CMOs from Microsoft, Hilton, and Dropbox on 'taking data and turning it into insights'

The quartet of marketing chiefs appeared Monday at a panel at the PRWeek cabana in Cannes.

L-R: PRWeek editor-in-chief Steve Barrett, Dropbox's Carolyn Feinstein, Pinterest's Eric Edge, Hilton's Geraldine Calpin, and Microsoft's Scott Allen
L-R: PRWeek editor-in-chief Steve Barrett, Dropbox's Carolyn Feinstein, Pinterest's Eric Edge, Hilton's Geraldine Calpin, and Microsoft's Scott Allen

CANNES, FRANCE: If a CMO says he or she would rather make two data hires than spend big in Cannes, it’s fair to say that data is finally competing with the traditional model of creativity in marketing.

That’s what Scott Allen, Microsoft’s U.K. CMO, said during a panel held Monday afternoon in the PRWeek cabana at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Even so, he recognized the challenge of convincing leadership of the validity of that trade-off.

"The ROI is quicker at an event like this," Allen said. 

Customers all of ilks require that marketers be better, smarter, and wiser with how they use data to communicate about their products and position their brands, said Allen and the three other CMOs speaking on the panel. Therefore, the lines have blurred between marketing and communications, marketing and information technology, and who exactly is doing the marketing.

When Hilton Worldwide uses data to understand that a rewards member just checked in after being bumped off a flight or enduring other travel woes, its team can proactively meet his or her needs, perhaps by bringing the customer a glass of rose like the one ordered on another stay. The payoff from this kind of move can yield dividends.

"Those customers do a better job of marketing than anyone on my team," said Geraldine Calpin, Hilton’s CMO.

The same goes at Pinterest, where brands can smartly use data to better inform both a campaign and creative strategies. This is all about "taking the data and turning it into insights," said Eric Edge, head of global marketing communications and industry relations for the social platform.

Carolyn Feinstein, global CMO of Dropbox, was quick to point out that the value of data comes from using it in a way that creates an emotional connection with the customer and doesn’t sacrifice the humanness to which he or she is most likely to respond. The goal, she said, is to "stay centered on the human experience" and have an "understanding about the way people use your products."

Gone are the days of relying on instinct, she added. And marketers need to be agile as they update and tweak their campaigns, noted Calpin.

For communicators, this means working directly with marketing. At Microsoft, communications and marketing report to the same boss and work off a single budget. And at Hilton, none of the brands have their own PR budgets. "It’s fluid, how we move money around," said Calpin.

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