Fireside Fridays #6: CEO/CMO dynamics, innovation & World War I
This week’s editorial and Marketing Manager’s reading list consists of the insights in making a non-combat focussed World War I game, routine innovation, and how CMOs and CEOs can work togetherBy Jonathan Toyad 04 Jul, 2014
The weekend is here, and this usually means spending some downtime from your usual entrepreneur business-type things with a little light and possibly soul-searching reading.
We’ve got a humble bunch of recommended pieces and two-cents ready for your cerebral sating. How would you like to learn about the makings of a World War I game that doesn’t require you to gun down someone in cold blood? Do you want to know if CMOs and CEOs can work hand-in-hand like peanut butter and jelly?
Curiosity piqued? Head on down and see what we’ve got on this sixth iteration of our weekly Fireside Friday column. Flame on!
No doubt you are aware of the Call of Duty series of games and its glorification of war in different time periods, and the many clones it spawned. Ubisoft’s latest “indie-styled” fare touches on the perils of World War I, but instead of maiming people, you have to solve puzzles to forward the story of a normal human soldier trying to reunite with his wife through the brutal conflict.
Personally, it’s a brave effort by Ubisoft to tackle the subject matter without using direct conflict like most video games do. This insight on the game’s development process by Gamasutra portrayed how hard the team had to fight to push this game through. It’s also a short parable on how you find new things by digging up on your country’s past a little deeper through personal letters and other notes not found on Wikipedia and history books.
“Moving to something new and discovering something about our past made this project really special for me.” – Simon Chocquet-Bottani, developer
“Almost every discussion of innovation today inevitably turns to the topic of “disruption.” Academics write about the power of disruptive innovation to transform one industry after another. Consultants have set up practices to focus specifically on helping companies become disruptive innovators. Venture capitalists tout their latest investments as potential disruptors.” – Gary Pisano
Disruptive innovation has become a buzzword in the startup sector. Seemingly every startup wants to include this in its marketing nomenclature and advertise itself at this. But when I’m listening to them, I honestly don’t have the heart to tell them that I’ve heard something similar many times over.
What matters more than anything is substance over style. Marketing is the style that helps you deliver the content. And the substance of a business lies in execution. To take an example from the gaming sector is Blizzard Entertainment, that has executed ideas and game design well using only three franchises: World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo.
Arguably, there is no innovation or originality in the games. What has it achieved is excellence in terms of execution. It took something proven, created something engaging, refined it to a point of excellence, and then released it in the market.
In short, there’s no need to be innovative or disruptive, but simply to execute well, improve as needed and maintain that edge, rather than seeking to constantly disrupt.
I once read a piece of commentary from Damien Cummings, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Philips ASEAN and Pacific, who wrote that performing a successful marketing function in a large organisation is equal to change management. This left a profound impact on me as a marketer, because it’s not just a function of marketing to deliver results, but to bring about change — to the customers, users and also to the internal organisation.
The change we’re talking about is the understanding of how external factors like the internet have changed the way business (and marketing is being done) and then equipping the team, and the entire organisation with digital savvy. So this leads to how marketing goes beyond campaigns that impact new and existing users, but also how it can affect aspects like customer service, strategy and innovation.
The case put forth by the HBR is also very compelling in that it depicts marketing as a key leadership and strategic role for any company that wants to find longstanding success:
When Deborah DiSanzo took over as CEO of Philips Healthcare in May 2012, she knew that engineering would continue to drive innovation. But she also realised that the company needed to develop greater marketing muscle to drive a commercial transformation.
As she put it, “Our markets are going through dynamic change. Who should lead our transformation? It must be marketing. Marketers need to know where their markets are going and where their customers are going, and then lead the rest of the organisation.”