From intuitive marketing to data driven marketing... and back
CMO Celine Bannino talks creating digital brands - the partners and technology - but never drifting too far from the fundamentals of marketing.
Good morning, London. I'm very happy to be with you today. I usually travel a lot, so for me it's a bit of a respite, although I would love to have nicer weather. I like the view, but sun would be better. My name is Celine Bannino, and as you can hear it in my name and the way I speak, I'm not a native English speaker. So please, if you do not understand what I say, especially as I speak very quickly, don't hesitate to tell me or say you didn't get it. Please, it's a benefit for me to know when people don't understand me.
The second thing is I'm a marketer. I've been a marketer for very, very long time. I'm not going to go into the number of years here, but let's say I'm a dinosaur, like from the old world of marketing culture, right? So marketing is my life, and actually, I am a CMO, you know. So I've read agenda and I'm a bit worried it sounds like I'm going to die in 20 minutes, so I'm going to make the most of my time with you here. Hopefully, you know, I'll survive.
I work for a company that I'm sure you've never heard about, or pretty sure. If anybody has heard about it I would be, you know, thrilled to talk to talk to you about it later on with a drink. My company is called Strauss Coffee. Has anybody heard of it? No? You see. Oh, you did, my God. Two. I'm here as a client. I'm a customer. I'm not a platform. I'm not a service provider. I'm here because Michaela here as my Account Director, kindly asked me to come and share some wisdom with you. So if you have questions about what I'm doing, about and how it relates to my work, please ask me. No worries.
So, Strauss Coffee, just to give you a bit of background of what I'm doing for the company, which actually, is about one of the top 10 coffee companies in the world, even if you don't know about it. It's a company that has 6,000 employees, that has 16 different brands. So you know, quite impressive. So how come I've never heard about these brands, right? So I don't know if you see them. There's brands called FORT, a brand called Pedro's, Ambassador, MK CAFÉ. And it's normal because these are brands that do not exist in the U.K. So I am currently working in what I call my exotic countries. You know, Brazil, Israel, Russia, Serbia. You know, I have a great time discovering these new foreign countries, and that's why you don't hear about them.
But there's one big brand here that I'm launching, actually, which is a new experience for me, which is called Beans Café. I'm launching it in Romania. And I'm launching it because it's a kind of process. It's a digital brand. So for you as digital marketers, you know that I don't know any more when you say, "I've launched a brand." I don't know. I'm not sure. I think I've seen stuff launching for a few months, and I'll decide when I've launched it. So I'm launching it in Romania for the moment, and it's a wonderful experience for me as a marketer because it means I get to launch a new brand. You know, I get to go from start and launch a logo, launch a value of the brand, see how the consumer react on it. And I'm having the time of my life.
Honestly, I really enjoy it. And hopefully, one day, my expectations… and I'm looking a Michaela here because she's going to help me. I would like the brand to big so big that I can come and take it to the U.K. so that you guys can enjoy our wonderful coffee from this big company I'm into. So the question is, "That's really nice that you tell me that, but you know, what do we talk about?" Right, it's coffee? No, we talk about AI here. So where is the link? And the link for me is in what I've been doing recently working on this...I mean recently for the last 10 years…working into digital and you know, it's all about sharing with you the experience I've got for years and years about digital marketing and how what people call AI works in my life. And I don't like to call it AI. I call it intelligent automation of marketing, or whatever you want to call it, basically data-driven marketing with a bit of automation behind it.
I think AI is a bit too much. I mean I've been raised in science fiction, I don't know if you like science fiction, but for me, AI is all about robotics, singularity, Elon Musk that we've been talking about. And I wouldn't dare, you know, to compare myself to these guys. I'm not an engineer, so I can't code, I can't develop, I can't talk to you about AI. But there's one thing I can talk to you about, which is how to automate the marketing processes and how digital has helped me transition from these all dinosaur marketing was doing culture and thinking about the consumer from a very, very or far perspective to someone who's trying to know my customer and build a persona that I can really relate to, okay?
I will start with that. And you see a picture of a mouse here, and why is that? It's because, actually, my journey, I wouldn't say the start of it because the start was much earlier, was the moment where I had the "a-ha" moment. You know, the revelation about what all of this meant, happened to me when I was working in Disney. I was working as the head of digital marketing for Disney. But before that, I started in a video game company. I'm sure a lot of you have played video games because it's a nice transition to what we do today. I'm passionate of video games, you know, from science fiction to video games. I started the whole journey in video games industry. I ended up at Disney and was the marketer for video games there.
You know I was trying to be innovative because, honestly, my vision is that... at the time, and maybe it's different now…the people who were at the forefront of the digital revolution are people who really looked into automation of everything that is marketing were coming from video games. So I was trying to be innovative and to do some cool stuff. And then something someday happened to me, which is my boss came to see me and said, "Look Celine, we've just bought a new company, okay, and we would like you to go there and work with these guys to understand how we can work with them." I go, "Okay, let's go and see then. So who has this company?"
Anybody has heard about a company the whole time called Playdom? No? Ooh, one, that guy. So Playdom is a bit like a Zynga kind of company to give you, you know, a kind of comparison. We don't have Playdom name anymore because it's part of the Disney empire today. And when it was bought, it was bought because it was bringing a very specific knowledge for Disney and they had...you know, the forefront was, I would call, the digital automation already built. So I was like, "Okay, so this is what video games on Facebook for women at home who are bored." You know, as a pure video gamer, as a hot girl gamer, I was like a bit condescending on it. I was like, "Really? Is this going to bring me something in my life? I'm not sure."
And what happened is that I was invited for a three-days...whatever. I was doing du diligence, sharing of information, trying to see how we are going to work together. Back in Palo Alto, it was I think in 2011, so I think we were talking about, what, six years now. It sounds like it's really long time ago. And there I sat down with these guys where, by the way, all MIT guys were 23. I felt really inadequate. You know, they were like really little geniuses and they were trying to explain to me something that I had heard about but didn't understand. And really, I went deep into them. And what were these concepts? I know that today you all know about them, but for me, this was the inception of it because they make sense today as a whole and they're holistic.
The first concept was A/B testing, you know, the concept of automatisation, the A/B testing on everything that we do from the website, from the mobile site, to our marketing concept, to our monetisation strategy. This was, you know, basic today, but at the time of a big revelation. Then they introduced me to the notion about deep targeting and granular understanding of the characters, of the people we're trying to sell to. So not only trying to segment, which was already something big, but to really build persona for each and every segment important to us. How to segment our audience, how to really understand what they want, and from what they want, who are the people who are actually going to be valuable to us?
I don't know if you can relate to that, but the time they had a way to call the best customers, which I think a bit offensive, but you know, now I can share it. It's called the "whales," right? So I'm sure you've heard about that when you are into marketing of video games. So it was a revelation for me to know that I could know everybody that was buying our games. We could know exactly where they were living, what they were doing, what was their interest? And we could know that immediately. So this is still something that in other industries we're striving to do.
For example, in coffee, I don't have direct relationship most of the time with my customers, so I don't know them that well. So I'm still on the road to go there and understand my customer and like how I can bring them value. And those are concepts that I'm sure the guys from Google are going to cover, or from all these platforms that we have today, is BI and attribution. You know, I discovered the power of having analytics and understanding and really going deep into the data because, you know, I have the this thing about people who...we've talked about big data, you know. I hate big data because big data doesn't mean anything.
As a marketer what I want is more relevant data. I want a guy who's very clever to look into the data and come to me with insights that I can use, you know, and that I can leverage every day in my life. So that what is BI all about. It's not about gathering data, it's about making sure that we capture the relevant piece of data that we are going to be able to use in the future. And attribution is very much linked. When I begin to understand and organise my data, I understand where my valuable customer comes from. Where can I, you know, attract them, and what are the best means for me to do that?
So you know, at one point I went too much into attribution that I said, "Oh, I can do that everywhere." And I tried to do econometrics model and all that, and I lost a bit of myself. But let's keep it as a concept, it's very powerful and interesting when you have real data, and that's my favourite. This was the top of the top, you know, of the things I loved, you know, about discovering this new company, it was the calculation of lifetime value, okay? So I'm not expecting you to copy this formula and to use it because it doesn't mean anything. You all have to calculate your own lifetime value on your own business because it's not meaningful as a whole. But I can I tell that with this company, we were able to calculate lifetime value of a customer within two, three hours of launching a game, okay?
So imagine, you're launching a product or you're launching a service, and within three hours you know what your lifetime value is. You know, that was, for me, you know, incredible, and that's where I was. I was like here, you know, for a few days or a few months I was on my little cloud of like, "Yeah, I want to know about it. I want to learn about it," and I did. And I loved it, and it was great, and it was wonderful, and we were able to actually progress in this specific ecosystem, which was videogames. But then, I had to go back to reality. And about reality, my boss was like, "Okay, now you're not videogames anymore. You do digital marketing for all of Disney." And I'm like, "Okay."
And then I tried to apply this modelling to the rest of our products. And in Disney we had the cruises, the food, and you know, the toys, and the films. It was so different that when you try to apply this kind of very granular and deep analysis to something which is so big and so different, you lose yourself, you know? And then begin for me, you know, the tough road to make it happen beyond, you know, just D2C businesses, you know. So when you are in a business that is not D2C, where you have not a clear understanding of where your customers are, it's a really tough road. But there are ways, you know, and that's why I'm here today with Michaela. They are ways, and there just need to be more applications and a clear view of where you are going.
So this tough road has been happening for me since 2011. And actually, I'm still there because after Disney when I joined Strauss last year, I think I'm a bit of a masochist because instead of trying to apply what I knew to a nice U.K. business or a European one, I went to take countries and take care of countries that are…I wouldn't say not close road to maturity in term of digital, they are very far from it. So launching a new brand into Romania, where they have actually not really started to buy online, is a lot of work because you need to not only put in place the right system, but you need to educate the people. So I must say, I must have this kind of streak in me that I'm looking for difficulty, but you know, I think that's what makes life interesting.
So what I wanted to share with you, and it's bit of wisdom, is very superficial and very large, but then I get to discuss each of them specifically with you later, is what did I learn from this long road automating all of my systems in marketing, which by the way, is still far from being ideal today? I'm still there. There's a few insights that I want to share with you. First, you need to have a vision of where you want to go. You know, it's very important that to just dive into it without knowing, you know? It's not because some guys, all due respect, from Google or from Facebook comes and tell and say, "You have to have personalisation," that you need to have personalisation. First, you need to understand what is it that you try to achieve for your own business?
Once you have that, then you need the right partner. And then the Googles and the Facebooks, and even the local partners that you can have in my exotic countries, are absolutely key. I would not be able to make any kind of advancements if I didn't have these people with me today in my day-to-day. I have calls with them all the time because I'm not able, with my job of CMO, to keep up with all the digital trends. And these people are giving that to me, and they're proving solutions, and they're my partners. And above the platforms, there's also my agency. And I call them agency, and somewhere in me something is cringing because I don't like the word agency, you know, because it makes me feel about these old, big guys that I used to work with, that I can't, you know, work with anymore because they are not specialised.
You need to have someone who knows what they're talking about, you know, digital journey, and who's capable of accompanying you and to make things happen, especially if you are going to a company like mine, which is Strauss Coffee, which was not digital. They were completely out of it. I was just told that I have one minute, so it's something I need to go quickly. You need to...so now I'm like I lost it. So, yes, if you are coming from a company with no digital, you need a partner that are going to put in place the proper training of the people, the proper process, etc., etc.
So once you have the proper partners, you need a proper technology. And very quickly, my one sentence, because I have one minute, is go for one technology. Do not seek to integrate 20,000 technologies. Stick by it. Stick to the same stack. You know, chose the one that works for you and make sure that the people you work with are a partner and not a supplier, you know. And if you have things that are not perfect for you, make them change for you. Develop a new trend of features that you can negotiate with his partner, but do not try to have 20,000 API all over the place. It just doesn't work. I've done it, you know, a lot of times, and I will go into details of how this would work.
But most importantly…and I've learned that the hard way, believe me…is that you can have the best partners, you can have the best technology, you can have the best vision of how to make it happen, if you don't have the right people, this is not going to happen, so start with that. Make sure that you have the right people to accompany you in the journey and that they understand what you're talking about, you know. Because if they don't, you are in...I would say the deep shit, but yeah, I've just said it, you are, which I've been, basically, in my life. So if there's a training aspect of these people, make sure they have the ability to go there in the place you want to go in digital.
And then I want to link that back to the subject that we are talking about, AI, which is people have something that, for me, AI or automation doesn't have and will not have in the near future, maybe one day. I've read science fiction, but it is science fiction. You know, my reality, they don't have that. They don't have what you need to make a difference to connect with you consumer, which is the right the message. You know, because you can target the people into what they want, brings them value, but how do you talk to them, how do you get them here, you know? And there's a few series of things that human people are the only ones to bring. For me, humour.
I don't if you've seen that, it was something I just always my husband…comparison between, you know, Winnie the Pooh and Xi Jinping. I think it's incredible, very funny. It demands such a finesse in the humour, that I can tell you no AI is able to do that today. Really quickly, something I've done in my past when I was in Disney, this video here, I mean not this one specifically, but this concept reached more than 100 million people organically. And why? It was a very simple pancake video about Star Wars, okay? At the time it was very novel, you know, and AI would never had an idea to cook a pancake with a Star Wars figurine. A human did, and we achieved great results with that.
And then in my new venture, I think that what I'm going to try and instill to people is to give them courage, you know, to try new ideas and not to be afraid if it meets our audience. We are trying to go after the woman millennials, like makes you smaller. But you know, it demands a lot of courage from marketers. I don't know if you see it, and hope that your CEO is going to not feel offended, okay? We'll try it. It may work. It may not work. Actually, it did work. And today, are going into some spaces that are not usual for these countries. I think Romania here is something very novel for them to go into that space.
And to, at least at the end, and that's my last point for you, is to go into a place which is emotional, and to not be afraid of feelings because feelings and emotions is what the marketers, at the end, are doing. And that's why I don't think the CMO is dead because, you know, beyond all the process with techy stuff and also understanding we need to have…our role is to give emotion to people. And we need to find this right place between EQ, MIQ, where we provide, you know, the balance in everything we do, and that's, for me, the right picture of that. So thank you, guys. Have a good day.