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Deep Dive

CommBank marketing chief Monique Macleod on in-housing, the kind of marketers she needs, blending art and science, and brand building out of Covid

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

2 November 2020 6min read

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

2 November 2020 6min read

CommBank's analytics chief Andrew McMullan recently credited CMO Monique Macleod as a major influence in driving the alignment of marketing and technology functions, creating stronger outcomes for customers via a balanced blend of art and science. For her part, Macleod believes transcending silos is enabling the bank to unlock greater value than the sum of its parts. Now she says the bank is actively focusing on hiring talent with "a growth mindset" as its 200-strong marketing team continues to do more work in-house. But agencies on CommBank's roster shouldn't panic just yet - Macleod says there will always be a role for external partners. The bank is working on its in-house remit and promises to stick to it.
2021 CMO agenda: Share of search and social, tech interoperability 

Alongside people and talent, top of the CMO agenda in 2021 are measurement and tech stack interoperability, according to Macleod.

“The debate and conversation around measurement is coming back to some of those principles from Les Binet and Peter Field Field around share voice. Is it still relevant, should it be share of search, share of social? I think that's a good debate and it’s going to be an area that continues to elevate. It will be very interesting to see how the platforms respond to that,” says Macleod, whose money is on them ultimately “opening up” in response.

Meanwhile, getting tech stacks right and ensuring interoperability across the piste will continue to be something marketers must grapple with – and Commbank is no exception.

“We have Google products, we have Salesforce products, we have Adobe products - and we need to integrate them with Pego when we do that. So how everything will talk to each other and integrate well is an ongoing challenge,” she says.

“What good looks like is as it relates to the full tech stack is an ongoing challenge for many.”

 

Check out this week's podcast with CommBank's CMO Monique Macleod below:

 

What you need to know:
  • CommBank CMO Monique Macleod is a longterm disciple of Binet and Field’s work around brand over performance
  • She says CommBank tipped too far into lower funnel performance marketing in 2016/17 and got burnt
  • Macleod aiming for a ratio of 70:30 brand to performance
  • Says CommBank aims to hire marketers with “growth mindsets” to complement its 200-strong team
  • Now working to integrate its ‘decisioning engine’ with its programmatic media buying
  • While CommBank has taken digital media in house and has set up its own creative studio, Macleod “always” sees a role for external providers
  • Says CommBank is currently nailing down remit for its in-house operations; aiming avoid “scope creep” on both sides
  • Predicts “very challenging” period for measurement as third party cookies removed from ecosystem
  • Thinks search and social as proxy for share of voice will be key discussion point for 2021, backs platforms to “open up” in response
  • Tech stack integration another key challenge

 

“We can genuinely say we saw at work some of those downside impacts that Binet and Field talk about. So we've had good reason to implement some of their strategies”.

- Monique Macleod, CMO CommBank

Can do

Given it was only the fifth time Commbank had rebranded in 108 years, last month’s repositioning was planned long before Covid hit.

But the need for “measured optimism” as Australia battles to emerge intact from the pandemic is palpable, says CMO Monique Macleod. With the bank’s own recalibration post-Royal Commission, she says CommBank is now ready to play a “major role” in economic rebuilding.

“How we show up for our customers – and Australia in general – during this time is going to be critical. Customer service and helping people through this time is our number one priority,” she says.

The new brand platform is an expression of that intent.

THE PULSE

Quick question: Monique Macleod ses share of search and social as the new proxy for share of voice. Agree?

Choices
Brand building out of Covid

A long-term disciple of Binet and Field, Macleod says she's "still a believer" and that the bank will continue to weight media heavily towards brand post-Covid. Macleod admits the bank learned firsthand the lessons of going too far towards performance.

Around 2016/17, she says CommBank “had shifted X per cent of our budget to digital and were probably becoming a bit more short-term in nature – and we saw the impact in terms of top of funnel activity around the brand. We can genuinely say we saw at work some of those downside impacts that Binet and Field talk about. So we've had good reason to implement some of their strategies”.

Within financial services Binet and Field recommend weighting ad budgets 80:20 brand to performance. Macleod says CommBank has yet to go that far: “But 70:30 is a good place if we can aim to be there.”

“While analytics and marketing are two different teams, we do work together as one. Because it is very much around how we identify the right opportunities - and then execute against them in a way that is highly relevant, as engaging as it can be, and with a test and learn mindset.”

- Monique Macleod, CMO CommBank

Art, science and AI mega brains

CommBank’s analytics chief, Andrew McMullan, recently credited Macleod as a major influence in driving the alignment of marketing and technology functions so that customers get better outcomes.

He described Macleod as “one of the visionary leaders who wanted the customer relationship banking programme to work and who pioneered the customer engagement engine”.

“Monique has been driving this from the very get go, and now her team is pushing us even further in terms of personalisation [of comms]. They want to go further, faster,” he told Mi3.

Quite a wrap, and Macleod is equally effusive about McMullan and his department.

“While we are two different teams, we do work together as one. Because while the tech and the capabilities have been put there, which is phenomenal, it is very much around how we identify the right opportunities - and then execute against them in a way that is highly relevant, as engaging as it can be, and with a test and learn mindset.”

That combination of art and science unlocks powerful business outcomes that go beyond the sum of their parts - and beyond silos, according to Macleod.

“If you get the right people together with the right mindset, anybody can come up with good ideas. The answer doesn't have to be a 'comms answer' or an 'experience answer'. You are trying to solve customer needs. That is where Andrew [McMullan] is brilliant, because he not only has an amazing brain around the analytics, modelling and AI, but he can also sit there and talk really easily about 'well, we can see this group of customers and wow, wouldn't it be really helpful if we just did this for them?’

She says that collective approach has changed the way the marketing function operates.

“One of the things of the past is we would spend time doing annual and quarterly plans, consider the customer lifecycle and try to understand our key challenges and what we wanted to do. Great theory and practice, but that would have been a waterfall process in the past, old school style,” says Macleod.

Now, teams are “sitting together in a scrum” with digital, marketing and data all feeding in. “So we can come together and say, not only on a macro but also on a micro level, ‘what is it that we need to be deploying against, what are the opportunities we can see with customers and how do you deploy multi-channel activity that's highly personalised and relevant? So it's a different rhythm and way of operating,” she explains.

“You still have your big strategic, overarching customer strategy - but the way that the teams work together and integrate is completely different to what it was a few years ago.”

“I've certainly learned over time is your tech is never sorted. You are continually evolving it based on what you want to do and where you want to go.”

- Monique Macleod, CMO CommBank

Never ending tech stacks and media integration

Macleod says CommBank’s bespoke Pega-powered ‘customer engagement engine’ is working “incredibly well” and the next step is to integrate the system with its programmatic media buying. Be she says tech stacks are not something anyone truly completes.

I've certainly learned over time is your tech is never sorted. You are continually evolving it based on what you want to do and where you want to go.”

She says work remains for CommBank around “serving up contextually relevant multivariant creative assets” in an automated fashion.

“So we've not got the whole thing sorted, but we've got the vast majority - and then it's just how do you continue to improve the tech stack to make marketers’ lives easy.”

“The most important thing for us is when we look at people capability, is whether they have a growth mind-set. We are talking about that in the business [at the moment], because what we find is that if you can bring that mindset, even if you are a specialist, you have the ability to traverse quite easily, and you’re also open to it.”

- Monique Macleod, CMO CommBank

Talent and crossing swim lanes

To a hammer, everything looks like a nail – and while Macleod says CommBank increasingly requires specialists to deal with a fragmented media landscape, the bank is looking to hire talent with broader horizons.

“The most important thing for us is when we look at people capability, is whether they have a growth mindset. We are talking about that in the business [at the moment], because what we find is that if you can bring that mindset, even if you are a specialist, you have the ability to traverse quite easily, and you’re also open to it.”

While not everybody will be a leader hunting growth opportunities, “in an ideal world, 30-40 per cent” of the team might be made up of those kind of people, says Macleod. “I notice it when there is a void [of that kind of mindset] – and if you end up with lots of specialists who are completely happy to stay in their swim lanes, then that can be a challenge.”

Especially when the marketing team is 200-strong. Of that headcount, more than a third sit within the retail consumer side. The next chunk by volume handles commercial banking “from small business right through to institutional”. Then comes the brand and social team and the marketing services team, “which is basically all of our in-house studio media, buying, ops everything that sits together,” says Macleod, and “then we have our customer insights and strategy team”.

Shifting remits: In-housing versus agencies

With 200 staff, Commbank’s marketing team is bigger than most agencies.

While these days it does an increasing proportion of creative and media activity in-house, Macleod says “there will always be a role for both”. But she says it is critical to define roles “and make sure you stay within that remit to get best value from both parties”.

The “war stories” about brands that get that balance wrong tend to involve “scope creep” on either side of the equation, says Macleod. On that front, CommBank is currently discussing “what we want the internal team’s true remit and scope to be and making sure we stay true to that”.

But she reiterates the non-binary nature of in-housing, and offers some comfort for those agencies on the roster, particularly creative shops.

“I always think there is a role for external agencies. The reality is that as a financial services organisation, as much as we can make the [in house] creative studio appealing, we’re not necessarily going to get the top talent in the market – and I don’t think we are best paced to do that.”

Equally, while CommBank now handles digital media internally, with the Pega integration potentially increasing that remit, Macleod says it will always value external input.

She references Ikon’s Pat Crowley, who has worked on the CommBank account for the best part of two decades:

“On the media side, there is always going to be value in an external view. You want constructive challenge; you want people who know your business; you want people who have relationships in the media world, in the industry that are different to the ones that we will have. There is value in that and of itself.”

In short, on in-housing, “There is room for both. The line is shifting depending on the nature of your business and how much you want to take on internally.”

“I always think there is a role for external agencies. The reality is that as a financial services organisation, as much as we can make the [in house] creative studio appealing, we’re not necessarily going to get the top talent in the market. On the media side, there is always going to be value in an external view. You want constructive challenge; you want people who know your business.”

- Monique Macleod, CMO CommBank

Outlook: Regulatory risk, regrowth opportunities

Impending regulation of tech platforms has led to evasive manoeuvres around data collection and privacy. Third party cookies are on their way out and there are some tectonic shifts underway in the digital ad ecosystem. Macleod admits there are some significant known unknowns.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions at the moment, but I think over the next 12 months we’re going to see a lot of change in this side of the business for us. The roadmap around how the ecosystem is going to work, particularly around measurement, is going to be very challenging,” says Macleod.

“Post-cookies, will everybody be set up to use their data in the right way, will there be privacy issues, how do we work with publishers, what kind of information are we happy to share off the back of that?

“There is no one ecosystem that is going to work well once cookies are removed. I think there’s going to be a lot of movement.”

For its part, CommBank’s outlook is focusing squarely on building out the technology to enable it to wield its first party data to “really enable personalisation and relevancy at scale” and ensuring it has the personnel to deliver on its ambitions to help underpin Australia’s economic recovery from coronavirus.

Whatever direction regulation or technology end up taking, Macleod says everything “always comes back to people.”

Which, she says, is what Can Lives Here is all about.

 

Check out this week's podcast with CommBank's CMO Monique Macleod below:
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2 November 2020 6min read

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