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Why marketers have a love-hate relationship with complexity

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Why marketers have a love-hate relationship with complexity

Henk-jan ter Brugge is director, global digital marketing and e-commerce for consumer- and healthcare-tech giant Philips in Amsterdam. We caught up with him about his experience with marketing and technology.

So how did you wind up in marketing? What brought you to where you are today

I didn’t specifically study marketing, but I see people of all backgrounds and trades in marketing nowadays. So, I’m not a classical marketeer as a lot of graduates think of it.

I started at a startup, but seven years ago I started working for Philips and I started in the global digital team. Then I worked for six months in the Chinese market in Shanghai. Then I worked in new business development. So, really to sell a solution of Philips in the market. And that’s basically where my interest started for digital marketing and everything around it. 


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What happened?

I saw I couldn’t do my job as I wanted to do. I wanted to make a simple website. [I couldn’t] partly because I was relatively young starting in the big company. I just didn’t know how the company worked, right? But partly the ways [to do that] were not yet in place at that time, but that has improved significantly as they say.

[After that] I moved back to the global digital marketing commerce team. And I really got a love for the backbone of marketing. It has been a good choice so far. I get a lot of energy from it … I love the newness. I love the complexity, which is something you like but also hate. 

Why is that?

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With a lot of big companies, they almost show off with all the technology they have and I don’t think it’s something per se to show off with. Less technology can be better, depending on whether you take it from a global or local market perspective. 

Complexity means a lot and it means nothing. It’s making sense of that complexity that matters. Getting understanding from the data you have, getting the right teams behind it, letting teams understand the value of the technology. Doing that means not putting technology first, but putting the use case first, what you deliver with it. 


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By managing that complexity you learn about the complete marketing chain. And now it’s not only marketing anymore. It’s marketing with e-commerce, and e-commerce becomes the sales channel, right? It’s change management. It’s education. It’s working with the IT teams, with the whole organization basically. And you’re the spider in the web and that’s the beauty of the job I have.

[It’s] managing that complexity by bringing IT or tech closer to the business and vice versa, where they can immensely impact each other. Getting more people on board with how technology can help in all that. But also the understanding of having the right people, the right ways of working, of really getting that enterprise mindset. 

Is there something that you can’t do that you wish you could? 

Often what you see, especially in the big corporations, is that you don’t have all the information. and there are some functions that have a bit more information than others. Because of that, sometimes you have a meeting, you talk different languages. You think you understand each other, but you don’t. I wish that was something we could connect in the company to make sure that everybody talks the same language.

Read next: Data and confused: The increasing complexity of digital ad targeting

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About The Author

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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MARKETING

Build-A-Bear using data to make itself into an all-ages brand

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Build-A-Bear using data to make itself into an all-ages brand

Build-A-Bear is remaking itself for the 25th anniversary of its founding this year. This means using its experience and its data to appeal to older customers and create stronger online connections.

“The goal that was stated for us was to diversify our brand, evolve our retail portfolio and build stronger relationships with our consumers,” said Ed Poppe, Build-A-Bear’s vice president, loyalty and performance marketing for Build-A-Bear, in a presentation at The MarTech Conference.

That’s why they launched HeartBox, an e-commerce play which the company says will let it move into “the adult-to-adult gift-giving and gift box market which has been meaningfully expanding over the past few years.” This goes along with its new Bear Cave line of “adult” bears (in this case adult means they have alcohol in hand). The brand has also expanded through partnerships with film, entertainment and streaming TV properties like Harry Potter, Pokémon, The Matrix and the Marvel series WandaVision.

These efforts are designed to give more options to customers who buy online, and increase options for engagement. This has required integrating new teams and new sources of data.

Connecting customer data and teams

“Over half of businesses now say that they expect the majority of their revenue to come from digital channels,” said Loretta Shen, senior director, product marketing, marketing cloud intelligence for Salesforce. “To meet changing consumer behavior, marketers are adopting digital channels like video, social media and digital ads across search and paid media. But it’s not just adopting these channels, but how you use them, and in particular how you use them in tandem.”

Build-A-Bear adapted to customers’ increased digital use by adding new digital experiences while also reorganizing customer data to better understand what customers want.

“We have to understand our guests at Build-A-Bear,” said Bryce Ahrens, Build-A-Bear’s senior analyst, CRM, loyalty and performance marketing. “How do they engage with our email, our websites, our advertising and, of course, how do they engage and experience our in-store environment?”

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They keep a large CRM database made up of loyalty program members, website customers, retail customers and sales prospects. Additionally, through access to the CRM, the organization is pulling together different teams: web development, analytics, marketing and also data privacy people.

These teams have to remain connected because data is coming through different systems. Build-A-Bear has a first-party data warehouse, a commerce cloud storefront, an order management system, marketing cloud, an email platform and different analytics solutions, not to mention ad platforms for campaigns.

“We need to be able to bring this information together, prioritize what we look at, and identify strategies to move quickly,” said Ahrens.

Read next: What you need to know to grow your e-commerce business

Count Your Candles

Data and digital experience come together in an ongoing Build-A-Bear effort called “Count Your Candles.”

The promotion is a special offer for customers to order a discounted bear (regularly priced at $14) that costs a dollar amount that matches their age.

The dedicated webpage for this promotion also allows customers and gift-givers to buy gift cards and become loyalty members. Additionally, there are a number of other ways that customers can celebrate birthdays, including in-store birthday parties and special birthday gift boxes that can be ordered and delivered.

These strategies came from marketers looking at the data and seeing what sparked their customers’ interests. In this case, it was birthdays.

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“We’re lucky to have a team up here who wants to jump in and help drive our business forward,” said Poppe. “But it also brings us back to where it’s important to aggregate data, identify patterns, see your opportunities, and pick your path forward.”


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Optimizing digital experiences with marketing and commerce insights from Third Door Media on Vimeo.

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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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