Marketing amidst mass corporate culture shifts – it’s a two way street

2019 CEO studies by PwC, Deloitte, McKinsey, Gartner, Forrester, IDC –they all say the same thing:
digital business remains the CEO’s #1 priority.

In a recent study, PwC asked CEOs to grade themselves on the company’s use of data to drive digital business initiatives. They compared how CEO’s responded based on two factors: comprehensiveness and criticality. How comprehensive is the data the organization collects and analyzes versus how important or critical is that data to digital business success, the 5 biggest gaps CEO’s believe they have:

  1. Data on customer needs: Are customers happy?
  2. Data on brand reputation: Are we trusted and respected?
  3. Data to compare against industry peers: Are we unique?
  4. Data on risk exposure: Are we safe?
  5. Data on employee needs: Are employees engaged?

To best answer these questions, we explored what CEO’s believe enables digital business success, and it came down to three: data, technology and talent. Given these are the top 3 digital business enablers, we looked to see if CEOs are putting money where their mouth is relative to these enablers – where is more of the new money going?

  • Data: 77% of the new money is to close the comprehensive vs critical gaps we discussed above.
  • Technology: 74% of the new money is going towards technology to help drive workforce productivity and efficiency – to make the workforce more performance minded.
  • Talent: 64% of the new money is going towards changing the culture to be more data centric and move faster.

The one thing about digital capabilities and information technology spend…it’s worth nothing unless your people and your culture embrace the change.

The 10,000 foot view

80% of enterprises will change their culture by 2021 as a way to accelerate their digital business strategy. 89% of CEO feel that culture directly impacts the bottom-line metrics of the organization

Baby boomers are retiring. GenXers are climbing the ranks. GenY & GenZ now make up 59% of the global workforce. Corporate cultures are shifting because they have to.  The cultures of the past are not made for such a diverse, digital, mobile and collaborative workforce. No wonder CEO’s say talent management is a top digital business enabler. At the same time, no wonder more employees in the US changed jobs in 2018 than ever before – 40 Million of them according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s safe to say that culture has a huge impact on job satisfaction. A recent Gartner study found that the number of employees regretting their job decision increased nearly 50% over the past decade

So, who owns culture?

Ultimately, the CEO owns the culture, but when it comes to making culture change happen, they look to the CHRO (People) and the CIO (Technology). Not surprising, considering talent and technology are 2 of the top 3 digital business enablers. Corporate Executive Board’s Future of Work 2019 study found when it comes to driving employee engagement and growth, technology is the number one lever to pull – more than skill development or rewards and recognition.

73% of human resources leaders believe that significantly changing the technologies employees use for work will drive better engagement & enable growth. 

This not only aligns to the CEO’s digital business enablers and investment priorities, it also aligns to what 88% of CEO’s stress the CIO’s top priority is – increasing employee productivity and organizational efficiency. In other words, being performance driven. This is evidenced by Gartner’s projection that 70% of CIO’s will have invested in some sort of employee collaboration platform by 2021. No doubt, technology is where CIO’s and CHRO’s find common ground. This is why many CEOs anoint them the agents of change and task them with building a collaborative culture.

Collaboration cultures drive results.

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2019, nearly one-third of organizations have adopted a collaborative culture. When asked: How much work is done in teams vs. hierarchical functional lines? 31% of companies said most if not all work is done collaboratively in teams. And, thus far over half (53%) of the companies that have built collaborative cultures have seen significant results relative to bottom line metrics around innovation, recruiting and retaining talent, customer experience, strategic initiatives, growth targets, and revenue and profits.

Right now my head’s spinning from stat-overload, so let’s recap.

  • CEOs say digital business is the priority
  • CEOs recognize they have gaps in digital maturity
  • CEOs invest “new money” in digital capabilities, technology and culture
  • CEOs anoint CIOs & CHROs the drivers of culture change
  • CIOs & CHROs see technology as their primary path
  • CIOs and CHROs build a collaborative culture
  • Collaborative cultures drive results
So what does all of this mean for marketing? It’s a two-way street

I go back to the original digital business gaps: Are customers happy? Are we trusted and respected? Are we unique? Are we safe? Are employees engaged? These very questions are at the core of our market[ing] research


At the 10,000 foot view, our mission is to tell a company story through our go-to-market that sparks interest. In order to do this, we need to answer one simple question: are we trusted and respected? If our customer’s mission is to build a collaborative culture, then are we living up to their needs as a trusted and respected brand that enables said culture?  At the same time, are we enabling their brand to be trusted and respected.

At the 100 foot view, our mission revolves around customer success and optimizing their experience with us in order to build an army of advocates. Answering the simple question “are customers happy?” is the basis for our research.  If our customer’s culture is rooted in productivity and efficiency, is the customer experience we deliver actually productive and efficient – for them?

The 1000 foot view

Where the rubber meets the road is square in the middle of our research aperture – the 1000 foot view. Enabling digital business cannot start and stop with being a trusted and respected brand and knowing if our customers are happy.  The path from customer needs to brand and back again travels through the buyer. The product story we tell is all about enabling the buyer and giving them reasons to engage with us. Here we center our research on the levers we can pull (data, technology, talent) that not only help buyers be unique, safe and engaged, but prove that our product is unique, safe and that our employees across the organization help our buyer answer these questions. Again, it’s a two-way street. Yes, we as a vendor want to be differentiated and deliver value to our buyers, but at the same time, our buyers want to feel they are delivering differentiation and value to the employee base and customers they serve.

If we fail answering these very questions (Are customers happy | Are we trusted and respected | Are we unique | Are we safe | Are employees engaged), and fail at enabling our buyers to answer these questions inside their own organizations, then we both fail being a trusted and respected brand.  And if that happens, neither of our customers will ever be truly happy.