Marketing Takes Place Everywhere

“…you can’t say marketing really happens in marketing now. Marketing should be happening in every single place in a company.” — Brian Mulcahy, Global CMO, Salesforce

At this year’s Dreamforce, Brian Mulcahy gave a well-received talk on how the internet of things and artificial intelligence are going to change marketing. Good heavens, more change? Marketing has already changed more in the past two years than in the past fifty. Marketers who aren’t Millennials are scrambling like whirling dervishes to make sense of it all: platforms, cross-channel, influence, social media, advocacy, funnel, pipeline science.

And then you can throw in the convergence of ad tech and martech into…what? Reaching customers at the right time in the right place with the right message.

But really, is that any different in theory from what we’ve always been doing? IOT may spew off more customer data, and AI may help us make sense of it and target it properly, but the truth that it has always been about customer and community.

At best, we will use the new data we receive from connected home products and wearables to learn more about each customer, and to furnish product or service information that fills the customer’s need. But at worst, we can get a plethora of bots telling us that we’re almost out of milk and we can order it by clicking here. Or we can get more of what we already have: sucky retargeting.

Truthfully, before we deploy all the IOT and AI technology we already have into the consumer space we should use it for business-to-business marketing, where it can really help and not cause problems. We have to take these new technologies further than where we usually think of as marketing, into areas like supply chain.

For example, you’re Amazon and you run a warehouse that already uses robots that report back to a dashboard. From the connected device (robot) you glean information about order fulfillment, about maintenance, and about the time and cost to fill an order.

You then use your AI capability to go back into your customer database and tell a vendor that he had better speed up his production, because your robot will be down for maintenance on a certain date and will not be able to fill all his customer orders in a timely fashion.

No privacy rules have been violated here. And yet, the customer’s customer, who could be a consumer, can benefit, This is much like what happened when WalMart automated its supply chain to JIT inventory management and stopped running out of popular toys.

That’s why Mulcahy says marketing is now done by everybody in the company, even by people who are unaware they are in marketing. Another example: a convenience store chain whose stores are located on a major highway with lots of traffic. The store has someone in charge of cleaning restrooms twice a day. But with all that traffic, the restrooms are in need of cleaning every hour.

It’s a negative marketing message to have dirty restrooms in your convenience store. The person who swabs the bathroom floor does not think of herself as in “marketing,” but she is. Here’s where IOT and AI can help. Connected sinks and toilets and paper towel dispensers could dispense information. AI can take that information, establish a better restroom cleaning schedule, and communicate it to the janitorial staff, who can then find out that they ought to enter those busy restrooms every hour on weekends.

If you put the customer at the center of your company, then indeed almost every function is marketing.