Canadian CMOs open up about their 2017 priorities

Execs from Rogers, the AGO, Canadian Olympic Committee share the MES stage

Jared Lindzon September 26, 2016

Though they all hail from vastly different industries, all of the executives onstage at the 2016 Marketing Evolution Summit’s “CMO Priorities in 2017” panel are focused on transforming their brands in a profound way, leveraging technology and traditional media to build a more customer-centric brand.

For Derek Kent, the CMO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, that transformation meant engaging Canadians in athlete stories before, during and after the recent Games in Rio.

“Everyone tunes in as soon as those opening ceremonies start, and when [the Games] stop people start tuning out,” he said. “The real challenge for us is how to extend that window.”

The approach that Kent and the COC pursued spanned a variety of digital and real life experiences tied to the athletes and the Games. For example, they hosted a send-off event at the Toronto Beaches for the athletes bound for Rio. The COC also employed a Canadian firm to design the Canada House for the first time in its history, giving the athletes and their families some of the comforts of home.

“One of the things we noticed in the last four years is that we needed to be more proactive and think more like a media property,” said Kent, adding that there was only one representative on the ground during the London Olympic Games capturing the action on their smartphone and uploading it to social media. Four years later the COC deployed a team of content creators equipped with smartphones and backstage passes, allowing them to “get behind the scenes and provide content that perhaps traditional media couldn’t provide, and that worked really well for us,” he said.

Art Gallery of Ontario CMO Corinne Rusch-Drutz said in her case, engaging audiences in new and unique ways required a complete rebrand and renovation for the non-profit institution. Though the physical structure was renovated and redesigned by Toronto architect Frank Gherry in 2008, it was only just the beginning of the Gallery’s rebranding efforts.

“It’s not only important to amplify these major exhibitions . . . if you don’t know the gallery can be your local coffee shop, your community centre or your drop-in for your kids to have a play date or the best place to have a drink, than we’re not actually using the gallery to its full potential,” she said. “It’s about balancing both of those things and speaking to those segmentations across multiple channels in ways that are meaningful and not just blasting them with abrupt conversation; it’s about dialogue.”

Just as the AGO is striving to reach a highly segmented audience on a wide variety of platforms, so too is the Business Development Bank of Canada, which deals with entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes across Canada on a daily basis.

“We have a very diversified client base, so depending on the demographics — like newer entrepreneur versus older entrepreneur — you have to basically provide them the channel of their choice.” said Michel Bergeron, vice-president of marketing and public affairs for BDC, adding that the Bank is leveraging technology and automation to better understand which clients prefer digital communications, and which prefer to sit down face to face. “If we can connect emotionally with the challenges you’re facing it gives us an opportunity to provide more value.”

Even one of Canada’s telecom giants is in the midst of a major transformation, one that began in early 2014, explained Dale Hooper, the chief brand officer for Rogers Communications Inc. That transformation included a new collaborative office space, assigning a new chief customer officer, the establishment of Hooper’s team and its role of managing the Rogers brand as well as its approximately 40 sub-brands. “Those three things really signal the idea that the customer is in the centre,” he said.

The organization also brought representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter in-house, in part to better leverage social data but to also coach various departments on how to properly utilize each medium to its fullest potential. “Whether it’s live chat, Twitter, Facebook messenger, that is the future. People want to connect on their terms,” he said.

While each of these CMOs are trying to crack the code on how to reach each audience segment at the right moment and on the right channel, each admit that it’s an ongoing process that doesn’t seem to have a definitive end point.

“I wish I had the answer to that,” said Hooper, when asked how to best optimize the customer journey across all of the available media platforms. “If I did, I’d be rich.”