Episode Twenty Nine: Putting the Customer First

From the Classroom to the Boardroom

Data can actually drive a better and fairer society through the creation of products, better marketing, and doing things differently.

In this episode we are joined by Rachel Aldighieri, Managing Director of the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) where we discuss how the GDPR has put customers back at the centre for companies, making data privacy matter and the need to tackle trust, one of the marketing industry’s biggest challenges.

(Please note that this podcast was recorded prior to lockdown.)

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The Power of Data Podcast

Episode 29: Putting the Customer First

Guest: Rachel Aldighieri, Managing Director of the Data & Marketing Association (DMA)
Interviewer: Sam Tidswell-Norrish, International CMO

Sam 00:00
Hi, welcome back. I'm joined today by Rachel Aldighieri, the managing director of the DMA, the Data and Marketing Association. Welcome, Rachel.

Rachel 00:08
Thanks very much, good to be here.

Sam 00:09
Let's start with you. I've just managed to stumble my way through your Italian surname. But I would love to hear a little bit more about your background and how you arrived at the DMA.

Rachel 00:19
So I started out in journalism actually, and then crossed over into agency where I focused more on PR and communications. I had a lot of B2B clients, a good chunk of which were media and marketing clients, which I really enjoyed working on at the time. It was kind of the start of the innovation within that industry. So apart from a sideline in Italy, on travel and tourism, that's where I really majored. So, probably after about five years there, I jumped at the opportunity to go and work for the DMA. And actually at the time, it was the Direct Marketing Association. And I started out in a PR role, essentially running the press office as it was then and then have moved on in various roles broadening each time in terms of Marketing Communications taking a more insight, Councils, community, and then most recently, in my role as MD. And it's quite interesting when I joined the DMA, obviously, the issues 10 years ago, were very different. And I probably spent far too long dealing with the Daily Mail talking about things like cold calling, junk mail. And it's quite interesting now as we've evolved the trade body and what we're about, how that's really influenced, actually having that frontline experience of what consumers customers are really finding annoying about our industry really helped to shape and transform the trade body as time has gone by.

Sam 01:35
Awesome, we're going to talk a little bit about those trends today. But let's talk about the DMA to begin with. And fascinating hearing you talk about your background, managing media marketing clients, because ultimately as a trade body, that's what you do. you're managing a very broad set of stakeholders. And I think the change in the name is a clue as to the shift in focus, perhaps as times evolve, but tell us what the DMA does.

Rachel 01:56
So the DMA is, I think the largest trade body in the media marketing data industry, we represent about 1000 corporate organizations. And about half of those are brands. And then the rest are agencies and marketing services, so suppliers to the industry. We’re slightly unusual in our approach so as trade bodies champion and promote the industry, we do just that. But we have a customer first approach for everything we do. So all of our members sign up to our code. The DMA code, which has the customer at the heart of what you do is an essential principle. And then everything we do is driven by the customer. So whether that's the lobbying that we're doing with governments around legislation, our best practice guides, our approach more broadly to creativity. It's all driven by a customer first principle and that's with the view that while there are short term gains to be had in our industry by not necessarily doing that we believe long term sustainable growth comes by putting the customer at the heart of everything you're doing. So really leads our approach.

Sam 02:55
It's almost a big cliché to say we're exactly the same. We put the customer at the heart of everything we do but it's particularly true and a lot of people don't know that Dun and Bradstreet actually is, in large part a marketing technology solutions provider. Over 40% of revenues come from growth related applications of data and analytics. Recently, in fact, we bought a customer data platform last year called lattice engines based on the west coast. They’re revolutionising the customer data space, it connects data within a firm, it segments that data and then it activates it, helping firms’ market more effectively. And that's just one example of a big trend at the moment. But the marketing industry and people don't know this, is evolving at lightning pace. It's playing an integral role in business intelligence more broadly. I think over 100 billion dollars was invested last year in this space, 25 billion in the top five largest deals, which included firms like Salesforce, and Google. You know, this space much better than I do so I'm about to learn from you, but tell us about some of those trends that are really affecting the world that you live in.

Rachel 04:02
It's an interesting one, obviously, in terms of using data per se, regulation recently has really driven a new approach. And I think we're seeing a huge amount. We do a lot of future trends focus, you know, the likes of VR, AR, automation, there's so many different tools and techniques that marketers can really take on board. But I think the biggest trend, and hopefully it's more than a trend actually, is about that customer first approach. And I think it's about you know, what was very much marketing was driven by business needs, we wanted to sell more product, we needed to reach more people. Now that notion of actually looking to the customer needs and inverting that business model is really interesting. So it's perhaps more a way of behaving than it is an actual trend in terms of technology and tools available. But I think it's an approach that we're seeing more and more companies get on board with. Now, obviously, GDPR has played a significant role in that in terms of -

Sam 04:59
My next question!

Rachel 05:01
Always is! GDPR is forcing people to make that change. And I think, you know, obviously, we work closely to get that legislation to a point that we were happy with for the industry and really enable companies to strike that balance between privacy and innovation. But I think GDPR has really refocused all companies to actually look at it from a customer first point of view. And so while I think initially, we saw this awful flurry of emails of people saying you have to get consent again, and it really didn't show the true value of that long term approach. So I think the companies that really embrace that to change the way that they were doing their marketing, as opposed to a quick tactical email overnight, have really benefited and we've been tracking those trends through our membership in terms of how people are dealing with GDPR. And, and interestingly, the bulk of our members are saying that it's actually been positive for them in the long term. There were a few short-term pain points and hits that they had to take, but I think long term is now working out for the best. The one area we are seeing companies grappling with a little bit more is around training. You know, I think there was again, as GDPR came into force a big surge in terms of people training their people, but then actually, that's declining. And I think, you know, ensuring that we're on top of that, that agenda all the time is really important as an industry

Sam 06:18
Two questions, in fact three questions. I'll start with the first two. GDPR is obviously a European wide regulation, but data is becoming increasingly localized from a regulatory perspective. Do you focus on a broader geographic purview with your members?

Rachel 06:33
We do, and we do in terms of working with FEDMA in Europe. And so we're working very hard there to align codes and ensure, you know, I think with GDPR it’s about setting a global benchmark, essentially. And it's important that benchmarks reached across the globe. And I think, you know, obviously, the nature of our membership and the geographies that they're covering, it's unlikely that they are just operating with customers purely in the UK. It needs to be something that's applied at a global standard. So that's something we're working on with our fellow trade bodies across Europe to ensure that's the case.

Sam 07:07
And then from a training perspective, does that make up a core part of your value proposition at the DMA?

Rachel 07:12
Absolutely. So our value proposition we talk very much about being the source of intelligence and our audience spans from the classroom to the boardroom, quite literally. So we have a talent division, which is all about attracting new diverse talent into the industry. And then we obviously have the IDM as our training and learning arm that equips people with the skills that they need, which is then complemented by everything else that we do as a trade body through all council networks and communities. Through our events, our research, best practice etc. So it provides everything. All that intelligence you need as a marketeer to work literally from the classroom through to the boardroom. So working with the C-suite, peer to peer learning through roundtables and grappling with the big issues that they're facing.

Sam 07:52
You talked about talent and with a CMO hat on, I think talent is becoming increasingly important. Now I know that sounds like an obvious thing to say because every business is a people business, but in a world that is so technologically enabled, particularly with marketing technology, being so prolific and having some incredible capabilities, it still comes down to people and relationships. So how do you train and teach people and help nurture talent based on the more human side of things?

Rachel 08:20
Yeah, that's really interesting. So when we talk to talent, we're doing a lot of work, obviously, as everyone is, I guess, around diversity and inclusion. And we talk about talent, you know, having the best teams, the teams that look like your customer base. So this is something particularly through the DMA awards program that we're working to, that encourages, you know, and it goes beyond agencies talking to brands and marketing teams to look more widely, and it certainly goes beyond the male female divide. You know, we're doing a lot of work around neurodiversity, getting people who think differently, and I think when, particularly in data it’s quite interesting, we issued some neuro diversity guidelines quite recently, and they've been met with an amazing response in terms of opening in people's eyes to the different opportunities of creating different skill sets within teams and different approaches and that diversity of thinking always feeds into having better insight around your customers and creating new and different solutions,

Sam 09:13
Diversity of thought is such a such a key component. And it's interesting when you when you think about constructing talent within an organization and it's a full-time job, you know this, leading the DMA. But diversity is a really tough nut to crack and it doesn't just come down to gender, it comes down to background, skill sets, it comes down to time in people's lives, what matters to them, when how they're going to affect the people that they're alongside. I think age diversity is another area that's totally underestimated. You know, we have, I actually don't know the stats, but I know for a fact that there isn't any young representation on the FTSE 100 boards in the UK, not having that young perspective. Not having that technology first mindset around the table is really interesting, are you guys tackling that kind of diversity?

Rachel 10:01
Yeah, so well in terms of our talent division, attracting young talent into the industry and ensuring that they have the skills to then step up quickly, absolutely, we're tackling it in terms of leading by that customer first approach. So essentially saying to our members, create teams, create boards that really represent your customer. And that will drive value essentially. And it is looking at diversity in all its facets. So treating people you know as who they are, having that authentic approach and then feeling comfortable to bring themselves to work as well. And I think that's a big issue now in a much broader conversation about culture within workplaces to ensure that you know, you can be truly inclusive.

Sam 10:44
So we're going to flip into the data side a little bit more. with more data being created every day. I was just interviewing earlier, the chief data scientist at Dun and Bradstreet, and I talked about data being exponential, and he talks about it being hyper geometric, which is a new word for me, which is where data begets data, the data that's created that you're using is then replaced by the data that you create from using that data. So exponential apparently is not enough. It's nice to learn something. But that said, how are you approaching the new challenges and opportunities that are created? How are you as an industry organization, the convening power, keeping your finger on the pulse?

Rachel 11:21
We are doing a lot of work around the value of data, actually, we have a big piece of work that's exploring what lies under the true value of data. So we talk about there being masses of data out there. So in terms of where do you extract the true value? What does that mean? And then actually, one area that we're looking at much more closely within this value of data campaign is the ethics that sits behind that and actually the value of values. So we're working with the University of Edinburgh at the moment and Edinburgh has become a real center of data excellence in terms of infrastructure, innovation centers, tech startups, that kind of thing. So we're leading this campaign from Scotland, pooling all of this expertise working with the likes of FinTec, Scotland, the base center (a specialist center in AI), and starting to really delve a little bit deeper. And it's interesting. It's the first time we've really worked with academia actually. So in terms of challenging different approaches and business essentially now, so I'm working with an amazing guy, Professor Chris Speed, and we’ve recently done a white paper. And that really delves into the changing infrastructures. So he talks very much about this linear data chain that once was, and now these value constellations that have come about through technology, Ai, and the control that businesses that we don't necessarily have over those and how, how we build values, which were easier to build into a chain into a constellation. So there's a big chat at the moment about ethics and where they sit, obviously, as the DMA we have our code which we see is a nice ethical framework for all companies to adhere to, but we are aware that, you know, it can get much more complex when you're looking to the values of a company and how that aligns with the way you're using data essentially,

Sam 13:08
Yeah, you're spot on and things like GDPR are the standard, the baseline. And, you know, we have to all aspire to have much, much higher standards than what's imposed on us. And I think many firms don't really address the ethical side of sourcing data responsibly. There are many technology firms out there many that have been in the press over recent years that don't source responsibly, don't store responsibly, don't use responsibly, and it's becoming increasingly hard because this world that we're living in is becoming less black and white. And it's a very, very tough thing to police. How do you guys police it? And I know that's not technically your role, but how do you keep an eye and are there ever times where you want to just give someone a gentle nudge and say that's not how we do things?

Rachel 13:53
Absolutely. So we have our code and we have a compliance team that works around that to ensure that all our members meet that code. So it's not just an airy manifesto. It's something that we have a team behind, going into all member companies working with them to ensure. They're not a police force or such as our code, but they'll go in and help people get to the right standard. And then that's all governed by the data & marketing commission. So should anyone not get it right or purposely go against that code, they're investigated by the Commission. So it's, it's a very robust system in terms of ensuring people are working to those standards.

Sam 14:28
This leads so nicely into my next question, which is the DMA’s recent research found that trust was identified as one of the biggest challenges in the industry. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Rachel 14:39
Yeah, trust is a big challenge. And our research shows that trust is by far and away the biggest reason any customer is going to share data with a brand. Yet trust currently, particularly in our industry, has been damaged and it's been damaged through various factors as you've alluded to. Some kind of high profile news stories where data has been misused. mishandled, currently experience around intrusion bombardments, we need to change them and rebuild trust. But trust is quite a complex thing I think to build. So compliance that we've talked about. And as you said, GDPR is that foundation standard, that is just the start, you obviously need to tick that box. But trust is built through emotional engagement or getting your creativity right, using the right tech. So in terms of the way we've set up the DMA, and the areas we focus on, are very much framed around building trust. So we have our responsible marketing, which is very much hinged around the code and the best practice. But we have a campaign around customer engagement, which is around data, tech and creativity coming together to truly engage your customer. We have a campaign around Great British creativity, again, getting your creativity to a level that truly drives emotional engagement. And I think there's lots of tiers that we need to work through. It's not just a case of taking that GDPR box and your customer trusts you.

Sam 16:00
Trust is, I mean, we could talk quite literally for days and trust that, for me is one of the most interesting yet undefined areas of business, but also society. The former Lord Mayor Sir Charles Bowman had his mayoral theme around the business of trust. And we spent a lot of time talking about the relationship between the human, the consumer, business and government, and the integral role that trust plays. And if you look at all the different sort of economic inflection points, think about the credit crisis, that was really a breakdown of trust, and it takes so long to build back up. How are you helping build trust within the organization?

Rachel 16:37
For the DMA, obviously, the more companies that we can get on board in terms of signing up to our code, and behaving in the correct way, that's, you know, a tick for us, but I think more broadly, we work with the Advertising Association who also have a big manifesto around trust as well, as a broad advertising challenge. And they have a five-point plan which we're feeding into because one of the those points is around making data privacy matter. So encouraging more and more companies to sign up to our code, to sign up to the market research societies code. We're also working with other trade bodies like the IAB to tackle bombardment and intrusion. Reassuring customers by what's in place already by explaining the roles the ICO play, that the ASA in terms of our kind of, we've got world leading self regulation around advertising, and then also showing the good that can come from our industry. Now as part of our value of data campaign, we're also focusing on data as a force for good so how data can actually drive a better and fairer society through the creation of products, better marketing, and doing things differently. FinTech actually working with FinTech companies, we’ve really been able to come up with some great showcases of how that's happening, you know, whether it's using different data points for credit scores, etc. But I think that showcase of what we can do for the economy, but also society is really important.

Sam 17:59
It really and I think a large part of trust comes down to transparency. And a large part of transparency actually comes down to knowledge. You have to know everything and this is an industry that's really, really hard in. And so you guys have your work cut out, that's for sure. At D&B we identified the fact that this is a complicated industry and we created a weekly newsletter called Data Matters, which has nothing to do with Dun and Bradstreet in fact, the authors of it are actually banned from putting the word Dun & Bradstreet in it. And it's all about the industry. It brings out key stats, key pieces of news that's happening around the world to bring the readers up to speed on the industry. And the feedback that we get is a) that it's very useful, but b) how little they actually knew. So you definitely have your work cut out as it's a full time job educating everyone to make sure that there's that transparency and trust.

Rachel 18:45
Yeah, and the other key point is control. So one of the things that we're seeing from our research is consumers want more control of their data. So you know, that does link obviously back to transparency, but in terms of that value exchange, they currently still feel that businesses are benefiting from their data more than they are. So you know, creating that control and value exchange and talking to that point as well is really important.

Sam 19:09
I always like to ask a question or two from the leaders that come in and do us the privilege and pleasure of sitting on the podcast, a little bit about mentorship, because as you can probably tell, it's an area we're super passionate about. Nurturing next generation talent, particularly with a patriotic hat on because I really do think that the UK’ opportunity is now. We've always punched above our weight. We've had some of the most incredible technologists from Ada Lovelace to Sir Tim Berners Lee, and we have an opportunity to create the next generation of those people if we do it right. Do you have mentoring programs at the DMA? And how do you approach mentorship?

Rachel 19:48
Yeah we do have mentor programs that's run by DMA talent. We also have a whole heap of what we call the creative data academies. And that's about getting different people into our industry. So we talk to students and actually not just students across a whole range of courses, to attract them into our industry. And we are obviously privileged to be surrounded by some great thinkers in our industry. So using those guys to really champion and showcase what's involved with a career in data. So the creative data academies are a really effective way of driving talent. And then once the talent’s here, obviously it's a case of keeping them so through mentoring programs, through various initiatives that we have to engage and maintain from the awards program all the way through to the campaigns. I've already spoken about ways of maintaining that talent.

Sam 20:36
And final question to end on. I always like to use this incredible pressure of having a microphone in front of you to get something nailed to the wall. But this time, I'm going to offer ourselves. Dun & Bradstreet has changed an enormous amount in its last 12 months, despite the 178 years of growth before then, and we're trying to do as much as we can in the industry to support important growth initiatives. How can Dun & Bradstreet help you, Rachel?

Rachel 21:01
Well, get involved in the DMA. And I think join committees, come onto our mentoring programs, encourage talent and showcase the great things you're doing. And I think, you know, essentially the DMA can be a shop window for many of the great things that are happening in our industry. So there's too many things to list now actually that you can do, but yeah, there's so many different levels and throughout Dun & Bradstreet, obviously, I think this is the core thing when people join the DMA, that there's something for everyone within your company in terms of different touch points and ways of getting involved. So you know, whether it's your legal and compliance team, you know, joining our roundtables and briefings and contributing, or you know someone such as yourself coming along and inspiring the next generation. There's literally classroom to boardroom is what we talk about. And I think, you know, that's where we'd love to have you join us along that journey.

Sam 21:46
I love that. Classroom to boardroom. I'm looking at Vicki now, who's one of our marketing leaders, we're going to have to get much more involved. There's so much we can do and we would love to support you.

Rachel 21:54
Great, thank you.

Sam 21:55
Thank you for coming on. And good luck and keep doing what you're doing. It's really so inspirational.

Rachel 22:00
Great, Thank you.