A significant media presence is more important than ever! As a PR Consultant, Robert Koria takes care of precisely that.

In our new episode Jobtitles Bingo, he gives us insights into the day-to-day work of a PR Consultant, tells us what the best thing about his job is, and describes what his work has to do with an enjoyable glass of wine. And how does somebody become a PR Consultant? He also tells us that!   

So, get excited and have fun watching the new episode!

By Pooja Suvarna, Digital Marketing Manager at Serviceplan Group Middle

The growth in e-commerce in the recent two years has been exponential, we have seen the Pandemic as a wake-up call for many brands to speed up their e-commerce plans and activate their digital stores to ensure that they do not miss out on the opportunity of selling their products when the world went into lockdown. This is clear with double digit growth in e-commerce volume in our region according to multiple sources and expected to become a $50bn market by 2025 in GCC ($17.7bn in 2019. Stated in a report by Kearney Middle East notes).

Following this growth, many have started speculating about the role of Brick & Mortar stores, and even considering setting a date as to when the digital stores will completely take over. The online sales in e-commerce business are expected to increase by 14.8% every year whereas the offline stores will only increase by 1.9%. So, does this mean that physical stores are going to disappear?

There is no straight answer to this question, and with our experience in the digital sphere we can say that brick and mortar will continue to play a major role in the foreseeable future. However, the changes on the consumer behaviour imposed by the Pandemic will continue to impact the means of communicating with our consumer and their requirements in terms of store experience.

It is clear that in our region, digital penetration and usage is amongst the highest globally, and although many marketers focus their efforts on conversions when looking at digital channels, they should still consider the top of the funnel as a major role of such channels to help drive awareness about brick-and-mortar stores and eventually drive footfall. Though, with a channel that has been always understood to be highly targeted and very minimal wastage, we will have to rethink how we approach awareness when our objective is driving footfall. We can still use the traditional channels with hyper location targeting to ensure the messages are geo-fenced to the specific stores and this applies whether the retailer is a small or large one.

 On the other hand, brands must ensure that they create in-store experience that can compete with the online experience and eventually retain the footfall to the stores. These experiences can start with the human element with staff engaging the shoppers all the way to unique moments in the stores that will enhance the overall experience. Give-aways gift/vouchers with purchases can be another way of attracting the customers to visit the store and shop in stores. Direct checkout without long queue can be an option too to enhance the user experience further.

 Many retailers have started using in-store technology to attract users by introducing things like Augmented Reality overlay to see product reviews, discounts, features etc. which will entice and empower the shoppers to make a purchase decision. Shop and collect options can also be one way to bringing the user to the store which might also lead to additional shopping in the stores, this way the e-commerce business can also play a vital role in supporting the retail business.

Brick and Mortar stores will continue to be an important channel of sales, but innovation and technology will play a vital role for it to continue to excite people and engage them more while shopping in stores. Any retailer either big or small will have to embrace the change and start looking for ways to keep the engagement with their customers.

Understanding the customer – wouldn’t we all like that? Nico Blößl has a few tips to share. As Unit Director Client Consulting & Planning at Mediaplus, he not only manages the communication issues of our clients, but also helps them get their messages to the right people in the right way, at the right time.

So, have fun with a new round of Jobtitles Bingo!

Since summer 2021, Christian Waitzinger has been Chief Experience Officer (CXO) at Plan.Net Group, one of the leading digital service providers in the field of customer experience and commerce. As an experience and design expert, Waitzinger is responsible for defining a service and product portfolio for designing and implementation of data-driven customer experiences. In the following Experience Manifesto, he describes what experiences means in today’s world, what it needs to represent, and what the requirements are for a high-quality experience.

The way that customers perceive and interact with brands – whether at home or on the go, via digital channels, in stores or when contacting a service hotline – has changed. Brands today need to provide a seamless, contextualized, and data-driven customer experience in order to meet customer expectations. This is nothing new. Yet, it is also no secret that very few companies have managed to satisfy rising customer demands and create a truly differentiating brand experience.

This is precisely what we are striving for with our holistic customer experience management: Our goal is to understand customers across every interaction, touchpoint and organizational unit – from marketing to sales to customer service departments. Our task is to orchestrate and systematically improve all of these areas, because the key to lasting customer loyalty is a brand experience that is unique, personalized, appropriate anytime, anywhere, and constantly evolving.

Ideally, this process is managed centrally by collecting and evaluating customers’ experiences and data. We utilize this information to continuously improve the experience across sales, customer service and e-commerce. The result is a loop optimized incrementally by decision-makers via a process of distilling the insights gained from customer interactions and incorporating these into communications and further product development. The primary task is to build a personal relationship with the consumer: to create an ongoing dialog that calibrates the right time, place, and information with the customer’s personal interests.

Alongside a number of specialized disciplines – such as data, media, tech, user experience design and creation – what is needed above all is a cohesive experience strategy along with overarching organizational structures and processes within a company that are attuned to customer needs. To achieve this, companies must network their individual expertise and create synergies between creation, media, data, and tech – in other words, they must think about and orchestrate their customer experience holistically.

INTRODUCE OVERARCHING ORGANIZATIONAL PROCESSES

An experience strategy must be supported by all departments. It requires the right resources, skills and tools as well as the empowerment of individual employees and departments to be able to make decisions quickly and independently. However, this is often difficult within the traditional organizational structure of a company. A better approach is to establish customer journey teams that collaborate across departments, as some of our customers are already doing today.

Holistic customer journey mapping plays a key role in the organizational process, allowing us to centrally collate key insights in terms of customer expectations, data, and processes. With these as a basis, we are able to identify customers’ rational and emotional needs and a range of potential areas for improvement, as well as the necessary tools and systems, and the KPIs we need to measure.

Another crucial task is to ensure that the insights gained from a customer journey are implemented and result in genuine improvement. This requires an ROX (Return On Experience) model across the journey to plan and monitor the entire experience.

ESTABLISH A FUNCTIONING BRAND SYSTEM

The brand core itself serves as the basis for the holistic experience along the customer journey. Decision-makers should critically reflect on whether their brand’s fundamental visual identity is designed to allow the brand to withstand the continuous evolution of digital products and services, and thus remain successful in future. The necessary components of the brand identity are constructed in a manner that allows them to quickly and
consistently convey a uniform and harmonious image across all channels – and whether the way that the brand is perceived will still make sense in the future if parts of the brand experience are automated.

Today, many brand guidelines still consist of 90 percent print and offline instructions, thus criminally neglecting the brand’s digital component. Yet interface design will continue to evolve in the direction of “Zero UI”. People will increasingly talk to computers and expect an intelligent response. Data will serve as the basis for almost all services and products – today and in the future. A coherent, modular, and centrally orchestrated enterprise design and asset management system is therefore indispensable. Without this existence, it is virtually impossible to create a coherent and personalized customer experience. In addition, further development of the design system must be approached not as a one-off project but instead as a program that is managed centrally and across all departments.

FOCUS ON CREATIVE EXCELLENCE

As well as digitization and automation, constant performance tracking and the latest tech stack, experience requires passion, soul, creativity and innovation. The best digital ecosystem is worthless if it is not brought to life through good content, a differentiated user experience, and emotional storytelling.

In terms of the user experience in particular, there is need for improvement because digital products and services often appear interchangeable. Currently, the majority of them are designed according to best practices in order to make the experience for users as simple as possible. This is not wrong itself – the aim is to ensure that applications are easy to use. But the result is that every app works in the same way, virtually all e-commerce checkout processes are interchangeable, and most websites share a similar structure with familiar navigation.

It is time to ask whether the development of the user experience has been shaped too much by the notions of utility and usability – and whether there is an over-reliance on branding and marketing activities to provide brand differentiation. User experience design must return to its own creative strengths and no longer act in isolation. A good user experience can also provide differentiation – especially when combined with appropriate marketing and branding, attractive storytelling and emotional content. This allows us to create special, memorable moments and a coherent, stand-out brand experience for consumers.

ALIGNING DIGITAL PRODUCTS WITH MARKETING AND BRANDING

Digital products and services today need to be fused with marketing and branding in order to create a perfect brand experience. Consumers should feel a positive sense of engagement at every touchpoint by being appealed to at the right time in the right context and always finding themselves in the ecosystem of the brand world.

That’s why it’s desirable to closely dovetail product and marketing activities: The insights gained in the product world regarding consumer behavior are extremely relevant to the creation of branding and marketing activities. Marketing data in turn informs product development. After all, you want to make the right decisions in all areas.

This requires merging the marketing and product loops, aligning content and experience, and orchestrating all the creative disciplines to create a unique brand experience for customers. Because a great user experience boosts a brand, and a strong brand has the power to positively influence a digital product.

GREATER LOYALITY AND INCREASING CUSTOMER LIFETIME VALUE

Everyone knows that it is many times more expensive to acquire new customers than to keep them within the brand ecosystem. And a positive experience is key here, too: After all, customers who are enthusiastic about the entire product experience have less reason to look elsewhere. So the better the experience, the greater their loyalty and customer lifetime value (CLV), one of the core customer experience KPIs. And the harder and more expensive it is for competitors to regain the customers they’ve lost.

At Plan.Net, we are convinced that a successful customer experiences will in future require an integrated strategy and organizational processes, a brand system equipped for the future, and, above all, creative excellence. As the most creative digital service provider in Germany today with a high level of expertise in data-driven tech, our aim is not only to not only generate the brand promises for our customers, but above all to actually deliver on them – with consistent, seamless, and creative appeal across every platform and touchpoint.


Let’s get up and start a new round of #JobtitlesBingo!
“Platform Advertising Consultant” – what rolls off the tongue so smoothly can sometimes be as exciting as a roller coaster ride in everyday life. Our colleague Nina Altmann tells us what she finds so exciting about her job, how she imagines the perfect client and what makes her everyday life so beautifully diverse.

Check out our new episode Jobtitles Bingo and learn more about how diverse the everyday life of a Platform Advertising Consultant at Mediaplus is.

Our Worldwide Executive Creative Director Jason Romeyko sums up a week of ÜberCreativity, inspiration and motivational speeches at Serviceplan Group’s headquarters – the House of Communication in Munich.

Against all odds and the challenges posed by mounting a ÜberCreative Summit in real life in Munich, after a year and a half of virtual meetings during the Covid-19 lockdown, myself and our Global CCO Alexander Schill introduced a full programme of ÜberCreativity at our House of Communication in Munich, our first IRL since Zurich in 2020, when the world was on the cusp of a pandemic unprecedented in our lifetime.

What is ÜberCreativity?

ÜberCreativity is a higher form of innovation and a key asset to overcome the natural limitations of marketing as we know it. ÜberCreativity happens when different communicative disciplines combine their specific strengths to lift a creative idea up to a level nobody had ever expected to be reachable. 

The magic of ÜberCreativity lives in each of our Houses of Communication where creative & content, media & data and experience & technology collaborate and interplay. 

What is the ÜberCreative Summit?

Leaders and upcoming talent from Serviceplan Group’s Houses of Communication around the globe attended the summit in Munich, with representatives from; Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, Belgium, Italy, Japan, the Middle East, UK and USA in attendance in person, and China and Moscow represented via robot. On the first day we had some hi-tech visitors in the form of robots moving through the conference rooms, connecting us with ECDs in the Shanghai and Moscow agencies. 

As the host city was Munich, the original headquarters of Serviceplan when it started back in 1970 as a 2-man show, Matthias Harbeck introduced our German agencies, who presented some of their most exciting new work. And who were also in charge of creating this brilliant design for the summit – thanks again, Matthäus Frost! I love it!

What do I mean by ‘Big Game Hunting’?

I came up with the theme of ‘Big Game Hunting’ for the ÜberCreative Summit, not because I’m a fan of stalking wild animals as trophies, far from it, although Alex Schill and I liked the analogy of winning big clients and creating big, global campaigns.

When I talk about ‘Big Game Hunting’, I am taking metaphors and applying them to the mission of the Houses of Communication globally.

We hunt elusive clients. Only things we make visible will change the world. We don’t work for free. We create work that is a world first. And we create this ÜberCreative work with a goal of winning awards that rank us in the top tier of WARC.

What is the role of Creatives at the House of Communication?

To kick off the first day of the summit, Alex and I introduced the concept of ‘Big Game Hunting’ to our guests before we enjoyed a virtual talk by our CEO Florian Haller, recorded in New York where we was visiting our US partners Pereira O’Dell.

Florian Haller talked about what a central role creatives have within the Serviceplan Group, saying: “Creativity is from my point of view at the centre of an agency group. Creativity is the core. We have in our agency group through the ‘House of Communication’ model, the ability to create different silos and different disciplines. What we call ‘ÜberCreativity’. It’s a creative question to integrate ideas. I’m proud to be head of an agency group that’s so strong on tech and data. Tech, data and algorithm are tools we use to address our real job of connecting to human beings. We need to create more international cases that cross boundaries. In other words ‘Big Game Hunting’.”

Inspiration from our US partner

Pereira O’Dell co-founder PJ Pereira flew in especially from New York to Munich to join day 2 and 3 of the summit, where his presentation was a high point and gave insights into some of Pereira O’Dell’s world-changing new work, including a campaign for the Ad Council to encourage US citizens to get vaccinated against Covid-19, which featured 5 former US presidents and even the Pope – PJ actually wrote copy for the Pope, which he says was a career highlight!

Who were the most motivational speakers?

Friday’s sessions kicked off with a talk on ‘What’s blocking You’ and ended with a motivational speech about inclusion by Saatchi & Saatchi’s Worldwide CCO and D&AD President and my long-term friend  Kate Stanners.

Kate is a true beacon of creativity, a trailblazing female leader and a perfect example of our mantra that ÜberCreativity is inclusion. My feeling is that if we’re all homogenous we won’t get innovation. We need diversity. So Kate Stanners was an ideal guest speaker who has demonstrated with her stellar career that women can embody the pillars of ÜberCreativity on an equal footing with men. As a trailblazer for women creatives, she has proven that diversity in creativity is essential. Kate talked about the fact that she didn’t have a plan, but that left her open to opportunity. She has always ‘lived in the now’, not looking backward or forward.   

The ÜberCreative Summit in Munich took place in conjunction with Creative Week, which consisted of several days of talks by thought influencers and creative geniuses from within the Serviceplan Group, and kicked off on Monday with our SPARKS Creative Experience program for young talents on a junior to mid-level. Presentations during Creative Week included; ‘Thinking Inside the Box’ (creating ideas that work in a mobile age) with Serviceplan Berlin MD Myles Lord;

How to get PR buzz for your creative idea’ with Lee Sharrock & Birgit Koch, PR & Communications, Serviceplan Group; ‘Passiontainment: How live content is transforming digital entertainment’ with Alex Turtschan, Director Digital Accelerator Mediaplus; or ‘The Interface is NOT the brand’ with Christian Waitzinger, Chief Experience Officer, Plan.Net, amongst others. You can get some deeper insights via our Instagram Stories highlight where we featured a selection of our inspiring talks.

What a great week with inspiring people and people who were inspired!

Our colleague Alicia Fricke gives us some exiting insights into the world of the Digital Media Consultant, the job profile combines curiosity, analytical thinking, creativity and sociability.

Check out our new episode Job Title Bingo and learn more about how diverse the everyday life of a Digital Media Consultant at Mediaplus is.

It was back in 1992 when Herbert F. Barber came up with the term VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – but it also happens to be a near-perfect description of how things are right now. Although initially introduced by Barber as a concept for strategic company management, VUCA also reflects the problems currently facing managers – including outside of their respective organisations. Today, it describes the influences that global dependencies, political controversies, technologisation and changing consumer behaviour are having on companies and entire sections of society – and therefore keeping 21st-century managers on their toes.
However, hardly any of these influences has brought about such far-reaching changes as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been hanging over us since March 2020. It has led to events that many people had previously thought impossible: e-commerce penetration in the US grew from 16% to approximately 34% within the space of three months (by way of comparison, it took about ten years to increase from 5% to 16%); internal projects for which a timescale of around three years had initially been planned were launched over a single weekend; and entire industries were turned on their heads – restaurants, healthcare and traditional retail being cases in point. The coronavirus has led to longstanding certainties losing their currency and being replaced by a new normality – meaning that VUCA has taken on a whole new importance.

Digitalisation: the constant factor in the new normal

In the ensuing uncertainty, digitalisation is now a central instrument on the agenda of all company bosses as it allows them to respond more flexibly to these volatile influences and to introduce countermeasures. Although it had already been quite a challenge for many companies to take their company processes to the next (digital) level, the advent of the coronavirus now means that this has become a survival factor that will determine each company’s future. Whether it’s a question of expanding the online area to include offline sales, implementing projects entirely by digital means or managing teams via digital channels – digital services and platforms facilitate these initiatives in only a fraction of the originally intended time and are therefore a central component of company management. And one that is here to stay.

The challenges for managers involve overcoming the physical distance to individual colleagues brought about by the need to work from home and, in spite of largely decentralised teams, to create digital interactions with a view to implementing project processes and encouraging team spirit. As a result, the pandemic has increased the urgency of implementing digital solutions as this is the only way to counter the crisis adequately and to respond more swiftly to the impact that it is having. So it’s no wonder, then, that – according to a DMEXCO trend study – approximately 70% of managers based in the DACH region indicated that the pandemic will speed up their planned digital transformation projects to enable them to meet the new requirements.

Adaptability will determine future company success

Managers are currently being given a crash course not only in digitalisation, but also in change management and New Work. Here, one of the main critical success factors will be how individual managers practise ‘remote leadership’ in companies – this is because the agility and flexibility of the predominantly cross-functional and decentralised team members must be ensured continually. One fundamental aspect for companies is therefore how skilfully and quickly they can respond to crises and changes in their organisational environment and adapt their organisation accordingly.

VUCA 2.0 – an antidote for the current state of uncertainty

Driven by external influences, managers feel forced to explore new avenues and acquire new skills so they are in a position to face up to increasingly pressing questions. This is why it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the organisation’s common orientation and to be able to convey this successfully within the company and tackle the challenge together.

This is done by communicating a Vision, by Understanding the context, by presenting these with Clarity and implementing them with the necessary Agility – or, in short, with VUCA 2.0. This can be seen as the antidote to the VUCA term introduced by Herbert F. Barber. VUCA 2.0 gives managers guidelines that they need to apply in their operational management functions in order to keep on top of current and future challenges:

V ision:

More than ever before, managers need to be able to provide continual orientation in the context of changes and to put forward a vision that the organisation can gear itself towards. This not only requires the definition of a ‘guiding star’ but also the necessary degree of transparency that will allow each and every employee to devote themselves to the mission at hand. At the same time, it is important to create a common understanding of values and the organisation’s strategy so that managers are in a position to make relevant company decisions, thereby enabling their teams to take the same route.

U nderstanding:

As well as defining a common vision, a far-reaching understanding of structures and processes is important in order to be able to apply skills that exist within the company quickly and effectively. At the same time, an in-depth understanding of the company context must exist – this is necessary for adapting flexibly to dynamic requirements from customers, competitors and changes in the political climate. To this end, transparent communication and networking need to be established throughout the company so that any volatile influences can be nipped in the bud. Only in this way is it possible to respond flexibly to external changes, to minimise risks and encourage resilience.

C larity:

One way to deal with the complex internal and external organisational environment is with focused and clearly formulated company management. This will bring clarity to the existing fog of chaos, enabling effective countermeasures to be defined and implemented. As a result, processes can be structured more clearly, communication channels used more efficiently and company decisions conveyed quickly and resolutely so that, in spite of the existing complexity, they can be communicated transparently to employees and continually made visible.

A gility:

In order to remain viable for the future, companies need to be agile enough to adapt to external requirements and flexible enough to respond to a changing environment. This means that agility not only needs to be reflected in the company structures and processes – at the same time, it constitutes a leadership quality that is evident when managers demonstrate an agile mindset. This is why initiating a cultural shift and establishing flexible processes and cross-functional cooperation models is a central function for managers today. To do so, they must be able to communicate openly within the organisation and find suitable solutions for external changes quickly – without losing sight of the aforementioned ‘guiding star’.

Digitalisation is central to the success of VUCA 2.0

VUCA 2.0 offers managers an approach that can guide them in times of mounting uncertainty. However, this also means that suitable technologies need to be used, digital platforms set up and internal knowledge transfer geared in such a way that relevant information, data and transparency can be exchanged quickly and flexibly with regard to the changing situations. To this end, organisations should do away with siloed thinking, encourage integration and collaboration between different areas and establish mechanisms that motivate self-reflection. In addition, companies have to create an environment for ongoing learning and a values-based culture in order to provide employees with the tools they will need to deal with sudden, unforeseen events. This empowers individual teams and employees – through personal responsibility and reflection – to counter the combination of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that is set to be the norm for the foreseeable future. Such an approach ultimately enables employees and managers alike to make use of the necessary information strategically and in the interests of the company – all with a view to optimising resource distribution and avoiding inefficiency.

VUCA 2.0 as a core skill of today’s organisations

Implementing the guidelines of VUCA 2.0 is ultimately a critical factor for managers when it comes to withstanding the challenges posed by the VUCA influences today and in the future – and emerging stronger than ever. By defining a vision, understanding their own organisation and ensuring clarity in their communication and agility in their actions, it is possible to take the edge off uncertainty and, in turn, to follow a common vision together. Changing management and employee conduct in line with VUCA 2.0 will well and truly bear fruit once it has been aligned with the right tools, platforms and technologies. However, intended change only occurs when its wheels are set in motion – and what better time for change than right now?

This article first appeared in TWELVE, the Serviceplan Group’s magazine for brands, media and communication. In the seventh issue, you will find further inspiring articles, essays and interviews by and with prominent guest authors and renowned experts centred around the magazine’s theme “Rethink!”. The e-paper is available here.

Job profiles at Serviceplan Group

Who does new client acquisition for Mediaplus? And what exactly do our colleagues when it comes to acquiring new clients? Susanne Kiefl and Larissa Staadtlich provide us with interesting insights into their jobs as New Business & Marketing Managers and tell us how their day-to-day work resembles a barraquito.

Check out our new episode of Jobtitles Bingo and learn more about the exciting day-to-day life as a New Business & Marketing Manager at Mediaplus.

How does one go about reinventing a traditional brand? How important is sustainability for successful brand management? Which skills does the CMO of tomorrow need and what kind of role will they play in companies in the future? Florian Haller and Susann Schramm, CMO McDonald’s Germany, met up for an interview to discuss the answers. 

Florian Haller: Two years ago, you ushered in a new era of brand management at McDonald’s. How does one go about reinventing a traditional brand?
Susan Schramm: I think the secret – and not just for McDonald’s – is not to allow a brand to become a “traditional brand” in the first place. You have to permanently breathe new life into it. At McDonald’s we’re constantly asking ourselves how we can do things better, how we can look at things in a different way. McDonald’s is a brand that manages to move with the times and keep an eye on its customers’ needs. In brand management, you have to really take a close look at the everyday lives of your target group. There can also be a certain element of tradition in the consistency of change and development.

It’s a well-known fact that digitalisation is the biggest driver of change. What role does it play in the rethinking of a fast-food brand?
Susan Schramm: At first sight, digitalisation doesn’t seem to really apply to a company like McDonald’s, because the act of eating is always analogue. But losing sight of the digitality in our lives would be a huge mistake for us as a brand. Our extensive digitalisation – with our ordering kiosks, app, CRM system and lots more besides – has fundamentally changed our service concept, our production options and our overall business model. Especially now, in the crisis, focusing on our digital further development is really paying off for us as a brand. We are seeing that the path we have chosen was the right one. This means that we now have completely different ways to communicate with our target groups and also offer them virtually contactless services.

What form does digitalisation take at McDonald’s?
Susan Schramm: Launching our app, which I can use here as an example, has benefited us greatly. Sure, there’s nothing revolutionary about an app in itself. But in next to no time we gained over 15 million registered users and therefore also the opportunity to learn something about our customers and target them effectively. And it means we now also have a tool that we can use to make perfectly tailored offers for specific target groups. As a company, keeping up with the times is very important, particularly for our target groups in their teens and 20s. The app gives us a form of communication that we can use to reach them in the digital environment that is such an integral part of their daily lives. And the “Mobile Order & Pay” feature that is integrated in the app is proving extremely useful during the current crisis.

Would you say that McDonald’s has developed from a mass brand into a personalised one?
Susan Schramm: We are definitely getting there. Now that we can appeal to our customers in an increasingly personalised way, our communication with them is completely different and we can build up a sense of familiarity and trust. The only way to find out who our customers were in the past was through research. In future we won’t only know who visits us, but will also be able to enter into a 1:1 dialogue with them and provide them with individualised offers.

Will the coronavirus crisis leave a permanent mark, or will things eventually get back to normal?
Susan Schramm: I don’t believe that there will be a “back to normal”. We have all learnt a lot from the crisis, I think, and it is precisely these findings that we will take with us into the future. What I could envisage is a shift towards more sustainable consumption, to a greater sense of responsibility and appreciation of things.

So will sustainability and purpose remain megatrends?
Susan Schramm: I have the feeling that these topics will become even more relevant. The pandemic has shown us that we humans are lot more vulnerable than we thought. Our entire generation didn’t ever imagine or expect such a crisis to happen to them. We are suddenly realising that a lot of things we took for granted are being questioned and can fall asunder quickly. So in that respect, I believe that sustainability and values will gain in significance – even though we are seeing a certain discrepancy between morals and consumption. And if a brand wants to be relevant in the long term, it has to face up to that. So as a company of course we have to look at what our customers want and what is actually being purchased and consumed.

McDonald’s isn’t a brand that most people would associate with sustainability. How do you want to change that?
Susan Schramm: By moving with the times and constantly developing, we can always ensure that the measures are visible and transparent.It all comes down to authenticity, i.e. the things that you can credibly represent. The McDonald’s of 2020 is a far cry from the McDonald’s of 30 years ago. A lot has been achieved: more sustainable packaging, a vegan burger, free-range eggs and lots more. We know that certain things cannot be changed from one day to the next, but that it takes time – for example in the case of supply chains that have to be built up. There are a lot of small steps that we are taking with a view to becoming better in the long term.

In an interview you once said that loudness wasn’t your thing. But in this day and age, how can you be heard without being loud?
Susan Schramm: A lot of brands can be loud – sometimes all they need for that is the right budget. But many loud brands are still not very convincing and aren’t necessarily successful either. And volume alone doesn’t enable you to get your message to stick in people’s minds, not by a long chalk. Relevance and authenticity are more important here. There are many great ideas that start out small and then often spread a lot more successfully than if you were to just shout them from the rooftops.

Speaking of which, how do you use social media as a brand?
Susan Schramm: We use a lot of social media channels to communicate with our customers, but it’s about keeping the dialogue going here too. Marketing messages don’t work in the same way on all platforms and in terms of channel-adequate messaging, we have experienced an enormous learning curve in the past few years. Just because something works on Instagram, that doesn’t mean it necessarily also has to work on TikTok. A lot of work and orchestration are required: what is the target group, on which channel, how should we target them and what messages are relevant?

But when it comes to social media, there is still the question of how you scale all of that. You need a widespread impact, after all…
Susan Schramm: That’s why I always say that social media and digitalisation are absolutely indispensable. But simply writing off TV, outdoor and print advertising is the wrong approach in my opinion. Conventional media still have a very strong impact and are moving more towards interaction with online and social media. You need to find the right media mix: which medium is the best for which purpose? I’m a firm believer that success all comes down to having the right mix.

Does a brand need one big idea, or does it make more sense to appeal to the different target groups on different platforms with lots of different ideas?
Susan Schramm: If I have an amazing idea that works on all platforms then that one idea is enough. But that’s rarely the case, which is why you usually need lots of ideas. You have to keep surprising people, while always keeping your eye on the current zeitgeist, trends, medium and target group. And also make sure that all of that is in harmony with the brand’s core. The trick is to ensure that the brand is recognisable at all touchpoints in the long term, without always being the same.

What do you see as the core of your role as CMO?
Susan Schramm: I have a very young team made up of lots of great people – and it is my job as CMO to motivate and inspire them and to create an environment in which employees are confident enough to develop things and also themselves. Ideally, I am the person who has the vision for the brand and says where we need to be heading. And then we develop the path to that goal together.

Is working with the younger generation different these days?
Susan Schramm: It used to be about accumulating knowledge and then passing it on to the next generation. But it has become more of a give and take. As an experienced CMO, you bring a certain calmness to a situation – you are able to analyse things and recognise opportunities and set out guidelines in certain areas. But there are also areas in which I learn an incredible amount from the young people I work with, for example when new channels gain in relevance among the young target group. That’s a lot of fun and always exciting.

Do you expect the CMO to have a more or a less important role in companies in the future?
Susan Schramm: I’m an optimist as far as that’s concerned. Basically, I think the CMO will gain in significance, although it does of course depend a little on the company structure. McDonald’s, for example, is very much a marketing-oriented company, and we as the marketing team are not only responsible for the brand but are also measured by sales and have a responsibility for them. We get the figures every morning at 8:00 am, and that’s when I can see how our products and offers are being received by the customers. That success is much more quantifiable than if I am “just” responsible for shaping the brand. And it means I have more of an influence on the company’s profits and direction.

One point is certainly also that digitalisation is breaking down barriers to market entry. That is levelling the playing field, which in turn is leading to marketing generally becoming more important.
Susan Schramm: It’s true that digitalisation is making it more important to develop your brand and clearly differentiate yourself from the competition. If you want to stand out, you have to engage with new channels and ways of interacting with the target groups. The greatest challenge here is creating instant recognition value and communicating it as individually as possible at the same time. A lot of people underestimate how difficult it is to develop a brand and keep it relevant and modern. So I believe that intelligent marketing will continue to make the difference here in the long run.

Does a CMO need to be a forward-thinker when it comes to innovation?
Susan Schramm: Ideally, the marketing team should bring creativity and a new way of thinking to the company. I think all companies would benefit from giving their CMOs the freedom to innovate – perhaps even the formal responsibility for innovations.

What will be the major brand management issues in the post-coronavirus world?
Susan Schramm: The main issue in our post-pandemic future will be what kind of an effect the crisis is having on consumers and consumer behaviour, and how brands can communicate accordingly. That’s not really something that anyone can predict yet. Security and trust are important factors here. It will be important to understand what your own brand stands for in this new context. Reconciling both those factors in the future will be quite a challenge.

What skills do brand managers need to bring to the table to achieve this?
Susan Schramm: That can only be achieved with a certain amount of empathy, a quality that is becoming more and more important. If I want to understand how people tick and how my communication is being received, then I can research everything and prove it with data. But I am still convinced that it won’t work without empathy. A CMO should also have the guts to be able to make certain decisions and think differently. It’s important to keep an open mind. And that includes not being too self-important. I think that this openness and the ability to listen to others are extremely important qualities for someone who works in marketing.

Thank you very much for the interesting interview.

This article first appeared in TWELVE, the Serviceplan Group’s magazine for brands, media and communication. In the seventh issue, you will find further inspiring articles, essays and interviews by and with prominent guest authors and renowned experts centred around the magazine’s theme “Rethink!”.  The e-paper is available here.