On our final episode of The CMO Show podcast for 2020, host Mark Jones highlights key insights marketers can add to their brand storytelling toolkit and get equipped to take on the new year.
Reflecting on his conversations with 24 marketers and business leaders over the last 12 months as well as the challenges presented by an unprecedented global pandemic, Mark takes a deep dive on the topic of making an impact and finding meaning through your work as a brand storyteller.
In the episode, Mark refers to the following past episodes of The CMO Show podcast:
Global marketing and content expert
“You’ve got to be able to attach content to revenue.”
Director of Reputation at Icon Agency
“Trust, reputation and purpose are almost a new holy trinity for a lot of brands.”
GM SE Asia & Hong Kong at Snap
“The most important thing is how is it that you can have this understanding with this audience, how is it that you can drive engagement, how is it that you can genuinely communicate and convey what your brand stands for, in a way which they believe and in a way which is is kind of credible and compelling.”
Senior Executive of Brand & Marketing at Medibank
“We find the gems and weave them through to tell their genuine story, but in a way that helps people understand what’s available to them as a service.”
Director of Engagement & Support at Australian Red Cross
“What the team focused on is being amazing storytellers… All of our stories are about the fact that we’ve helped with an issue. They’re all strength based, they’re all about the difference that you can make.”
CEO & Founder of Pop Neuro
“Whenever you are telling a story, don’t tell it about a company. Tell it about a CTO within that company who champions your product.”
Customer Experience Officer (CXO) at Business Australia
“Fundamentally, [the CXO] needs to work through product service, customer service capabilities, the marketing communications and digital delivery but also closer to the sales and the delivery of operational functionality, to make sure that it’s the experience that we’re improving, rather than just the elements of that process.”
Customer Marketing Officer (CMO) at T2 Tea
“Our brand believes that the world is more beautiful because of the things that are different, whether it’s flavour, taste, geography or colour, that the world is more beautiful because of its diversity. And in fact, there’s unity in that. And that is something to be celebrated, a bit like a chef celebrates different cuisine and creates fusions.”
Tune into Mark’s 2020 wrap-up episode and reflect on what you’ve learned about marketing, comms, content and yourself over the past year. When you then look ahead to 2021, what work or activities do you think will give you a sense of significance, relevance and meaning?
The CMO Show production team
Producers – Charlotte Goodwin & Stephanie Woo
Audio Engineers – Tom Henderson & Daniel Marr
Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
One thing we’ve learned from 2020 is the importance of words. Individual words in fact.
Think about our reaction to the word unprecedented, or more seriously, the moment when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. It means we’re all in this together, regardless of who you are, or where you are.
And that got me thinking. There’s another word we marketers need to think about. What gives us a sense of meaning? Or could say, what is the most meaningful thing that happened to you this year? So as we look ahead to 2021, let me ask what work or activities will give you a sense of significance, relevance and meaning?
Hello friends! Mark Jones here. It’s so good to be with for this, our final – some might say ultimate – podcast for 2020.
How do you summarise a year like 2020. And seriously, how are you feeling to that note? Exhausted, dazed, or perhaps quietly optimistic that things are turning a corner?
Well, I’m happy to say that I did do my homework after a little bit of professional procrastination. And so this is our final episode of the year and I’m going to attempt to make sense of it all. I’d love your feedback, too. What was this year like for you? How did you cope with so many new challenges? So let’s get into it.
What do you find amidst all the noise and stress and the chaos of this year, is actually meaningful to you? That is, how can you find meaning in your work as a marketer, a comms professional, a brand storyteller? And it’s really worth thinking about but before we unpack that idea, let’s go back. Let’s go way back to the beginning of the year. And I wanted to think about what was it like before the pandemic?
And my very first interview in January, was with Andrew Davis. He’s a friend of mine. He’s a global marketing and content marketing expert. And we had a big chat about our bold predictions for 2020. And it’s always fun when you have a look at predictions. I, in fact, love reading prediction stories. I don’t know if you ever wanted to bookmark it and come back to it in the future, well, I did that and it was actually interesting. In our conversation, we were expecting flat to declining budgets this year. And the Gartner CMO spend survey had said that 61% of CMOs expect their budgets to increase in 2020, despite all the signs which were saying they were going to go in the opposite direction. Now, remember at that time, we had no idea that there was a pandemic coming. And Andrew rightly said at the time, “Those 61% of CMOs are just wrong. It’s not going to increase.”
Now, he wasn’t a fortune teller. He didn’t know there was a pandemic, but the signs were suggesting that the business climate was getting a little bit topsy-turvy and uneven. And we would see a downturn in CMO spending. Budgets of course didn’t increase. In fact, they went radically in the other direction for many, many companies around the globe. And then the next question we explored in this interview, is do CEO’s, do chief executives, believe that CMOs can drive revenue growth? Remember that, when we dreamed about revenue growth? Instead of just trying to survive?
Ultimately to increase your tenure, be more successful and drive real value that’s going to increase your budget, I think you’ve got to start being able to attach, specifically in our area, you’ve got to be able to attach content to revenue.
If you can’t do that and have a real line to revenue, you’re going to struggle with those value driven CEOs and you may even struggle with the brand driven CEOs because there are better ways to measure your brand awareness and the value bringing than content marketing.
And it’s interesting to think about how many other conversations this year have been along a similar theme. We talk about the professional theories, the marketing tactics, the trends and the buzzwords and how CEOs expect CMOs and comms people to drive value, to show ROI and all this kind of stuff. And it’s a bit of a pointer towards all the buzzword bingo that we go through around artificial intelligence being hot or customer experience being so important, or what’s the future of content marketing? It just got me thinking, “How do we kind of cover all of that?”.
And so today, I want to talk about something just a little bit different, not to think about all the details of essentially what we do but I want to talk to you about how we do it and what the experience has been like this year for you as a professional marketer, as a storyteller. And what stands out to me as I went back through all of the interviews too, is that each person has in different ways reflected on their own journeys, you see? We talk about the campaigns that we’ve been involved in or the strategies that we did or how I engage different people across the business. And so my question to you is, how are you feeling about your experience of being a marketer? What’s it been like for you? How have you approached this task? Today actually, is all about you, about your experience.
And let me just, as you start thinking about that, take you very quickly down a bit of memory lane, if you like. When we got into 2020, we knew that things were getting more complex. We knew that we’d have that budget challenge that I spoke about but then with COVID came along, everything changed. We were told very quickly we had to do more with less or at least just have less and try and do something. The budget uncertainty of course happened. And then there was this big question of well, virtual events. How do we do that? What’s the future of events? Virtual events actually became symbolic for “suddenly I’m in a space where many of the things that I have to do, I haven’t had experience in and I’m not quite sure how to do it.”
And we’ve seen this in MarTech for example, where we try and understand new technologies and what value they can deliver. This is the great unspoken thing about marketing. In fact, what I love about it, is that we’re constantly innovating. We’re constantly trying to figure out what’s not just the next big thing but how do I understand it and contextualise it and use it? The big question for us is, who are we? What is our purpose? And how do we make sure that everyone understands what we’re trying to accomplish? And that is a bit of a segue to this big question of purpose that I want to unpack because I actually see this as one of those swings and roundabouts. Every so often, the concept of, “Oh, we need to have a great purpose.”
We saw this recently at the Mumbrella360 conference. I’ve started seeing it in different marketing materials all over the place. Suddenly, everybody’s rediscovered this idea of purpose and, “I’ve got to be purposeful. And I’ve got to have a brand that is in some way significant.” Right?
It’s a very interesting one. It’s been a constant thread.
In fact, one of the interviews that I did to this effect was with Mark Forbes, he’s Director of Reputation at Icon. And he said that our concept of being transparent in our communications, building up this idea of our name, our reputation, our brand, is so important when it comes to understanding purpose.
I think trust, reputation and purpose are almost a new holy trinity for a lot of brands.
We’re seeing trends that are already being exaggerated and accelerated by [the
coronavirus], as people are looking for things that they can believe and trust in, and looking at it with a sense of hope.
So let me just say, what I like about that is the way he’s connected three big ideas, trust of course being an ongoing issue, reputation, something that comes and goes particularly in a crisis situation and purpose, which is this underlying existential question of what are we good for? In other words, what good do we do? And I think that is a really deep insight from an agency perspective but also more broadly.
And when I spoke with Kathryn Carter, she is the general manager for Southeast Asia and Hong Kong at Snap, by the way. When I spoke with her, she talked a lot about how brands create connections.
This notion of brands creating connections is something which is absolutely critical. It’s not just about promoting a product or pushing a particular price point or wanting to drive a sale. Of course, ultimately, that will be the outcome. But the most important thing is how is it that you can have this understanding with this audience, how is it that you can drive engagement, how is it that you can genuinely communicate and convey what your brand stands for, in a way which they believe and in a way which is is kind of credible and compelling from that point of view.
So the interesting thing about Snap, it’s this idea of how do you create connections? Brands of course, all want to create connections. And in that space lies this question of purpose. In other words, connecting for what purpose, for what good, what comes out of it?
Here we are in December, and purpose is still very much on the map, as I was saying but I reflect on another interview to build out this idea. Fiona Le Brocq, she’s senior executive of brand and marketing at Medibank, who picked up on some interesting takes on this as to when we look at purpose through the lens of storytelling. And this is where we start to see if you like, the “how do we express purpose?” starting to come through. Medibank has been looking at this idea of telling the stories of the people who benefit from being part of Medibank in this context.
Fiona Le Brocq:
When we were looking at ‘chemo at home’, we wanted Australians to understand where we were heading and what we were thinking about and how we were working hard to improve the health system. And we went to our customers who were currently using ‘Chemo at home’ and we found Liam, he’s a 21-year-old kid who had lymphoma living in Perth, he had his dog, Jack with him the whole time so that’s how Jack ended up featuring in what was an unscripted story, it totally came together in the filming and Liam just told his story.
Interesting thing about Fiona’s story, is that she said, “This one with Liam was unscripted. We have to allow ourselves to create quite an intimate production unit.”
And they were there for quite a few days at the family home doing filming and really almost in a documentary sense, exploring different areas and aspects of his story. And I imagine overshooting, getting a lot of material..
Fiona Le Brocq:
We find the gems and weave them through to tell their genuine story, but in a way that helps people understand what’s available to them as a service.
What I like about the Medibank example … And Fiona’s story here again, is it’s the pursuit of purpose. In other words, when we understand that we are there to help people in this context, what does that look like? What does it feel like? And how can I be creative in doing that? And for her, it was a reflection of, “Well, maybe I should just explore a little bit. I should probably lay down these traditional tools or processes and we’ve got to script this thing and we’ve really got to think about the messaging and so on but actually, just turn the mic on and see what happens.”
And I like the purpose that comes through from that, in the sense of being able to express, “We’ll just help you with whatever you need.”
But of course, purpose is just one part of our story. And as I said again, right at the top, I want to start moving the conversation from thinking about “who are we as marketers?” and shifting us from this, “I’m a marketer who helps understand the purpose of my organisation and make sure everybody gets the purpose,” to one that actually understands the impact of that purpose. And what’s the meaning? How do we see that expressed and playing out? What does it mean to us? Where’s the significance? How does it all look and feel?
And to pick up on this theme, is Belinda Dimovski, she’s Director of Engagement & Support at Australian Red Cross. And just as COVID-19 was beginning to bite, I sat down with her to talk about her experience of crisis and issues that we see in the community because of course, Red Cross had been dealing with the bushfires, the bushfires from January and just how incredible that was. And so here we have an interesting story that starts to shift things towards the concept of meaning.
So what the team focused on is being amazing storytellers. I really think that is something that every CMO organisation really needs to be great at. We made a decision just over two years ago, Mark, that we were no longer going to talk about the deficit in society, the fact that we need your help, that there’s people that are not doing as well as you. We try to take away the guilt associated with it. We didn’t want to manipulate your feelings by showing images of people, or children or whatever it might be that would pull the heartstrings.
What we said is that we want you to partner with us. We want you to partner with us to solve society’s problems. We want you to partner with us to make a change. We want you to partner with us to do good. That’s actually how we’ve kept evolving our messaging. All of our stories are about the fact that we’ve helped with an issue. They’re all strength based, they’re all about the difference that you can make.
The interesting thing about the Australian Red Cross story, is this underlying purpose for helping people, right. Being with you in difficult times but this concept of the deficit in society, in other words messaging, which highlights what’s lacking and how we can help, quite clearly wasn’t working because the meaning, if you like, the importance, the significance of those who are partnering with those in need is all about what we can do together. And what’s the difference that we can make together? And that’s a far more inspiring story. And a lesson that we can take out of this, is when you think about meaning, it’s actually inclusive. It brings us in. In this case, what can we do together? Whether it was back in January with the bushfires to help communities or what we can do in COVID-19 together, that can help make a difference.
It’s been interesting as we connect all of these themes across the year and moving from purpose and thinking ahead towards meaning. A next conversation that is relevant to discuss here, is Prince Ghuman. And he is the CEO and founder of Pop Neuro and also a professor of neuro marketing at Hult International Business School in San Francisco. We got on like a house on fire, right? We both share this idea that our approach to marketing really needs to move beyond demographics and embrace psychographics. In other words, the whole person. Understand who they are, how they think and how they feel and understanding that many of us, despite our age, our different ages, have very similar experiences. And Prince went on to talk about the role of storytelling, about how we can use storytelling as a way into understanding this conversation.
Storytelling is connecting a speaker and a listener and what connects is empathy. Whenever you are telling a story, don’t tell it about a company. Tell it about a CTO within that company who champions your product. You need to show that you care more about one person, than plural people.
When you tell a story about a person who champions your product, you’re talking about another human, like you, who understands, feels and gets it. And that’s where we get the emotional engagement. And I actually talk a lot about this in my book, Beliefonomics, if you can forgive the plug but this is this idea of when we connect our hearts and minds together, so we emotionally engage with people and we also intellectually engage them. We bring together some key facts and different if you like, data points about this person’s background or their organisation. When we bring those together, that’s when storytelling really starts to fire. And we start to see this expression of meaning.
Now, let’s take the concept of meaning. And I want to just take another little look at this from another way. Richard Spencer is the customer experience officer at Business Australia, also a client of us here at Filtered Media. And we really enjoyed what he had to say about this question of how people work together and how we understand each other as professionals, partly because he’s had all sorts of different roles. And I picked up on this question of, what is a customer experience officer? Is it a CTO or a CIO or a CDO role? And he brings all of those together.
I think the CXO role actually cuts deeper into the relationship between an organisation and a customer, both inbound and outbound. And fundamentally, they need to work through product service, customer service capabilities, the marketing communications and digital delivery but also closer to the sales and the delivery of operational functionality, to make sure that it’s the experience that we’re improving, rather than just the elements of that process.
We need to start thinking a lot more about our internal stakeholders. I think in marketing comms, we spend a lot of time thinking about campaigns and external stakeholders, the ‘audience’. Or perhaps the people who used to be called the audience, who are now also publishers in their own right, but we need to start thinking about these internal audiences and the reason why that is so important for us as marketers, is because we all need to be on this same journey together. The purpose to the meaning story that I’m unpacking for you, really becomes quite challenging when you think about our internal roles. Well, what do I mean? It’s actually very easy for us in our roles in, if you like, a communications and marketing mindset, to quickly understand and contextualise why my role has meaning because I can see it.
I can see the work we’re doing, but what if you’re in HR? What if you’re in finance? What if you’re in customer service? Or what if you’re in some other back room, maybe even right out in the warehouse? What if you’re in these other roles that seem so far removed from the purpose and the meaning? How can I find meaning in the work that I’m doing? And that is I think, the heart of where we’re going with this. We need to be thinking a lot about the connection that everybody across the organisation has with not just the purpose but the impact and the meaning that is expressed and understood within the community and therein, I think, lies the challenge.
And one more shout out is to Amy Smith, the CMO at T2 Tea, who really got me thinking about this idea in a bigger existential context, is where you bring together the internal audience and the external audience. She talks about this idea of ‘the emotional high ground’. In other words, what’s the space in which we can understand society and culture around us? Where does the brand come together with the customer, to achieve something more meaningful?
Our brand believes that the world is more beautiful because of the things that are different, whether it’s flavour, taste, geography or colour, that the world is more beautiful because of its diversity. And in fact, there’s unity in that. And that is something to be celebrated, a bit like a chef celebrates different cuisine and creates fusions. That actually celebrates the flavours of different cultures. We’re kind of obsessed with, at a human level, saying that diversity is something that we are very, very passionate about because at a product level and at a human level, it’s really important to us.
So, my conversation with Amy really taught me the value of understanding the big picture. What is that conversation that unfolds between a brand and a customer because those conversations really do happen. They’re happening all the time. And the thing is, to stay on point for our theme in this episode, is those conversations are meaningful. In other words, they matter, they’re significant. When you have a conversation about diversity, about opportunities, about inclusion, they’re not trivial conversations, are they? Imagine being a brand that’s associated with something of significance and meaning and then imagine being somebody who’s in the warehouse at T2 driving a forklift, who understands that, “I’m not just moving around pallets of tea but I’m actually contributing to a bigger picture in society where I’m imagining and seeing the results of people talking together, of meeting together, of listening to one another and breaking down all of these walls.”
And so let’s start to bring all of these things together. And in fact, in the show notes, we’ll just put a link to all the episodes for the year. And I encourage you to go back and do that and have a look at all of them but there’s a couple of themes and highlights that really stand out for me around this question of moving from purpose to meaning. And this actually is this idea we are moving to reevaluate our psychological contract with work. It’s not just us in marketing and comms but everybody in the organisation. We’re trying to get that sense of meaning, right. And we do want to work at a place where purpose is at the heart of our organisation but we also want to know, how can I connect myself into that? And I think that is tough.
So my, if you like, bold prediction for next year, I can see a huge opportunity for marketers and CMOs in comms to really understand leadership from a different perspective. You know I think this idea of the internal audience is going to become just as important as the external audience and that of course, for many large organisations, means a much tighter collaboration between marketing and internal comms, how we bring people together. Also, the HR and how can we move from purpose and a desire to see impact, to seeing that impact and also really bringing it home. How can I make it personally meaningful to me and make it meaningful to everyone? And so we have an important role to play in bringing everybody on that journey and look, no question, it’s a big challenge but it makes a lot of sense to me. I think it’s an inspiring way to think about, how do we move forward? It’s a hopeful idea and I think it’s worth embracing.
So thank you for your support this year. I do hope that 2021 will be meaningful for you, that you will discover meaning, that you will discover purpose and that you will make a great impact. And before I leave you, quick shout out to my team, Daniel Marr, Tom Henderson, Charlotte Goodwin, Stephanie Woo and Jessica Grattan. And of course, the whole team at Filtered Media. We’ve had a really big year this year, plenty of ups and downs like I’m sure all of you but we have emerged stronger and passionate as ever about helping our clients to tell stories brilliantly.
And before I go, a few more points. Make sure you do subscribe to The CMO Show, so you don’t miss us when we pop up again in your podcast feed. And as we do every year, we will be taking a hiatus from now until February to give us a chance to capture a whole host of fresh new conversations with marketing and business leaders here in Australia and also around the world. So we’re really excited about what is to come next year. Once again, thank you for all of your support. It’s been an incredible year. It’s been an incredible journey.
That is it from me and the team here at The CMO Show podcast for the year 2020. I do wish you and your families a safe and healthy holiday season. Until next time.