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April 23, 2012

It's tough being the Sun!

Posted by Samson David (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:05 AM

A Physics project

My 14-year-old girl came to me and asked me to help her with her Physics project. It was called "It's tough being the Sun". As I started getting into it, I explained to her that there are two fundamental forces at work within the Sun. The Hydrogen atoms are undergoing nuclear fusion and converting into Helium and releasing a lot of energy in the process - almost as if billions of hydrogen bombs are blasting - every second. This generates a huge expansive pressure which could blow the sun's core away. But, for the other force - the force of gravity! It binds everything together and exerts a compressive force and balances the expansive force. So these two forces are at it continuously and - the balance between the two is what keeps the Sun going! And that's good for us earthlings - the "consumers" of the light and heat that the sun provides us with - which is paramount for our survival.

A CMO's world

A few weeks later we were at this Italian restaurant in NY - I and a CMO of a Fortune 500 Pharma company. Here was a man, who managed 150+ brands, across 200+ countries, across agencies, across hundreds of campaigns at any given time, with total budgets in the 100s of millions of dollars, and ever increasing complexity of managing zillions of digital assets being created across this complex ecosystem. Add to this, he had multiple questions staring him in the face to which he had to provide answers.

  • My GTM processes vary for all geographies - maybe even for every brand - how do I standardize?
  • The content is getting generated in multiple formats, locations and languages - how do I drive re-use and automation? How do I institutionalize central governance for this?
  • I am in the midst of an explosion of digital channels & devices and consumers experience my brand ubiquitously as the lines of brand experience are getting blurred across these hannels and devices - how do I drive a seamless consumer experience across all of these?
  • All my consumer data itself is spread across multiple channels, in different systems and formats making it very difficult to aggregate and understand - how do I convert all of this into insights?
  • There are so many stakeholders spread across brands, geographies, departments, agencies etc. How do I drive collaboration across all these internal and external stakeholders?
  • How do I institutionalize performance monitoring which tells me how I am doing on various dimensions and which also lays the foundation for continuous improvement?

He wanted more budgets, more resources, more technology to manage this rapidly changing stuff of this scale and complexity. And then his CEO came and demanded "ROI accountability" metrics directly relating the output of his marketing team's efforts and budgets to parameters relevant to business outcomes.

And as we spoke on and on, I could see a lot of similarity between his context and my 14-year old's project!

Forces of Nuclear Fusion & Gravity in the CMO's world

There were two fundamental forces that this CMO's world was being subjected to.

An expansive force driven by the explosion of devices and channels, mobility, cloud and social media and of course data - lots of it! A great opportunity to expand business across newer channels of influence! Of course, if leveraged correctly this could have a very strong top-line impact. This is like the force created by nuclear fusion.

At the same time, with the economic climate, there is a strong force of compression on business on a whole. Top lines are getting compressed, bottom lines are getting compressed and growth is getting compressed. CEOs in turn are turning to the CMOs and are applying the same compressive force on budgets and resources and are demanding a lot of ROI accountability. This is like the force of gravity.

And, just like in the case of the Sun, there needed to be a balance between the two forces. If gravity won, there is a threat of the star crumbling. If nuclear fusion forces won, it could blow away the star!

Marketing Operations Efficiency & Marketing Effectiveness

So what could this CMO do? He had to have a strategy and a plan to drive a balance between the expansive and compressive forces at play in marketing. Essentially this translates into focus and improvements in Marketing Effectiveness and Marketing Operations Efficiency - more now than ever before.

Marketing Operations Efficiency is fundamentally about driving costs down & faster time to market. If done well, this will have a strong impact on bottom-line. Consider this. The gentleman I was talking to, had an annual budget close to a billion dollars. Taking out 5-10% from this, would be an awesome impact on the bottom-line - every year.

But doing this, would need a strong & integrated technology ecosystem, tuned and aligned to provide the Marketing Operations Efficiency outcomes.

Example: You will need robust Digital Asset Management (DAM) so that your team of marketers can create, manage and reuse digital assets is essential. You will need a Collaboration portal which could accelerate the digital property review and approval through workflow automation engines. You will need Knowledge Management engines that promote best practices adoption through content tagging and discovery is essential. You will need a Web Content Management (WCM) system to enable websites to be built and rendered dynamically. You will need an integrated Marketing Operations Efficiency Dashboard which tells gives near real time visibility across how you are doing on costs on running campaigns, Re-use, time to market, Campaign Efficiency etc.

Driving Marketing effectiveness is around having a robust ecosystem to be able to listen across various digital channels - not only your own digital properties but also public ones and understand what is being said about your brands, by whom, in what segments, in what geographies etc. Leveraging big data analytics will help him understand and get deep insights. And this in turn will enable him to monitor what is trending - across what channels - get to understand sentiments and then engage effectively. This drives better campaign effectiveness and could have a material impact on top-lines.

Balance is the key!

Balance between the two is important. If focus is only on Marketing Effectiveness (ability to listen, understand and engage with the consumers effectively) but comes with a very heavy cost, this will end up being a drag. Driving Marketing Effectiveness, in tandem with running efficient Marketing Operations is the secret sauce - especially on that scale and complexity.

Well, it's tough being the Sun!


Great analogy. Thanks very much for your views on the complex subject with easy to understand physics problem of Sun’s balancing forces.

The analogy with the Sun is just brilliant and makes the whole write up very interesting!

Fantastic analogy. I would extend this to say - its tough being Infosys...to strike a balance between top line growth and sustaining bottom line.

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