Live From Marketing Nation Summit: Digital Transformation, Resilience, and Authenticity

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By: Ellen Gomes


The energy and excitement is palpable at the Marketo Marketing Nation Summit. Marketers from across the globe are in Las Vegas, Nevada to join the brain power of 5,300 marketers and peers. We’ve all heard the saying, “the early bird gets the worm,” but for our early arrivals on Monday, many of them just got muscle soreness (in a good way!) The day kicked off with Move with Marketo, an early morning, intense PiYo session. Meanwhile, other marketers were prepping for an intense day of learning with Marketo University Day and Certification exams.

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Digital Transformation for Tomorrow’s Marketer

Tuesday kicked off with an eagerly anticipated all-star line-up of keynote speakers: Marketo Chairman and CEO Phil Fernandez, history-making mountaineer Alison Levine, and Will Smith. The doors opened, and a packed house sat down, ready to take it all in.

To start, Phil reflected on what marketing looked like 10 years ago—when Marketo was founded. He painted a compelling picture of then versus now that illustrated how far we have come. Marketers have transformed from being a service component of the business, with the purpose of feeding leads to sales and the perception of being a cost center, into a critical competitive foundation of the business with a seat at the revenue table.

Phil Tomorrow's Marketer

Tomorrow’s marketers are in lock-step with their customer and understand how the right innovative technology and data supports the ability to be personal. And they are starting to shape their entire organization and even overarching business objects around this concept, increasingly becoming the center of their business. In fact, Phil shared that 86% of CMOs believe they will own the end-to-end customer experience by 2020. Tomorrow’s marketers have moved beyond striving for a seat at the table; now, they are trying to achieve nothing short of a digital transformation.

And, it’s already begun. Marketers are already turning their attention and focus on the customer experience. They understand that if you can’t hear your customers and understand what they’re saying, there is no hope for transforming the customer experience. Marketers are already doing what is at the top of their CEO/CIO’s agenda, and that’s central to the competitiveness of your organization. But Phil challenged the audience, “If you’re tomorrow’s marketer, you need to think bigger—how can you layer this thinking and technology as a fabric across the organization?” We’re stepping into a new age where marketers are truly the change agents in transforming organizations around the customer.


Finally, Phil concluded with some product innovation news, mapping out advancements in our enterprise data infrastructure—Project Orion—which will handle more than a billion touchpoints a year and will roll out to customers soon. Additionally, he covered advancements in machine learning and predictive capabilities—expanding predictive content toward predictive email. And finally, he spoke about Account-Based Marketing, Mobile, and AdBridge capabilities that will evolve to support marketers over the next year to empower them with the latest and greatest technology.

The Nation Talks

Then, for a change of pace, Phil introduced four people (who aren’t necessarily marketers) to share their perspectives on what it means to be Tomorrow’s Marketer.

First up was Vincent Arcandia, Senior Vice President, Business Operations for the Portland Trailblazers, who shared with the audience, “When you think about tomorrow’s marketer, your really need to think about tomorrow’s customer or tomorrow’s fan. And that can be scary.” But he didn’t go on to tell a marketing ghost story; instead, he told a story that we’re all familiar with. Today’s customer has high expectations and those expectations are rising. They expect a seamless, customized experience. And, not only do you have to deliver it, but tomorrow’s marketer, and marketing department, needs to be equipped to decipher the digital breadcrumbs. The way to do it? Get out of your comfort zone. Understand the technology that can help you and collaborate with different parts of your organization—tomorrow’s marketer breaks down barriers.

Next, Jason Kodish, Global Chief Data Scientist for Digitas LBi, took the stage. He began by asking, “What does a chief global data scientist even mean?” And then he broke it down word for word, explaining that data is not a U.S. function, it’s global, and that “scientist” represents the fact that they apply the scientific method to their data “Understand, Hypothesize, Test..” But what’s the end result? You get to understand what people do. Not what they say, but their actions, which gives you (the marketer) an unadulterated understanding of what people are interested in and allows you to react and plan appropriately. His key takeaway: Companies that can understand and investigate their data end up winning, so it’s worthwhile to invest in the people, process, and tools.Marketo Marketing Nation Summit Keynote

Alison Levine emphasized the power of resilience. Alison has climbed Mount Everest twice and is one of a couple handfuls of people to complete The Adventure Grand Slam—climbing the seven major summits of the world and skiing in both the North and South Pole. Her story of climbing Everest, from the journey between trekking back and forth between base camp and different levels of highcamp to acclimate her body to the altitude to getting 300ft from the true summit and turning around, highlighted lessons that apply to tomorrow’s marketer:


Fear is natural; complacency will kill you.

Taking a step back is not the same as quitting.

You have to take action based on the situation at the time. Your plan is old the second you finish it.

You don’t need clarity to put one foot in front of the other.

The lessons you learn on your way are the most valuable part of your journey. You have to give yourself and your team permission to fail.

Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they do not, but you have to be there and be willing to weather the storm if you are ever going to have an opportunity.

Finally, we had Jeriad Zoghby, Global Lead of Personalization at Accenture Interactive, close off the Nation Talks. Jeriad shared that choices are good, except when you increase the burden of offering too many choices to your customers because it makes them feel less satisfied and confident with their decisions. The goal for today and tomorrow’s marketer is to make it easier for your customer to buy and engage with you and your products—where and when they want. How do you do that? His answer came in three steps:

1. Better orchestrate the customer experience. Don’t have duplicate platforms doing the same thing, and make sure your solutions integrate seamlessly.

2. Shift your talent and culture to reflect the needs of the digital age. Marketers no longer need to assemble catalogs as a primary skill. Instead, they need to tell complex systems how to act.

3. Align with the CEO. This isn’t about just getting buy-in, but actually partnering with the CEO to bring real change across the entire organization.

Let’s Get Authentic With It

The final keynote presenter for the morning came out with a burst of energy and a really fun song. As Will Smith took the stage with Let’s Get Jiggy With It, the entire audience was on their feet and dancing within seconds. But the energy did not stop there. After the (awesome) performance, he sat down with Marketo CMO Sanjay Dholakia for an insightful interview that covered everything from how to connect with audiences to reinventing yourself to work life balance. He left us with a few critical takeaways:

Emotion is vital. Connecting with audiences—as a marketer or an entertainer—is about emotion. Will shared that to be successful, you need to understand people, put yourself in their shoes, and offer them something that will make them feel good or connect with a universal emotion. A universally relatable emotion becomes the center of the experience, and that’s what breeds success. Using The Pursuit of Happyness as an example, the emotion was centered around a parent not being able to provide for his child—a feeling that an audience could connect to. Whereas with Wild, Wild West, the emotion was absent.

Technology changes everything. In his 30-year career as an entertainer, the recent changes in technology have forced him to evolve, and that evolution happens by immersing himself. He shared, “It’s hard to think your way to connection. You just can’t beat sitting in a crowd and feeling it.”

Authenticity is the key to balance. When asked how he and his busy family balance work and life, Will shared that you need to work from a framework of authenticity. Work and life are not separate aspects of your life, and authenticity is the through line to use as the basis for all your actions and interactions. And like he mentioned about shifting technology changing our lives, in this case, he believes that technology forces you to be authentic because we’re in a world where you really can’t hide anything.


Failure is a path to success. When asked about the fear of career transformation and change, Mr. Smith shared that he has a mantra that his family uses and lives by, “It’s one that I don’t know who said it, so I adopted it and call it mine: Fail early, fail often, fail forward.” The philosophy behind this is looking at failure as a way to succeed and aiming to fail rapidly.

What’s next for him? Well, as per Marketo tradition, Sanjay asked him if he would run for President of the United States. The answer? Patent denial…but we’ve heard that before.

Putting Context to Campaigns

One of today’s breakout sessions came from Rusty Warner, Principal Analyst at Forrester. Rusty explained that there’s a misconception that brands are just competing with other brands, but in reality, brands compete with everything that’s going on in a customer’s life. So, it’s critical for us to be customer centric and embrace context in our interactions with buyers so that our campaigns are interaction-focused rather than process-driven. To do this, you need to do 3 key things:

Prioritize your engagement channels by looking at which channels your customers are interacting with and make sure you’re delivering a consistent experience across them

Focus on the data, specifically in-motion data, to listen and respond to your buyers in real-time.

Invest in the right technology that enables you to engage with buyers across the customer journey and make sure it integrates with your tech stack.

More Than Words

Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group, delivered a powerful presentation on the value of content marketing. Marketing is all about brands having conversations with their buyers, and it’s through content that you can do this and power the customer experience. Stop interrupting what people are interested in and instead create what they are interested in. To make sure you’re on the right track, start by asking yourself a few key questions for each of your initiatives:

Why does it matter?

What is the business impact?

How will it be measured?

As you plan your content strategy, look at content at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Create the right amount of content relative to the size of the audience searching online. The ROI of content marketing can be measured through each of these stages. Michael closed off his presentation with a free gift to us, a cheatsheet on 10 steps and 10 calculations develop a content formula:

Bigger, Bolder, Braver

Later in the day, Ann Handley ‘s session, Good Content vs. Good Enough Content: A Fight For Sore Eyes, reinforced the importance of content. Ann asked the audience whether the world really needs more of the same content and if playing it safe was working. The answer—No. Only 38% of B2B organizations today know their content is effective, and that’s similar for consumer marketers. However, most marketers plan to spend more on content in the next year, according to data from MarketingProfs, but Ann asked, “Is that what we need?”

The solution? Make sure that your content offers real value, makes your audience smarter, and tells a bolder story. One way to immediately get started—your tone of voice. It’s your gutsiest, bravest, and most under-utilized asset. Want to make sure your tone of voice is clear and really represents you? Start with this test: “If the label falls off, do you know it’s yours?”

It was a busy, fun, and educational day and we can’t wait to see what day 2 brings! What was your big takeaway so far?