Seven Experts on Marketing Problem Three: Digital Transformation of the Modern Corporation

American Marketing Association
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

What? One of the AMA's Seven Big Problems is the digital transformation of the modern corporation.

So what? The world is shifting to a more digital era and organizations must be prepared.

Now what? Communications, products, services and more need to move into the digital era so organizations can eliminate friction.​

Problem three is the digital transformation of the modern corporation.

The AMA’s first intellectual agenda is meant to serve as a source of guidance and inspiration for marketing professionals as well as academics. In it, we lay out the “seven big problems” marketers face in the boardroom and in the marketplace. These problems are a large part of that intellectual agenda, and will help us hone in on how we inform and inspire you, the marketing community. 

Here, we dive into the questions that stem from each of the seven problems. AMA thought leaders discuss the “what” and “why” of each pillar problem, while we leave the door open indefinitely on the “how.” After all, marketing is about rolling with the punches.

For every big problem, there are a million small solutions. What are yours?  Take quiz below to understand how your firm is doing.​

Brian Gregg

Partner at McKinsey & Company

Too often, customers experience a company’s brand “via the org chart,” meaning a company communicates and interfaces with its customers through multiple uncoordinated teams (call center reps, store/branch associates, digital marketers, etc.) without a unifying mission. In this digital era, a critical barometer of success will be the ability to serve customers in the way they want to be served at key points in their journey. To pull this off, organizations will need to reorient internal mechanics with the customer as the ultimate guide: architecting cross-functional teams around customer journeys, building a holistic view of all customer touch points and governing decisions and incentives around customer metrics. 


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Laura Beaudin

Partner at Bain & Co.

More companies are seeing value in a “digical” experience for customers—products or services that combine digital and physical elements. Digical can create effective targeted marketing where customers feel the company knows what they want and helps them find it. The Chinese cosmetics company Jahwa provides reps on the retail sales floor with mobile devices that tap into an integrated database. When the rep puts in the name of the customer she’s serving, the device provides recommendations tailored to that customer. This logic applies in business-to-business markets as well. A machinery manufacturer automatically collects electronic data about end users and product use. That lets the company’s marketers understand the needs of specific groups of buyers and design appropriate offers.


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Director of Global Social Business & Digital Strategy at Dell

Ninety percent of the data in the world today was created in the past two years. The inherent challenge is knowing how to use this data to tell a meaningful, actionable story. While our day-to-day activities have changed, our psychological drivers haven’t. Digital transformation is really about eliminating friction, solving pain points, understanding needs before the customer does and putting the customer in the driver’s seat. The Internet of Things has made it possible to optimize something you don’t think of as digital, such as a farm, into a place where sensors aid in minimizing water waste, maximizing crop yield and even monitoring product lifecycle in real-time. Social listening allows us to perform real-time market research, understand where a customer’s real passion lies and understand the literal terminology customers use. The outcomes of these two digital transformation initiatives are what every company wants: happy customers, brand advocates, and increased revenue.

Beverly Jackson

Vice President of Social Media Marketing & Content Strategy at MGM Resorts International

The digital transformation of today’s organizations will be most successful when designed to include the entire infrastructure. The rapid acceptance of digital innovation can’t be fully effective when implemented in silos. There is no question the evolution brings organizational efficiencies, increased productivity and campaign effectiveness. However, the challenges to this ground shift towards digital transformation are the disproportionate allocation of technology, resources, training and a general lack of appetite for the resulting change.

The digital revolution is destined to fail if the entire organization is not included. The transformation and change management must extend beyond sales and marketing teams. Why not include people management, finance, public relations and other B-to-B functions that could amplify the transformation? When it comes to digital transformation, it’s an all-in proposition.


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Eric S. Pelletier

Global Director of Strategic Workforce Planning at Korn Ferry Hay Group

Digitization breaks down barriers in traditional corporations. The safe wall between inside and outside becomes porous. Customer value propositions and employee value propositions are merging. New business models imply new processes, new organizations and new, rare skills. Technology flattens our world and companies must dispense with silos and become less hierarchical to succeed and to attract the right talents. Speed of execution, internal information sharing and learning abilities become competitive advantages in themselves. The ability to manage legacy issues—from IT systems to product and service lines to workforce—will decide the fate of traditional corporations.

Pat Spenner

Director of Strategic Initiatives at CEB

The best way to guard against the myriad of disruptors associated with digital transformation today is to be so in tune with your customer that you can anticipate their unarticulated needs. With that insight, leading marketers then assemble the combination of product and service components—some of which may be provided by other parties outside the brand—to simplify whatever job it is the consumer wants done. And in the process, you disrupt your own business before the disruption happens to you.

Sarah Schaffer

Editorial Director at HZDG

Three generations—millennials, Gen X and boomers—are working today in corporate America, which means the modern C-suite must foster and support a variety of communications channels, many of which embrace what I’d call the post-digital age. Leading-edge marketing agencies are tracking emerging trends and incubating new ideas democratically (and quickly) using real-time messaging programs like Slack.

In my eyes, a team’s effective digital collaboration creates a “halo” effect for all things digital. If junior- and senior-level colleagues can brainstorm faster or make a project come together better via digitized internal communication, then their shared confidence in other digital products or service offerings is likely to rise. And when it comes time to evangelize the power of digital to clients, they can speak from a unified position of authenticity and strength.



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