Identity is the new ‘battleground’ for marketers, says global Salesforce SVP

By Paige Murphy | 29 May 2019
Jon Suarez-Davis

Identity is the new “battleground” for marketers, says Salesforce senior vice president (SVP), marketing innovation and CMO programs Jon Suarez-Davis.

The US-based SVP and chief strategy officer recently took on a newly created role within Salesforce which will see him work on marketing innovation and strategy at the marketing C-suite level.

Suarez-Davis spoke to AdNews on how his new role came about after listening to the pain points of marketers surviving in a “hyper-accelerated” time of customer expectations where personalisation has become paramount to successful marketing and advertising strategies.

"One of the key things that [marketers] were talking about is trying to understand more marketing innovation, capabilities development, organisational design and then technology solutions," he says.

"So, I just started this new role which is really focused on marketing innovation and strategy at the marketing c-suite level."

Bringing the creativity back to marketing

Suarez-Davis is a strong advocate for using tools that give marketers more time to be working on creative and strategy rather than being bogged down in data.

He believes that artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling society to ask smarter questions, contrary to the common belief that it provides all the answers.

“As a marketer, this idea of Gen Z and digital natives, they literally expect to have a personalised relevant experience,” Suarez-Davis says.

“There's just no way we can deliver these personalised experiences at scale without leveraging artificial intelligence.”

In Salesforce’s recent State of Marketing report, he says there was around a 35% increase in companies using AI. More than 40% of the high performers who identified as meeting their goals were also using AI.

“We've got to create environments where marketers are truly doing marketing. They're using creativity and ideas and they're not combing through data. That can be automated.”

AI doesn’t have to complex either, Suarez-Davis points out. He uses the example of a company which retails hats for sports brands. The business has been using AI to increase the opening rate of its emails which, at the time, was close to 6%.

Through AI, it was able to find those with high propensity to open and deliver targeted messages which led to an increasing opening rate of nearly 30% and a click-through rate of about 2.5%.

“Is it the sexiest, coolest example in the world? No, but it's an example of how it's happening right today and you can just see how that's going to progress,” he says.

“Everything from opening emails more effectively to true experiences, that's the continuum we're at now.”

Valuable or creepy?
But how far is too far in the personalisation journey? Suarez-Davis makes the case for using data appropriately and providing “value” for the consumer without the “creepy factor”.

“There's been a pretty strong argument that if I deliver value to you, you know, the value exchange that it won't be creepy. I still stay on that side of the argument,” he says.

“Although, I will say the environment we live in today has definitely raised the game at how good marketers have to be. I mean, a proper marketing job is really, really challenging now. It's certainly one of the golden ages of marketing because we have accountability, we have technology.

“We have all these things and yet the point is that a customer's expectations just keeps staying a couple of steps ahead of us but I don't see any way around it. Customers want value and they just want us to make sure that the value exchange for their data is appropriate.”

While it has always been important, Suarez-Davis reiterates how now more than ever it is critical that companies are open with customers about how they are using data.

Going forward, he says that companies who have trust, transparency and authenticity at the centre of their business will be the ones best equipped to survive data breaches.

“We live in this dynamic environment but if you're always doing the right thing from a values standpoint, then that will help you address any of these technology issues that inevitably come.”

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