When compared with other digital agencies, Publicis Sapient calls itself a ‘hybrid’ – a combination of creativity and technology. Also a reason behind the Groupe’s decision to acquire Epsilon. In conversation with BrandWagon Online, Teresa Barreira, global CMO of Publicis Sapient talks about the USP of the agency, besides her role as a CMO and what lies ahead in the digital world. (edited excerpts)
How Publicis Sapient is different from its peers in the business?
I would not describe ourselves as a digital marketing agency. When I came onboard the first
thing I realised that we needed to rebrand. This was because we needed to move from a collection of brands to a master brand. We had over 10 brands, which lead to a bit of an identity crisis, as a firm. Hence, we needed to create a unified single global brand. Also, the re-branding has been used to convey that we as a brand has evolved. With our heritage and history, we’ve always driven value to our customers. We are a digital transformation partner. We are all about partnering with established companies, largely brands that we grew up loving such as McDonald’s or Marriott. The job is to help them to remain relevant in the digital age by leveraging technology.
We’re a hybrid, we do have a lot of creatives, design experience and at the same time, we have a lot of technology engineers, consultants, strategists, among others. but the work we do differently is that is how we combine those skills into a much more multidisciplinary approach.
How would you compare your role as a CMO for a business-to-business (B2B) firm vis-a-vis a business-to-consumer company (B2C)?
I came from the ‘Land of the Giants’, which includes companies such as IBM. I had spent 10 years at IBM in product marketing, that’s where my career had started. Then I spent about 13 years at Accenture across all global marketing roles. Personally, I don’t think there is much of a difference, because I think the role of a CMO has really evolved. It has evolved from being the custodians of the brand to that of being drivers who enable growth. I think CMOs who think their job is about driving growth are confused. I believe if you’re not driving growth for the company as a marketing function, you’re not being strategic and are hence, diminishing your role.
How do you promote yourself in a B2B environment?
Everything we do is digital. We don’t do anything non-digital. If you are not in digital marketing, you don’t have a place here. From a channel point of view, we are the same but our work does not have a physical product. We promote our people who are the product here. So our marketing strategy is content-based, issues lead and outcomes focus which means everything starts with content. Our issues differ from industry to industry, because what is different retail might be different for banking or health. So we identify those, and that’s how we market.
You recently acquired Epsilon, so where does that factor in?
From a group standpoint, I think it was a really great strategic acquisition because it brings together ‘The Power of One’, it really helps deliver the vision, which is bringing media with creative data and technology into one platform. Epsilon has the highest consumer data in the United States and it is a boon for us because we’re focusing more on digital and how to leverage digital technologies to help companies drive growth, or work on digital business transformation types of more opportunities.
Is it wrong to say that brands are not prepared digitally yet?
I think a lot of brands are just coming to the realisation. I believe a lot of companies aren’t quite there. I think a lot of companies haven’t even integrated the physical with the digital. But everyone believes that it is of utmost importance. I actually believe the Generation Z as consumers experience is going to become a priority. Convenience is becoming more important because they grew up in a world where they expect just a good experience. The biggest challenge for companies with that generation is to establish loyalty.