Bart Michels is the Global CEO of Kantar Added Value and UK Country Leader of Kantar. Here he argues that an effectiveness culture is essentially a learning culture and talks about changing organisational culture at Kantar. Bart spoke at Effectiveness Week in London in November 2016.
You may not have noticed, but over the last year Kantar has been undergoing a quiet, but fundamental transformation. It’s visible in the new branding, which brings together all our businesses under one visual identity and naming convention. This wave of change is all about creating more impact for our clients. About becoming more effective. It’s been a huge part of my year, and we are right at the beginning of an important journey with lots still to do, but the ambition is clear. It has also led to much rumination on my part about what makes an effective marketing organisation. After all, we are doing for ourselves, what we strive enable for our clients.
What distinguishes high-performing businesses?
As the leader of a professional services business, you’d expect me to say this, but for me it starts and ends with the people. If you want to create any meaningful change, you have to create the best possible culture to enable that change. In turn that culture will be defined by your people.
Clients are very sharp about what they want from an insight-led business like ours. They want an edge. Speed, intelligence, value and ‘actionability’ are top of their list. The Marketing2020 report carried out by Kantar Vermeer showed us that there is a clear, and sometimes gaping, divide in organisational behaviour between companies that deliver for their clients, and those that don’t. It is with these learnings in mind that we have set about the task of organising Kantar to deliver more.
Breaking down silos is key. Marketing2020 showed that high performing companies encouraged purposeful collaboration between marketing and almost all other areas of the business, more than underperforming businesses. Marketers at high performers were working closely with Finance, HR and IT. The CEO was also often plugged in – collaborating with Marketing to establish the company’s strategic growth agenda.
Here at Kantar the silos were not simply departmental. They were also demarcated by the different companies, such as Millward Brown, Added Value, Kantar Worldpanel or TNS, each of whom had their own particular brand of success. Our recent new visual identity is representative of a cultural and structural change in our organisation. We have arranged all our companies horizontally to align more seamlessly with clients and their needs. But critically, we’ve done it without losing the distinctiveness of the operating brands and their approaches.
This is where people come in. And this is really what I believe is the key to success. It really is all about the people. Any reorganisation should achieve one thing, making it easier for people to over-achieve. In our case we are removing barriers to collaboration, things like P&L silos and data walls, and restricted movement of talent. We want to get people moving fluidly between challenges, integrating approaches and combining best brains. By doing that we are joining the dots of the combined experience and knowledge of our people to create a 360 degree view of our clients’ customers and business challenges.
Leadership throughout the organisation
Change like this requires leadership. And it’s not just as simple as ‘Does the CEO believe?’ The belief needs to extend two to three levels down into a company. Creating that belief is all about changing people’s behaviour. You need to paint an inspiring picture of what future success looks like. We haven’t got it perfectly right yet, but for us it’s the promise of industry leading work that transforms client businesses. You then have to ensure you do what you can to reward your people when they achieve both financial and importantly, non-financial success that meets with the company’s objectives for change. High performing companies in the Marketing2020 report consistently did this more than the lower performers.
Learning culture = Effectiveness Culture
Leaders have to be committed to developing a learning culture. To my mind that is one and the same thing as an effectiveness culture, particularly in this business. We look to hire curious people who can bring the outside in. People who enjoy learning and are not myopic about the client, consumer or customer. Who are willing to take the risk of looking everywhere for insight and ideas even when, on the face of it, it feels less directly relevant.
People are an investment and like any other investment they must be protected. Developing them is a pivotal way of doing that. In January of next year we will start a new fellowship scheme for high performing talent at Kantar, something I am very excited about. Rather than only being gradually promoted within one organisation, a small number are systematically rotated across the full suite of Kantar businesses, so they literally get to join the dots and become ambassadors with a deep knowledge across the company.
Finding the right way to measure yourself
Finally, one of the most important elements of effectiveness is of course measurement. I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion of that at Effectiveness Week and one of the key points is bound to be measuring the right thing. If we are to measure the success of our restructure it has to be in terms of the impact that is felt by our clients. Here we can only really talk about effectiveness through that lens. If our strategy cuts through we will deepen relationships and create real partnerships with our long-term clients. We’ll see more impact from our work, more preference for our people and services, and in turn more business, and client growth and satisfaction. These are the metrics we’ll be measuring ourselves against.
Back when I started my career in blue-chip, FMCG organisations such as Kellogg’s and Coca-Cola, I had no idea how complex this idea of effectiveness was. I landed up at NTL during the dot-com boom and it was a total departure. I discovered a world that was a million times faster and much more data-centric. I was completely struck by the linearity of the relationship between the customer behaviour and their experience of the brand. By the directness of the relationship between marketing and sales, and by the power of action delivered through the immediacy of measurement. It really hit home that there are several layers of effectiveness – there are so many different cogs to turn. Marketing organisations today are complex and sometimes vast. If you are going to change them you need to simplify the task. Create an inspiring vision for success. Hire and develop the very best people. Then create the culture, measures and systems that enable them to propel the business towards its goal.
Browse more learning and key content from Effectiveness Week 2016 here.
“Just what the industry needs, great collaboration between clients and agencies on the topics that drive business growth.”
Bridget Angear, Joint Chief Strategy Officer at AMV BBDO
“It’s great to see the IPA in the UK bring the whole industry and particularly the trade bodies together to focus on effectiveness. This new Marketing Effectiveness initiative will enable people across the industry to work together to build on best practice.”
David Wheldon, Chief Marketing Officer, RBS
“Effectiveness is a team sport, so it was great to see the industry in the widest sense, come together. In an increasingly diverse and fragmented world, only by using all parts of the brain will we solve effectiveness challenges and design our campaigns to deliver short and long term value. That’s why what happens next is important – if the IPA can help facilitate progress on this with a long-term initiative around Marketing Effectiveness, we’ll definitely crack it.”
Bart Michels, Global CEO Kantar Added Value and Country Leader Kantar UK
“The time spent at #EffWeek was extraordinarily effective. It was great to hear the diverse views from all areas of the industry. All tied together with the common themes of accountability and effectiveness.”
Andrew Canter, Global CEO, BCMA
“It has been a privilege to be part of the inaugural Effectiveness Week. The agenda is one which we at O2 UK feel passionately about. To see and hear perspectives across the industry demonstrates how the breadth of marketing effectiveness is increasingly being valued within businesses. Data, insight, social, customer experience, test and learn, ROI, these are all fundamentals and were covered expansively at the event”.
Sandra Fazackerley, Marketing & Consumer, Telefónica UK Limited
“The full week of effectiveness events brought into clear focus the need for marketers to use data and insight to achieve the key business objectives of growth and profits. Marketers today are in a better position to quantify their knowledge of customers and measure the ability of investments in marketing to increase brand and shareholder value.”
Chris Combemale, Group CEO, DMA