The Changing Role of the Senior Marketer

October 11, 2013

by Bruce Nickson

In the season’s first BCAMA Breakfast Speaker Series (BSS) event, we heard from three senior marketers from Earls Restaurants, Lululemon and IBM.

Those of you who are paying attention know that out there in the argy-bargy world of getting and spending, there have been, there are, and will be huge changes in the world of marketing.

Presentation1_Page_2It’s about technology change. No wait! It’s about people changing. What? I’m whipsawed.

Whether you put your money on the chicken or the egg, this BBS event is about how three senior, smart and deeply well-informed marketers cope (sometimes barely) with, manage and lead the change.

First up is our impressionist report on the presentation from Geraldine Tenten, the Director of Marketing and Communications, IBM Canada.


Marketing has always had three key responsibilities: knowing the customer, knowing the market and how to sell and protecting the brand.

However, marketing is also experiencing a sea change in two important areas: technology, and a massive shift in consumption patterns. The new constant is change.

The CMO needs to embrace this change: Geraldine presented three new imperatives to guide us through this change:

  • Understand each customer as an individual
  • Ensure there is a system of engagement in order to provide value
  • Design a brand and culture that is open to everyone; otherwise, authenticity suffers

Understanding Customers

The imperative is not just real brick-and-mortar purchase behaviour, but also online behaviour on mobile or whatever screen people are looking at. Because our devices generate data, marketers need to determine what to do with that mass of undifferentiated “stuff”.

It takes data. Not just purchase or credit history, but sentiment. What are customers looking for, what do they think about us, what do they feel? So we need a data collection strategy.

However, connecting the data with analytics and doing it at scale is the challenge.


It’s not about the next project or campaign – it’s about understanding all the touch points in the chain: not just what the marketers think, but what’s happening at the help desk, with customer service, etc., so the Chief Marketing Officer can understand the entire interaction, to determine whether or not to execute a project or campaign.

Marketers must increasing  interact with individuals in real time, no matter the device or circumstance. It might be a product or a service or a network, or it might be a white paper or something else that belongs to us, something we created.

So the interaction becomes a service and the service becomes marketing. At scale and in real time.

You also want the customer to share your brand and culture. And you want them to bring their network to this for broader reach. Think about the transparency apparent in social media. Customers use this transparency to understand us.

Brand and Culture

In the culture of brand transparency, the role of marketer evolves into world of Human Resources. That is, how do employees perceive our brand, and make sure that they are aligned with the enterprise culture, that they can advocate in their private time and work time for the company they work with?

Is there is a gap between what the company wants to be  known for; and what internal and external perceptions are there that address that gap.

We have to see change as an opportunity. It’s not the biggest or the best that will succeed, but the most adaptable.

And Finally

Geraldine offered final thoughts:

In Canada, there has been a problem with innovation. Companies don’t invest enough in innovation. The Conference Board of Canada and the World Economic Forum rank Canada globally as 13th in innovation. They found that IT in Canada is stuck in second gear.

How can the organization transform? Marketing can’t do it alone. Marketing needs IT for sustainable innovation. Talk to your IT people. Collaborate.

This will bring forward marketing’s new competencies – analytics and financial acumen. Knowable ROI  in decisions, and shift of the marketing budget to the new medium. This will create a new sense of the enterprise to better serve the customer and increase the relevance of marketing.


Stand by for the next BSS event