Entering the world of hyper-personalisation

18 01 2014

In a recent interview in the Sunday Independent Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, talked about the airline’s future marketing strategy. While the announcement of a collaboration with Google caught the attention of the headline writers I was more interested in a comment he made towards the end of the interview. “We will be doing more individual marketing” he said. “We will build individual profiles for each passenger.”

This struck a chord with me because it echoed a very interesting presentation at the CMO Summit 2013 organised by the Marketing Institute of Ireland last November. Amanda Gosling, Associate Partner – Strategy, IBM, introduced the idea of hyper-personalisation. The simple idea is that mass communication, even with segmentation and tailoring to audiences, is not going to succeed in the future. What will succeed is having “real connections at relevant moments delivered with relationship care”. This means having a deep understanding of each individual customer rather than a generic customer persona.

Amanda was presenting the results of a major survey entitled “The Customer-activated Enterprise“. A key finding of the report is the need to create engaging customer experiences. This is driven by social media in particular as it gives customers the ability to “bang on the door and demand to be heard”. This trend demands that a company be more than just customer centric. It needs to be customer activated. The customer needs to be part of the company’s decision-making process. There are clear overlaps here with the concept of open innovation.

The report is well worth reading if only to get an idea as to how some of the world’s largest companies are thinking about the challenges of creating an effective digital strategy and a winning customer experience.

To learn more about the CMO Summit 2013 please read my guest post on the Marketing Institute blog.

To learn more about the IBM report visit IBM’s Institute for Business Value.





CMO Summit 2013

3 12 2013

Change is an interesting process. It excites us and scares us probably in equal measures. An underlying theme that ran through the CMO Summit 2013, organised by the Marketing Institute of Ireland, is how the marketing profession is constantly changing and perhaps changing at a faster rate than ever.

Peter Fitzgerald, Country Sales Director for Google UK, highlighted the rapid growth in the number of smartphones, bandwidth and in ecommerce as evidence to support the rapid growth of the internet economy. The key challenge facing mobile is to be relevant to what the consumer wants.

Francois Nicolon and Vanessa Lynch of Kantar Media challenged us to look again at the role of marketing and communications. They spoke about changing the traditional roles so that Communications looks after creating all types of content and Marketing takes responsibility for taking that content and using it to create leads and convert them into sales. They also highlighted their view of the marketing team of the future which includes experts in graphics, technology, search, content and social.

Amanda Gosling of IBM continued with the theme of change when discussing the IBM report on The Customer-activated Enterprise. Amanda pointed out that many organisations still present to the customer in a way that reflects corporate structure. She highlighted necessary changes in approach including:

  • moving from being campaign driven to being always on

  • moving from batch interactions to realtime or location aware interactions

  • increasing use of hyper-personalisation

  • having an attraction approach rather than a transaction approach

In common with Francois and Vanessa from Kanter, Amanda strongly suggested that marketing needs to parter with technology in order to achieve this level of change.

The challenge of truly delivering a high quality customer experience is to have “real connections at relevant moments delivered with relationship care”. To really deliver this require significant levels of change requires a real effort and a dedicated change agent to make it happen.

In the afternoon session Simon Bailey of Interbrand and Phil Rumbol of 101 (and formerly of Cadbury) continued to highlight the ways in which the interaction with the consumer is changing. In discussing the 10 elements of strong branding Simon included responsiveness, relevance and presence or being where the customers are, which echoes some of what Peter Fitzgerald said at the beginning of the day.

Phil Rumbol talk about how we still see marketing communications “through an outmoded lens”. Phil talked about the highly successful “gorilla” ad campaign for Cadburys which he said consumer understood immediately but corporate executives objected to as it did not include traditional element such as the product of the brand. The campaign was hugely successful increasing revenue by £150m from just £5m in spend.

Phil also spoke about the subsequent “Bring back Whispa” campaign which was essentially a customer driven initiative. As part of that Cadbury handed over the outdoor advertising to personal messages created by consumers. You can just imagine the reaction in the Legal/Compliance department when that idea was first discussed.

Change is also under way in Enterprise Ireland where Julie Sinnamon has just taken over the reins. Julie highlighted the incredible innovation and international success among Irish companies and pointed out that they contribute as much to the economy as multinationals.

To sum up, the pace of change in the way marketing works is only going to increase and the need to move away from old models, relinquish control and genuinely collaborate with customers is more urgent than ever. We are, I believe, moving from a Business to Consumer model to a Consumer to Business model driven by the power of digital channels.

This article on the CMO Summit was first published by the Marketing Institute of Ireland in November 2013.





Innovation in action

29 04 2013
Kylemore Abbey nestled under Pollacappul

Kylemore Abbey nestled under Pollacappul

Continuing with my recent theme of articles on innovation, I was very struck by a real example of innovation in action recently.

While taking a weekend break on Connemara I visited Kylemore Abbey. Kylemore is generally known as a girls boarding school run by the Benedictine nuns. What is fascinating about this story is how the nuns have reinvented the abbey to ensure its continuing survival.

They faced two major challenges:

  1. a decline in the number of boarders and
  2. falling numbers of vocations making it increasingly difficult to run the school.

They had to adapt and they did.

Firstly, they took the decision to close the school completely. Then they set about completely innovating their business model. They looked to their strengths and came up with a strategy for survival and growth.

  1. Tourism
    With Connermara being a major area for tourists they redeveloped the wall gardens, started tours of the Abbey and created a restaurant and coffee shop.
  2. Education
    With their strong background in education they have moved into the area of retreats and training programmes with residential accommodation in the former boarding school.
  3. Local enterprise
    The nuns converted the home economics room into a kitchen where they now produce a variety of artisan foods which are sold in the shop.
  4. Spiritualism
    The monastic chapel is open to visitors who want to spend time in silence and prayer.

To me, this is real innovation. Rather than give up as their traditional way of life declined, the Benedictine nuns have filled Kylemore with renewed vigour. This ability to a find a different way of using what you have and thinking differently is a case study in the making.

The location and the nuns chocolate are both absolutely beautiful which of course helps also.

The beautiful gothic style mini cathedral on the grounds of Kylemore Abbey

The beautiful gothic style mini cathedral on the grounds of Kylemore Abbey

A view from Connemara National Park

A view from Connemara National Park





Design Thinking

5 04 2013

As part of my studies at the Ryan Academy we discussed the concept of Design Thinking. This is a concept pioneered by David Kelley, founder of IDEO and the Stanford Design School. According to David, Design Thinking:

  • Incorporate human behaviour into design
  • Is based on an empathy for the consumer
  • Is a collaborative process that allows you to “get to a place that you can’t get to with one mind”.

What is really interesting about Design Thinking and the associated Stanford D process is the way that a well defined process is used to harness what could potentially be a chaotic process. The process is a structured approach to generating and developing ideas.

Phase 1: Understand

Develop your understanding of the dynamics of the market, the key players, geographic and demographic opportunities and any recent innovation.

Phase 2: Observe

Understand how your customers and consumers think and act.

Phase 3: Point of View

Look closely at a possible opportunity in the market or at a new perspective of the marketing based on the outcomes of phases 1 and 2.

Phase 4: Ideate

Encourage you team to creatively assess the market and the suggested opportunity. There are specific techniques that help this process and the outcome should be two new and useful ideas

Phase 5: Prototype

Convert the ideas into research ready concepts that can be tested for feasibility

Phase 6: Test and Iterate

Test the prototype and make and changes based on the feedback





What is innovation, creativity and design?

3 04 2013

Having previously discussed why companies need to innovate I thought it might be appropriate to actually define innovation. Innovation is often seen as a something vague and woolly. The image of the mad scientist comes to mind and this results in confusion between innovation and invention.

Innovation = Creativity + Implementation

Creativity is process of coming up with new ideas, suggestions, improvements, products or services. This is not about a flash of inspiration. It actually relates to a body of knowledge. You need to have a detailed knowledge of your product/service/market in order to be genuinely creative. Everyone can be creative if the environment is right but creativity cannot be ordered or demanded. People have to be inspired.

Implementation is the process of taking an idea and making it happen. If creativity is a little intangible then implementation is the very tangible. It requires an organised, systematic approach to getting things done. There are three key steps in the implementation process:

  1. Idea selection: this is where you take all the ideas that have been suggested from the “creativity” phase and decided which ones to progress. This should be based on which ones are the best fit with the strategic goals of the organisation.
  2. Development: this step is about taking an idea and moving it to a stage where is can be tested and fully assessed. To borrow a term from product development you create a prototype though this can apply in the service sector also eg a chain of restaurants may test a new menu in one restaurant before rolling it out fully.
  3. Commercialisation: this step is about bringing the idea to marketing successfully.

What does this mean for an organisation? It means that to be innovative requires different skill sets that need to be combined effectively in order to be successful.

To be creative people have to think differently; to be innovative people have to behave differently.





Innovation? We’re fine, thanks.

1 04 2013

It is natural for people to fear change. It is also natural for people to fear the sort of radical change that innovation implies. The time I have spent recently in the Ryan Academy examining innovation has opened my eyes to the crucial role that innovation plays in every organisation. This is the first in a number of articles on innovation.

Why innovate?

Firstly, at a macro level, innovation is what drives economic growth. Even Marx agreed with this though he thought that the capitalist economic model would run out of innovation and therefore fail. He missed the point that innovation is not a once-off or finite activity. You could argue that the current recession is being prolonged not by the weakness in the financial system or austerity but by a lack of innovation.

Companies need to embrace innovation for four very good reasons:

  • To keep ahead of the competition
  • To find more efficient solutions
  • To increase revenues and profitability
  • To survive

Innovation is hard

According to the Innovation Value Chain published by the Harvard Business Review there are three key phases incorporating six critical tasks. These move through the innovation process from Idea Generation to Conversion to Diffusion. A company can fail at any one of these and it is important for a company to recognise where is failing and why.

What do successful innovators look like?

In my view, innovative organisations have four main characteristics:

  1. External and internal focus
  2. Well defined, flexible, funded system to convert ideas into reality (the conversion phase)
  3. Cross function teams
  4. Place a value on employees and reward / inspire them to be innovative

Innovative leaders are generally inspiring, tolerant of ambiguity and aware of the impact of their actions. They know that if they want their company to be truly innovative then they must create a culture and an environment that allows innovation to flourish and lead by example.





Taking the ‘yes’ from the ‘no’

6 12 2012

Thanks to the Ryan Academy I had the pleasure on Tuesday of listening to Rory O’Connor and Anita Murphy of Rory’s Story Cubes and The Creativity Lab tell their story. This is a marvellous story of innovation, creativity, perseverance and hard work. If you are looking for a creative yet simple Christmas present for someone you could do worse than buy one of these.

There were a few key messages that really struck me.

  1. If people don’t help you then have the courage to do it yourself. Not everybody will see what you see.
  2. Don’t hold their failure to see your vision against them. If they can help you in the future then accept their help.
  3. Be prepared to try the less obvious route to solving a problem.
  4. Try to clarify the real need. If someone says ‘no’ then try to understand why they said ‘no’ and then meet that need.

Marketing, innovation

Finally, what struck me most was Rory and Anita’s absolute passion for what it is they do. A truly great Irish success story.