Linus Gregoriadis
Linus Gregoriadis 8 April 2019

From McMartech to mindfulness: 5 key takeaways from MarTech West

MarTech West held in California last week saw the launch of the latest Marketing Technology Landscape map, followed by keynote presentations from an array of speakers from companies including IBM and PwC. There was even a session on mindfulness, a trend being embraced by the more enlightened organisations out there. For those who weren’t among the thousands attending the San Jose event, below is a collection of my main takeaways.

#1 MarTech ecosystem grows to more than 7,000 vendors     

The marketing technology industry is thriving. The latest martech supergraphic from the conference chair and editor Scott Brinker contains 7,040 vendor logos across categories including content & experience, commerce & sales, and data.

Brinker was keen to stress that growth had slowed down compared to previous years, with only a 3% uptick since 2018 when the landscape contained 6,829 vendors. He conceded that we may have reached ‘peak martech landscape’, while at the same time stressing that useful martech-related tools and applications were still springing up for a variety of different use cases across all manner of business verticals.

Commenting on M&A activity over the last few months, he highlighted the $300m acquisition of personalisation technology company Dynamic Yield by McDonald’s, truly a sign of the times and a move that few would have foreseen a few months ago.  

#2 Marketers can learn from the rise of D2C

Terence Kawaja, the Founder and CEO of strategic advisory firm LUMA Partners, knows a thing or two about industry infographics himself. But the man behind the famous LUMAscapes – the inspiration behind the MarTech Supergraphic – was actually at the conference to speak about what marketers can learn from the direct-to-consumer (D2C) phenomenon.

‘Fire your CMO’ was the provocative title of his presentation. He spoke about how a laser focus on the needs of the customer has helped to fuel the stellar trajectories of brands such as Dollar Shave Club and Allbirds, while many established Fortune 500 companies have suffered declining revenues.

He explained that while traditional marketers may struggle to match D2C companies when it comes to disruptive business models (for example the disintermediation of retailers), or in having digital- and mobile-centricity in their DNA, there are other characteristics they can most certainly learn from and seek to emulate.

Non-D2C marketers need to concentrate their efforts on product design, user experience, content marketing for brand story-telling, and hiring talent focused on growth, he said. They also need a shift in thinking when it comes to their marketing budgets, with a data-driven and performance-based approach which aspires to all media spending becoming a cost of goods sold. 

#3 It’s a myth that creative people don’t like data

Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes joined the conference chair for a fireside chat which began by recapping her career, starting from her time as a brand marketer at Intel where she spent 20 years. While at Adobe she has helped to transform the company to a thriving subscription business, putting digital very much at the heart of the company’s marketing activities.

She was keen to debunk the myth that ‘creative people don’t like data, and vice-versa’, explaining how creative professionals at Adobe are constantly iterating based on data-driven insights provided by analysts.

She also spoke about how Adobe Sensei uses AI and machine learning to detect anomalies, and to automate the kind of repetitive tasks that can become mundane and tedious for creatives and marketers alike. She explained that AI-driven automation ultimately helps to ‘create a much more human connection’ through a better understanding of customers and better personalisation. 

#4 Leadership teams need to ‘empower the edge’

‘Empowered edge’ is an IT term typically used in the context of empowering computing centralisation that is distributed towards the edge of a network.

IDC’s Kathleen Schaub, VP of the intelligence firm’s CMO Advisory Service, talked about how organisations can drive customer-centricity and achieve commercial success by empowering those working across the company at the coal-face, including those in customer-facing roles.

She argued that companies shouldn’t be choosing between a centralised and decentralised organisational structure, but should instead focus on giving employees on the ground the information they need to make the right decisions, by making them part of a dynamic and agile network.

She drew on thinking from retired general and business consultant Stan McChrystal who created a networked coalition of operatives and forces to help overcome nimble Islamic jihadists who had previously been one step ahead.

‘Radical transparency’ – i.e. trusted data disseminated as quickly as possible – can help to ensure that everyone is working together as effectively as possible to achieve goals. Other important attributes of resilient teams include a ‘shared mission’, ‘agile action’ and ‘orchestrated collaboration’, all characteristics that business leaders should be trying to instil within their teams.

#5 Mindfulness can help companies, not just individuals

While technology and data can help organisations to prosper, there also needs to be a strong focus on the ‘human dimension’, explained Brinker. PwC’s Stephanie Feldman had previously referenced her company’s Digital IQ 2018 research which had found that 85% of digital transformations fail by being too tech-focused. 

Mindfulness has become increasingly popular across the world as we seek a greater sense of calm and well-being, and respite from the digital deluge of information and communications that can both enrich and plague our lives.

And just as individuals can benefit from being ‘more present in the moment’, famous brands such as Google and Procter & Gamble are now employing mindfulness techniques to help them increase the effectiveness of their organisations.

This was the theme of an engaging presentation entitled Mindfulness for Innovation and Change Management by Shauna Shapiro from Santa Clara University. She drew on a range of stats to show the benefits of a more mindful approach to both individuals and businesses, including better sleep, increased focus, and greater creativity and innovation.

Research by Harvard Business Review has found that mindfulness produces an improvement in three capacities that are key for successful leadership, namely resilience, the capacity for collaboration, and the ability to lead in complex conditions. The good news is that we can all rewire our brains to achieve a range of personal objectives, for example to become happier.

Tickets are now available for the 2019 MarTech East in Boston in September.  

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