B&T recently sat down with Microsoft Australia CMO (and COO) Rachel Bondi to talk all things marketing, technology and innovation.
What are consumers – in particular, tech consumers – looking for in 2017?
There are two big themes. The first one is certainly around this notion of mixed reality. At Microsoft, we’re totally focused on delivering this as part of our mission, which is to empower every person and organisation. I spend a lot of time with developers, and the amount of creativity we can pull from them in this category is very exciting.
The second theme is definitely around digital security. Last week, Microsoft participated in Safer Internet Day, and we’ve participated in this event since 2004 because we know that consumers are thinking more than ever about data protection, and we’re increasingly being scrutinised by consumers, governments and organisations around making the internet a safer place. There are a ton of now opportunities in this space.
Is technology stifling creativity?
No, not at all. I think it’s empowering people to think more creatively in different ways. What I’ve seen our marketing teams do at Microsoft is come at customer engagement in a whole different way using technology at the forefront of that.
‘Digital transformation’ has become a common phrase over the last few years. Why?
I was outside of the Australian market for 16 years until January last year and was living in the US for a good part of that time working in a global role, and digital transformation didn’t seem to be at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Since returning to Australia, I’ve noticed the opposite. You’ve just got to look at how our government is looking at innovation in this regard, and the expectation for consumers is really high.
What are the main challenges that Microsoft clients are facing, and how are you looking to help?
It all comes down to a creating a new mindset. Clients are saying to us that it’s not technology that’s enabling digital transformation – it’s people, the process and a new mindset. Creating that new mindset is vital for a tech leader in companies.
At Microsoft, we love focusing on quick innovation and a diversity of thinking through things like hackathons. Data is another powerful tool that we use to create new ideas.
What is the biggest mistake marketers are making?
I don’t know if it’s a mistake or more of an opportunity, but it’s going back to that notion of how we use data. It’s that central view of connecting marketing and sales, and whether you’re in B2B or B2C, identifying new customer insights to improve what you’re doing to support the business using data is what I’d love to see more of. Data should be a marketer’s best friend.
What should marketers be investing in now?
New technology around artificial intelligence and continuing to think about natural language experiences is where marketers need to invest. I think more and more companies are going to be thinking about marketing as an extension of their product experiences.
What practical advice would you give to other CMOs?
When it comes to business leadership, CMOs need to make sure they have a very strong partnership with their sales organisation and technical team. Companies have different names for that, like chief innovation officer, and I’d love to see the CMO role evolve to that in the Aussie marketplace because I think we have to play a larger role in the digital transformation of larger companies here.