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88 | Data, people, brand: 3 steers for innovation in turbulent times

49 min listen

A conversation as wide-ranging as Lou Cohen’s experience is deep, this episode almost defies synopsis.

As both demand-gen leader for one of the Big Four and digital marketing professor at NYU, Lou brings rich context to b2b’s knottiest topics. He reckons with the challenges around innovating with tech when you’re in a deeply risk-averse business – especially the great unknown that is AI. 

But against all the uncertainty Lou holds fast to the importance of insight: hiring for it, structuring for it and democratising it. Plus, hear how EY have embraced brand-building with their first Superbowl ad – and why he thinks demand-gen demands brand-building first. 

Ready to discover more? Tune in to the rest of the Masters of B2B Marketing here!



View the full transcript here

88 | Data, people, brand: 3 steers for innovation in turbulent times

Jon Busby: Welcome to the Tech Marketing Podcast.

Lou Cohen: Thanks for having me. 

Jon Busby: A pleasure to have you on. How’s your Masters of B2B event going so far?

Lou Cohen: I was able to participate in the workshop session for the first day, which is a lot of fun. It's interesting to see how everybody's dealing with similar challenges, and so getting people opening up and starting to talk about that.

It's a whole point of being here is we get to commiserate with each other, talk about how we're solving each other's issues. For our own companies and share some best practices. So it's great.

Jon Busby: You've got an incredibly long job title, right? Yeah. So I'm gonna try and read this out best I can. Director of digital and demand generation, america's EY and Digital Marketing Professor, NYU and CUNY.

Lou Cohen: CUNY, it's City University of New York at the Brew College, which is the primary business institution within the city university system.

Jon Busby: How I was originally gonna have this on here and then my producer took it off, but I'm gonna ask you anyway, how do you balance the two?

Because like, how does that, how do you even do that? EY and professor?

Lou Cohen: Yeah, so it's, I get asked this all the time. So my job at EY, the work never stops. I just occasionally stop working and I say that to my wife all the time and she doesn't quite understand. It's no, the work actually never really stops. I just have to stop doing it every once in a while to do other things.

And so two nights a week, fall and spring, I teach, and I've been doing that since 2010, so long before I joined EY. And I fell into teaching when I did my own MBA program, and it just stuck with me. I, it forces me to learn with my students. It keeps me on top of the latest trends. So I feel like it adds value to my capabilities as well as I get to teach the next generation of digital marketers going forward.

And then I've got three daughters and my wife and I couldn't do it all without my wife balancing the home life and making it all work together.

Jon Busby: That I, it's truly inspiring. Another random question, I know I'm getting off in tangents today are you, have you ever written a book or authored a book as well?

Lou Cohen: I get asked that all the time too. I do not have the patience to sit down and write a book or even like a thoughtful blog post. I'm hoping some of the AI tools that are coming out are gonna help me do that better. But I love doing webcasts and podcasts and speaking at conferences because I can share the things that I deal with and my thoughts with the industry in that way.

But I totally need a writing partner because the schools have asked me to write textbooks, and I'm like, but if I write it, it's outta date. And so I'm hesitant to do it, but I refresh all my presentations every semester. I'm always working on what's coming next. And actually I'm on a panel Wednesday for the Master's event, talking about where we're going rather than where we've been.

Get to bookend the event with both sides of here's what's going on now with, here's where we're going next.

Jon Busby: I'm definitely gonna dig into that in a moment, but just continuing on the thread and my pure curiosity, like what, how do you find the overlap between being a professor and being a demand gen and digitally do at EY?

Lou Cohen: Yep. So I wear many hats at EY and my team consists of brand media, signature programs,, marketing, technology, analytics, and whatever our CMO throws at me. But it's a big team. I have 50 people and we cover so much ground, but. I usually get to play the role of strategist or educator. And so we have hundreds of marketers all around the us, Americas globally, and oftentimes I'll be the one working through a campaign strategy or go to market plan that they're trying to accomplish.

And it could be, I know who my audience is, I know what my goals are, I don't know how to get there. Or what topics should we be talking about because our industry is really curious about these things, but we don't know how to talk about it differently for this specific area of the practice. And so I'll work through some of those details with them, get them to a brief that we can actually move forward into a program and let my team do what they do.

The educator side of it is I'm the one that's. Picking out new technologies or building new capabilities for the entirety of the marketing organization. And so I do have to stay on top of what's coming next. I'm spending a lot of time right now exploring the different AI tools that are out there for that reason.

But then I have to bring it back because we're a partnership. Nothing gets done. As one person at a company like ey. And so the goal when you introduce new capability is to bring everybody along for the ride. And so I get, I say often, I'm like, okay, time to put my professor hat on. And we go into a whole like session on, this is the new capability, this is what we can do with it, this is how it works.

Let's apply this to an example. And then we do our own internal case studies. And I think, again, it's. Yeah, having that sort of consultative nature and educator approach works really well in the partnership because I already know the decision I want to get to. I need to get them to either come along with it or challenge it, and we come to a better outcome and.

Whatever that looks like. However it happens, the outcome is gonna be the same. We're going to be a better team, better marketing engine, have a better go to market for the work that we're gonna do. And I often say I'm in a privileged seat in my role because I get to tin tinker and play and build with all these things.

But it's, I get to take the best of both sides of my professional world to do it.

Jon Busby: I couldn't agree more. So I've, I do a very similar role together, actually. So we are a B2B marketing agency that, and our goal is to bring technology to life. So being a CTO, my role is to put that hat on, understand a client's technology.

Yep. Forget how it might fit into a campaign. Potentially I'm passionate of. Mine is also dogfooding it. If we're talking to an analytics company, we should be using analytics as part of the campaign, of course. But a key part of that is innovating and trying to innovate as fast as we can. I've got a four projects at the moment that we're running on AI and how it can change the work that we do for our clients.

Like how you're taking it away from artificial intelligence, but still keeping it in that context. Like how do you, in such a broad organization as Ernston Young, how do you. Define it. How do you bring people along on that innovation journey? What's the structure?

Lou Cohen: Yeah, so it, it comes from all directions.

Sometimes that innovation is gonna come from a random person in the marketing organization saying, Hey, I heard about this tool. Is this on your radar? Can we check it out? And then I'm responsible for vett it and making a determination. And more often than not, we can't use it. The main reasons why we can't use certain technologies.

A, we're their auditor. So independence is one of our most important rules. And I can't do business with Salesforce because we're Salesforce's auditor. I can't do business with Meta because we're their auditor, or Google for that matter. So you guys audit all of the call tech companies. That's gonna, that's gonna restrict your, not lot of them, but a lot of them, it's gonna restrict your innovation, especially it definitely does.

But I can buy off the shelf like Google ads. I can buy off the shelf Facebook ads and so I can still be a. Customer in the normal course of business. These companies, I just can't do too much. I have to be very careful to thread that needle. So that is one stifling factor that usually prevents us from exploring certain capabilities.

But we also, we have the benefit of a huge consulting firm within EY and strategy and transactions and our audit practice. And so our consultants are out there talking to these companies as their clients of ey. Or potentially as we are going to partner with these companies and figure out a way where we can sell their services as part of our offering.

And like our strongest relationship is really with Microsoft and Adobe. We are the, like their biggest resellers of services and technology. And that's led to some really interesting opportunities where like I got to be the first customer of the B2B realtime CDP with Adobe. Because of that. And I had a whole different plan.

I was not, Planning to go with a cdp. I was gonna build a SQL database and get it done really cheap and quick. And the consulting team approached me with this opportunity. They had already got buy-in from my global counterparts and I was like, okay, your thing is gonna take me a year. My thing takes me two months.

That's gonna cost a lot more money. And they're like, but we can sell this. We can't sell that. All right, fine. If you really can sell this and go to market with it, I'll be the Guinea pig. But I want control. I want to be able to define the requirements. I wanna be able to say what goes in, what goes out, how it works, so that we can get the best version of it.

And they're like, absolutely, a hundred percent, that'll be better for the product. I'm like, okay, great. And so we got to be customer zero. It's the,

Jon Busby: I meant to ask you about this as well. My brain does the same thing. Like I'll just build a sequel database. Yep. I just, were you gonna spin that up yourself or were you gonna get a team to do

Lou Cohen: I would never code myself. I've got amazing people in India that do that kind of work, and I would give it to them to do, and, but I would define the requirements. And I learned sequel back in the late nineties at Carnegie Mellon, where I did my undergrad. I was lucky to get a B in that class, so I would not code that myself.

Jon Busby: The I always get told off, whenever I start coding, the team come looking for me and say, Jon, why have you committed this? It's going, I can completely see that pain, but I when you, as soon as you said that yesterday and in yesterday's workshop around, I'm just gonna create a my SQL database or SQL database in this case, I was like, that's,

Lou Cohen: yeah, that's, I know enough to be dangerous in all of it.

Yeah. But I would never hire myself to do the actual execution of that kind of work.

Jon Busby: Would you say, looking back on it now, then, Implementing the CDP, being customer zero for Adobe. This is gonna be an obvious question. Would you, any regrets or any, anything you would do differently there?

Lou Cohen: There's definitely a couple of things I would've done differently to simplify it, make it work faster, get through the process faster.

It shouldn't have taken us a year. I mean that, that's really the truth of it. But there was complexities and it's a partnership and so I'm not the only person weighing in on how things get done, but. The end result was ultimately what we wanted out of it, and I've really been an advocate for the platform because I can actually see and touch and feel the change to our business as a result of it.

This is a situation where I had literal data, chasms things that were insurmountable in connecting the dots from brand to demand and. Could not find a solution. I was working with d and b to bring the Dunn's number into our data mix so that I can connect our SAP deal system with our marketing automation software, Marketo, by using the Dunn's number to identify the correct version of a company and join the data in the database.

But that would only get me so far. Then how do I get to a source of truth and what the CDP has been able to unlock for us is, Because I can create buying groups at a company level and I can identify which company version, so think like Tide versus Procter and Gamble. They're technically the same company.

They're Proctor and Gamble, but Tide is a wholly owned subsidiary within Procter and Gamble, and they have a different guns number. So if I can identify email as a Tide Dunn number different than a Proctor and Gamble. Enterprise DUNS number that unlocks a lot of data for us. And so that was one of those nuances that we were looking for is how do I get subsidiary and sub of a company identified uniquely and differently and group that data.

So when I go back to my client serving teams that are potentially Proctor and Gamble, tide, whatever else. We can actually give them the right information. And I have that source of truth and there is some special sauce in the tool that helps clean the data and get some good quality data hygiene, which was all very important to the mix.

So the outcome is exactly what we were looking for, and it took longer than I thought it would. I. I still think my sequel thing might have gotten us there, but probably not as eloquently.

Jon Busby: The, so you said it took longer. It took a year. There were many B2B organizations still debating the benefits of a cdp.

Yep. So if you think about how long it takes to implement a project as well as select one, they're gonna hit a brick wall next year when cookies go away. At the beginning of 2020. Phased out somewhere around 2020. Yes. Some point next year. The hourglass is running out really, isn't it?

Lou Cohen: Yeah. We tripped over the landmines for everybody else.

We are now rolling out that CDP to every country around the world. Our implementation cycle takes less than two months now. So from start to finish, two months, you're in. For other companies, it might take a little bit longer than that, but it's not a year. It's maybe anywhere from two to six months, depending on the complexity of your business.

And I'm now starting to see our consultants out there supporting other companies doing just that. And they're planning it out two to six months max. I haven't seen a single one go out there over six.

Jon Busby: What was the challenge that it, that made it take longer than two to six months for you guys? It was obviously it was the first customer.

Lou Cohen: Yeah, we were first, so there were a lot of things that nobody knew what we didn't know, and so we had to ask some hard questions and really, I. Vet the work we were doing against the needs of the business teams and that understanding of who the real buyer groups are and how we identify them. Like I said, that DUNS number nuance, that was one that we uncovered in the process.

I didn't go into it thinking that was part of the solution, but when we started realizing, oh, team that serves Tide is different than the team that serves Proctor and Gamble because of how big each entity is. Even though it's one company like NBC Universal, they're a huge partner of ours and customer of ours, but Comcast, NBC Universal, cnbc Universal Entertainment, they, it's a global conglomerate of different companies in the entertainment space, but they are so different and their needs are unique depending on the type of business or part of the business you're in.

And we have different partners that serve. That business. A big part of that is understanding, okay, how do we go to market? How do we actually engage with our client base? What version of the data do we need? And it really uncovered that nuance of how does the CDP work differently For b2b, it's knowing the differentiator of your buying group.

And so like a SaaS company that's trying to sell in marketing technology software. I just encountered this with Demandbase cuz I'm a customer of theirs. We, I've been talking with their executives about buying groups for a long time and sure enough, just yesterday they announced their solution meets buying groups.

I won't take any credit for it, but I know I've been talking to 'em about it. But when they're selling through, I also just ran into, I started getting emails from one of their solution salespeople saying, oh, how come I'm not using Demandbase when EY has a license for it? And so I emailed my account exec saying, Hey, if you're sending these emails to other people at ey, please stop because it's just gonna create noise for me.

My team makes the decision about what technology we use. I don't need people coming to me saying, I want Demandbase for my campaign. I need people coming to me with, here are my goals, here's my audience. This is the message. And then we come up with the right way to go to market based on all of our capabilities.

Because maybe it's Demandbase, maybe it's stack adapt, maybe it's access, maybe it's Google Ads. But that's not something I want the sector or service line teams at EY coming up with. Tell me your goals. Tell me your budget. Tell me your audience and your message, and we will help you craft the optimal version of a campaign.

Jon Busby: So I couldn't agree more, by the way, with the, we were just talking to Google earlier today actually about this. Start with the outcomes, not, don't start with the technology. That's right. Coming from a technologist, that can be quite difficult to say. Yeah. But complete, completely agree. Don't, it's the same with creating a creative concept.

Start with the idea, don't start with the technology or the new shiny thing, but with implementing technology that. Enables and creates a single source of truth for your first party data. How have you created, how have you structured your internal champions? How have you. What does that look like?

Lou Cohen: Yeah.

We've had a couple different attempts at this. At one point we had something we called media champions. Where we tried to, in each sector, in service line with an ey, we tried to designate a person to be a subject matter expert in media. And that didn't really work for us because everybody's buying media.

It's just we're funneling it through a centralized team, so we don't really need advocates to buy more or differently or better. It's just no, fill out the brief, let us do our thing. It's fine. But the education part of it is really where we're getting advocates for the capability that my team represents.

And so I. Always offer to spend time with the different teams. I have a monthly call that I run, which my CMO is always, I get the most people coming to my call because we talk about performance, we, and we give actual examples of the work. And so each part of my organization will represent for 10, 15 minutes what's going on for the past month, what's happened in the last quarter, what are the insights that we've gained, and we'll talk about media, we'll talk about marketing technologies, so marketing automation, webcast, things like that.

As well as and content, and then the social team will spend a few minutes talking about what's worked in organic social and paid social. We'll do a little bit on competitive intelligence. What are our competitors talking about? What are the themes we're seeing in the market? And people tell me this meeting has been invaluable because it's a digest version of here's everything you need to know about how we're going to market as a whole, and we record it.

People can watch it after the fact, but then. There's always follow up conversations and somebody will be like, oh, we heard about this new capability. Can you give us an half hour an hour and apply it to our business? Or part of the universe so that we can make better use of it and we're happy to do it.

Other parts of my team will do basically like study hours. So like my SEO specialist, Steve, he's amazing. He will do a weekly office hours for anybody that wants to talk about anything SEO related. Meanwhile, He's built with, so we work with conductor. He's built dashboards in the conductor platform for every sector, every service line, every team we have so that they can self service.

And he'll help educate them, train them until they can go off and running. But it's insights about their content, insights about keywords. Topics, things like that. But every week you need help with something. Come to the office hours, you have a random thing, you can message him on teams, you could send him an email.

I have a whole ticketing system if you actually need a task done. But he's always happy to give his time to help people learn how to do it themselves. Because we're so big, we have so many stakeholders. He could not possibly service every part of the firm himself. And it's gotten so big that I had to hire somebody to help him.

And like we have somebody offshore that supports him exclusively. It's, but he was recognized by Conductor as one of their champions himself because he's. Done such a great job permeating SEO throughout ey and now like my global colleagues are doing the same thing because of what we've been able to do in the us.

So it is a little bit of, it's the partnership becomes a little infectious. It's something works well for one team. They learn about it, they hear about it, and that monthly meeting and then it permeates throughout and we support that and we want to make our marketers smarter. Question, I love how you're talking about empowering the other businesses, other parts of the business.

And that you have your team that's educating everybody. Taking that on the inverse, how, since you have so many businesses to support, how do you make sure that your solutions don't become templated? Yeah, so some do. It's just the nature of the beast. For example, we have some newsletters that we send out, and it's the definition of a template.

You fill in these blanks, it goes in a thing, rinse and repeat, and you hope for a good outcome and. The problem is we can recommend till we're blue in the face to not do that. But at the end of the day, it's like I have a partner that really wants this thing and we have to execute it. And so begrudgingly, all right, so we have that level, we'll call it internally, a tier three effort.

So tier three efforts, these could be content, newsletters, webcasts, whatever it may be, but they are low priority in our view of the world, but they very well could be templated. Because we're doing them, not because it was necessarily the best thing for the business, but because the business demanded that we get it done.

And so we prioritize those a little differently. They don't get customization in the way that other things do. We have tier one and tier two as well. Tier two is like customization. Some nuance depends on what the situation is, but it usually gets a custom path through the process. Tier ones. Full custom, and we would love more tier one projects than anything else.

But when I say full custom, we'll take it from concept and design all the way through audience and measurement. The entire process end to end could be a unique custom path. And when we get those kind of projects, everybody is interested because we actually understand the audience, the requirements, the topics, the goals, and.

We can actually paint a really nice picture of how to go from A to Z, particularly now that I can track the data to say, when you amplified it in this channel or you advertised it over here, those specific media engagements drove this engagement with these companies and these people on the website, which turned to these business opportunities and that revenue down the road.

But we don't really do that so much for tier three.

Jon Busby: How, coming back to, you mentioned your colleague with using Conductor, so how do you expose that first party data to the teams? Is it custom dashboards that you build out those?

Lou Cohen: Yeah, so I have an analytics team that. That works for me as well.

And so my analytics leader, Linda, is fantastic. I'm so glad we found her when I built this team. And she's supported by another onshore person who handles most of the day-to-day reporting as an offshore team that does more of the power BI analytics and data visualization. And so having that team within my center of excellence makes a huge difference because, She touches all the platforms, all the tools, can see all the data, and if she doesn't have access to something, I will get her access to whatever that is.

But because she sits at the center of all of it, she can actually make sure that we are pulling in the right data and get the reports that people need in their hands. But a lot of it is time just spending, creating data visualizations and reports and charts and Power BI dashboards so that, but if we know you need that report multiple times throughout a year.

We're gonna build it in Power BI and give it to you so you can access it when you need it. If it's a one-off, for example, our cmo, Tony, she's going in front of our US executive committee, that's probably a very specific need. It probably needs to look really good in PowerPoint. It doesn't need to be a Power BI dashboard.

So we'll work with our creative services group to take that data and actually design slides that create better, more custom data visualizations in our visual identity. And so we have multiple paths that we can go down, but ultimately, Linda sits at the center of it all with all the data and she's fantastic.

She makes some interesting magic happen with the numbers

Jon Busby: The way data for structuring organizations today I think is going through a big change. It is, yeah. Are you are? It sounds like your colleague there is, your analytics team are a bit of a linchpin. Do you find that to be a challenge?

Do they get backlogged quite a lot or do you see that as

Lou Cohen: Yeah, that's why I have six people now doing that and, but again, I'm very fortunate at EY that if I needed scale like overnight, We have our offshore teams that support clients and internally, I'm gonna give you some acronym stuff, but so we have our GDS organization, which is our outsourced offshore resources.

They're part of EY, but. Effectively, I am buying their time. Yeah. When I hire them. And so within there we have enterprise data solutions team, where my four offshore analytics people, that's their organization that they're a part of. I have a great relationship, as does Linda with their leadership. If I have a project that requires 10 more people tomorrow, they will find me 10 more people that have bandwidth to support that.

As long as I'm covering their time from my expense code, they'll happily give me the labor. But these are people that are normally supporting our clients, so they're well skilled and educated on all the different data visualization tools, all the analytics platforms. Most of them know Python and sql, and.

All that fun stuff too. And so I can go to that leadership team and say, here's my data problem. It's beyond our capabilities. Where do we start? And they will come up with a plan.

Jon Busby: It's as a big advocate of also offshoring just for scale and flexibility. So when I first joined Twogether, I was given no budget to hire anyone. Yep. And so I just took the company credit card and we just started hiring people on the credit card, and now we have a team of 50, 60 people offshore that supplement us. Huge fan of that. But one challenge I find I've always found with. Not just data, but you're describing things and offshoring them to separate teams is you've got a brief.

Really. Yes. And with data, it never feels like with analytics, it never feels like you, the job is finished. Yeah. So how do you, how does that handover happen between say, the marketeer on the EY side?

Lou Cohen: It's a lot of handholding. A lot of handholding and holding. And we will often have to help them understand how to pull the insights out of the data.

Because if we just hand them a report, then they're gonna be like, what does this mean? I don't understand this. For example, today there was one of the presenters showed a couple of slides, a professor from Wharton where he was like getting super excited over these charts. And I'm looking at them and I'm like, I have no clue what these charts mean, but that's because I didn't create them.

I don't know the underlying data. And I would be at the type of person, don't gimme the bar chart, gimme the underlying data and I'll visualize it myself. It's just how I consume that information. All of our different stakeholders, everybody consumes that information differently and sometimes they're gonna be like, okay, I don't understand what you gave me.

Can you walk me through it? Okay, we'll set up time. We'll walk them through it, help them to pull a couple of insights out. But ultimately we have to teach them how to phish. We can't do what we do with the scale we have without educating the marketing team on how to work with these different tools and capabilities and reports and all of it.

But do I need them to learn how to make a power BI chart? No, I don't need to teach them that, but I do need to make sure they understand the chart they're getting, and especially if it's something they're gonna be looking at month to month. Better. We spend 30 minutes, an hour, two hours walking them through it, getting them comfortable, making sure they can do that.

Jon Busby: Yeah. Couldn't agree more. And I, one challenge I find with that is quite often it sounds like in your model, the. Analytics team are defining what to show, and I'm just thinking back how that process probably works. I'm guessing the marketer is just giving them an outcome and then the analytics team decide the best way of showing that.

Lou Cohen: Yeah, that's usually how the task will come in is they'll say, I need a report that shows X and we'll deliver. A whole bunch of data and insights that show that. But the guidance I've given my team is just because somebody says, I want to see a report that shows X. Doesn't mean they meant Y. And you have to really, I.

Understand what they're looking for. So sometimes even at the briefing point to earlier point, we'll go back and clarify the brief because it's, do you want to understand just the outcome or how we got to that outcome, and do you need to see the journey over time or is it just point in time? And we'll pull some things out of that, but we have a slogan.

The better the question, the better the answer, the better the world works. That's one of EYs slogans. It very much reflects how things work With my analytics team, we have to ask better questions.

Jon Busby: Yeah, I always find that it's never it. The questions never end though. You finish one report and I go, okay, that's really interesting.

Lou Cohen: But one of the great things about being a center of excellence is oftentimes we've already built the solution for somebody else and we just have to change one feature of the report or which sector or service line, and we can just reproduce. So that does save us a little bit of time and it gets us some efficiency being at the center of it all.

Jon Busby: I'm gonna bring us back to innovation. So again, I'm a big innovator, so I run a I. Very similar to you actually. So I'm literally taking notes on, I need to carry on doing this. So I run a something internally, we call it Innovate Together. Very cheesy name. I know we've running it monthly now for four or five years.

I've only missed a couple of months. I'm like, we run it rain or shine, whether people are available or not, and that's where we talk about in the innovation projects, we talk about what's going on, what the new technologies are. We try and bubble everything to the surface. Also tried running one called Perform Together.

Very similar to your one. Yep. Turns out marketers don't like their work being critiqued. Still learning on that one.

Lou Cohen: Yeah. We learned that the hard way. We tried showing examples where things failed because I wanna celebrate the failures. Yeah. We, I tell my students all the time, You're gonna learn more from the things that don't work, than the things that do.

And I give a semester long project to build a website and execute all sorts of marketing things in my digital marketing course. And usually it's not until the final presentations when they realize I knew something that they didn't at the beginning. And with my teams, it's all the time like, Don't worry about making a mistake, just tell me like, what did you get out of it?

But yeah, nobody wants those featured on those monthly calls, and we tried and it did not go well.

Jon Busby: Yeah. We, I had to kill that initiative fairly quickly. We're still f it's in ideation phase. Yeah. Let's say we're, we are trying to on it, but it, my question here, innovation is always asked for, pre board meeting, mark every meeting at every level. Yep. Depending whether it's strategic or tactical, they want innovation. But it's rarely invested in. Yep. When it comes down to the proposal, the proposals in front of you, it tends to be the first thing that gets cut. Like how do you get the business to invest in breakthrough ideas that carry that higher risk and have the opportunity to stand out?

Lou Cohen: Yeah it is hard to justify risk taking and cuz you don't know the outcome. When I was making the bet on marketing automation back in 2019, I. It had already been proven for 10 plus years. It was not a question of marketing automation is a good investment, but it was catching ey up to our competitors and getting these capabilities built because we didn't have it.

Those types of investments where it's unknown asset people understand what it's all about and what the outcomes should look like. Usually not so hard to keep on the books, but AI is, I think, a great example of what we're all dealing with right now. Where should a company make an investment in AI technology agency support different solutions?

And I honestly don't have a good answer for that. I don't know if we should or shouldn't, and I'm doing the research right now to figure it out, but what I'm encountering is a lot of. Unknown and uncertainty. Plus the ownership of the outcomes is not necessarily the brands, it belongs to the tools, and so their terms and conditions are not favorable to businesses.

So it's, it is very risky, and the more risk averse your company is, the more likely you're not gonna get those investments. I would tell anybody you want to keep money on the budget, show the outcome that you're gonna get from it. And if you can have an intelligent, educated view of what that outcome's gonna look like, you're betting your job on it sometimes.

And I've done that many times in my career where I've, I bet I'm good at this and I know what I'm doing, and so I'm gonna make that bet with this budget. And if I'm wrong, I'm probably gonna get fired with ai. I'm not yet. I'm not yet, yet ready to make that bet. And the reasons behind that are largely because the proof isn't quite there.

Is it going to make us better, more efficient, more capable? Probably. Can I prove it? Not yet. I need a few other people out in the industry to make those bets before I take that leap. Because we're an audit firm at the core, we are highly risk averse when it comes to these things. Highly regulated around the world.

My risk is greater than some other companies, and so I need to make an educated bet on things that I believe will work. And so I've been spending a lot of time worrying more about first party data than AI and our ability to leverage that data. I spent the last two years working with my legal and risk teams on how EY could legally and compliantly work with first party data.

And Demandbase has been a great partner for us on the ABM side, but still without first party data. So we're limited in just how much we could do in abm, but we're there. We're at this point where now I may have permission to leverage first party data in a compliant way that my legal and risk teams are okay with complies with all of the laws we have to comply with.

And now I can do more with technology that I've already invested in, already made bets on, and I'm gonna get more value, far more value out of those. So my bets are gonna pay off. Everybody will be happy, but. Let's say that didn't happen. That was a risk I took a year ago to, to partner with Demandbase, sign a multi-year deal.

Right now I'm facing tightening budgets with the, with everything going on. And you know what? That might not have survived if I couldn't have unlocked first party data. So I made a bet, took a risk, it's gonna pay off, and I really believe it was the right bet to make, but I knew what I was betting on, and it was an educated bet.

Jon Busby: I'm ju I guess, and we've got a set, I think there's a session about this later on today. Did you, were there particular metrics then you provide your, the boss, the board the members at EY to justify that investment?

Lou Cohen: Yeah, so we have a series of, People that have to approve these things. I can't just buy something.

So if I make it through the procurement process and the independence review and all of that stuff, my CMO has to approve what I'm doing with the money that's allocated towards me. Then I have to also contend with my global counterparts and go through Global Marketing technology board, which I'm a member of, but it, whenever I propose something, I step off the board and present.

I'm not voting for my own thing, but it's very much a partnership and a democracy. So nobody's making a final decision in a silo. It has to make sense for the community as well. And so there are some things that we've tried to do. I can give you one simple example, and I still wish I could solve this heat mapping on the website.

Like crazy egg kind of solution. Hot Jar. Yeah, they're hot jar, right? So Hot Jar or Crazy Egg. They did not meet our compliance requirements. We evaluated them and others, but because of how their technology works and the sensitivity to what comes through our data, We just couldn't get it approved. I, these are inexpensive solutions that provide a lot of value so you could understand how people are working within the pages of your site.

When it came to that marketing technology board, it just kept getting rejected because it never passed our info security reviews, and I understand why. I understand the risk aversion. I understand why our info security team said no, but I'm still gonna keep trying because I believe in the capability and the technology.

And if we can find a path, great. I will find money to support whatever those licenses are. But I can't get everything because we have to operate in a compliant manner.

Jon Busby: Sequal database could probably help. No, I'm kidding. The, yeah. No fascinating. I guess as we look for the next generation, I think your panel tomorrow is the next gen.

That's right. B2B. What are. And I'm probably, I tend to think about this as people process tech technologies, right? We've talked a bit about tech with cdp, but yeah, let's continue to unpack that. What are the skill sets you think marketing teams' missing today that they're gonna need tomorrow? Yep. And the same thing with process.

What do we start? What do we need to add to a modern marketing organization?

Lou Cohen: Yeah. The A talks a lot about business to human, and I mentioned this yesterday in the workshop. We have to realize that B2B is becoming more and more humanized that the consumers, the buyers, they don't want to be talked like they are a business and an entity.

They want to be spoken to like people. And this is where I think a lot of the learnings from B2C are gonna come back into b2b. And today, I know they were talking a lot about how B2B is impacting b2c, but we do have to recognize brands matter. And so I do think we're gonna see a wave of brand building in B2B that we haven't really seen in the past several years.

Yep, yep. And there is a level of trust that comes with a strong brand and that's why strong brands outpace the S&P 500 because you know what? People trust and believe in those brands that matter. Being a big four consulting firm and accounting firm, we do have an advantage over certain other companies.

That are competing for the same audience in tax accounting, consulting, and strategy. But that's because we've invested so heavily into our brand. We've tried to tell a different story about who we are, what we do, and build that story in the market. We put out some remarkable ads over the last couple of years, but we did our first ever Super Bowl ad, which was amazing.

But. Having it was like the Girl Scouts versus the chess club and talking about how they were gonna take the chess club out from competing with them. Or our paranormal ad where we had a bunch of researchers in a swamp doing, trying to learn about the analytics of their effort. It, which was perfectly timed around Halloween and the Ghostbusters movie launch.

But we had another one around like it was a. Romeo, like it was the capitals and montagues at the table for an m and a discussion. So tongue in cheek, a little outta character for what you'd expect from a brand like ey. And they were fun. And so we took a little bit of a different approach to telling our story to some of the great work we've done with Wall Street Journal and CNBC to bring CEOs from these mega companies.

The CEO of Kellogg's just did one of these interviews with us for CNBC, where he talked about. Splitting Kellogg's, and it was timed right around the actual split of Kellogg's where they thought about going to three companies. Then it became two, the decisions that were made in that mean EY supported that whole effort and ultimately helped Kellogg's get to their next step.

It's, these are interesting stories for our audience that reflects the things they deal with. And my brand team brand and media team, they're fantastic. Laney has done an amazing job leading that group and working with our cmo, Tony, to tell these stories in the market. And that's where like brand building, I think is going to see a whole new wave in the market for b2b for that reason because, People need to understand who we are, what we do, and this applies to all versions of it, like companies like Uline, they sell packing materials.

They're b2b, right? They're supporting how many companies ability to ship, and Pitney Bowes and even the U S P S, these are B2B entities. I was talking with somebody recently. I'm like, craft, like Kraft Heinz is a B2B company. They're B2B to C. They need consumers buying ketchup and mac and cheese.

But they sell to wholesalers and distributors. They don't actually sell to me direct to consumer. So there's a whole world that people consider B2C that's really b2, b2c. And I think as the marketing world starts to unpeel this onion, like to really get into it, it's gonna uncover a lot of differences in how.

Brand building looks in the world of b2b. Even last year, I was talking with Tom Stein earlier. Everybody knows Tom Stein, so he's the jury lead for the B2B category this year at Ken, and we were talking about last year's winners and Sherwin Williams, Spotify. They were the winners of the B2B category.

These are B2C brands, right? But they won the B2B Creative Awards at Cannes because, Yes. They're also b2b. It's just, we don't think of them that way as consumers, but then there's the measurability of it all. Digital is at the forefront of everything we do in marketing because we can track and measure all of it.

And Even TV and out of home. I was talking with a gentleman from Clear Channel yesterday where he is, oh, we have all this data about audiences and how we track people and we can see who's going by what billboard. And I'm like, you mean the static ones? He's, yeah. We know who's going by our billboards because of all the census data that we work with and population data.

And I'm like, that's interesting. I want to know more about that because if I can absorb that data into my da, into my CDP, and. Apply that against the media mix I'm buying, maybe I can learn something different about my audience. And so in the middle and lower part of the funnel, there's so much more we can do with all the data we have, but demand gen is going to be priority, I think, for most people in this space, when really it's the whole thing.

You need to have your brand story in market. You need to help people understand the connection from brand to what you do. And then ultimately, Get them across the finish line with the man gen. Do you think that since B2B is at that point where they're recognizing the importance of brand building that will start to actually see that attribution going from brand and what that really means towards the.

Bottom of the funnel. Yeah. And I think that's where crm, marketing automation, cdp, all that technology brings it all together. And so we're at a place where we're a little behind what B2C can do data wise, because they've had survey data and scanner data and all sorts of other data streams that we don't exactly have in b2b or maybe just didn't pay attention to.

But now we have technology that can bring it all together. Yeah. And with that, Yeah, applied with the right analytics minds and technology to read out what's coming forward. I think we're gonna see a wave of brand grow because it's the data supports strong brands win more share business than weaker brands.

And it doesn't really matter what B2B you're doing. You're selling boxes, you're selling trucks, you're, it all makes sense. Because as long as your desired audience of customers understands your brand, then you're winning. It doesn't have to be everybody. Now, a brand like ey, we touch every company out there potentially.

So we can do some mass marketing on our brand, so can our competitors. If you are a brand like Uline, I'll go back to them. They really need e-commerce companies. They need companies that are like resellers on eBay or selling through Amazon Marketplace. They need those small businesses to choose Uline instead of going to Staples and buying packaging as you need it.

I've sold on eBay and Amazon myself before, and. It's one thing to just like package in the random thing that you can get your hands on. It's a whole other thing to build a real business out of it. Get the right shipping together. And there are plenty of companies, Pitney Bowes, USPS, UPS, FedEx they all support this.

Jon Busby: The, it's really considering demand Gen is in your title Lou, that you talk so much about brand there. Yeah, it's really,

Lou Cohen: it's fascinating that, yeah, my title's kind of a misnomer for everything I cover cuz I do have the brand and media team as part of my remit. It's, when I took the job in 2019, my CMO, Tony, she had just joined the firm earlier that year and she was looking for somebody with a varied.

Broad skillset around all of this, and I have been a CMO before joining EY, but it was a good match. But I think what really works for us is the compliment of Tony's background and skillset versus mine. I'm much more performance technology driven marketer, whereas Tony's more of a brand marketer, and so she was CMO at Xerox before joining EY.

And has quite a storied career of her own, and she can focus on the storytelling and the brand with my brand media and signature programs team. And then I can work a little more behind the scenes to make sure we have the right operation, we have the right process, the right team, the right systems, and all the reporting we could possibly need to make it work.

The way she wants it to work. So I usually stay a little out of the storytelling stuff and leave that to my media lead and my CMO. But behind the scenes, like making sure they can all do what they need to do to get it done.

Jon Busby: It's the art and science. We were you, it's come up a few times today. It's blending those two together.

Yeah. But to summarize, and for all of our listeners, and I had this question originally about demand gen, but I'm gonna talk about it more general actually. So to summarize, for all of our listeners, marketing is going through, we are calling it. DI disruption in times of economic uncertainty. There's lots of new tech, there's lots of stuff changing.

It's, some companies have gone through restructures. Would you say that it's, we're seeing more of an evolution or would you say it's more of a revolution that marketers need to reframe to take opportunity take?

Lou Cohen: That's an interesting question. I think it is more of an evolution. Currently, but we are near a revolution.

I think the evolution is in how we look at the landscape of technology versus our go-to-market efforts. But the revolution could come with AI and I too soon to tell, but in some of the tools that I've seen out there with data visualization created at scale, or the ability to train an AI tool on your visual identity and spit out.

Anything that looks like it's your brands or even the ability to create video on the fly using an AI with like deep fake so you can take enough photos or video capture of an executive in your company and then create the video without them there. There's a lot out there that's possible. You just have to be responsible in how we go forward to use it and apply it to our businesses.

Yep. And I think we're in this phase of, we don't yet know what to make of it. If you listen to the congressional hearings with the executives around ai, including chat GT's founder, they want some guardrails. They want some regulation to be. Ethical and sensible about how they apply AI technology to the world at large.

I think we as marketers have to be responsible for our brands and our business needs and the compliance factors in front of us, and make sure that we are responsible in what we put out in market for our customers and how that's gonna take shape. I don't, I, I don't claim to know the answer to, but I think that's the potential revolution that's hanging out there in the next year.

Jon Busby: Yeah. Yeah. I'd agree. For me, again, as a technologist, I was sat there. With my director of ai, director of Innovation, sorry, and he was going, it's gonna be really important. I kept going, it's a hype cycle. It's a hype cycle. And then eventually it was like, it's not a hype cycle anymore. We're in this now. And so it, if it does keep continuing, I can completely agree.

I've got the question we're asking everyone. In five words or less, what advice would you give future CMOs to achieve success?

Lou Cohen: Ooh, five words or less is hard. Hire the right people now.

Jon Busby: And I think that's, I think that's absolutely key, especially with ai. Like you need to think about what are the, I'm getting CMOs coming to us now saying, what does my team structure need to look like when in a world of artificial intelligence?

Yeah. And so I think a lot of people are asking what do the right people look like and how that is, so Lou, thank you so much for joining us on today's podcast. No, my pleasure. It's been, An absolutely pleasure. I'm hoping to see, hopefully we'll see you again next year. Yeah. With an update on the cdp.

But yeah, I, it's been absolutely fantastic

Lou Cohen: my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

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