Each month in the Green Room we return backstage to pose a question to a group of our Rockstar CMOs. In this issue Ian Truscott catches up with six of them and, sticking to the Ghost in the Machine theme for this issue, asks for their view on whether tech has been a force for good for marketing.

Maybe it’s because my teenage kids were curious about where all the Terminator derived memes come from, leading to our Friday movie and pizza nights being dominated by a Arnie and a human purging dystopia ruled by the machines, but in the Green Room this issue we’ve been thinking about marketing tech.

Whilst it’s true, we don’t have issues on the scale of Skynet (yet), sometimes the marketing machines seem to be killing us with death by a thousand facebook ads or as Ted Rubin points out in his regular straight talking column, making us a bit, well…. lazy.

So, in this issue, I asked our Rockstar’s what they thought, gathering them into our virtual Green Room to ask:

On balance, has automation been a force for good in marketing and what needs to happen next?

Christine Bailey

I shudder whenever I see Scott Brinker’s map of the 5000+ technologies available to marketers.  Clearly that’s too many for anyone to get their head round and certainly not affordable.  Yet, nothing beats the excitement of discovering a new tool that gives us extra insights or makes our lives easier, but once the honeymoon period is over, there are things about every tool or technology that niggle us.  Proceed with caution!

Without a doubt automation is the future, but how to embrace it?  I’m a great believer in experimentation – be clear about the problem you’re trying to solve, start small, fail fast, learn, improve. 

Most importantly, keep an open mind – sometimes we don’t even know we want something until it arrives!  On the practical side, have a discussion up front with IT about who is going to fund marketing technology.  More often than not, marketing technology is not regarded as a key business process and is therefore not provided for in the same way as a CRM or ERP system.  If the marketing budget has to accommodate marketing technology/tools, there’s an important trade-off to consider.

Christine Bailey is CMO of Valitor, an international payment solutions company headquartered in Iceland. Forging a career in the tech sector, she’s led European marketing for Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems, and writes frequently for Forbes Woman. Learn more about Christine in backstage Q&A here.

Jeanniey Mullen

The realization of the impact and potential of  both machine learning and AI has enabled us to realize that automation for marketers has been in it’s infancy until now.

Automation is allowing us to create the truly personalized, hyper targeted messaging that we have only dreamed of creating in the past, freeing our minds and teams to be even more creative about how we build brands for the future. What an exciting time!

Jeanniey Mullen is clearly a Rockstar Marketer in demand, currently acting as the CMO for two companies, is on two CMO governing bodies, is a board member, a strategic advisor, author of three books and the Internet Marketing Association’s Networker of the Year.

Sounds exhausting! You can follow Jeanniey on Twitter.

John Andrews

On its face, Marketing Automation sounds like the answer to every marketer’s dream. Get the right message to the right person at the right time, manna falls from heaven, hosannahs are sung and margaritas are sipped on some instagram worthy Caribbean beach.

The reality is much different. Over-saturation of messaging has sent shoppers running for cover as they are inundated with incessant emails, retargeted ads and noise of all types. How many well-meaning brands send an email to their ‘valued customers’ every single day? Many do and even one is ridiculous. In the aggregate, third-party data is all the same with any ‘unique insights’ quickly exploited with diminishing returns. The brands that win the #retailrelevancy test of the future will build real relationships that are not quantified by a mailing list.

John Andrews is the head honcho at Photofy – a content creation app that enables users to transform ordinary photos into slick, professional images that can be easily shared on social platforms.

Find out more about Photofy, and follow John on Twitter.

Robert Rose

In answer to your question, I’m reminded of the quote from French culturist Paul Virilio who talked of “inventing the shipwreck”.  He said when any new technology enters a culture, we have to realize that we not only invent the technology, but the disaster resulting from the technology.  His example was “when you invent the ship, you simultaneously invent the shipwreck”.

I think we’re in a similar place with marketing. On balance, I think marketing technology has been good. It has expanded our capabilities in so many ways. The real question is, are we becoming lazy because of it. .When production and distribution of content was hard and expensive, one might argue that we spent more time on the idea behind it, simply because of the considered cost of said production and distribution.   Now we often dash off text, or video, or images, or presentations in minutes simply because we can, not because the idea behind it is any good. 

Today, in many cases I see the marketing strategy complying with whatever technology is available, rather than creating differentiating experiences. By some estimates marketing practitioners in business now spend up to 30% of their time either purchasing, implementing, learning or configuring new marketing technology.  That’s a third of our time we’re NOT spending in creating great experiences for our customers.

Yeah, we’ve invented the shipwreck.  But, it’s just a matter of changing perspective, and slowing down.  What’s next is (I believe) a move toward the more creative, expressive, and – the word I like to use – wise use of technology.  

As the Chief Strategy Advisor for the Content Marketing Institute, Robert innovates creative and technical content marketing strategies for his clients. An early internet pioneer, Robert has more than 15 years of experience, and a track record of helping brands and businesses develop successful web and content marketing strategies.

Learn more about Robert, as we went backstage with him in our very first issue.

Ted Rubin

Automation is never as smooth as it’s made to sound in marketing materials, and it’s no surprise that a real-time, automated online marketplace, like the programmatic landscape, has become fertile ground for fraud and destructive business practices.

If you don’t put the right people in place, develop the skills they need to succeed, and empower them to put those skills to work, then automated marketing will just be one more expensive cure-all that doesn’t live up to the hype.

Utilizing automation has an incredible potential value for integration into the overall customer experience. The key will be using the tech to make it a more human experience, rather than the other way around. Put humans first, and use AI and other automation, to enhance the customer experience rather than replacing the human element.

Customer Experience and Marketing will truly WIN when Humans control the Machines instead of the Machines controlling the Humans.

Ted Rubin is a leading social marketing strategist, keynote speaker, Photofy CMO/advisor, MC/host for Brand Innovators Summits, speaker, author and provocateur. Ted is our resident rock star and tells it straight in his regular column.

Wendy Bryant-Beswick

Marketing automation has created greater efficiencies in tasks and marketing channels that traditionally took a lot of time. In that regard, automation tools have allowed marketers to focus on other areas of communications and customer engagement.

The evolution of marketing automation should be to anticipate the needs of their customer base and to put thought into how communications are occurring. Having a holistic view will be critical: it’s beyond email, social and text — take the entire relationship and experience into account and create an all encompassing experience for the customer is key.

Given new privacy and data regulations, marketing automation has to evolve to establishing trust with the customer which is crucial to future success.

Wendy Bryant-Beswick is an award-winning marketer with 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry. She is currently VP of Marketing at Service Credit Union. Go backstage with Wendy.

Thank you Christine, Jeanniey, Wendy, Robert, Ted and John – some fantastic advice here, maybe there is nothing to fear, I leave you with this quote from Ted and John.

Agree? What would your advice be? Drop us a comment, tweet us, and if you feel really strongly about it, write for us.

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