Pivot Or Perish, Warns J&J’s CMO Alison Lewis

“Marketers have to be ambidextrous all the time,” Alison Lewis, Chief Marketing Officer, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) laid the ground for her address at the recently concluded dmexco 2017 with this simple statement. In simpler words, she emphasized once again on the need for marketers to evolve in order to remain relevant.

Having come from the packaged goods industry, for Ms Lewis, the solution to succeed in a new world order is in the ability to pivot. “The playbook was once very clearly defined –– big brands ruled, scale was an advantage and messages were pushed. But to quote a fable, somebody has moved our cheese. This requires us to pivot strongly and market ambidextrously,” she said.

Being ambidextrous or to have the ability to work with both hands with equal efficiency is Ms Lewis’ advice towards dealing with the fast pace of change “We all know that the speed of change today is the slowest we will ever experience. Companies are eyeing exponential growth, and in many industries barriers to entry have diminished. Today we can get marketing on demand. Even employees can be on demand. We have a new world order at play. We are at an inflection point of established businesses and brands,” she added.

Winners Of The Future
Much like in soccer, players who can put the ball in the goal with any foot, the new age marketers also have to be handle whatever comes their way. In line with this though process, J&J is building the advantage of ambidexterity into the marketing of its consumer group. “Wherever we are on the field, no matter how inventive the opposition is or whether the rules of the game change, we can react fast, instinctively, courageously and always ready for the next pass,” Ms Lewis stated.

Kicking quickly and precisely with both feet not only means doing what has always mattered, but also doing what matters most. So while the company is still seeking ways for mass reach and trial, it is constantly adopting new skills in behavior too. “If we don’t pivot, we will perish. We are always ensuring that both of our hands and hemispheres are working equally. We are not throwing out the old but embracing the new and doing all this for solving consumer problems,” she explained.

The winners of the future will take the old playbook of the brand management discipline and infuse it with the new playbook. And there are five key tenets that comprise this new playbook

Tenets Of The New Playbook
The first tenet, for Ms Lewis, is to centre the brand and business around an inspiring purpose. This brings empathy and meaning to the brand and is really why people purchase today. The second is to ensure that marketers are activating personalized experiences giving people what they want, when they want it like never before. This is made possible with the advent of data and technology.

The third tenet is to build connected ecosystems for total brand experiences, where the physical marries digital to create the “phygital” world. Innovating with new business models and not just products but infusing services by tapping technology is the fourth tenet. The final one is turning customers into members, which required brands to think a lot more like retailers to build consumer closeness.

Ms Lewis reminded that each brand would have its own route to win in the digital world. Quoting the example of Listerine in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, she explained how the brand broke through the clutter to deliver personalized experiences, while looking at three key areas –– health, food and entertainment.

Implications For Way Forward
Real time in precision marketing will have an affect beyond digital. J&J is thinking about precision in terms of total brand experiences, personalized for every individual at scale. And it is linking everything together in the connected ecosystem.

It is looking to combine its product and services seamlessly for creating the right experience. Identifying the value proposition for each of the brands and going beyond the product is paramount in this endeavor.

“If you embrace the left and right, combine the old and the new, pivot and embrace opportunity, what you end up creating is deeper, more meaningful and empathic connection for consumers. You are not just doing good, but also will do well,” Ms Lewis stated.

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