Marketers must ‘take responsibility’ for customer experience or risk being overtaken by IT departments, says Thomas Cook marketing chief

Image credit: Bronac McNeill

Marketers must embrace technology and ‘take responsibilty’ for the customer experience or face becoming “redundant” and letting IT departments overtake them, according to Thomas Cook marketing director Mike Hoban.

Speaking on a panel at The Drum’s Digital Convergence panel in London, Hoban said the rise of the chief experience officer role within businesses reflects an “abdication” of the responsibility of the marketing department.

“A marketing department must put itself in place where it has an accurate understanding of the consumer, and champions that in the organisation; aligns all its activity behind the commercial objectives of the organisation, and ensures that every part of that business contributes to delivering that customer experience.

Too many businesses treat brand management as “worrying over logo colour and font size”, when the reality is that it is about managing the promise that organisation makes, according to Hoban.

“But if marketers allow themselves to be boxed in by worrying about the colour and size of logos they will be redundant, as they will be overtaken by IT departments who will be responsible for customer experience. They must take responsibility for customer experience rather than letting a new group take it on,” he added.

Hoban said that the first role of a marketer is to champion the customer and to do that they must embrace technology, and in doing so they can reinvent and future-proof their businesses. “But you must be able to talk to your IT department – you will not succeed in the future as a marketer is you can’t.

He stressed that the fact marketing and IT departments speak “different languages” is what can ensure a business really thrives.

“The most important relationship that exists in business today is the relationship between marketing and technology and the ability to get them to talk together is absolutely fundamental. But this doesn’t mean that you want them to talk the same language, because it’s in that conflict that emerges in their different languages that answers will emerge to problems.”

Fellow panellist Google’s head of industry for Insurance Andy Mihalop agreed that the silos between organisations’ marketing and IT departments must be broken down for companies to move forward. “Traditionally the creative piece has sat within marketing, and some of the science side which includes the platforms and data on technology side in the IT department – that silo must be broken down – it’s about marketing and technology coming together with a common agenda to drive a customer-driven experience,” he said.

Hoban agreed although reinforced the point that marketing is not synonymous with art alone, and likewise science with technology. “We shouldn’t fall into trap of thinking art equals marketing and science equals technology, because the platforms that will determine the success of business in the future will arguably be created by the creatives within the technology departments.”

Fellow panelist Wieden + Kennedy interactive creative director Graeme Douglas challenged the term “creative” when applied to specific individuals, reinforcing that all people have the potential to be creative.

“The word creative as a noun is unhelpful – it’s about creativity not creatives – it should reflect a way of doing things and an approach rather than a job title. We are guilty of enforcing that - the whole industry is guilty of reinforcing it – creativity is a cultural thing not something to be siloed into a corner or even outsourced,” he said.

Meanwhile Nishma Robb, chief client services and marketing officer at Dentsu Aegis Network-owned iProspect, added that one of the biggest challenges for agencies is working with clients who have not embraced change and become integrated themselves but are “total disconnected”.

“They look to the agency to act as a kind of band aid between the two, and we end up spending more time helping businesses restructure themselves.”

She also said that the fundamental way in which agencies earn money hasn’t changed, but that it must in order to reflect the changing media landscape. “The way we earn money isn’t relevant now in terms of the metrics we are trying to deliver.

“It’s about recognising that value – it may be a sale, but it may be another measure of success that needs to be determined. But unless we get true alignment between brands and agencies that will always be a challenge,” she said.

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