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As interesting (or as strange!) a pair of bedfellows as it gets.

The meeting of 2 great minds in Omaha.

Click here to read the full interview or here to watch the interview.


“You’re really just searching for the truth within all the numbers and all the chaos.”

Who said this? If you are interested, email me at

On Wednesday 22 Sep, I learned that you could measure the “effectiveness” of your video creative in 10+ different ways. I do believe that this is 9+ ways too many.

The CFA Institute ran an ad in 2008 and there was a line in the ad that’s forever seared into my consciousness, “…. hundreds of data points … measured with precision. And you may get precisely the wrong answer.”

A regional business head I was in a meeting with sometime in 2008 also echoed this. He wisely said this of his data obsessed organization, “I know we try and measure everything precisely. But it is not any more accurate.”. (The ending for this story is that he continued to let his organization walk this precise-but-no-less accurate route). You do wonder sometimes at such mentality! But that’s for another post.

Sometimes it is hard for marketing as a discipline to be taken seriously. There is so much noise, fads, “buzz”, clutter that it is quite a miracle that any work ever gets done. Wonder if this level of noise exists in the finance department down the corridor?

There’s been a colossal growth of data in the past 15 years. It feels like the moment you wake up, someone, something, somewhere, starts the counter tracking every thing you do and reporting it somewhere for some random purpose.

Does this mass of data and information make decision making better and faster? Or is this just a huge mess that leads to a paralysis in thought and action?

My suspicion is the latter.

Back to the quote at the top of this post.

Search for the truth as this is the heart of measuring.
Search for the truth be it about a customer insight, a growth opportunity or even a mistake in the current business and marketing strategy.

Start with,
1. What you want to know.
2. What are some of your hypothesis with regards to your customer, business growth opportunity or even what’s going wrong with your business.
3. What areas you want your business and brand to expand into.

Care less about,
…. whether you have gazillion fans, tons of Facebook likes or even super-long video dwell time.
… getting millions of data points to be “statistically significant”
… systems and dashboards.

CARE MORE about,
• Sniffing out mistakes in current strategies
• Identifying growth opportunities.
• Identifying actionable insights that will make a difference to your business and brand.
• Understanding your current customers better. If you don’t someone else might.

Many years ago, a simple regression analysis + a case study from WARC proved to a client on pitch that their brief was incorrect and the real business solution was to overhaul their marketing strategy to one focused on the mother brand and not the individual variants. Sales lifted off and 6 years later, this strategy continues. Interested to know which brand? You know the drill – email me.

I leave you with this,
Measure for precision. You may get precisely the wrong answer.
Measure for everything you do because you can. You will be paralyzed.
Measure against a clear truth that is critical for your business growth and with the intent to take meaningful action thereafter. You just may get a moment of clarity.

I say Brand Preference. You say EBIT. Who says it better?

The Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) in the US has a dream.

A noble dream that is to create a set of metrics generally recognized as meaningful and predictive. Much like the Financial Accounting Standard Board has done with accounting metrics or the International Standards Organization with quality-control metrics.

The mission that underpins the dream: Give marketers, and specifically chief marketing officers, the credibility and clout that chief financial officers have.

The main obstacle?

Not the fragmentation of media channels.

Nor the rise of new ones.

Or the challenge of marketing that is now a 24/7 responsibility.

The main obstacle – The fragmented and diminished role of Marketing in organizations today.

Contrast the role of a CMO with that of a CFO.

A CFO has retained and one would argue, actually enlarged his/her sphere of influence. While a typical CMO, in the past 15 years, has seen his/her sphere of influence diminish and today is no more than a very senior Advertising & Promotions (A & P) honcho.

In the past 10 years, I have worked with some of the leading multinational organizations in the world and have seen marketing roles splintered into pieces and largely contained in the A & P space. A technology giant once had the Marketing function split into 16 A & P positions (luckily some sense prevailed and positions were streamlined to half – although it was still 4 too many). This same giant once held a sales conference in the complete absence of its marketing organization. A telecommunications giant had its regional “marketing” team split across 4 – 5 teams including the all important, “digital specialist”. More recently, a so-called Marketing lead did not even have business metrics in her KPIs – hers was only “brand measures”. This from a company that issued revenue and margins reports relentlessly.

In this renovation, what had slipped away are the critical areas of pricing (that sits with sales or even finance), product development (that’s R & D territory) and distribution (that’s sales or trade marketing). What left with the CMO — advertising and promotions (and activation, digital, social media, events) – essentially all the “fluff”

Before so-called marketing metrics can matter and hence making the MASB mission more than just a pipe dream, Marketing needs to reclaim its wider sphere of influence.

As long as marketing only dwells in the A & P space, all marketing metrics will reside in the “perception, intent and attitudinal” space such as would consider buying, would advocate, be a net promoter, awareness etc. etc. etc. All of which a customer is free to have with no responsibility to ever act on.

More importantly, none of which matter in a boardroom where people talk dollars and sense.

None of which matter when credibility and clout is being sort for the Marketing discipline.

Before a set of metrics is created, perhaps, it is more important for Marketing to reclaim its original function (the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably), first?

Any thoughts?

Customer Relationship Management? Or Customer Relationship Muddle?

The 80-20 rule. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. It costs 5x more to recruit new customers than to retain existing ones. The list goes on with regards to growing business more profitably by engaging and activating one’s current consumer base.

In an age of increasingly fragmented customer engagement channels, there has never been a more critical time to look inwards at one’s most valuable asset i.e. one’s own customer base.

Before looking ahead, let’s first take a brief sojourn into the past.

Looking at the massive volume of credit card advertising in Singapore today, it is hard to imagine that just 15 years ago, credit card advertising in Singapore was limited only to brand advertising showing just general card features with convenience as its main selling point. (Credit Card Advertising in Singapore, 1995). In addition, no advertising that featured spending incentives was permitted. A credit card marketer in 1995 tasked with growing the cardholder base was largely limited to culling its current cardholder base through a series of smart and innovative direct marketing (or as it is known today, customer relationship management) initiatives to attract new card members.

Fast forward to 2010. A recently released study indicated that more than 70% of current bank customers in Singapore would not recommend their main bank to their friends and colleagues.

If the code of advertising for credit cards that existed in 1995 was in force today – can the current breed of bank marketers who have grown up on an unhealthy diet of easy mass media advertising and tactical promotions (win a car/condo) handle the challenge?

Is there financial merit in re-focusing energies on the long-lost discipline of proper customer relationship management / direct marketing that is targeted at existing customer bases to grow business more profitably in the hyper-competitive consumer banking market?

The simple answer is YES. And it lies in the knowledge that more than 80% of Singapore banking customers surveyed would not change their main bank.

But first, there are two elephants in the room:

(1) This 80% is a passive lot and quite disinterested in further engagements with its main bank.

(2) Once new customers are recruited, they either transform into this 80% or are getting ready for their next flirtation with the next bank.

Question remains: Can the 80% be transformed from passive, disinterested customers to active and engaged ones who will buy from and advocate their main bank?

The journey to the answer starts with these 3 questions:

  1. Does top management recognize the financial value of managing and leveraging EXISTING customer relationships? Having a customer call management protocol in place is NOT managing relationships for value.
  2. Is there alignment between product, marketing, IT, legal and compliance to create a sustainable platform to provide a “unified customer” view across a bank’s multiple customer bases? This is not just about an IT architecture framework. It is about constructing a “desired customer knowledge framework” first and then IT to follow.
  3. Does the bank have a customer value building strategy in place? A loyalty program is not the silver bullet here.

The question remains: CRM = Customer relationship management? Customer relationship muddle? Vote now.

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