Growing Global Brands with Data-Driven Marketing – CMO Nick Reynolds

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This week on “Masters of Metrics”, our host Emma Lo Russo talks to Nick Reynolds, the Global CMO for Johnson Controls-Hitachi, about his career working in analysis, sales and marketing for tech giants like Apple, Dell and Lenovo, and how he’s taken his learnings into his role as a global CMO for an industrial giant. 

Launching companies into digital with data & metrics

Nick Reynolds has worked in technology his whole career, from Sabre, to Gateway, to Dell, Apple and Lenovo. Now as global CMO of Hitachi, he’s using everything he’s learned from his business analyst, sales and marketing roles so far to guide the digital transformation of Johnson Controls Hitachi-Air Conditioning. 

“As a marketer now, you need to be pretty good at numbers, data, and stats. That’s a modern day marketer.” But it wasn’t always the case. In the early 2000s, metrics like when customers were buying, how much, how often, and the dollar value were tough to track, usually only in a huge Excel spreadsheet.

But having worked on these spreadsheets himself, Nick has always known the power of being able to track how your marketing affects your business revenue and activity. That’s the attitude he’s taken through his career into Hitachi, a company both willing to change and hungry for it. 

He led the revamp and unification of Hitachi’s global marketing, all of it backed by a unified digital dashboard that visualizes important metrics across the customer journey. The dashboard transforms dull numbers into clear graphics you can interrogate and dive into, and it’s been a massive success, especially with training for teams and executives. 

Change drivers are essential

The key to a company’s successful digital evolution is buy in. “Most companies are not like Gateway, Dell, Apple and Lenovo,” Nick says. “They’re not cutting edge, they’re not leading the way. They’re behind the curve. It’s got to be like that. Someone’s ahead, someone’s behind.” 

But in order to set the curve or catch up to it, a company needs change drivers. These are voices pitching innovation and continuous improvement, as well as those who give such innovation a chance with time, resources and budget. When the buy-in goes all the way up to the C-suite, it’s a powerful message to the entire company that change is desirable and positive.

Nick points to the launch of the Lenovo Yoga convertible PC in Australia. Twice Lenovo had tried to launch into Australia, and twice failed. But Nick pushed for a third try involving an imaginative digital-first campaign in partnership with Ashton Kutcher – and Digivizer! He pitched the idea to his boss, and to his boss’ boss, and finally flew to meet with Lenovo’s CEO – who agreed to give him a budget, keen to see the concept succeed. 

Ashton Kutcher Lenovo

Source: Business Insider

With that campaign, Lenovo went from nowhere to number two in share of voice online. Yoga became synonymous with convertible PCs. Lenovo became a household name, with brand recognition in 70% of households. That would have taken about 10 years with traditional media, Nick guesses. With digital, it was 18-24 months – and Lenovo became the number two selling PC brand in Australia. 

Now, on a mission to grow the share of voice for a company in a new industry altogether, Nick has learned that the industrial sector is somewhat of a digital laggard compared to big tech. By being open to change, however, Johnson Controls Hitachi–Air Conditioning is already harnessing the opportunity to digitally transform it’s marketing and sales strategy. 

The premium air conditioning brand has its roots in Japan, but needs to appeal to a global market. Previously all countries it operated decided individually on their own brand and marketing activities. That made it difficult to align marketing metrics around a global audience engagement strategy. 

Nick’s first priority was to bring these activities all together under one global brand, with one consistent web experience. A new ‘Air is Life’ campaign highlighted customers’ intrinsic connection to the air that we breathe; its importance to human health and comfort. Conversation around improving air quality, especially in indoor spaces, has increased following the pandemic, and so the new campaign positioning is timely.

Ramping up the business’ online experience has seen web traffic grow from 10,000 people a quarter to half a million. Three key metrics driving Nick’s team’s focus everyday are: website visits, leads from website, and new pipeline.

Tracking digital prospects into leads and pipeline in salesforce is vital for the business’ growth, especially given its seasonal product sales. Marketers are here to drive the business after all, says Nick, and with COVID that’s even more important than before.

Learning and leading in marketing

Nick worked in sales at Apple during the launch of the iPod in Australia, so he had a front-row seat to how Australians connected (and reconnected) with the refreshed Apple brand on an emotional level. But companies don’t often have much in terms of budget or resources. To bring it back to basics, Nick recommends that if you:

  • make marketing inspiring, relevant, emotional and fun
  • get people to engage, especially people who are driving trends
  • market to them in the channels where they are
  • think short term (contribute to the business revenue right now)
  • think long term (be  a custodian of your brand)
  • listen to the voice of the customer

…then you’re ticking all the right boxes in marketing. 

And finally, if you’re hesitant about jumping into something new in digital, as scary as it sounds, you have to start. Only once you start can you get the data that will guide you forward. Once you start moving, it gets easier to keep going. 

Rapid fire questions! 

  • Guilty pleasure? Playing tennis (… during office hours!)
  • Inspirations? Porsche and Etsy. 
  • What age would you pick to be for the rest of your life? Now. 46. Next year, probably 47. 

Our picks for the best takeaways

On data: “Data is a weapon. Without data, it’s a feeling.” 

On the evolution of marketing: “If you look at marketing, just in itself, marketing as a profession has evolved so much faster than other business functions. How much has really changed in Accounting or Legal in 20 years? But in marketing, everything has changed. The data, the tools, the skills, the platforms, the way people are shopping, and buying and communicating.” 

On creating marketing dashboards: “But making it visual, making it easy, making it a dashboard, making it graphical, it turns everything from something virtual to something you can see, where everyone can interact with it and interrogate it and deep dive into it. So we’ve trained all the executives on this. And they’re bringing it into the weekly reviews, which is something that they have never done before.”

On the four Ps of marketing: “But I think, no surprise, as a CMO, or in any leadership position, you can’t be successful without a good team. So the fifth P is people. You’ve got to take them on a journey with you. You’ve got to have a team that’s aligned, otherwise, you cannot be successful.” 

On the five aspects of managing people: “You have to get paid, you have to make a difference, you have to grow and learn, you have to like the people, and you’ve gotta have some fun. And if you can’t have fun in marketing, you’re in the wrong profession!” 

Referenced in this podcast

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