George Wiedemann is the founder of UMarketing, a marketing communications agency creating “Accountable Communications” – communications built on actionable market intelligence whose performance can be continually measured and continually optimized.  He is a former DMA Board Chairman (thank you!) and a long time industry maven having held executive positions with Grey Direct, Responsys and Rewards Network.  We caught up with George in New York City.

George_WiedemannQ1:  What is the biggest marketing challenge for you and your team today? 

The change in technology is so rapid, and the migration of eyeballs to the new spaces (like mobile) is so fast our challenge is to keep up.  The main way we’re doing this is to carefully decide what partners to work with to embrace and deploy and measure communications in the new channels.  Oh, and we are just running faster too.


Q2: What is the biggest challenge facing our industry (data-driven marketing) today?  How can we all band together to address that challenge?

George:  The good news is that Big Data spans all marketing and is being used to make communications spend better and more efficient.  The DMA should be applauded for its advocacy on behalf of the industry on the Hill, and its efforts to make DMA members more effective in having consumers and customers understand that their privacy is protected, and that the data helps them.  For me the missing link is having our industry compete in the media for share of voice with all the detractors who are scaring the hell out of consumers.  There are real problems like the breach of Target credit card data (heard on the radio today that fraud is low, and zero on the Target card).  Most of the death-panel-like scare tactics are phantoms.  If we ask: show the specific harm, it is rare, but the privacy groups and media like to stir up dust.  To me we need an industry campaign like the “Got Milk?”  drive, or the Cotton Incorporated campaigns, or “we don’t make the products you buy, we make them better” type of messaging.  Until we do that, the consumer fear stirred up by negative media pressure will drown out our advocacy and industry efforts.

Q3: How do you collaborate with your marketer customers to help them achieve greater customer engagement?

George:  One of the hardest parts of marketing has always been to do the homework, and not just only rely on instinct (sometimes called “Sample of one research”).  We always begin with working with clients to understand the consumer/customer in relation to the marketing objectives.  More and more we are using our LaunchPad TM tool to really learn, and figure out what will cause someone to take action, and switch brands.  We want that learning to fuel the creativity, and cause the spend to pay off.

 Q4: What are the talents you are looking for in great data-driven marketers for your team?

George: We are living in an explosive era of data.  This puts a premium on the education and training needed in these spaces, like having a degree in statistics, being a math whiz, knowing all the software in this space.  But, what we are also seeing is the merger of behavioral science with traditional psycho-dynamic research skills.  So, we’re looking for folks who have the analytic chops, but also get the very human side of the equation.

 Q5: What was your first job in marketing?  What were a few lessons you learned then that have helped you in your career?

George:   I can’t resist passing on to others two things that began at my first post on the Time Inc. training program:  1. Choose your boss carefully if you can, because in many ways that will determine what you learn.  A great boss adds juice to your career; and 2. One great lesson learned early was that emails do nothing, that follow up, and only follow up gets things done.

Q6:  What are you reading now (business related)?

George: The pace of change is so fast you need feeds of information.  One thing that deeply impressed me is that Warren Buffet and partner sit together each morning and read 7 newspapers.  So, I read the NY Times, the Wall St. Journal, but on the iPad use the Newser App, the Bloomberg App, the ABC News App (best one in my opinion).  Email feeds are from WARC, eMarketer, DMA 3D, DM News and Twitter.  And the greatest lesson of all: public companies tell their investors more than they tell employees, so read the earnings releases, and if you want to go deeper, read the 10Q and 10K reports.

Q7:   How are you reaching Millennials as customers?   

George:  I’m lucky to have a son who is a Millennial, and that’s an education.  Call him? No, won’t work, but he’ll answer a text.  We like movies, and I get my information from TV and the NY Times and then go to a theater.  Him?  No way, he knows the right blogs, and says Apple iTunes has the best way to look at trailers, and will watch them on his laptop rather than go to the theater.   Thank goodness we have Millennials on staff who help us get the media touchpoints right, and help us use social media to reach them.

Q8: Are marketing organizations collaborating with other functional teams in new ways?   What benefits does that collaboration provide? What challenges?

George:  When technology fused with marketing the game was changed.  The brand through its site became open 24/7.  The customer became in charge. The web turned into search, plus the ability to use data to target and re-target.  And now it’s all migrating to mobile spaces. In the 20th Century, the marketer painted a bullseye, and shot messages at it, so outbound ruled.  Today the inbound touch is all important.  So, the biggest new collaboration that is a must is with the technology side of marketing, and the benefits flow from using tech for providing the customer experience that the customer wants.  The challenge is to put in place a very good way to manage all the partners and platforms in this new, rapidly growing space.

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