Shift happens, literally. For marketers, this shift comes in the form of how we connect messaging with potential clients. We’ve shifted from propaganda driven, one directional marketing, into an age of smart customers. We’re making the most of new technologies to do our jobs smarter while having a mindset to challenge the status quo, even when you’re successful.
Of course, technology moves at the speed of light and by nature, so does marketing. So when your stack is constantly shifting, how do you keep your company culture a constant in your messaging and branding?
In this episode of AMP Up Your Digital Marketing, we meet Jussi Wacklin, Vice President of Marketing at Amadeus, a travel technology company. He discusses why he believes company culture is not just an internal activity and why it’s important that we recognize our culture as a reflection to the outside world, especially when making a shift. This is where branding and linking company culture to marketing becomes so important in both client perception of your company, but also throughout the hiring process.
Glenn: Welcome back to the show. Today we’re speaking with Jussi Wacklin. Jussi, welcome to the show.
Jussi: Thank you very much, Glenn. I look forward for our conversation.
Glenn: Jussi, tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Jussi: So, I’m the Vice President of Marketing, currently working in a large tech company, called Amadeus. We empower the travel industry and many different players in it. And I have an interest mix of working with marketing and branding, but also the corporate culture. So, it’s an interesting mix where our company believes that our culture defines how we operate internally, that then influence our brand externally, which is manifested through marketing. So, it’s really, again, unusual mix of many things. And I’m very lucky to not only work in an exciting travel industry but also a great company that approaches marketing in quite holistic manner.
Glenn: So, I need to ask, because you don’t often find culture in someone’s title that also has marketing and branding. So, is that something that you are hired specifically for, or it’s just something that you adopted once you were there?
Jussi: I was hired for that. However, it is unusual mix. And the reason why, I guess, I was the final candidate they chose, that throughout my entire career had the marketing, part of the branding, different things I’ve been doing, I’ve always somehow found myself in various quite HR related topics. How to create organizational development, how to support people through their career paths and development and build up better efficiencies for the company. So, all those things combined, when we had the conversation, both, Amadeus and myself felt that this was not just a marketing gig, it really had foundation that had strong roots to the culture and the people inside of the company. And I think that was a nice match that we were able to find.
Glenn: So, you’ve had quite the career and you’ve touched on a lot of different aspects of marketing, how have you seen the evolution of marketing over the years? Then maybe we can get to where you think it’s going.
Jussi: I’ve seen very big shift and I lived the golden age. When I started marketing in late ’99, early 2000. And I started on business to consumer side. I worked for Nokia. That was the golden age of high growth on technology, stock options and unlimited marketing budgets. And a lot of the marketing in those days were really creative work. So, that was quite a different world where we are today. And if – your question about evolution, in my limited time – 20 years – I’ve seen huge shift in evolution of marketing where really, we’ve moved away from the propaganda driven, one directional marketing into an age of smart customers, which are really powered by the age of the internet, the access to unlimited information. Our customers, many times, know more about the products than we do by the time they approach us. Which again, this whole internet is, of course, empowered by the age of the smart technologies. And all those have a fundamental shift, not only how you do marketing, but what skills you need as a modern marketeer.
Glenn: Right. And so, how have you been able to manage through that evolution to get to where you are now in terms of just, you know, as you and I both know, the change is fast, particularly with the layering in of technology now with lots of aspects of marketing. How have you seen that, how have you been able to adapt so well in that environment?
Jussi: Well, I think, again, have I adapted well? Probably not always, but at the same time probably better than some other people, because I still keep going quite strong and having a fantastic opportunities in my marketing career. But one thing is really being aware of the shift. And understanding that what used to be – marketing used to be more art than science, but as we evolved, as digital marketing stepped into the picture and you were really able to start to measure your customer engagement on the initially webpage visits and time spent, later on on content consumption, and today really on multi-touch points and lead scoring and all sorts of things, the big thing is, of course, to have the willingness to learn, it’s the willingness to try new things. And more and more, you need to do a lot of small little things to test how the new technologies can be used and not getting stuck on old ways of doing. These worked in the past, so we expect that to work in the future. So, you need to be having a mindset to challenge the status quo, even if you’re successful. And that was one of the big things, again, for me, moving from this really TV-led advertising and beautiful people with Nokia phones on a beach and business environment into a scientific mode where you try to understand which all touches you’re doing for the individual customer and how likely is the customer to buy and then how do you take that information to your sales organization so they can really understand how to invest their time wisely to maximize their sales. Of course, as part of what I’m saying, now there’s a big difference between business to consumer and business to business. While we all sell to people in the end of a day, now I’m working on a business to business environment. We are selling to the companies. And that’s allow marketing, at least for me, be even more exciting, because that’s where you have the time, money and capability to put effort to really pinpoint to a single customer account and some decision makers there. But, really, again, learning is a key and willingness to take risks and try new things, I think that’s – staying curious is important for marketers to keep up with all these changes.
Glenn: And how do you layer in the customer aspect? I’m assuming culture is specific to the employees or is it not in your scenario?
Jussi: Well, you know what, it is not. Because no matter how much you think about it, and even if you have a global multinational company, there are certain DNA in a company, there is a certain original idea and purpose why the company was established, what types of problems they wanted to solve? And what I have discovered and I even done correlation mapping, the way your people internally feel about themselves and the company and its ways of working, they are really tightly correlated how customers see you. Let me give you an example, most companies, including us, we are running net promoter score across different industries and sectors and customers, we really slice it and dice it to each and every segment, specifically to understand how do they perceive our company? I have been doing the same in my culture internally at the same time. So, we’ve been asking, again, the same question, how likely people are to recommend Amadeus as a place to work? And then we ask additional questions, attributes, do you think Amadeus has a polite, constructive, nice people to work with? Do you think they are making decisions fast? Do you think they are technology leader? So, we are asking the same questions from our customers and our internal employees, how do they view us? And then we compare them. It’s surprising. You’d be really surprised how close they are linked. How customers and our own people tend to rate our strength and weaknesses quite similarly. So, that gives me a good reason to believe that the company culture is not just an internal activity. That’s why it’s also important that we recognize our culture as a reflection to the outside world. And that’s where the branding and linking to the marketing becomes so important.
Glenn: Now, it sounds like, since they are fairly well connected now, you’re in a good place. I’m wondering though, if you start seeing variance either on the customer side or the employee side, is that an early warning for you that you’ve got an issue and that needs to be addressed?
Jussi: Yeah. Well, first of all I would like to say that the fact that they are correlating doesn’t mean that all things are good. For example, again, we have been a company that has been always wanting to make things perfect. And you know, making things perfect takes time, which means that, both, internally/externally we are also seen slow. So, correlation doesn’t automatically mean we are in a good place. We definitely have discovered areas of improvement, which means, we have to change our ways of working, we have to change our culture which hopefully then is reflected how the customers view us. So, that’s the first point. The second point, there is always a variance. Again, because we have multiple business units in our company. And inside of those business units, they have different product development teams, different customer support teams and so forth. So, even when we have certain commonalities, there’s always some differences as well. We have certain business units who are really HR and the way they do their software development together with customers is a state of the art. And then we have another business unit that may work with a different sector, much more conservative sector like governments or railroads or whatever, you name it, and because of that their entire cycle is very different. So, again, while there are commonalities, there’s also differences, and because of that, even if they deviate one from the other, it’s not necessarily a concern but it does tell you that, again, as a company image, as a company culture, there are different pockets and fragmentation. So, again, fragmentation doesn’t mean always it’s bad, but it is definitely something I try to understand from the global hat on, how are we operating as a company worldwide? But really, like you said, when you go deep down, you will find differences and sometimes you can learn from the units that are doing things really well, sometimes you can learn things to avoid based on the poor performance. So, yes, we are fairly consistent, which doesn’t mean it’s all great. At the same time, when you look at some specific details, there are also differences and they are not necessarily a reason for concern, but definitely something that you want to follow up on.
Glenn: So, then, with all the different business units and the amount of people that you have working at the company, how do you affect cultural change leveraging the tools of marketing at your disposal?
Jussi: So, on the one hand, what we do in marketing side, we take the customer perception, we understand our strength and weaknesses based on the voice of the customer, based on the net promoter scores, based on all the surveys. So, on the one hand wherever we are extremely strong in marketing, we know that we don’t have to spend so much effort to change any perception, we just want to make sure we mention those strengths as the facts, which are accepted by our customers, and we know that already. However, when we find weaknesses and, for example, slow decision-making, that’s where I can dig deeper on a specific business unit who doesn’t have that perception. I can talk with them to ask, how did you do things differently? And I can use those use cases as an example and saying, well, some customers view us low, we have also demonstrated capability to move extremely fast. So, on the marketing side, I know what are the perceptions. And based on those perceptions, sometimes I can say, if they are correct perceptions or actually, if we could spend some time and money and effort to correctify the perception, because that may not be the absolute truth. So, that’s how I do it on the marketing side. On the other hand, whatever we learn in marketing I will take it back to the culture, I will take it back to our human resources people and culture teams and I will say, guys, clearly, from the customer we are getting this feedback, if we want to be competitive, what can we do different with our talent management, with our recruiting, with our ways of working to become faster, to become more agile. So, it’s a two-way street, on the one hand, how we use the culture to change the marketing, but at the same time what we learn from the markets, we take it back to our cultural activities.
Glenn: That’s fantastic. When you do that, how do you know you’re successful? Is it just following up with additional surveys or is there some other measure that you use in that?
Jussi: Well, the simple measure we always use is, is the net promoter score going up or down? Are there, kind of, our perceived attributes, are they getting stronger or weaker? So, that’s the kind of a survey based. But, of course, we don’t do this for the survey scores. We do this to make more business, to increase our market share, to increase our retention rates. So, while we do all this, we, of course, always go – try to go back – it’s not always easy. We try to go back and saying, in a given period, we implemented these changes and the following quarters, did we see an uplift on the customer side? If our net promoter score keeps going up quarter after quarter, does it also mean that our sales goes up? When the net promoter score go down, is that identification that in the coming quarters our sales will go down as well? So, those are the things that we are doing. My time in Amadeus has been only three years so far. And during those times, we have started to create these trend line. But, again, we have basic correlations. We can see that there is a dependency, but again, as always, if you want to be statistically accurate, we need more time and more trend data to truly understand the seasonalities and the correlations of these different items. But, again, a little by little we are making progress and little by little, again, we have more evidence back to our management, does culture matter when it comes to the customers and does customer feedback can be taken back to our culture and change our company inside-out?
Glenn: You know, in large companies like yours, there usually is a tendency to either lean centralized or lean decentralized from a technology point-of-view, from a marketing approach point-of-view. Within your organization have you seen it lean one direction or the other or have you seen it change?
Jussi: Yes, I have and you are right. Every company, it’s like a swing, you go from centrally-led to locally-led, from locally-led to be led to centrally-led, this is a never-ending cycle because whatever you do, by the time you are able to operate management is changing rapidly, right? So, Amadeus, we used to be locally-led. We’ve been growing 30 years and we’ve been growing by creating joint ventures in the local markets. So, you know, not many years ago, Amadeus was not one company, was 78 legal entities and little by little we’ve been buying all those local markets so they are fully owned and now Amadeus is truly a global multinational company. However, our legacy did lead to the point that our marketing was very much locally-led. Local countries decided how to go to their market in best of their capabilities. And as you already mentioned, world is getting more complex and so is technology. So, right now there is no way we can have 78 different markets operating individually with their own strategy. And the customers are also consolidating. Our customers – the airlines, the hotels – they are not anymore living in one city and one country, they are multinational companies as well. So, it’s only natural that we have moved away from the locally-led market into a business segment model. And you are right, we are even right now looking to even more centralized marketing. So, again, how do we create a mix of right people and skill sets with the right processes and the correct technology to operate more effectively? So, we are literally going through a full marketing transformation as we speak, in Amadeus, not because if things are going wrong necessarily, but because we know that in the current environment and few years ahead of us, we have to really rethink how we’re going to do marketing to add the most business value. And that’s again, we’re moving a little more towards central and once we get that one sorted, we will move it back towards a little bit regional and business units. So, these swings is never-ending and we are now, again, at one part of that transformation journey.
Glenn: So, when somebody is going through that kind of transformation, do you have any advice for companies that are doing that?
Jussi: I would say, first thing is that, if you are driving the change, bet your career on it, don’t go and try to say, I’m going to transform things and then at the end of the day ask everybody in the company how to do your job. The challenge for marketing is, I’ve already mentioned technology, process and people, the future chief marketing officer has to understand same things then chief information officer or CTO, you have to understand technology there’s no way out of it. Not just marketing aspect, it’s not about marketing, automation and databases, it’s about understanding CRM and sales tools and understanding customer support tools. Because all of those are part of the customer experience, which marketing somehow needs to capture in their own planning as well. Because when your sales get a lead from you, a sales lead, they need to understand, if they can go to the customer saying, hello! let me show you amazing product, or if they go to the customer saying, I come here to apologize because you had a severe problem with our products just few days ago. So, marketing to give the insight to sales, we have to connect multiple technologies, tools and platforms. So, step number one, chief marketing officer has to become fluent in technology and information management. The second part for marketing to be credible is to understand the business, so CMO needs to be also very good, like, chief commercial officer, you need to understand how your company is making money, which products, which countries, which accounts are making most of the revenue contributions, which markets are not? Because again, the marketing investment is getting more and more challenged by the finance people. And only way to do a strong marketing strategy is a full alignment with sales and their sales goals. So, that’s the second part. Not only you need to be good in technology, you have to be good with commercial operations and very close to the sales. And then the final part, which goes back to this culture conversation, you need to understand how to take the marketing people on that journey. It doesn’t matter how good your individually, you will never succeed, you need strong people, strong leaders, great marketeers to make all this work, happen on day-to-day basis. And that’s why you need to understand the individual motivations of people, how to manage change management, how to encourage them to continuously push the envelope and learn new things. So, again, there’s no magic bullet, I think it sounds almost like a common sense, but it is a difficult task to make sure your marketing organization is not only surviving but excelling, you have to really start to go beyond the traditional marketing and advertising at landscape and you really have to become a credible partner on the executive committee level to guide your sales and business people, what is happening in the markets. And again, they have some of that data, but again, there are not many functions or many companies I’ve heard that they have pulled all this information into a one pool, that you had a full view of your customers, where customer support, your financial contracts, your legal obligations, your sales pipeline and all the marketing batches are recorded in one place. I’ve never seen a single company – again, we are working very hard to make that view possible for Amadeus, but we are still some months away to really have this moving.
Glenn: Yeah, not an easy challenge. If there was one thing that our audience could put into action today to really have an impact on their digital marketing, what that one thing be?
Jussi: One thing, I would say, stay curious and learn new things. I mean, you just have to do it. This is a never-ending school. But I would also say, be bold. Take calculated risks. Because if you don’t take any risks, you will not be able to do any new things, so you get stuck. And the third part, I would still say, inspire your people. You cannot transform any company if you’re not able to take the entire organization with you. And many times, it requires to bet your career on it, because if you are not willing to take the risk, go all in, why would the organization believe in you? So, in digital marketing there are great tools, there are great technologies, there are great ways to do things faster, better and simple, but it does require leadership. And, again, I guess to summarize all those into one thing. Be a good, strong and sympathetic leader who is able to take the company to the next stage. That would be my advice.
Glenn: Fantastic! If people want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do it?
Jussi: LinkedIn definitely is always the best starting point for all good conversations. So, you can find me there, just search for Jussi Wacklin – I know my name is not the easiest, but I’m sure you will find it on the podcast under details. And don’t be shy, get on LinkedIn, get in touch. And I’m happy to have a conversation with everybody.
Glenn: Jussi, thanks so much for being on the show.
Jussi: Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure.
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