Make sure you’re not replaced by a machine: Microsoft US chief marketer

Lucy Handley; special to CNBC
Grad Conn, Microsoft GM and CMO.
Shutterstock | Advertising Week Europe

The chief marketing officer at a company that has had its share of disruption has called for marketers to "be part of the future" or risk being replaced by machines.

Grad Conn, general manager and chief marketing officer at Microsoft U.S.A., acknowledged that it is a "very disruptive time" in the marketing and technology industry, speaking at the Advertising Week Europe conference in London this week.

"The real IT opportunity in marketing is taking people-powered processes, especially around decision-making and productivity, and replacing them with machines. Now how do you manage in that scenario, you want to be running those machines, you don't want to be replaced by one of those machines. And so my coaching to everybody is: run to the future, grab the future, be part of the future," he said.

The problem for some marketers is that they grew up in a more traditional world, Conn added. "Now CMOs are on a buying committee with CIOs [chief information officers], they are making many technology decisions. But the challenging thing is that many CMOs are not trained to do this. That's not where they started their careers."

Conn likened the changing marketing technology industry to the evolution of the car industry, where there were a large number of brands before companies consolidated. He also suggested that just as the manufacturing industry became smarter with software that could track goods along the supply chain, marketers will need to create a "common customer ID, something which I think we're going to call customer experience management," he said.

Businesses will need to know exactly how a customer has interacted with it, he added.
"Even if you think about your own experiences - you go into a store with a customer care issue and they treat you like they've never talked to you before. That is not acceptable, we're going to have to know everything that you've done with us, we have to have a full view of you as an individual.

"Do you own our stock, have you been a customer before, are you an owner of something, what are your feelings and sentiments, what have you said online about us? We need to know all that stuff to treat you as a full human being, just the way you talk to a friend."

Microsoft announced a tie-up with Adobe to pool the two companies' sales, marketing and customer intelligence expertise on Tuesday. Abhay Parasnis, Adobe's executive vice president and chief technology officer said in an online statement:

"Today's customers have high standards when it comes to brand interactions. Enterprise companies must deliver exceptional experiences at scale or risk losing customers to competitors."

In January, Microsoft reported quarterly earnings that beat analysts' expectations, with its Azure cloud platform growing revenue 93 percent year on year.

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