Panel Calls for Greater Brand Visibility on Financials

“We’re at a point in time where the marketing sphere is very much ready to take action,” says Tony Pace, “more so than they may have been in the past.”

(l-r) Horst, Chandler, Radin, Edelman and Pace

Pace, President & CEO of the Marketing Accountability Standards Board, was leading the Marketing-Analytics-Finance Working Together panel at MASB’s Ten Year Anniversary Summit, Aug. 10-11 in Boston.

The panel was comprised of David Edelman, CMO for Aetna; Amy Radin, digital, marketing and innovation executive and AICPA board member; Peter Horst, global marketing and innovation executive and former Hershey CMO; and John Chandler, marketing and digital transformation leader and former MassMutual CMO.

How are marketers thinking about marketing accountability now, and how has this changed over time?

Peter Horst: “We’ve got such tremendous volumes of data, LUMAscapes filled with thousands of providers of technology, and yet we still have these vigorous religious debates. It’s all about efficient reach. No, it’s all about targeting visual analytics. It seems like it gets worse before it gets better. We have all this capability but we haven’t got a lens for getting to some sense of priority.”

John Chandler: “When you look at the accountability that a marketer has now, when you look at the capability that a consumer has now, to me the big change is actually that now we’re trying to keep up with the consumer, whereas in the past we were pushing information at the consumer. Today we’re expected to be experts at having a one-on-one conversation with one consumer.
“When I look at the trends that are going forward and the role of a marketer, they have to be experts at analytics, at one-on-one conversations, at publishing – because our content is evaluated on opening rates and clicks and likes – and we also supposed to be experts at the digital infrastructure of the enterprise where we work.”

Amy Radin: “I think what’s so complicated now is that there is so much data. There are 5,000 MarTech providers out there, all emailing CMOs, telling them they can solve their problems. CMOs must step back and ask: ‘What’s our role in generating revenue? How do people shop for and buy our products? How do people use our products? And as a result, what analytics problems do we really want to solve?’ If not, they’re going to continue to be tangled up in data, and less effective at making the right data actionable.”

David Edelman: “There’s a huge perception issue in our industry – health insurance – that has to be overcome, and there are many layers to the marketing problem. This is marketing that’s not only about revenue. We’re marketing to change the perceptions of people as to what the role of a health insurance company is in the health care system, period. We shouldn’t be seen as the enemy. We think there’s a lot we can do to actually help the health care system, and so brand and marketing have to convey that.

“We have to set up a broader picture of what marketing means to growth. … We’re starting to lay a foundation of data that starts to align against all of this. One of them is just favorability. Even before you get to revenue, that’s important. There’s trust, which is a measure in and of itself. They won’t engage in their health care with us if they don’t trust us. Then there’s also sales and setting up benchmarks for what we spend on brand… It’s a complex portfolio of measures. Our finance department is open, but it’s a huge leap of education. You’ve got to start laying some whole new foundations.”

If you think back ten years ago, what piece of data is more central to marketing assessment now than you would have thought?

Edelman: “What we’re seeing at least in our business is the importance of trust in the brand. The most powerful driver of the kind of metrics we want downstream, like engagement with brand – are actually correlated with trust.”

Radin: “I think the C-suite is very focused, sometimes to the point of being counter-productive, with how much it costs to acquire a customer. They aim to get that to an unrealistically and frankly sometimes unnecessarily precise number because they have to go sell the media spend to the CFO or justify it to outside investors. They’re not really looking at the reality of how people decide what to buy, and designing marketing strategies to align with people’s behavior.”

Chandler: “The Holy Grail is attribution and ROI, because that’s what a finance person wants. The concept we used at Mass Mutual was to try and create directional attribution and directional ROI because it is a sales channel that’s complicated. … We were able to build the marketing funnel for a combination of traditional marketing tools and digital marketing tools and actually measure it. I could not get an ROI that paid back the number I invested, but surrounding that was all the additional benefit that agents found in the marketplace because people knew the brand, they trusted the brand, they had all these different reasons to call. We were able to build this business case for investment at the board, and it was a five-minute approval process when we got there – but it took five years to get it down to five minutes.”

A fundamental objective of MASB is to get broader acceptance of the notion that brands need to reported on the financial statements of any organization. Would you be in favor of greater visibility of brands in financial reporting?

Edelman: “Yes. It actually takes some of the burden off marketing alone, because there are many other things that affect brand – the quality of the product, the broadness of the experience, service operations. It makes it something that’s a group sport, and I think marketing should welcome it.”

Radin: “Brand has to stop being viewed as Marketing’s problem. Brand is an asset of the entire organization. Its role driving the P&L and its contribution to the balance sheet is not fully acknowledged.”

Chandler: “Yes. Greater visibility of brands, and greater direct accountability for business results within marketing, are two things that I think are needed. In most organizations, Marketing is the function that doesn’t have generally accepted standards to define our success in a way that other business functions and the CFO readily accept. The only way that’s going to change is when everybody at the leadership table feels like they own the brand value shown on company financial statements, and everybody at the table feels like they share accountability for meeting the needs of the customer in order to raise brand value. The opportunity is for the CMO to be an evangelist for the brand, and to get everyone else to learn that language, think that way, and talk that way. You want the CFO to be your biggest brand advocate. You want the CFO to talk about the brand’s value when you’re not in the room.”

Horst: “Yes. Once you have something that’s staring the CFO and the board in the face saying that this is a $5 million thing here, it gets attention. You don’t have a CFO playing fast and loose with ‘Hey, let’s chop your budget.’ You just don’t do that with a $5 million asset.”