CMO Impact
Leading a Culture of Innovation as a Growth CMO

The CMO Crystal Ball: Lets Talk 2015

January 21, 2015


by Steven Cook

Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada. When marketers shared with their predictions for 2014, the phrase “digital transformation” never came up.

What a difference a year makes.

These days digital transformation is top-of-mind for CMOs, and it reaches all corners of marketing. That includes devising new strategies to meet the expectations of omnichannel customers, capitalizing on what new technologies now enable (geotargeting, personalization, and automation, to name just a few), and changing the makeup of the modern-day marketing team to ensure the right skill set.

None of this happens overnight, but it’s already in progress. So for this, the fourth edition of’s annual predictions package, we reached out to the marketing elite and asked: What is the one move marketers need to make for 2015 to be the year of true digital transformation?

We think you’ll find the feedback that came back to us extremely insightful. Among the marketing elite in this compilation: the CMOs of MasterCard, Aflac, Adobe (’s parent), McAfee, Denny’s, Gannett, and Western Union. Heads of marketing from leading brands in Europe and Asia Pacific also participated, as did many of our regular site contributors.

Read on to learn what more than 70 of your colleagues had to say. Respondents are listed alphabetically by last name.

Prediction Models For All
In 2015 we will see marketing systems start offering prediction models out of the box, which will help the marketer find the “needle in the haystack.” The marketer can then spend the time building and optimizing campaigns based on relevance, timing, and customer insight. 2015 will also be the year where we will see companies start to integrate technology for iBeacons and wearables to give the customers a better omnichannel experience and bring the online and offline worlds together, facilitated by the smartphone. This will be a revolution in retail.
–Christian Agger, Ecommerce and Marketing Director, Saint-Gobain Distribution Denmark

Digital Connections
We live in a “show me the money!” kind of world. But you have to connect if you want to convert, and digital offers a big marketing opportunity. U.S. adults spend 43-plus hours per month on a mobile app or browser. However, our research shows that 39 percent of mobile ad impressions do not reach their intended audience. In 2015, digital will need to prove its worth. That’s only possible if marketers measure and optimize their campaigns holistically—looking at the reach of their ads, whether they resonate, and how they drive sales.
–Jeremy Allen, EVP, Marketing Effectiveness, Nielsen

Digital Driver
Marketers can pave the way to true digital transformation by stepping out of their comfort zone. That means challenging existing business models as well as enabling other divisions of the company to adapt to global trends in consumer behavior. Be present in the moments that matter and build a framework for data-driven business. Marketers need to drive digital transformation.
–Dr. Steven Althaus, Global Director Brand Management and Marketing Services, BMW

Data-Based Decisions
In 2015, marketing analytics reporting tools will become just as common as Web site analytics tools. The end has come for making marketing decisions based on gut instincts; everything marketers do in the digital world can now be tracked, from the first click all the way to the deal close. CMOs who do not embrace and accept this concept will likely not be CMOs for very long.
–Kurt Andersen, CMO, SAVO

True Individualization
In 2015, customers will become less satisfied with mass personalization. For years, companies in the financial services sector have been able to store, manage, and deliver data per individual, in real time. Going forward, marketing organizations need to do the same, connecting with customers in ways that are fluid, seamless, ongoing, meaningful, and personal. It all starts with a vision of what you want your customer’s experience to be. Then, you’ll need a comprehensive data strategy that will tear down silos, unravel snarled data streams, and implement integrated processes designed to put the customer at the center of all you do.
–Lisa Arthur, CMO, Teradata Marketing Applications

Let Go Of Traditional Marketing
Stop trying to convert offline campaigns to digital. Instead, design campaigns that start with the digital (and preferably mobile) environment as a foundation that informs all campaign elements. For example, how will you grab and hold a target audience’s attention using video and/or interactivity through a mobile app? How will a call-to-action be delivered digitally? How will you use data collected by those interacting with your digital campaign to inform a retargeting and abandonment plan? Most importantly, how will you use social tools to expand and amplify your message, as well as monitor reaction and adjust as needed?
–Mark Asher, Head Of Market Intelligence & Strategy, Adobe

Programmatic Boost
I believe [marketers need] to increase the amount of programmatic buying across channels. Buying programmatic in five different tranches is not at all efficient, nor does it reduce waste or meet their objectives. I don’t advocate “OK, do a lot of programmatic buying across every channel you invest money in.” With a multichannel, or omnichannel, approach to programmatic, CMOs will see much greater return on their media investment.
–Eric Bader, CMO, RadiumOne

Truly Prioritize Digital
Make digital a cornerstone for marketing efforts by focusing resources and budget. Start by prioritizing and building an effective digital platform, and then build upon that foundation. For B2B marketers, in particular, this is the only effective way to scale.
–Penny Baldwin, CMO, McAfee

Virtual Reality Storytelling
A quickly emerging trend for the future is virtual-reality storytelling. This setting allows audiences to experience an event rather than just read, hear, or watch it. It is immersive, interactive, and engaging. We at Gannett have had a lot of interest in our experimentation with this format. The constantly improving graphics from the entertainment world, coupled with the quick rise of companies like Oculus Rift, makes the adoption of VR for mainstream audiences a quickly approaching actuality. But I bet very few brands have thought about how to engage with this technology.
–Maryam Banikarim, SVP & CMO, Gannett

Mobile In The Middle
A year of digital transformation is a year where mobile is at the center of all marketing–not just digital marketing. As a marketer, if you’ve figured out how to reach people through their mobile devices–the ones that are always within arm’s reach and accessed constantly–then you have a fighting chance at getting your message across through a medium where people may be paying attention.
–David Berkowitz, CMO, MRY

Think Holistically
To impact true digital transformation, we must stop thinking about digital in the context of nontraditional versus traditional advertising. The marketing landscape, as well as media consumption, has evolved to the point where the only people left who silo digital and TV are actually CMOs. Silos are created through the annual budget process, as well as legacy organizational structures. It’s not about, “What percentage of your budget is digital?” Rather, it’s about how are CMOs telling and communicating brand stories, and, based on your consumer journey, how you are engaging those consumers in a meaningful way?
–Sean Blankenship, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Coldwell Banker Real Estate 

Influence The Journey
In digital marketing it is easy to concentrate on Web site metrics such as cart abandonment, conversion rates, or bounce rates. However, they are only part of the picture. The winners in digital retail will be those who focus on the complete customer journey in any channel. As digital marketing gains substantial credibility and investment in large organizations–we’re almost there in Australia–there is the opportunity for digital marketers to influence the broader customer journey, including the offer, customer service, and post-purchase care. These are the memorable moments that will give customers a reason to keep coming back.
–Nathan Bush, Group Digital Manager, Super Retail Group

Marketing-Tech Synchronicity
With the multitude of consumer data available to today’s marketers, one of the keys to success lies in being able to sort the need-to-know data from the nice-to-know data. To accomplish this, marketing and information technology leaders have to both agree on adopting a consumer-focused frame rather than a technology-driven one. Therefore, the one step marketers need to take in 2015 is to establish a fluid, cooperative, and dynamic relationship with the information group within their organizations. Without such synchrony, the wealth of available data will be underutilized, and we will not see the transformation that could be possible.
–Dr. Kurt Carlson, Associate Professor of Marketing at the McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, and Director of the Georgetown Institute for Consumer Research

Personalization Prominence
2015 will be the year when person-to-person planets align. Leading B2C brands (Netflix, Amazon, Facebook) and some B2B brands have been priming the pump and raising customer expectations to engage with brands on a personalized level. In fact, personalization ranked as the No. 1 capability for marketing in the future, according to the 2014 “Digital Roadblock: Marketers Struggle to Reinvent Themselves” (PDF) study from Adobe. Importantly, the study also revealed that brands that were focused on delivering more personalized experiences to their customers outperformed competitors in sales and revenue.
–Steven Cook, Founder,; Contributing Editor

Time And Place For Tech
Sending out inflatable dolls to interact with our market just doesn’t cut it–even if they’re digital. We’ll be transformed when we can use our digital tools to create better opportunities for one-on-one dialogue without the artifice of technology in-between. In other words, our digital technology should open the door to live interactions. It should not substitute algorithms and come-ons for real courting. And real marketing, to me, is courting–especially in my world, which is recruiting.
–Nick Corcodilos, Recruiter, Blogger/Ask The Headhunter

Aces On The Bases
Borrowing from the idea of getting the best players with the right skills on the baseball diamond, marketing leaders should make an effort to understand and bring the best digital skills to the table-regardless of their organization or affiliation. For example, the IT organization likely has experts in evaluating vendor offerings, creating data designs utilizing multiple sources, and integrating heterogeneous software. Understand and bring these and other aces to the table early in the process to help you make the best decisions and achieve your digital transformation goals. Cross-functional teams will lead to more wins in the market.
–Chris Curran, Chief Technologist, PwC

Commit To Digital
Marketers need to fully commit to a digital strategy, complete with the appropriate investment in a robust technology platform, combined with an experienced team to manage the process, supported by a fully articulate vision for success. All three ingredients are absolutely necessary to ensure you are ready to meet the growing demands of the consumer for engagement and conversion via digital channels. The rapidly expanding adoption of social media, along with massive increases in mobile-first interaction, especially in Asia, requires a corresponding ability of marketers to respond. It is time to get off the fence and move with conviction, not only to stay ahead of your competitors, but to remain relevant to your customer base.
–Dean Dacko, Senior Vice President, Head of Marketing and Products, Malaysia Airlines

Digital Grand Slam
True transformation only occurs when brands realize it’s not just about “playing in the space” of digital, but confidently make it more than that. That means making the consistent investment of resources (financial and manpower) to establish, grow, or amplify presence. [In turn], that means enrolling people (including the naysayers) and overcoming the hurdles that will invariably get in your way. Digital presence–and, beyond that, true consistent digital engagement–is critical for any brand, any industry. Real head-turning, business-driving innovation comes from taking risks and reacting and refining constantly. That’s where we’ve driven sales and brand affinity in the digital space.
–John Dillon, EVP and CMO, Denny’s

Embrace Omnichannel
With over 70 to 80 percent of purchase decisions significantly influenced by digital channels (including for high-value categories, like automotive), marketers need to truly embrace an omnichannel response that cuts across marketing, media, distribution, and aftersales in order to meet their consumers’ needs. I believe this will require three key steps: deep consumer insights to understand the path to purchase and influences to purchase; a technology backbone, including data analytics, to develop predictive models for effective consumer engagement; and engagement across functions and entire leadership–not just marketing and sales.
–Vinay Dixit, Vice President-Strategy, Electrolux Asia Pacific

Customer Intelligence
Customer intelligence will be key for successful companies to win in 2015. Social, mobile, and cloud technologies have empowered customers to educate themselves before making a purchase. In a world where customers are well-informed and have more influence over a company and the decisions it makes than the other way around, companies must be customer-centric. They have to deliver products and an experience that please customers and keeps them coming back. In order to do that, companies need to get closer to their customers, fast. They have to adopt technologies that will help them learn about customer attitudes and opinions over time, and understand why they do the things they do.
–Tyler Douglas, CMO, Vision Critical

Consistent Relationships
Every day our target audiences interact with our businesses across multiple channels. This presents the opportunity for marketers to constantly develop customer relationships in a connected, mobile-dominated world. The challenge is in identifying our unique audiences across devices, platforms, and networks. We must be able to connect the dots for each individual customer, whose interactions [on various platforms represent] one relationship. 2015 is the year to improve cross-channel tracking. The relationship we build with our audience should be consistent regardless of the channel of interaction.
–Sonny Ganguly, CMO, WeddingWire

Break Down The Silos
Phil Kotler had said that “marketing takes a day to learn and a lifetime to master.” Unfortunately, even if the individuals in your teams do become masters in (digital) marketing, your marketing organization will fail if you’re unable to get them to work together. High-impact digital marketing requires the strategic and tactical alignment of content creation, asset production, search engine optimization, promotion, and analytics all connected along a common backbone of technology. For true digital transformation to take place in 2015, marketers will need to put the right organizational structure and processes in place to break down the silos between their different teams.
–Michael Gerard, CMO, Curata

We’re All Marketing Technologists
A primary goal for any CMO in 2015 should be to help everyone on the team become a marketing technologist. No one will have permission to stay old-school or to have siloed skills that can’t connect the dots to run an integrated campaign. As automation and analytics technologies continue to evolve and transform the development and execution of campaigns, every marketer must understand them well. Although outside agencies are essential, the trap is the internal marketing team ends up only overseeing project management. Moving forward, a critical piece of any performance appraisal will be measuring the successful deployment and ongoing use of cutting-edge digital marketing tools.
–Paul Gottsegen, CMO, Mindtree

Year Of Mobile 
This may not sound like a revolutionary prediction, but the reality is most brands are still not to the point where mobile is woven into everything they do. It’s viewed as just another channel in which to deploy marketing tactics or even as a nice-to-have. 2015 is truly the Year of Mobile. Marketers need to view how mobile is invaluable in their personal lives and take that to their brands–both organizationally and in practice. With adoption rates as high as they are in all demographics, the pendulum has swung. If brands are not thinking and acting mobile first now, you fill in the blank.
–Jen Gray, VP, Marketing & Creative, HelloWorld

Tipping Point?
Marketers have come to realize that digital transformation is not just about marketing–it is the transformation of the enterprise. It is about how their companies engage with customers, employees, investors, and other stakeholders through channels that are inherently digital, as well as through channels that leave a digital footprint. Hence, the one move that marketers need to make for 2015 is to be bold and drive the digital-transformation agenda beyond realms of the marketing function. I sincerely hope this will be the year when a tipping point is reached in the number of organizations where marketers take the lead in extending the impact of digital into the entire enterprise.
–Vijayana Gupta, Director of Industry Strategy And Marketing For Digital Marketing, Adobe; Blogger/The Digital CMO

Do To Vs. Do With
Digital transforms marketing from something you do to consumers to something you do with consumers. Putting the change of this one small word into effect greatly expands the CMO’s purview to the full life cycle of today’s digitally empowered consumers. This life cycle is no longer linear or episodic; it’s an infinite loop of engagement across marketing, sales, service, and loyalty, which requires the ability to empathize with consumers in order to advocate for them. CMOs can achieve this by working together with the CIO and COO to advance their perception of what customer experience is and what it can be.
–Glen Hartman, Global Managing Director of Digital Transformation, Accenture Interactive

Agile Marketing
In a word: agility. Marketers have to change the way their organizations get work done to match the pace of our always-on, digital market. While facing a nearly constant state of disruption, CMOs are expected to deliver more growth and to act faster than ever. As a result, they’re seeking ways to improve how they go to market and move toward enhanced collaboration, shorter planning cycles, and a more data-driven, iterative approach. I believe transformational approaches like Agile for Marketing will help marketers respond to the market more quickly, champion the customer, collaborate across functions, and achieve better results.
–Barre Hardy, Senior Director, CMG Partners

M-Commerce Enablement
Marketers must embrace mobile commerce as a major channel to make 2015 the year of true digital transformation. All other aspects are in place, from consumers who prefer purchasing through mobile, to new technology, like Apple Pay, smoothing out the process. Incorporating a sophisticated mobile strategy will help create a truly omnichannel experience for the customer: They’ll be able to engage digitally even while walking through a brick-and-mortar store.
–Jerry Jao, Co-Founder & CEO, Retention Science

Mobile Optimization
I recently had a very frustrating mobile purchasing experience with one of my favorite retailers, which reminded me how far even some great companies still have to go. Mobile optimization will be even more critical in 2015, given the majority of people already use their mobile phones for at least some Internet searches and purchases, and this will only increase. Many marketers focus primarily on their Web sites, with mobile seemingly as an afterthought. Ensure a seamless mobile experience first, and then devote attention to other digital channels.
–Jessica K. Jeffcoat, Research Analyst, Growth Team Membership, Frost & Sullivan

Go Native
With the average time spent on mobile expected to surpass three hours per day in 2015, content marketers need to focus on reaching users directly in the feeds of their favorite sites and apps. In addition to being unique and interesting, mobile advertising also needs to fit in. Campaigns need to extend beyond traditional display and be more native to their surroundings, with assets ranging from Vine videos to infographics to Instagram posts. Marketers need to think bigger, test frequently, and pour their distribution spend into the assets that are providing the most engagement–native ads.
Patrick Keane, President, Sharethrough

Location-Based Marketing
In 2015, marketers will begin to see that “location is the new cookie.” It represents a way to track the movements of consumers across day parts and media types, inclusive of radio, TV, and DOOH. Supported by next-generation GPS and improvements in indoor location technology like beacons, marketers will spend heavily on mobile/location infrastructure in support of this targeting. While there are privacy and ethical considerations, consumers will understand the premise of true value exchange and readily trade their data for content that is personally relevant.
–Asif R. Khan, Founder and President, Location Based Marketing Association

Online-Offline Integration
In 2015, marketers need to integrate with the physical world in order to drive digital transformation. Brands are well-versed in the use of clouds, stacks, and algorithms to support sophisticated online marketing initiatives. Now it’s time to extend these tools and techniques to the offline world, where digital opportunity increasingly abounds with the evolution of devices, sensors, and networks that connect brands to business opportunity.
–Peter Kim, SVP & Chief Digital Officer, Cheil Worldwide

Bridge To Millennials
True digital transformation requires that we bridge the chasm between the tech-facile Millennials and the corporate decision-makers, who are at very different places in the adoption of digital technology. Inside corporations, technology systems need to evolve dramatically to match the multistream experience Millennials innately know and expect. Effecting that change means senior leaders who hold the purse strings need a deeper appreciation of digital technology and the value it brings in attracting top talent and driving revenue. A shift in their familiarity and comfortable level has to happen before life, work, and commerce can be played out fully on a digital stage.
–JB King, ‎Global Head of Content, Marsh & McLennan Companies

Less, Not More
In a digital economy where Moore’s Law sets the pace and technical development is exponential, classical organizations run the risk of being left behind, hindered by their linear thinking and cumbersome frameworks. Meanwhile, the gap between technical possibilities and company realities grows ever larger. Too many companies waste energy on digital trends that fail to generate measurable business value. Marketers who wish to transform rather than to be transformed will have to develop a laser-sharp focus because, paradoxically, in a climate of exponential dynamics, the answer lies in less, not more.
–Boris Lakowski, CEO, lakowski

Start With Replatforming
Marketers need to go beyond digital as a discrete discipline and view it as the foundation of modern marketing. This first and foremost necessitates a replatforming of marketing from spreadsheets, random tools, and vendor-specific technologies to a coherent platform from which marketing can be orchestrated. Marketing workflow, assets, performance analysis, and orchestration will all need to take place in the cloud if marketers are to compete. As marketers look to returns on these crucial investments, a new generation in marketing decision support systems will provide the insight into aggregate marketing performance, breaking them free of narrow and myopic ROI analysis.
–Andrew Lark, CMO, Xero

One-To-One Marketing Via Mobile
Like many others, I believe 2015 will be a breakthrough year for mobile marketing. The introduction of Apple Pay and other NFC payment solutions, combined with geolocation, geofencing, and beacon technologies finally make real-time, one-to-one marketing a reality. Marketers can now use the variables of time, proximity, and person to create compelling and relevant offers that will drive incremental sales. This new paradigm creates the need to assure apps deliver as much utility as possible and are as functional as possible. The mobile phone has truly become the 21st-century Swiss Army knife.
–Eric Lent, Chief Marketing & Consumer Technology Officer, Herschend Family Entertainment

Marketer Before Marketing
The reinvention of marketing must begin with the reinvention of the marketer. Marketing today is about art and science, and you need people who can straddle both worlds. Creative people will always play a central role in marketing, but you also need data wonks with strong analytical skills. I believe we have an obligation to our existing employees to reskill them and offer them the opportunity to stretch into new areas. Where specialization is needed—for instance, Web analytics—you’ll need to recruit. There’s a renaissance going on in marketing and talent will be at the root of its reinvention.
–Ann Lewnes, CMO, Adobe

Focus on a deep understanding of today’s consumers and their experiences. The expectations and demands of consumers have never been greater. What one brand or tech company offers, they will expect others to do the same. Apple Pay, Uber, Netflix are redefining what customers can expect. Brands leaders need to tune into their consumers like never before – understanding their needs, wants, journeys, etc. Look for unmet needs and new ways to serve consumers. Lead with the customer, not tech or business silos.
–Gautam Lohia, Chief Technology Officer, Blast Radius

Human Intervention
Marketers need to embrace the necessity for human-touch prequalification of scored leads. Far too many so-called leads are being sent to sales because the equivalent of a pinball machine has tallied up points based on visits and downloads. Qualifying marketing-sourced leads is a critical step in the revenue-generation business. Without it, raw, unfiltered leads are sent to sales. Worse, good leads are lost in the process. Strategic and effective use of teleprospecting will separate the winners from the losers in 2015.
–Dan McDade, President, PointClear

Smarter World
As consumers expect the world around them to not just respond to, but anticipate, their needs, we should provide interconnected services and functionality across brands, devices, and platforms. The Internet of things is just the beginning: Thanks to BLE technology and mobile-device advancements, the world around us is becoming smart and aware of user behavior. We have the potential to correlate data about users in a physical space, social media history, personal preferences, and even buying history. With this new level of insight, we can build a true online profile that allows real personalization, customization, and unique experiences throughout the customer life cycle.
–Tim McMullen, Marketing Scientist, redpepper

Inside-Outside Synergy
Digital development is galloping forward: New distribution channels, new platforms, and new equipment are meeting higher user demands. Companies must no longer distinguish between the “external world” of digital user platforms on the one hand and the “internal world” of their companies on the other. All areas must grow and fit together. Companies must adapt their technological infrastructures, their organigrams, and, most importantly the mind-set of their employees to the digital development. The synergy of interior and exterior worlds will become a crucial factor for success in the digital world of tomorrow.
–Stefan Mennerich, Director of Digital Media and Media Rights and IT, FC Bayern Munich

Help, Don’t Sell
Businesses really need to start to know their customer. Don’t focus on selling but on helping customers to buy, wherever they are. This is hybrid support for a hybrid customer. Focus on customer needs before you offer the solution. Stop thinking about your product and start thinking about the needs of the customer. Finally communicate directly, interactively, especially just before the customer buys from you. Use all the tools and support you can find to make the customer loyal to you. Make him/her happy the same way as you make your partner happy.
–Dr. Cor Molenaar, Associate Professor eMarketing, RSM Erasmus University, Rotterdam; Strategic Consultant And Director, eXQuo

Keep It Simple
Brands need to simplify customer experience at every stage of the customer journey. Customers are craving simplicity. Digital is uniquely positioned to deliver experiences that are remarkably fresh and unexpectedly clear.
–Margaret Molloy, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Siegel+Gale; Blogger/B2B Beat

Cross The Chasm
In order for 2015 to be the year of true digital transformation, marketers will have to give up their current silo-based functional approach to “going digital” and help build a new cross-enterprise governance model to enable digital to cross the chasm and become the accepted new business model in their companies.
–Peter D. Moore, President, Wild Oak Enterprises

Gold In Them Data
The ability to leverage first-party data will be essential. Most brands are sitting on a goldmine of first-party data, ranging from demographic and geographic information, to order history, buying preferences, and purchase intent. When this data is combined with advanced measurement, marketers can gain a much richer understanding of the specific audiences to target, what products or services are most relevant to them, when they are most likely to buy, and the optimal combination of marketing tactics needed to convert them. Armed with this insight, marketers can then customize their strategies for each audience segment to ensure maximum ROI.
–Bill Muller, CMO, Visual IQ

Video Explosion
Online video is every marketer’s biggest opportunity. YouTube alone reaches more U.S. adults than any cable network. For many, YouTube is their television. Last year, brands nearly doubled the amount of money spent on online video. Expect this trend to accelerate. Why? With over 1 billion active users, YouTube will help brands engage consumers at scale. In 2015, B2B brands will quickly join the party as well—especially since 50 percent of users watch business-related online videos once a week. They’ll likely be using native video—an effective medium for B2B—to break through the clutter.
–Anita Newton, Vice President, Marketing, Adknowledge

Full-Scale Digitization
The Digital Age is here to stay. Those who do not tap its potential will get left behind. However, organizations cannot just go digital halfway—complete digitization is necessary for true transformation is to happen. From R&D investments and streamlined processes to skills upgrading and even KPIs, digital transformation needs to be formalized as a companywide priority. There is no model solution—even cutting-edge corporate leaders have their hits and misses—but everyone needs to be open-minded and adaptable to embrace the constant change of the digital world. At the end of the day, a complete digital transformation can help marketers sell a lot smarter.
–Jeannie Ong, CMO, StarHub

Omnichannel Experience
True digital transformation is being able to combine offline and digital to provide a true omnichannel experience. The distinction [between the two] has blurred with ever greater digital adoption, even in countries like India. Marketers need to drive the reinvention of the customer experience in the context of digital. This means not just considering technology as an enabler, but as a disruptor. Marketers, even the progressive ones, have to have a plan and then identify the technology to implement it. But to be disruptive, they need to track technology and then see how it can be applied in a new, never-before way to a customer experience.
–Jessie Paul, Founder, Paul Writer

Adopt And Integrate
The one thing marketers need to concentrate on is the adoption of new technologies and their frictionless integration into the customer experience. NFC, RFID, and geolocation push services are going to drive intelligent marketing, and the data harvested from them will supercharge the decisions of the smartest CMOs.
–Nihal Pekbeken, VP Marketing, Ticketmaster

Machine Learning
Marketers need to marry analytic insights and actions. In 2015, marketers need to embrace a systematic, yet personalized, approach to customer engagement by developing the capability to uncover new behavioral insights, and then apply the insights to personalized actions at the right time and in the right contexts, for any given customer. Machine learning will play a key role by enabling a closed-loop, test-learn-optimize process, while automation will allow for the identification of personalized marketing opportunities at a rate and scale that drives true digital transformation.
–Glenn Pingul, VP of Products and Mobile Strategies, Globys

Get Closer To Data
In 2014, we saw a number of major brands, such AmEx and P&G, move their programmatic marketing operations in-house. The need to get closer to the data will push more marketers in this direction. We think that CRM-based marketing (at the user level) will be an exciting development for marketers of all sizes and ad-tech vendors alike next year. Most marketers have been sitting on valuable CRM data for years, and many of those data signals haven’t been fully put to use as of yet outside of email marketing.
–Ben Plomion, VP of Marketing, Chango

Global Challenge
To succeed across global markets, you need content and brand messaging that’s consistent, relevant, and effective. But for most global brands, providing a consistent omnichannel experience has complexities on two levels: channels and languages. Marketing technologies are finally maturing to where they can solve the cross-channel management issue.
–Clint Poole, Vice President of Marketing, Lionbridge Technologies

Customer 101
For marketers to make 2015 the year of true digital transformation, the first focus has be on Customer 101, emphasizing personalized interactions. Real-time, online, and in-person focus on clients will foster customer loyalty and a better return on marketing investment. CMOs need to ensure that their marketing teams purposefully synchronize traditional and all digital and social marketing efforts. Lastly, successful CMOs will also intensely collaborate, across all mediums, within their organizations and across the ecosystem–and, they will do so faster and more effectively than their competition.
–Matt Preschern, CMO, HCL Technologies

Mobile Priority
Marketing teams will recognize the need to reinvent their organizations around customers who expect an amazing mobile experience. Mobile is no longer a “test” for marketing leaders who are making sizable investments in people, processes, and technology. I expect marketers to shift investments from what they know: desktop Web marketing, to the new world of mobile marketing, where acquisition, engagement, and conversion tactics address apps, mobile Web, and mobile messaging. In addition, more companies will prioritize the use of mobile analytics and optimization technologies to drive relevant, personalized, and location-aware experiences in their mobile apps.
–Ray Pun, Strategic Marketing for Mobile Solutions, Adobe; Blogger/Mobile First

Sure Bet
True digital transformation requires making a large number of small bets to test and learn fast. Many of those bets won’t work out, but they will lead to the insights needed to find the right answer. There is, however, one sure bet: Recruit more digital natives to your team–watch how they work and listen to their perspectives. They know something you don’t know.
–Jeff Pundyk, Vice President, Content Marketing and Strategy, The Economist Group; Blogger/Digital Disruption 

One Word…
“I just want to say one word to you, one word: Plastics.” Actually, apologies to Dustin Hoffman, but my word is strategy. Wait, you say, we have a strategy! Great, but is it built around consumer data, behavior, and insights? Does it show how owned, earned, and paid media should work together? Is it actionable at the channel level? Unfortunately, many companies have not done the basic work defining target audience, journey mapping, and content strategy. Without it, you’re navigating in the Amazon without a compass.
–Tony Quin, CEO, IQ Agency

Go Digital Or Go Home
In order to make 2015 the year of true digital transformation, marketers need to embrace and accelerate the blurring of lines between marketing, innovation, PR, sales, products, and technology. It is easy to reach today’s connected consumer, but it is only through embracing this confluence of functions that we’ll be able to drive true consumer engagement and advocacy.
–Raja Rajamannar, CMO, MasterCard

Lose The Bandwagon Mentality
This is the year when marketers will realize that just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should be doing it as well. First. everyone ran to social media with little idea if it was working or not. Now many are rushing to mobile. For many it is worthwhile, but that doesn’t mean that the new channels are right for you. Analysis is the key.
–David J. Reibstein, The William S. Woodside Professor and Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Disrupt The Status Quo
You must view your 2015 digital communications not as campaigns, but rather as conversations. Your online prospects aren’t deciding between you and a competitor–they’re still deciding whether they want to change from their status quo bias. This should dramatically impact your approach to online content. Follow the principles of good “change management” conversations, as opposed to traditional lead-gen campaigns. Deliver content that causes people to see their status quo as unsafe, and present your approach in the context of offering a new, safer alternative.
–Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Corporate Visions; Blogger/Marketing Messenger

Fundamental Shift
Excellence in curating customized experiences should be the goal for digital/multichannel transformation in 2015. Marketers should fully embrace the transition to true personalization based on finding consumers and providing, per individual preferences, customized and curated communications and experiences. To do this, marketers will have to shift from focusing on channels, data, and content to focusing on customers solely. This change in strategy will reverse today’s troubling decline in engagement and retention rates.
Ernan Roman, President, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing

Take Digital Integration Seriously
When all marketers get personally involved in digital, the industry will truly transform. For years, marketers have designated a “digital person” to handle the work. This siloed approach is ineffective. Part of the transformation is understanding digital, and the other is having a digital mind-set–meaning accepting the grey area, being comfortable in unknown territory, and testing strategies (and sometimes failing) to learn and advance. This mind-set can maximize the success of your marketing organization and company overall. It’s important for all marketers to be that “digital person” as the industry transforms.
–Bob Rupczynski, ‎Vice President, Media and Consumer Engagement, Kraft Foods Group

EU To Lead Privacy Reform
Despite weekly reports of security breaches at major consumer companies, we Americans don’t seem to care. We keep giving away our personal information, and companies keep accepting the liabilities. The more hands-on regulators of the EU are likely to lead the way to reform.
–Doug Ryan, President, San Francisco & Chicago, DigitasLBi

Agency-SI Consolidation
Get ready for your consultancy to change. We will continue to see more and more market consolidation in the agency and system integrator space. Look for continued, large-scale M&A activity from the big agency holding companies and global SIs, who will scoop up niche players to round out their digital-marketing capabilities and obtain a scarce set of talent in the market. Expect one or more of the traditional offshore vendors to make a buy into the digital-marketing services space. When the dust settles, 2016 may be the year of niche vs. scale.
–Anoop Sahgal, Partner Marketing, Adobe

Radical Transparency
I predict 2015 will be the year marketers and brands realize that they don’t own the customer–in fact, no one owns the customer. Embracing the new world of radical transparency means our brands are in the hands of the masses, not the other way around. The best brands will connect emotionally through digital. In today’s day and age, guaranteeing great value and service is a given. 2015 will be about pivoting from an emotionally connected brand cord, evoking desire and organically connecting at the moments that matter. That is where the real magic, transformation, and earned loyalty will be made.
–Diane Scott, Executive Vice President, Chief Product and Marketing Officer, Western Union

Creative Transformation
I have to completely reimagine the way we look at creative content and “digital marketing.” I think you’re going to see a transformation. I’m seeing a transformation in my entire operation around how those entities need to work together in a way that they haven’t before, to be more prolific and nimble. I have a need for data translators, for digital marketers who understand how to manage, distribute, and fulfill content in a way that is not traditional to where we’ve been. I see a real move toward a content marketing function that eclipses some of the traditional functions in the marketing organization.
–Kara Segreto, CMO, Prudential Retirement

Omnichannel Zigzag
Digital transformation will be achieved when digital is embedded and optimized in everything that a marketing team does. In that sense, marketers will need to stop distinguishing between online vs. offline and instead create seamless customer experiences that embrace the true zigzag that is the customer journey. The customer no longer makes the distinction between their digital experiences and any other experiences–they are all simply part of the customer’s life. To that end, marketers will need to think multiplatform, multichannel, multidevice, and multitouchpoint. The bottom line will be the overall customer experience.
–Tom Shapiro, CEO, Stratabeat

Every Click Counts
More brands will start to value each and every individual hit on any of their branded platforms, no matter if they are click-throughs from search engines, product discovery on Pinterest, or recurring landing page traffic followed by ad retargeting. Each and every single human being who lands on an online branded property must be treated like a valuable corporate asset. Leading brands in the digital space simply won’t be able to afford losing out on transforming each and every one of those opportunities. This means that enterprise-class inbound marketing and consumer journey software will have a big year in 2015—and rightfully so.
–Jerry Silfwer, CEO and Digital Strategist, Mad Science Digital

Human Touch
This coming year is about advanced customer advocacy through digital. It’s remembering that the “Internet of Everything” begins and ends with a human being. Advanced customer advocacy is showing up to help in places you weren’t before, in ways that you are not only a welcome participant but a requested partner in their digital conversations. It’s not just about making it easier to buy, easier to search, and easier to share; it’s about supporting, challenging, questioning, being insightful, and being valuable in the most human way possible.
–Tammy Soares, EVP, Rosetta West Lead

‘Radical And Rapid Change Management’
Marketers will need to take the initiative to move digital center stage in the overall organization, and not just the marketing function, for true digital transformation. Within marketing, the org design will also need to change to bring in analytic and digital skill sets, layered with branding and customer-acquisition expertise. There has to be radical and rapid change management encompassing org design, investments in technology platforms and tools, and, most important, technology-enabled organizational processes designed for customer centricity.
–Lata Subramanian, CMO, Sterling Holiday Resorts in India

CMTO Change Agents
Brands need a new breed of “marketing technologist” who possesses the skills, mind-set, and capabilities required to create and execute the kinds of marketing strategies that drive brand growth in today’s always-on world. Leading organizations have begun establishing Chief Marketing Technology Officer roles to drive this integration. With continued growth of digital marketing budgets, CEOs will look to these change agents to have a broader voice in the organization, working closely with business leaders to ensure that technology investments offer a competitive marketing advantage.
–Bob Van Beber, Senior Vice President, Global Practice and Delivery Lead, SapientNitro

Customer Insights
To leverage digital to drive value, CMOs may need to fully embrace market-inspired digital innovation and transformation. That means understanding customer journeys across the entire [life cycle], and using customer insights to unify engagement across sales, marketing, services, and products. The tactics that can enable CMOs to do that include cohesive value-driven digital strategies, unified cross-medium user experiences, integrated technology platforms, integrated customer data, and deep analytics capabilities.
–Barbara Venneman, Principal, Global Adobe Alliance Leader and Digital Marketing Offering Lead, Deloitte Digital

Mobile Shift
For 2015, it is pertinent for businesses to truly embed “mobile first” into their execution. This cuts across product development, pricing strategy, dissemination via mobile, and even creating the right presence and customer-service model via mobile. Mobile first would provide tremendous advantage because it would reduce the middleman-associated costs in doing business. This is a fundamental shift in terms of how we would allocate marketing resources. The major challenges for marketers will still be in terms of equipping the team with sufficient skills and knowledge to execute fast. Outsourcing may be a big feature in addressing the implementation gaps and to go-to-market fast with concurrent solutions.
–Mohamed Adam Wee, Group CMO, Maybank

Structural Transformation
A digital transformation has to start with a structural transformation. It requires a new way of thinking about the organization, the skills that are required, the reporting structure, and the culture, training, and measurement system. While most articles discussing digital focus on the work that needs to be accomplished, the reality is that whether digital is successful will depend on how the CMO sets up the organization to facilitate success. As digital becomes more sophisticated, maximizing potential in 2015 will require more C-level thinking in how to organize and integrate it with nondigital efforts.
–Kimberly A. Whitler, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia; Blogger/CMO Matters

Individual Recognition
Marketers need to learn how to turn data into customer intelligence that they then can turn into action. In other words, data informs relevancy, and relevancy drives revenue. Recent research has shown that one-to-many delivers much smaller ROMI (and much less revenue) than one-to-one behavioral targeting and personalization. We’ve always had direct marketing opportunities in our marketing arsenals, but now, through technology, we have the ability to scale real-time. I love a recent quote from Faith Popcorn: “To offset a depersonalized society, consumers crave recognition of their individuality.” Brands that can harness this personalization at the moments that matter (to their customers) for their businesses will win.
–Michael Zuna, CMO, Aflac

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