Alliance Bank marketer: ‘There is always the challenge of finding the right people’

The proliferation of technology in today’s digital world has caused a need for a new set of skills among marketers. Digital skills, in particular, are high in demand as technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality, grow in popularity.

According to the recent HAYS salary guide, which surveyed 3,000 organisations across more than 15 industries employing more than six million people in Asia Pacific, 2018 is another year of growth for the marketing and digital sector in Malaysia. This comes as more start-ups open their doors in Malaysia and as the government continues its push towards a digital economy.

While the need for digital skills are the talk of the town nowadays, Giuseppe Taibi (pictured), group chief marketing officer, Alliance Bank goes back to the basics and said an important skill for marketers to have is to be knowledgeable about the marketing management framework within an organisation.

He told A+M that marketers should also have a clear understanding of the issues consumers face.

“A marketer defines and implements the marketing management framework within the organisation, and in doing so, ensures the customer is at the centre of the organisation,” he said.

He added that a good marketer should understand the actual customer experience and be able to drive change in case of gaps with the brand promise, instead of just merely communicating what the brand is all about.

Taibi also said that most people misunderstand the difference between marketing and communication. They think that marketing is just communication. However, the reality is communication is only one element of the marketing mix, Taibi said.

While it is easy to point out the various important skills needed as a marketer, Taibi said one of his challenges is aligning the team, advancing their skills and keeping them informed of the latest developments. He said:

There is always the challenge of finding the right people and developing the right knowledge.

He added that this is due to the fact that things change quickly. As such, marketers should always consider how they can bring their staff members up to speed on the latest happenings and align them with the brand strategy.

Embedding technology into the company’s processes is also necessary to ensure it has the ability to be scalable and sustainable. However, Taibi said choosing the right technology to support the company’s growth is always a challenge, especially in today's climate of rapid change. He added that the company’s choice of technology solutions and ability to use them will impact the difference it makes in the market.

As every company’s objective is to keep consumers at the heart of what it does, Taibi said companies must overcome the challenge of silos and work with different departments to align the company’s long and short term needs.

Taibi, who reports to group CEO Joel Komreich, works with three major teams in the marketing department – marketing, customer experience and contact centre. The marketing team focuses on brand positioning and communication, while the customer experience team measures customer experience and works on corrective actions. The contact centre, Taibi said, focuses on transforming a call centre into a multi-channel contact centre.

As group CMO, he is responsible for marketing, digital acquisition, customer experience and contact centre. His role ensures that Alliance Bank has a bird’s eye view of the fulfilment of its customers’ journey. His team also focuses on engaging employees and keeping them excited about the bank’s initiatives.

Plans for 2018

One of Taibi’s main focus for its current financial year, which ends on 31 March 2018, is to finish building his team and secure enough money to carry out the bank’s programmes for the upcoming financial year on 1 April 2018.

He aims to fine tune and finalise Alliance Bank’s brand identity, and create brand awareness and top-of-mind recall through brand and product campaigns in the traditional media and digital space. Taibi also intends to implement initiatives to align customers’ brand experience with the brand’s attributes of being fast, simple and responsive across existing channels such as contact centres and bank branches.

His plans come as Alliance Bank rebranded 14 months ago and launched its vision “Building Alliances to Improve Lives”. The vision was based on its extensive forward position research which the bank carried out with its business partners, clients and staff.

Additionally, it also developed the strategy of being the most important relationship for the financial success of business owners. This means offering innovative solutions that are fast, simple and responsive. Taibi said the solutions must also be aligned to the needs of its customers, including business owners, families, employees and retail clients.

“I believe that the alignment of our brand and key strategic projects, such as Alliance One Account and Alliance Cash2Home, should always be communicated within the organisation as early as possible,” Taibi said. He added:

Our staff members are our best brand ambassadors.

As such, the bank developed an internal communications strategy to keep its employees aware, engaged and excited about the bank’s vision, brand attributes and strategic projects, and constantly communicates with its employees through various channels within the bank. According to Taibi, the bank has witnessed an improvement in its employee engagement scores ever since it established constant contact with its employees. Engagement was ranked high at 90%, while communication improved by 9%.

Taibi advises marketers to have clarity of their goals and targets. “Never lose sight of it because that is the end result that you are striving for,” he said.

In the process of achieving one’s goals, marketers need to be clear on the positioning they want to create, and to gather support from colleagues and partners that they will be working with, which will be extremely useful.

“With that, identify the tactics that will ensure consistent presence in the mind of the public and customers through both communication and experience,” he added.

Seeking expertise in a client-agency relationship

One of the things that I expect of an agency is expertise. The agency is supposed to complement the expertise that we do not have internally,” Taibi said.

He added that the expectation is for the agency to leapfrog the company into domains where it might not be proficient yet, enabling staff members to also gain knowledge in those domains.

Also, working with an agency allows for more focus on tasks without the distraction of in-house ad-hoc matters, Taibi said. He added that the quantity of internal work can sometimes cause one to lose focus.

Nonetheless, the key to a good client-agency relationship is to manage the agency well, regardless of whether the marketer has enough knowledge of the different domains. “This is why we started to develop those management skills first, so now they can focus on developing their domain knowledge,” Taibi said.

According to him, Alliance Bank has “several agencies on board” to convey its transformation journey. The bank is currently working with a PR agency, as well as two agencies focusing on performance marketing, and social media management and strategy respectively.