The heads of marketing are coming back – interview with Beata Golubińska from Ringier Axel Springer Polska

Beata Golubińska, Managing Director/ Creation&Delivery, Ringier Axel Springer Polska was interviewed by Piotr Ruszak, Chief Communications Officer Publicis Groupe Poland.

Piotr Ruszak: Will the impact of the pandemic on health, sense of security, social relations, consumer sentiment, realistically translate into marketing activities in the long term, and if so, how?

Beata Golubińska: The pandemic is changing us, we are changing our habits, beliefs, we are gaining new experiences. Future marketing activities, which are, after all, nothing more than a form of dialogue encouraging us to purchase specific products and services, will certainly take the changes that are taking place and shaping us anew into account. The crisis has accelerated the adaptation of technological solutions, caused a change in our lifestyle, we have recalled or learned the taste of life at home, many passions have returned and have become very popular (my daughter recently adopted some plants and now loves taking care of them, before this would have been a bore). Many of us have become familiar with the daily routine of working from home. The situation forced a “national experiment” of using the confidence we had previously built in ourselves. We turned to core values like health, family, nature. Many of us discovered the joy of being outdoors and communing with nature. We have changed as people, completely new consumer insights have emerged, therefore tools and forms of communication will discover and keep up with these changes. In the new situation we have become less confident and more lost. So we look for support and help, including from brands that offer this certainty and form of support. They have become our guardians. Those that offer this to us can count on us and ultimately achieve success.

PR: Over the past year we’ve had to quickly convince ourselves to shop online, what other behaviors and attitudes have changed?

BG: The pandemic has caused the great development of e-commerce, as well as other services offered via the Internet (e.g. teleconsultations, telemedicine, etc.) and a decrease in the importance of stationary points. We trusted the Internet, not having a different option, and built more or less positive experiences. We learned to trust online payments. We stopped being afraid to use the various benefits of technology. The parcel locker, blik, online meetings (not only work-related, but also family ones), these are no longer topics reserved for small communities. They have become very widespread. The digitalization of our lives will stay with us. The trend of settling down will also stay with us, that is, seeking the fulfillment of a need closest to home. And it is interesting that what is global (estate +) we take care of online, and what is local we take care of in person.

Our behaviors and ourselves require marketers to focus on building a positive brand experience in digital, because today it is difficult to build the world of brands any other way. We know that all the senses are needed to create emotions and feelings, and this certainly poses a huge challenge for brands in the digital environment, which is why solutions that build a sense of closeness are so needed, and this is certainly helped by making sure the message is more personalized and local.  Boredom, which has taken its toll on us during the pandemic, has become a motivation to look for entertainment available at home, and here too the Internet and television have played a huge role. It was time for change and choices of new offers. So there was an increased interest in all types of subscriptions to audio/video content or editorial content. The subscription model of media consumption certainly limits the possibilities of reaching advertisers, and this from the point of view of media owners and advertisers raises the challenge of how to effectively but non-invasively break through into this world in order to appear and be accepted in it.

PR: What processes in companies’ management and approach to marketing has the pandemic accelerated?

BG: Managing companies during a pandemic has changed because the way they operate has changed dramatically. due to social distancing, sanitation regulations, both in remote and on-site work, it’s a time of leveraging the trust we’ve built up to this point. We’re dealing with shift work, extended office and store hours, no rush hour. Masks on our faces make us take a moment longer to recognize other people’s emotions. It is very important to represent an attitude of good will and openness. Conflicts arise easily and therefore we should be even more vigilant and attentive.

Routines have changed: the ability to communicate clearly, to understand the intent of the message, and to build a sense of community when the community is not in our grasp are all the more important. New practices have emerged: planning activities, managing meetings, the art of preparing an agenda, rules of communication.

In many places we can see much more care for the employee, their comfort at work and well-being. In our company, we have psychological support at our fingertips, many opportunities to learn how to take care of ourselves, our family and our health. I have noticed increased efficiency in areas that require focus and a lot of individual work. Brainstorming, group creative work, workshops are certainly more difficult to do.

The approach to marketing is beginning to fill its entire definition. It expands from promotion (marketing communication) to the other “P’s”. Dialogue with the sales strategy is also becoming very important. In fact the use of data and the discovery of new target groups such as the silver generation and the need to seek deep insights is becoming more important. The pandemic has caused a greater maturity on the part of the consumer. Serious topics previously considered worn out or boring, such as how to take care of your health, have become more important.  Only when faced with a real threat do we tangibly understand the seriousness of certain topics and situations. The purpose-driven trend continues, with consumers less supportive of brands that interfere with a good life. Coming back to the silver generation, which has finally been strongly noticed, only now, more and more often in advertising messages and this is occurring in a successful and human way.

PR: In connection with these processes, did marketers have to make up for the development of some competencies in an extraordinary way, if so, which ones?

BG: Firstly, everyone moved for knowledge related to digital, to tools that enable presence in the digital world. The second trend was the collection of data about consumers based on their behavior in digital (for a while there was definitely less implementation of marketing research that required the personal presence of the data collector).

Marketers got busy attracting new target audiences to their digital spaces, especially catering to the silver generation. Many of them, through their personal experiences, came to believe that the Internet was a reality, albeit a virtual one. They opened themselves up to the use of technology, creating apps, content hubs, and opening themselves up to programmatic buying. With these tools present in digital communications, they have become more familiar with the habits and behaviors and opinions of their consumers.  The use of data has become more widespread, although the issue is still very difficult because we can’t sufficiently connect the online and offline phenomena.

PR: You’ve seen changes in the way CMOs and marketing directors approach brand management over the years. In which areas do you see the greatest progress, and which still need work? In what direction do you think the role of the marketer in the company will evolve, will their importance grow, what does this depend on?

BG: THE HEADS OF MARKETING ARE COMING BACK. They are beginning to reappear in structures after several seasons of marginalization of their role. For a chief marketing officer to achieve success, a clear definition of which of their actions translate into the success of the entire company needs to exist. We’ve already discussed that building brand awareness, the attributes of individual products and services, and acquiring new customers must be combined not only with attention to communication, but above all with skillful discovery of consumer needs through the use of data from marketing research and digital activity. CMOs need to use technology even more skillfully (tools – to gather information) and analytics (this is where the hidden knowledge is). It is timely to think of a CMO as a customer’s representative in the company. This is a combination of a philosopher and a scientist, and the result is a successfully completed experiment.

The pandemic year has highlighted yet another aspect: marketing is more than just one P responsible for promotions, because the proficiency represented in the areas of product, distribution and price enable a fruitful dialogue with the sales strategy. The way we buy has changed a great deal, and this process requires in-depth knowledge and guidance of our customers. As for the product itself, let’s note that the number and role of impulse buying has greatly diminished. We have returned to a situation where functional attributes have become more important. Safety of use and the purchase itself is important. Price always plays an important and painful role, but recently its impact has increased even more due to the shrinking consumer budgets. The time to act has also shortened, we are looking for effects as close as possible to the decisions we make.

The CMO will be needed. On the one hand, dispersion, information bubbles, fragmentation, make a coherent brand strategy and clear communication flowing from it less important. Our communication should be noticeable, and there is no shortage of challenges in the area of content distribution and just finding our products and services in endless lists and accessibility sites (SEM and traffic building are growing in importance).

On the other hand, in order to keep up with the increasingly complex world of sales, the product itself and its accessibility, value creation (where the place of accessibility and product maturity matters), it is imperative that CMOs go beyond the realm of insight and general communication. Look for new tools and partners. An example of detailed content where the CMO should matter are product and service description specialists on e-commerce platforms. It is the CMO who should become the source of information regarding the array of specialties and business partners needed and the coordination of these activities within the company.  I see his role as a specialist in testing different solutions touching different sales channels and selecting the right partners.

PR: Innovation creation processes, martech, data intelligence have not been off the agendas of industry discussions for a long time. Which sectors are best at implementing these competencies and which can learn a lot from them, what above all?

BG: I think that the greatest progress has been made by those market participants who have been most affected by the crisis or who have seen a great opportunity for themselves in it. The “lucky” ones in the current state of affairs include: retail, e-commerce, electronic media, technology, the entire logistics, pharma and medical services (we take care of our health now more than ever before). As far as logistics are concerned, it is enough to look at how Inpost or Allegro are changing, constantly implementing new innovations. A total novelty is telemedicine, which instantly gained enormous popularity, electronic signatures or trusted profiles have become a huge facilitation. We can also see how technology companies such as Microsoft have revived, introducing updates to their applications, which are better adapted to the new needs of companies and individual users. A lot is also changing in the Data Intelligence area. Until now, the source of knowledge about the world was primarily digital footprints. In our company, there has been tremendous progress in the use of data, as personalization of content has deepened and business decisions are increasingly grounded in data, integrated to make the right decisions.

Culture, events, tourism, moto or FMCG are experiencing the most difficult times. If it weren’t for the pandemic, we’d probably be waiting a while for the Internet Toyota Showroom, but now it’s here. Trainings and conferences have moved online and we have a big range of opportunities to access big names and their speeches, e.g. GlobalTrendsFestival. We also have more opportunities to participate thanks to much lower costs (transport or accommodation is gone), also in cultural events that take various forms online. In our media, Onet Travel was successful, despite the total closure of the industry. The way the editorial team works has changed and the editorial team has really understood the need and interests of the audience groups. It started working with people living in different parts of the world to give the content a personal dimension.

PR: Is there a new role for marketing agencies today, what should they change, what should they learn, and what should they unlearn so that marketers have business development partners in them?

Marketers need more and more concreteness and action, less consultation and description of the existing reality. High-quality specialists in narrow fields. Work at home based on their company’s KPIs. Solving specific problems, implementing and adapting to their situation and understanding the world.

At the same time, branding and communication specialists will still be needed, because the enormous distraction and fragmentation of outreach make it easy to get lost, due to the wide availability and variety of offerings. What will also not change is the fact that now and in the future there is a need to move from storytelling to action, i.e. implementing solutions to specific consumer problems.