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Four ways marketers can reach the connected customer

Connected Customer marketing Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2015Connected Customer marketing Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2015
Bonin Bough of Mondelez International, Antonio Lucio of HP, Atif Rafiq of McDonald’s, Amy Bohutinsky of Zillow, and Fortune writer Erin Griffith.Kevin Moloney/Fortune Brainstorm Tech

With mobile phones and always-on Internet, we know that people are more connected than ever before.

It should be far easier to reach them. Right? Not always.

At this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo., marketers from several major companies gathered to discuss just how to do that—and the hurdles along the way.

Here are four tips they shared with the audience.

Get emotional

“One of the big challenges tech companies have is that they miss the emotional [aspect] of building brands,” said Bonin Bough, chief media and e-commerce officer for Mondelez International. Big tech companies can too easily “fall into the trap” of being No. 1 in their category and relying on that position for continued success. But there’s more that can be done.

Take Airbnb, for example. It’s a highly-funded company that may compete with Hilton, but from a brand awareness perspective, they have nothing on the global hotel chain. Hilton “could win share tomorrow” with its own “-bnb” service.

Of his own company, Bough said: “We have to believe we’re in the tech business and the cookie is just what we’re selling.”

He added later: “We’re entering into a creative renaissance where there are more canvases than ever to paint. But we have to remember we’re artists.”


The “blessing and curse of the connected consumer,” says Hewlett-Packard CMO Antonio Lucio, is that there’s never been a better time to customize experiences. But there’s “an incredible amount of noise in the market,” he said. “Cutting through is where you live and die as a marketer.”

It’s not all technology, he added. Marketers need to marry the science—data—and the art (emotional pull) to make a real impact.

“The fact that you can hyper-target,” he said, “means you can hyper-delight or hyper-piss off.”

Do the legwork first

Marketing isn’t the first step. Step one should be creating a great product that people love. Only then can marketing see return.

Amy Bohutinsky, CMO of the Zillow Group, said her company never spent a dollar on advertising in its first years. But Zillow still had a lot of “brand whitespace” in front of it, she said, and people weren’t thinking of Zillow first when they sought to advertise their home for sale. When Bohutinsky tested television ads two-and-a-half years ago, she was surprised by how “quick and strong” the signal was from customers. So the company launched a $75 million national campaign—most of that toward TV—the following year.

“What we’ve seen has been phenomenal,” she said. When you’ve already got organic inbound interest, it’s like throwing gasoline onto the fire. “It starts with the product,” she said. “Brand love starts with a product.”

Go where the customer is

Of HP’s digital marketing spend, about 50% is mobile, Lucio said.

“Where are they trying to consume media?” Bough asked rhetorically. “We go after that.” TV has gotten better, but fragmentation is a major issue right now. Getting broad reach now is hard compared to the golden age of television because as frequency goes up, cost goes up.

But “it’s not about television in isolation,” Bohutinsky said. “It’s about television and then people reading a story, hearing word of mouth from a friend, doing a Google search…figuring out the right mix of channels for your customer based on where you are as a company.” She added that Zillow was currently “playing with” Periscope, the live-streaming app. “In terms of time and money spent on it, [social] is one of our most important marketing channels,” she added.

Bottom line? “It’s easier to fish where the fish are,” Lucio said.


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