passionate about disruption as a driver for innovation. “If we really want to push the envelope and we want to gain competitive advantage as marketers then we have to experiment,” he says.

Tune in as Mark and (a jet-lagged) JV tackle the dynamic industry landscape, how technology will increasingly underpin marketing objectives and the role of AI in challenging the norm.

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



The CMO Show production team

Producers – Megan Wright, Tom van Leeuwen & Meghna Bali

Audio Engineer – Jonny McNee

Design Manager – Daniel Marr

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Jeanne-Vida Douglas (JVD)
Mark Jones (MJ)
Lee Hawksley (LH)

MJ: Welcome Lee for the first time to the CMO Show.

LH: Thanks for having me, pleasure to be here.

MJ: Five years ago Gartner made this bold prediction and they said that by 2017 CMOs will spend more on IT than their counterpart CIOs.  And as you probably recall this was a really big deal.  So…

LH: It was a very big deal.

MJ: We’re just about to tick into that five years and my first question is are we there yet?

LH: Well, it was a really big idea, it was super powerful and I had a lot of pleasure using that slide in a lot of presentations I did for a couple of years there.  But I have to say I felt a bit disingenuous putting it up in big lights because I frankly never believed it.

MJ: Is that right?

LH: And I don’t know that we’ll ever get there.

JVD: Really?  I thought it was already happening; so it’s not happening?

LH: Well, I think CMOs are getting more technology put at their fingertips, but I think what Garner didn’t predict was that the CIO would be more involved in many of those decisions that the CMOs are being forced to make as they grapple with this new idea of leveraging data at scale.  And this is a skill that a lot of traditional CMOs just didn’t have.  You know, and as I look at what’s happened since Gartner made that prediction, and this may not be a popular view because I know there’s some friction still exists between the CIO and the CMO, but it seems to me at least in my travels that they’re friendlier than ever.

MJ: The interesting thing about a Forbes article I read documenting this, and this is going back to 2012, the sentence or the line was “Clearly it’s time for CMOs and CIOs to start forging true strategic partnerships so both marketing and IT can begin sharing ownership of both goals and outcomes.”  I just wonder if they got the memo?

LH: It seems to me they did.  You know, and if you think about CDOs, you know, Chief Digital Officers that you meet, they’re kind of the perfect blend of not quite a CIO, not quite a CMO, but someone that’s kind of in the middle, understands the tech, understands what the organisational outcomes that they’re looking for which are largely marketing and customer experience driven and really understand how to use technology to get those outcomes.

MJ: Is that title taking off?

LH: It’s hard to know whether it’s taken off.  It seems to have flat-lined a little bit to me in that, you know, I think it emerged about three or four years ago and CDOs looked like it was going to become really popular.  I think if anything what I’m seeing is that the CMO still exists, their role is getting stronger and probably a bit broader and maybe somebody that might have used to have been called a CDO now sits under a CMO somewhere in large organisations.  

MJ: I like that, yeah, and we could probably go down – I’m going to actually resist the temptation to go down the whole CMO, CDO, CIO who wins…

LH: Minefield I’m glad you’re avoiding it.

MJ: From your perspective, what are some trends you think are quite unique to the Asia Pacific region?

LH: Asia Pacific obviously is a very broad region and within that region there’s different levels of maturity, different speeds at which marketing departments are moving.  But if I think about it mostly about Australia I think we do ourselves a disservice here very often and one of the things that I find incredibly annoying is when you go to symposiums or shows or conferences and you walk away thinking that Australia is 18 months behind North America.  And that’s certainly not my experience and not what I see.

MJ: Do you think that’s still, if you like, a legacy mindset?

LH: I think it’s our willingness to believe that an expert is a guy with a boarding pass, a foreign accent and a briefcase.

MJ: We do love Americans.

LH: We do.  I think you know, remoteness, smallness of size gives a different level of agility I think to most Australian organisations where we can innovate quickly.  We can try things.  I think as a nation we probably embrace the concept of failure more than our European counterpart certainly.  And that just brings a whole different level of entrepreneurial spirit even within the larger organisations.  And, you know, I’m of the view that being really successful at digital marketing means that you need to experiment 20% of your time. This is the fifth year in a row that we have been one of Forbes most innovative companies in the world.  So artificial intelligence embedded within every level of our product.

JVD: Now I hate to say it Lee, but AI is different to different people.  What is AI for Salesforce?

LH: If you believe some of the pundits millions of us are going to be displaced and won’t have jobs anymore.  So that’s a bit scary. But I think the reality is that AI is going to allow us to get deeper insights, allow machines to do a lot of the more mundane things that we’re doing now so that we can actually use our own brains which I believe in my lifetime will always be more powerful than the most powerful AI engines or at least I hope.

MJ: So the computers are taking over?

LH: I don’t think so.

MJ: No, okay.

LH: I’m still encouraging my sons to forge a career in IT.

MJ: So I’m wondering how would you then think about this from the perspective of big data because we saw that as being the next big thing.

LH: Well, you know, big data is interesting.  It has been interesting for a while but you know, I think the word ‘big’ gives it away. Big means complex and difficult to get your hands around and difficult to really leverage and even the largest most well-resourced organisations around the world have really struggled with this concept of data because no sooner do you understand it, that a whole bunch more big data is coming, coming into your organisation that you’ve got to grapple with.  And I think one of the great things about, at least as I see it, about the future of AI in particular, and machine learning, is the ability for machines to understand, interpret and act upon that data or at least give us as humans signals, on how we should act based on the big data that’s coming into us.

JVD: How do you actually establish that balance between highly personalised messages and an actual return on investment for that personalisation process?

LH: When I remember back when I first got involved with email marketing way back in 2003 I competed with envelopes and stamps and printing presses.  And back then personalisation was really tough to get your head around because now I’ve got to create four messages for four separate cohorts. But these days the technology should be doing all of that for you. That’s the role of technology and I suppose that’s why Gartner were predicting the CMO would be spending more on tech…

MJ: Yeah.

LH: …than the CIO way back then.

JVD: What’s really interesting about this point though is that it strikes me that what AI will do is make good sales people better, but will it actually make substandard sales people good?

LH: [Laughs]

MJ: The saviour of sales people!

LH: I guess that comes down to what it is that’s making that substandard sales person bad in the first place.

JVD: [Laughs]

LH: No amount of tech is going to take over from a bad personality!

JVD: I didn’t say awful ones!  I mean, like you know, there are people who can naturally sell and there are people who no matter how much they’re committed to the role, they really struggle with it.  

LH: But – yeah, look I don’t know that AI is going to make average great.  I think it’s just going to make good greater.

MJ: I also wonder to what extent we are going to move more practically down this AI path in terms of actual structural changes that you might see. So to go back to another thing that you were talking to as we start connecting this desire for precision and measurability and accountability, we start saying all right, 20% of my budget will be innovation/precision/automation/AI and it’s treated as risk but calculated…

LH: Yeah.

MJ: Do you know what I mean?  That as an example of, we’re going to start seeing organisations really intentionally risking/investing…

LH: Sure.

MJ: …into some sort of new area.  

LH: I know exactly what you’re saying and you know, I think that’s the advice that I give to many of our clients is that no-one knows all of the right answers here, right?  And if we really want to push the envelope and we want to gain competitive advantage as marketers then we have to experiment.  And I think 20% is about the right number.  You know, 20% of your budget, 20% of your time, 20% of your resources.  Try new stuff.

MJ: Yeah.

LH: You know, if everyone just adopts world’s best practice, all we’ve done is redefine mediocrity.

MJ: We actually have a good way into that too because in the above the line advertising spend world I love this word ‘distress’, you know when you set aside money for distress?

JVD:  [Laughs]

MJ: Right, it’s like part of your budget is really upset and worried [laughs] you know, which of course is we all know it’s that opportunities that come in at the last minute:  oh, we’ve had a client pull out and we’ve got this bargain for you.

LH: Yeah.

MJ: So we’re already actually mentally accustomed to this idea that we’ll park a little bit off to the side, this emotionally distressed money, right.

LH: Yeah, I see that all the time.  With people that are really good at this, I go to their offices and they’re super keen to say, “Lee, let me show you this thing we did the other day.  Have you seen it before?  How do we scale this, which other industries would it apply to?  Can I speak about it at an event?”  You know, so you’ve got this kind of entrepreneurial risk taking element now within marketing departments in the digital teams that are out there trying this stuff.  And I think they’ve got the full permission of CMOs and the CEO to say, well we want new competitive advantage. And competitive advantage in the future is going to be customer experience and it’s the marketer’s role to enhance and find new ways of creating great experiences.

MJ: Okay, final qualifying question on this whole future of AI thing, what is the role of Internet of Things because according to Gartner they imagine that more than half of all major business processes and systems will incorporate some kind of IOT thing by 2020, which isn’t far away.

LH: It isn’t. Now, you know, if you want your toothbrush connected to the internet you can have it, if you want your scales connected to your Fitbit, connected to the internet, you can have it.  You know, all of these devices very soon are going to be connected to the internet for some reason, and normal it’s going to be to give you a better experience as a customer. I don’t think we’re too far away before that device is connected to the internet and it sends a signal to the manufacturer, the retailer, the wholesaler, whoever to say, “Hey this component is six weeks away from its end of life and needs to be replaced.”  And then the manufacturer proactively reaches out and says “Hey Mark, you really need to get this looked at, we’ve got these windows where we can service it for you.  When makes sense?”

MJ: Well I think we need to start looking to where we’re going from here and what the future of AI looks like and I wonder do you have a ‘five years from now’ thing?

LH:  [Laughs]  You know, I think two years from now we’re going to have marketing departments that don’t look wildly differently to the way they do today.  I think we’ve got the right mix of talent within most marketing departments.  I still think there’s probably a skills gap as it relates to data science and I think that will probably persist for the next couple of years.

LH: But I think what we can look forward to, you know, if we’re sitting here in two years’ time Mark, I think we’ll be talking a lot more about precision marketing than we do today.

MJ: How will all of this shape the way that we plan and conceive marketing strategy?

LH: I think we’re coming from a world where marketers have been very campaign-centric.  It’s all about the campaign and it’s not that long ago you’d sit down with marketers and they’d have a campaign spreadsheet laid out for the next 12-18 months.

MJ: Yeah and a good Gantt chart.

LH: Yeah, absolutely.  But 18 months in this new modern world is a lifetime, I mean we don’t know what our customers are going to be thinking, how they’re going to be behaving in six months, let alone 12 months and more importantly we don’t know what their expectations are going to be.  And I think that’s something that marketers really need to think about and get away from this campaign centric way of thinking and put the customer at the centre of their planning rather than inventory, merchandising, you know, we bought 1,000 red jumpers and we need to sell 1,000 red jumpers was what used to drive, you know, ‘marketing strategy’ in inverted quotes. And now it’s more about which one of our customers might be interested in a red jumper now or in six weeks…

MJ: But I think that works well in a B2C environment, I think, possibly, but if we still think about the role of AI in this whole marketing budget strategy context, there’s actually still a big thing that we’ve got to get our heads around and from our experience working with marketers and our customers is that they still work to a 12 month budget cycle right?

LH: Yes.

MJ: So I’ve got X amount of dollars, I’ve got to deliver a plan for how I will spend X amount of dollars this year and what I will do. So that actually structurally enforces the idea of a campaign. So if you move to an AI predictive space that’s an entirely different proposition.  So how do you move, if you like, to a degree of certainty.  There’s a paradox because you need certainty and flexibility at the same time, that is not easy.

LH: It’s not going to be easy and I think this is a challenge that marketers are grappling with even now is, you know, to some extent the business still demands a campaign centric way of thinking as you say, if only for allocating budget. This is going to be an evolution that I think marketers are going through right now, which is, how do I stay focussed on the business outcomes, kind of keep the lights on and think about campaigns as I always have done. And the content will really be predicated or predicted when AI really hits its straps based on the needs of the customers, the desires of the customers and what they’ve told us their preferences are.

MJ: Well, Lee, we’re going to have to break there, but before you go, we do have our 21 questions which we would like to throw right at you, are you ready?

LH: Let’s do it.

MJ: What are you grateful for?

LH: Family.

JVD: Do you like rain?

LH: I hate it.

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

LH: Oh it would have to be a look-alike, Chris Hemsworth.

JVD: Beach or mountain?

LH: Beach summer, mountain, winter.

MJ: Oh nice.  What’s your greatest career fail?

LH: Not listening enough.

JVD: Chocolate or strawberry?

LH: Chocolate.

MJ: Best ever career advice?

LH: Focus on what’s possible not what’s necessary.

JVD: Summer or winter?

LH: Summer.

MJ: Who is your hero?

LH: Muhammad Ali.

JVD: Scrunch or fold?

LH: You’ve got me on customer experience here, if toilet roll manufacturers cared about customer experience, you’d get – you could buy a box of either.  I’m a scruncher!

JVD:  [Laughs]

MJ: If you weren’t a marketer, you’d be a…?

LH: Football player.

MJ: That would be soccer because you’re English.

LH: But that is football, Mark.

MJ: Okay, just picking up on that, couldn’t resist!

JVD: What did you have for breakfast?

LH: Raisin toast.

MJ: What would you rather have had?

LH: One of my mother’s full fried English breakfasts.

MJ: With sausages?

LH: With sausages, yeah.

JVD: What about baked beans?

LH: And fried bread.

JVD: Speaking of which… speaking of which, what was the last conversation you had with your parents?

LH: The last conversation I had with my mother was to ask her why it’s been so long since she’s visited me in Australia.

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

LH: Waste.

JVD: Can you ride a bike?

LH: Yes.

MJ: What is your greatest frustration?

LH: Waste.

JVD: Dogs or cats?

LH: Dogs.

MJ: Touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell – which would you sacrifice to save the rest?

LH: Touch.

JVD:  Favourite book?

LH: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, average book but I read it in Cephalonia so the setting made the book.

JVD: Wow.

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

LH: Leigh, spelt L E I G H.  Can I do that?

MJ: Make it easier wouldn’t it?

LH: Yeah.  No, Paul.

MJ: Paul, very nice.  Reason for that…

LH: Father’s name.

MJ: There you go.

JVD: Okay.

MJ: Well it kind of all connects, that’s really wonderful.  We’re going to leave it there, Lee Hawksley, SVP and GM, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Japan and Asia Pacific, at Salesforce.  Thank you so much for joining us today.

LH: Absolute pleasure, thanks for having me.

JVD: Yeah, it’s been lovely having you on the show.

LH: Thank you

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