At last week’s annual Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, more than 70,000 people from around the world flocked to the annual tech conference on the Mediterranean coast. However, it wasn’t just startups and tech giants in attendance. Many chief marketing officers were also in town to talk about what’s ahead for marketing and tech in 2020.
The massive event–which takes over Lisbon’s Altice Arena and the surrounding area–began in Dublin in 2009 before switching to the Portuguese capital in 2016. Speakers in past years have included the scientist Stephen Hawking, former vice president Al Gore, and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk along with celebrities like actress Sophia Bush and fashion designer Alexander Wang. (This year included a live-stream interview with whistleblower Edward Snowden discussing the future of privacy and rapper Jaden Smith talking about his water company, Just Water.) Along with dozens of other celebrities and thousands of other CEOs or other experts, the conference bridges the gap between creativity and tech while balancing sober dialogue with the optimistic ethos synonymous with innovation.
In a panel conversation with Forbes last Wednesday on Web Summit’s center stage, the chief marketing officers of Burger King and Lamborghini along with the CEO of the communications firm Weber Shandwick talked about how they plan to focus their marketing budgets this year and next year.
Because Lamborghini doesn’t use traditional advertising to a mass market, the company has increasingly focused on personalization to reach customers. According to CMO Katia Bassi, the automotive brand is able to have a better relationship with customers that also leads to increased trust around data even in the increasingly regulated world. She other initiatives like virtual reality let fans look inside of cars remotely while a new limited edition hybrid sedan lets Lamborghini play “in the age of you, and the age of you means that the level of customization is really at the highest peak.” She said the niche market also makes it easier to interact with customers even in a data-driven way despite increased regulation.
“If you are in the luxury business,” she said. “I would say it’s easier because they really want to be connected, and they accept that you have to pay a fee to be connected, it’s worth it. Because we react in a way that they are expecting us to react. So far us, as Lamborghini, what we see more and more is people are happy to share their needs and their behaviors jut because we are able then to react in a certain way that they really love.”
Asked how Burger King decides which platforms to use—whether it’s something traditional like Facebook or something newer like TikTok–Burger King CMO Fernado Machado said the company never creates marketing strategies around platforms. He said “we brief for ideas,” adding that he’s often surprised when CMOs think about being on a platform first without understanding “the need for big, creative, bold ideas.”
“In the world of short-term mentality, in a world of data-driven coupled with short term, that’s probably one of the reasons why the tenure of the CMO is so short,” he said. “You know what I mean? Which is a contradiction because if it were longer, maybe you could prove some of that.”
At Web Summit for the first time this year was Blackrock CMO Frank Cooper III, who spoke about about the concept of purpose-driven marketing and how it’s gone more mainstream. Cooper–who has been working on making the financial services firm’s own brand overhaul set to debut next year–said Blackrock recently rolled out an internal program for 15,000 employees to evaluate their own interests and strengths to gauge how they fit with company’s.
“What we’re doing on the brand side is we’re articulating our purpose,” he said. “We’ve never had to do that before. We’ve never had to step out and be speak about the society needs that we serve, because we mostly serve mostly intermediaries, and those intermediaries have said the only purpose that they need is that we are a fiduciary and that we’ll be loyal to their demands and needs.”
Cooper wasn’t the only one pitching purpose-driven marketing at a tech conference. Jake Wakely, CMO of the petcare brand Mars, participated on a panel about how brands should partner with the United Nations to solve global issues around the world.
“What struck me is that in tackling some of the worlds trickiest problems like climate change and biodiversity loss – no one company can do it alone,” she said. “We need uncommon collaboration and it is only through harnessing the skills, resources and creativity of diverse players in a bold way that we can make the level of progress needed to meet the UNs goals.”
Of course, data privacy was also a key discussion all week—both on stage and offstage. SAP CMO Alicia Tillman said the other CMOs she spoke with from the U.S. and EU agreed that data privacy was “top of mind” for how to engage with customers while also complying with new data-related laws.
“The overall consensus was that being regulatory compliant is not good enough,” Tillman said. “Rather, it’s about how you use regulations to protect data and provide personalized customer experiences to win the trust of customers.”
John Beasley, CMO of Vero, a decentralized social network based in the United Kingdom, said he also wanted to attend Web Summit to talk with people about digital privacy. The company—which doesn’t track data and isn’t ad-funded—already has 5 million users, puts people “back in the role of customer.” And because Vero doesn’t sell or track data, Beasley said the company’s model creates a barrier of entry that it keeps out the appeal of online trolls that might want to gain the system.
“What you get then is a community that curates itself and cultivates better behaviors,” he said. “So it’s overall a more positive, more supportive environment and one that we believe when we launch subscription people will pay for.”
Along with meeting up with startups in the blockchain, artificial intelligence and health care sectors, Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar’s brief 36-hour visit included a fireside chat about multi-sensory branding and another about how brands can make environmentally sustainable choices across the business. Being at Web Summit also let him discuss a new brand safety initiative from the World Federation of Advertisers, an industry group of which he is president. WFA’s Global Alliance for Responsible Media, announced this fall, is a charter that includes 26 global companies like P&G, Unilever and Mastercard along with the top media agency holding companies and social networks. He said the groups allows companies to collectively push for more uniform measurement around digital advertising advertising and brand safety.
“So far, the efforts from the social media networks are doing some progress,” he said. “But it’s not where it needs to be,” he said. “There is still a lot of stuff. It’s still sporadic, what each one if doing for their own selves.”
Others were more focused on the role of creativity in marketing. Damian Bradfield, the chief creative officer, CMO and co-founder of WeTransfer, spoke on stage with Giles Peterson, a jazz musician well known in the UK who has collaborated with WeTransfer for the past few years on various projects including a radio station that’s amassed 500,000 monthly listeners.
“I think what we have is quite unique,” Bradfield said. “We don’t ask very much of (Peterson) and he doesn’t ask very much of us, but it’s a trust-based relationship that I know if we want something from Giles he’ll deliver it and vice-versa. We don’t need to have terms and condition and noncompete clauses based around the real things that we have. I’m pretty proud of it, I think it’s cool.”
But Bradfield, who recently wrote a book about improving the internet, said people don’t spend enough time thinking about how to perform due diligence for safety online like they might in real life.
“We’ll always opt for convenience,” he said. “No matter what people are doing or saying here around Web Summit, we’ll alway go ‘yeah oh my God I hate this, I hate that.’ But we pay for it all…We’re passive aggressively saying ‘It’s horrible I don’t want it,’ but then feed back into it because we desperately want to have a Swiffer delivered to our home in two hours. You could quite easily go to the supermarket and buy it if you were really that principled, but we’re not that principle.”