Digital transformation: Is it a mindset issue?

In an era of transformation, we are often inclined to think that brands are grappling with where to start their journey given the gamut of tools and technology in the field. But the truth is, in markets such as the Philippines, the biggest hurdle isn’t deciding on what new technology to invest in, but rather on convincing management to change with the times.

Several attendees at a recent Marketing round table in the Philippines, organised in partnership with Oracle, said that often top management in the Philippines doesn’t mirror the enthusiasm of mid-managers to innovate and transform an organisation. And the truth is, without the buy-in of your organisation’s leaders, the marketing teams can only go so far.

When asked what is stopping top management from embracing transformation, time seems to be the one culprit cropping up in conversations over and over again. Second to time, is a fear of the unknown and a lack of understanding.

Brendan McCarthy, founder of Creative Nations, added that many marketers in traditional firms are also stuck in a conventional mindset and getting out of “that mindset is probably one of the hardest challengers for retailers”.

Soren Beaulieu, publisher of Marketing magazine, added: “In the Philippines, getting the buy-in and support from the leadership to take risks with new marketing methods and tools is definitely an issue for many.”

Adding to the conversation, Patricia Mendoza, business analytics strategy advisor and CDO at CirroLytix, explained that a lack of competition also creates a lack of innovation.

“It’s a hugely cultural and political thing, given the Philippines has long had a protected economy where monopolies and duopolies thrived, hence, making big businesses rest on their sheer size and muscle. There is not much competition in our major industries of retail, manufacturing, property, oil and gas, energy, telecommunications,” she said.

Moreover, it is also a case of being able to effectively communicate real value to top management and decision-makers.

“It is not enough anymore that you just have a strong voice and political influence within the organisation. Today, it is about data literacy. As a marketer, it is now a conversation around how you transform yourself and your department from being a mere cost centre to being one that actually creates tangible value to your internal and external stakeholders,” she said.

She added that marketers needed to show the capabilities they can build on that will allow business to quickly pivot and take advantage of the ever-changing market conditions.

“Being able to address these will make you a linchpin of your organisation and a prime contributor to the paradigm shift in your business,” she said.

Wendy Hogan, CX and marketing strategy director at Oracle, also echoed similar sentiments adding that conversations around her table depicted that mindset was the biggest challenge. She explained that many at her table “were brought in as change agents to listen and educate the companies they work for”.

“Many marketers on my table shared they spend a lot of time explaining to their teams what they want to do, and how to do that effectively and efficiently,” she said.

Rezwana Manjur, regional editor of Marketing magazine, added: “While many of the mid-managers and marketing directors are looking to push their companies into the future, if senior leaders cannot find the time to learn and change with the times, the company can only go so far. Moreover, it isn’t just the job of the marketer alone to push for transformation. It is a job that everyone in the company needs to undertake.”

And, of course, finding good talent is always an issue. Many marketers present said finding and retaining talent which understands smart CX strategies and data has been a hurdle – both in-house and through their partners. Many added that when it came to working with agencies, they were not confident they were working with the best.

“There is a lack of talent on who can drive data insights and know which data is valuable and should be relied on,” Hogan explained.

ROI still king

When it came to embracing new technology, the room was split. Many marketers said they were making headway in areas such as chatbots, while others said they would much prefer to focus on modes and means of marketing that have a track record – and stay away from the next big hype.

“Marketers in the Philippines are more concerned about connecting the value proposition of their products to the right audiences, and along with that, figuring out how to manage, influence and engage the distribution network,” said Stephen Hamill, VP of JAPAC at Oracle Marketing Cloud. At the end of the day, to attain more budgets, having a successful ROI is still king, Hamill explained.

Hogan, however, added that while it is important for marketers to be acquisition-focused, the truth is today, across Asia, marketers are expected to think beyond marketing and more around business. This is as more organisations embrace the fact that customers need to be at the centre of any business narrative.

“Increasingly, we have a direct-to-consumer model here in Asia where we are thinking about a B2B2C model. We are all trying to figure out how to build a relationship with the consumer and this is creating competition and collaboration between brands you never expected to be interacting with,” she said.

“At the end of the day, you need to think how you can build a connected enterprise to deliver a seamless customer experience.”