McKinsey How We See It Three Senior Executives On The Future Of Marketing 1 Essay

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McKinsey How we see it: Three senior executives on the future of marketing
Virgin Atlantic Airways CEO Steve Ridgway, American Express CMO John Hayes, and Yahoo! Research scientist Duncan Watts on staying ahead of the changes rocking the world of marketing.
JULY 2011
Source: Marketing & Sales Practice

In This Article
Video 1: John Hayes on the future of marketing
Video 2: Duncan Watts on the future of marketing
About the authors
Comments (6)
There is no quick path to success in the new era of customer engagement. Progress is likely to come incrementally—by listening to customers, making adjustments to engagement strategies, and learning through trial and error. Since diverse perspectives will be essential to mastering this new landscape, McKinsey’s Luke Collins, Tom French, and Paul Magill recently sought out three practitioners with very different vantage points on marketing’s future.
Virgin Atlantic Airways CEO Steve Ridgway talks about how his company recently has been pushing the boundaries of collaborating with customers, while experiencing the pleasant surprise of a successful mass-media campaign. American Express CMO John Hayes discusses what today’s “marketing revolution” means and describes some of the organizational steps he has taken to get ahead of it. Duncan Watts, principal research scientist of the Human Social Dynamics group at Yahoo! Research, explains how today’s data-rich environment exposes the limits of intuition in marketing and the need to take a scientific approach to understanding consumers. A summary of those conversations follows.

Steve Ridgway has been the CEO of Virgin Atlantic Airways since 2001. A native of England, he joined Virgin in 1990. Previously, he served as executive director of customer service and managed the company’s frequent-flyer program. In 2006, Queen Elizabeth II made Ridgway a commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in recognition of his service to British industry.
Where mass media still matter
It’s popular these days to say that television and other traditional forms of marketing don’t work—that it’s a fragmented world out there, and marketing is henceforth all about the thousands of little things that companies do in different constituencies, markets, and segments.
I’m not sure that’s altogether right. Focused, laser-like efforts are certainly very valuable, but I worry that we might get all the “micro” things right and miss the bigger picture. I don’t want to lose sight of how important it is to have all of our marketing efforts somehow embodied in something bigger—something iconic, even.
That lesson was driven home for me by the recent success of two of our, what would be considered traditional, “above the line” television campaigns.1 The first was in 2009, when Virgin Atlantic Airways was celebrating its 25th birthday. At the time, everyone was depressed about the world economy, and we just wanted to put a smile on our customers’ faces and on our own faces. The result was “Still red hot,” a TV campaign2 that started in the UK, went viral, and had an absolutely massive effect in creating a positive halo for our brand not only among our customers but among our staff and suppliers as well. We’ve always focused heavily on brand and brand awareness, but this campaign sparked something more—it energized and engaged a whole new constituency out there before they’d even set foot on a plane.
Of course, beneath the traditional campaign sat a series of related, “below the line” efforts in all the new mediums. But it was quite a revelation—and a surprise, frankly—for us to see how powerful it can be to put ourselves out there in the market with this really big, confident shop-window, rather than concentrating on the fragmented world that everybody is telling us we have to be in. We simply wanted to reinvigorate our brand, to produce a powerful campaign to show that we were still alive and kicking and that our brand still