Meet Our Partners in Impact: Microsoft Accelerate

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Over the last 10 years, we’ve built incredible partnerships with enterprise businesses focused on creating real impact inside and outside their communities. We’re excited to introduce you to the Accelerate program — a coalition that brings Microsoft together with local community, business, and civic partners in several cities around the US. Through Accelerate, GA is able to provide scholarships for several of our technology tracks to students from underserved communities and those impacted by COVID-19.

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3 Trends That Will Humanize Work in 2022

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There’s a tectonic shift taking place in today’s workforce. Facing burnout, safety concerns, and a general feeling that it’s time to rethink what really matters, workers across industries are taking bold steps toward career change. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 2.9% of the workforce left their jobs in August 2021, and just one month later, an additional 4.4 million Americans quit. The Great Resignation needs no introduction. 

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Getting Real About AI: 3 Lessons For Business Leaders

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If you only paid attention to the hype about AI, you’d think our world was one algorithm away from either a frightening robot takeover or a fantastical machine-enabled utopia. But a closer look at the reality of how AI is evolving on the frontlines of business reveals a story that’s not nearly as far-fetched — but nevertheless driving a sizable impact. 

Consider Moderna and Pfizer, two healthcare companies that employed AI technologies to rapidly test and develop COVID-19 vaccines months after the first reported cases. Intelligent computer models rapidly evaluated the effectiveness of vaccines-in-development, assessing immune responses across tens of thousands of virus subcomponents with a depth, speed, and accuracy that humans could never achieve on their own. AI cut the vaccine development timeline to mere months vs. decades. 

The pharma companies mentioned above are global organizations with extensive resources for testing and development. How can companies that don’t have access to that depth of funding or talent begin to lay the foundation to take advantage of AI benefits?

For many leaders, distinguishing hype from hard facts is a chief hurdle stifling their AI journeys. Here are three key lessons to bring clarity to the AI conversation and illustrate how this very real, very practical technology can drive significant business value in the near-term.  

Forget the moonshots. Start with the mundane.

In 2013, the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas launched an ambitious AI initiative. The idea was to use IBM’s Watson cognitive computing system, aiming to speed the process of diagnosing patients and matching them with clinical trials. But the project never delivered on its promise. Four years and $62 million later, there was no record of the system used on a single patient. 

Rest assured, there’s a silver lining. The cancer center’s IT team was quietly tinkering with the technology during that four-year period and delivering a host of efficiencies and improvements to the organization. Engineers instructed AI to recommend hotels and restaurants to patients, reach out to guests with personalized bill support, and improve the tech team’s workflow. These outcomes may not have been as sexy as the medical breakthroughs hoped for at the start of the project. But the results were undeniable: Guests were happier. Employees were more efficient. And financial gains realized. 

The takeaway: Don’t get too swept up in grandiose planning. Start by looking at the mundane ways that AI can improve your day-to-day business operations. 

AI is only a tool. Humanity is required. 

Part of the mythology around AI stems from the notion that these technologies can “think” for themselves. After all, they can reportedly write articles, design clothes, and compose rock songs. These examples make it easy to understand the common fear that AI will replace humans in the workplace. In addition, recent research from the World Economic Forum estimates that AI will create 60+ million more jobs than it eliminates. That all said, it’s important to understand that these technologies are just tools — they still require a tremendous amount of human input to function. 

More specifically, it comes down to data — and how well a workforce can collect and leverage it. For instance, Netflix’s dynamic optimizer generated lots of excitement about how it uses machine learning to enhance streaming quality on a scene-by-scene basis. But the tech doesn’t operate on its own — the data is gathered from human viewers tasked with manually assessing hundreds of thousands of shots. Similarly, there’s lots of talk about how conversational AI can potentially improve customer service experiences by engaging intelligently with customers via Natural Language Processing. But according to TrueLark, an AI-powered customer support platform, training that technology requires a tremendous amount of human input — hundreds of thousands of conversations

The takeaway: AI is not a standalone solution, nor a silver bullet. Humans need to “partner” with the technology to learn from one another, extract value, and better serve the market.

Know what you want AI to do — and be specific.

It’s easy to imagine AI bots as helpers akin to Rosie from the Jetsons: Intelligent, catch-all assistants standing by to anticipate and fulfill a wide range of work-related tasks and needs. But the reality is that each AI application is actually highly-specific — the technology is not yet capable of general intelligence.

Just take it from MIT Sloan Professor Thomas W. Malone, director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. Referencing IBM Watson’s notoriety for beating the world’s brightest Jeopardy champions, he says, “You think, wow, that machine must be really smart. But the truth is that the [version of the] program that beat the best players in Jeopardy couldn’t even play tic-tac-toe, much less chess.”

The reality is, most AIs can do one thing and one thing well. A given AI can:

  • Reach deep into your systems and identify where you’ve been overpaying vendors.
  • Automate marketing campaigns that correspond to how individual customers engage with your website or social media.
  • Generate a more accurate actuarial model for insurers in real-time.
  • Synthesize patient data from a range of platforms to create a single up-to-date health record.

These example tasks are hugely impactful for their respective business functions. But they’re nowhere near the general intelligence required for creativity, strategy, empathy, and so on. That’s still the exclusive domain of humans — and likely will be for the foreseeable future. 

The takeaway: Don’t think too broadly about how AI can benefit your business. Start by drilling down into highly-specific business problems to identify the highest opportunities for ROI.  

AI in Practice: A Transformation By Degrees

Continuous change is essential for remaining competitive in the digital environment. But when it comes to AI, what’s realistic is a transformation by degrees. Little by little, an organization that steadily integrates AI capabilities into its workforce and processes will see compounding rewards over time.

So don’t get too swept up in the hype — but do get started. When it comes to AI and business impact, slow-and-steady wins the race.

Want to build a data-driven academy? Get in touch to learn more.

Alumni Stories: Isobel Kieran From Publishing to Product Design

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Learning the knowledge and skills you need to work in a new field can seem daunting and pointless after years of experience working in one industry. Family responsibilities make it difficult for many people to dedicate additional time, effort, and finances to retraining.

After working in the same field for ten years as a creative director for crowdfunding independent publisher Unbound, General Assembly alumna Isobel Kieran retrained with GA and found her new career as a product designer with Red Badger. She sat down with career coach Jaz Broughton to talk about why she’s thankful she put aside her fears to invest in her future. 

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Kickstart Your Talent Transformation With Our Latest eBook

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Between consumers’ accelerated adoption of digital behaviors and a permanently changed working culture, the inevitable digital transformation of every industry took leaps forward in the last two years. Business leaders across the board are trying to get ahead of the transformation imperative that digitization requires and the economic pressure it adds to their businesses. 

In our highly-connected reality, digital skills are not only pervasive, they are necessary — regardless of discipline. Gone are the days of “technical” and “nontechnical” roles. Instead, skills and capabilities that previously were isolated to technologists, creatives, and managers have made their way into job descriptions across disciplines: 

  • 83% of all retail postings mention at least one digital skill.
  • Data-related skills dominate operations roles, appearing in 46% of all postings.
  • All postings for marketing jobs mention at least one digital skill.

As existing jobs become increasingly hybrid, business leaders struggle to enable teams to mix human and technical skills to keep up with this evolution. This is most intimidating at the start of the transformation journey, with the scale of change looming across all levels and disciplines. The possibilities for where you can go are endless. It doesn’t help that 75% of digital transformations fail to generate returns that exceed the original investment, adding pressure to the challenge of prioritizing a phased rollout and setting challenging but realistic goals.

We have experience working with businesses that are early on in their transformation journey. That’s why we’re excited to launch our latest eBook: “The Early Transformer’s Guide To Building Digital-First Talent.” Keep reading to learn more. 

What the eBook Covers: 

There are four steps that organizations must take to meet the challenge of talent transformation. These steps include: 

  • Create digital mindsets across the company. This includes understanding digital trends, growing digital mastery, and building a product-driven organization.
  • Upgrade data literacy to reflect modern technical skills in working with data.
  • Identify what modern marketing looks like and adapt to the behaviors and expectations of the digital-first customer.
  • Accelerate technical hiring by upskilling and reskilling current employees and new hires.

This guide unpacks each of these four steps, providing actionable and practical recommendations that organizations can put into practice to help set their businesses on the path to sustainable digitization and success.

Download the eBook to: 

  • Dive deep into the four crucial steps your organization must take to meet the challenge of transformation. 
  • Get a talent transformation checklist to give leaders a starting point. 
  • Read transformation success stories from leaders like you.

Click here to download “The Early Transformer’s Guide To Building Digital-First Talent.” 

Want to learn more about how we can help you meet your talent transformation goals today? Get in touch. 

Free Fridays by General Assembly: Your First Step Toward a New Career Is on Us.

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Looking for free workshops? Check out Workshop Wednesdays running from September 14th, 2022, to October 19th, 2022.

When COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill last year, we felt our community could use a bit of hope and human connection, so we offered some of our most popular online workshops for free. But even more unprecedented than the pandemic was the outpouring of support and gratitude we received from thousands of learners across the globe.

At General Assembly, we believe that geophysical or socioeconomic barriers have no place in the classroom. Over 50 workshops and 280,000 RSVPs later, you helped us prove what we always knew: learning has no limits. 

To show our thanks, we’re excited to announce the return of Free Fridays. Whether you’re looking for a new job or want to diversify your skill set to become more employable, our community of experts is here for you online.

Every week until December 10, join peers from around the world to experience our most popular workshops (ranging from $60 to $200 USD in value) — for free.* From coding, to data and marketing, to UX design and career development, explore the tech skills that will keep you in demand and in the know.
Here’s what’s coming up. See you Friday!

Data

Nov. 5Excel 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 5Tableau 101U.S./Europe
Nov. 12Data Analytics 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 12JavaScript 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 19Excel 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 19JavaScript 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 19Tableau 101Asia//Pac
Nov. 26Tableau 101U.S./Europe
Nov. 26Excel 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Dec. 3Data Analytics 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Dec. 3JavaScript 101U.S./Europe
Dec. 10Excel 101U.S./Europe

Marketing

Nov. 5Social Media Analytics 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 5Digital Marketing 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 12Google Analytics 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 12Paid Social 101U.S./Europe
Nov. 12Search Marketing 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 19Digital Marketing 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 19Paid Social 101Asia/Pac
Nov. 26Social Media Analytics 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Dec. 3Search Marketing 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Dec. 3Google Analytics 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Dec. 3Paid Social 101U.S./Europe
Dec. 10Digital Marketing 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Dec. 10Social Media Analytics 101Asia/Pac

Coding

Nov. 5Python 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 26Python 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac

Design

Nov. 5Visual Design 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 12Adobe Illustrator 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 26Adobe InDesign 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Nov. 26Visual Design 101U.S./Europe
Dec. 3Adobe Illustrator 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac
Dec. 10Visual Design 101U.S./EuropeAsia/Pac

*Only the workshops listed here are eligible for free enrollment.

Prepare for the Next Normal With Our E-Magazine, The Index

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Consider the present state of work. Nearly every business and industry has been thrown into the future and forced to innovate and collaborate in an entirely virtual environment — years of inherent routines and “rules” have been cast aside, and everyone has needed to reset and restart. Remarkably, companies haven’t only survived in this climate — some have even thrived. So, while the pandemic truly has been a test of survival on every level, this challenging time has fortified and innovated us in ways that will continue to propel us forward.

This moment is one of unanticipated celebration as it has fueled the ongoing acceleration of digital transformation for companies around the globe. Before the pandemic, leaders everywhere began preparing for reskilling, talent recruitment, and future-proofing their business strategies at a “nice to have, should do” pace. Fast-forward to 2021, and we have new issues to contend with. From the return to offices to The Great Resignation to constantly zagging in response to breaking news, global travel updates, and the race to end the biggest pandemic of our lifetime — forget the “new normal.” Leaders are far better off asking, “What’s next?”

That’s why we’re excited to announce the launch of our standards board digital magazine, The Index. Within this issue, we’re not interested in the topic of returning to business as usual, so we set out to explore “the next normal.”

Keep reading to learn more. 

What’s Inside The Index: 

The Index includes stories that help leaders take on the next normal and navigate the future of work. Within the pages, you’ll discover dynamic stories such as:

  • Beyond Buzzwords: The Journey to Make Your Company Data-Driven 
  • Google Stole the Cookies from the Jar: Why & What’s Next
  • What Remote Teams Can Learn From Design
  • The Future & Importance of Inclusive Company Cultures 
  • & So Much More 

You Should Download the Index If: 

  • You’re a leader looking for advice on how to navigate the future of work.
  • You’re interested in future-focused topics that will help you bring your organization to the next level. 
  • You know how valuable building an inclusive company culture is and want to learn how other businesses are thinking about this.

Get a copy of The Index by clicking and downloading this handy link

Staying Customer-Centric in a New Landscape: Advice From Marketing Leaders

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At the beginning of 2020, most of P&G’s products were sold in brick-and-mortar retailers. When COVID-19 struck, they had to go back to the basics: refocusing on website quality, partnerships with e-retailers, and making information available online to sell brands without in-store promotions. In other words, they had to rechannel their path-to-purchase strategies to serve consumers when consumer behavior changed drastically and quickly.

Over the last 18+ months, large and small CPG companies have grappled with these same challenges: the explosion of eCommerce, the rising demand for sustainability, a shift in consumption from makeup toward skincare, and a massive increase in time spent on social media. As the pandemic accelerated the impact of technology and shifted consumer behaviors seemingly overnight, businesses have had to become even more innovative and agile to keep up. 

In a space where the only constant is change, we talked to leaders in CPG and marketing experts to understand their most effective techniques for adapting to the ever-changing digital landscape and equipping their marketing talent for success. The top answer? Getting even more customer-centric with deeper and more frequent connections to their consumers.

Let’s break down what this means in three steps:

1. Consumers expect peak digital experiences that call on marketing to transform.

The growth of digital shopping last year was shocking, and it may be slowing down — but not by much. 2020 showed a 25.7% surge in eCommerce sales, and eMarketer predicts 2021 will bring another 16.8% gain, taking the global eCommerce sales pie up to nearly $5 trillion. Alongside this behavioral shift, consumers have experienced widespread emotional trauma that shifted all life priorities. This changing landscape sped up the need for digital transformation in marketing — not only in reaching consumers through digital channels but using technology to understand what they need in this new context. 

“It’s easy for brands to sound tone-deaf,” recalls GA instructor Terry Rice, digital marketing expert, business development consultant, and writer for Entrepreneur magazine. Marketers need to “[take] the time to learn about consumer behavior shifts — and take the time to deploy empathy in marketing: we hear you, we understand you, and we’re here to support you.”

The social trends of the last 18 months have challenged marketers to up their game, particularly when it comes to winning over Gen Z. “They stand up for their values, they stand up for diversity and inclusion, and they have a big push in demand on sustainability,” says Philipp Markmann, CMO of L’Oreal and member of our Marketing standards board. In this climate, you have to bring real value beyond the product you make and tell consumers the causes you stand up for.

While this emotional challenge doesn’t fit with the classic business models of maximizing shareholder value (at least in the short run), CPG marketers across the board understand that they can’t fall into the trap of trying to optimize toward a past that no longer exists. Luckily, this is a challenge that cuts right to the heart of marketing principles, and marketers are best-prepared to create the solutions.

“More and more business questions will become behavioral questions and psychological questions because relying on past data to predict future behavior is increasingly unsafe,” emphasizes Rory Sutherland, vice chair at Ogilvy UK. “We vastly need marketers to elevate themselves in status and influence… understanding wants, needs, motivations, and fears have suddenly become 10x more important in 2021 than it was in 2018.”

2. Stay plugged into evolving consumers through innovative digital collaboration.

Shifting alongside consumer behaviors means mobilizing the digital transformation work that brands across the CPG space have been doing. Companies like Shiseido, P&G, and L’Oreal have invested in digital infrastructures to prepare for this future.

While L’Oreal has spent over 10 years building on digital marketing capabilities, COVID-19’s “massive digital stress test” required marketing and commercial teams to be bold and try new things. This required creative thinking and experimentation across teams — what L’Oreal calls a “company collaboration accelerator.”

“In March 2020, every machine learning algorithm you had for optimizing traffic was worthless, Ben Harrell, CMO at Priceline and member of our Marketing standards board, pointed out.  “Data from yesterday and today is what matters.” Yet amidst this rapid consumer change, the marketing industry has seen a steep decrease in the cookies and other data streams they once relied on for personalization, meaning marketers need to rebuild the customer journey practically from scratch.

That’s where data literacy comes into play. Marketers need personalized customer data from other in-house teams, which increases the need for tight internal systems and communication of first-party data. This requires not only a shared digital language across marketing, data, and product but a digital literacy about information systems like MarTech. “Then you can start having meaningful conversations with your engineers to say, hey, I want to do XYZ with this consumer segment…can we potentially integrate a third-party service that is API-led?” Ogilvy’s Sutherland illustrates.  

This type of collaborative innovation requires marketing to have the vocabulary to work with other teams to help solve complex technical problems, as well as the growth mindset that is so fundamental to digital culture.

In the long run, CPG leaders expect this tight-loop connection with customers to get even faster. Beyond simply protecting user privacy, the democratization of data is giving consumers more ownership of their data, which will ultimately challenge marketers to innovate commercial models directly with the customer based on the value of that data.

Salim Holder, founder and CEO at 4th Ave Market, is working toward making that vision a reality in this decade: “In 2030, we’re integrating our business model with the community we’re trying to deliver value to… and we provide financial incentives for the community.” This might mean discounts in exchange for sharing information and building strategy around the way communities engage with products organically. “As a result, the data that we get will allow us to make all the decisions… and [source] the information and the knowledge from the community that is also there to provide value in itself.”

3. Skills for a dynamic world — and the culture that keeps them fresh.

When it comes to enabling marketing teams to innovate, marketing leaders are unanimous: there is a need for constant learning.

“Instead of looking at ROI, we should be looking at the cost of inaction. If consumers have a pain point, it’s on us to solve customer problems,” Matthew Tumbleson, P&G entrepreneur-in-residence, stresses.  “It needs to be an ongoing thing where we are upskilling forever.” When consumers have a good experience elsewhere, it’s on your brand to do it better, or you’ll be creating the conditions for you to lose. This means making sure they have the “hands-on-keyboard skills” — those that they’ve historically outsourced to agencies — in-house. “Even at P&G,” he says, “it requires continual improvement.”

At Shiseido, digital literacy is stressed across teams as the basis of good decision-making. That’s why Roxanne Ong, head of digital transformation at Shiseido, invests time and energy in ensuring that there is a common digital literacy across all employees.

“Marketing has become such a monster, if you will, as a disciplinary approach,” Ong says, so it’s hard to ensure everyone has the baseline skills that often aren’t taught in school or MBA programs. “What GA has done is crystalize the fundamentals a true-blue marketer needs to have on a foundational level before they can move on out to an expert level.” Shiseido used GA’s CM1 assessment to get a baseline check on their teams’ skills to identify gaps. From there, she leads teams to aspire to be a “T-skills employee,” one who possesses skills across the board to go deep in one of their functional fields.  

Not only are marketing skills assessments like CM1 good for identifying development areas for teams, Entrepreneur magazine’s Rice points out, “For someone who’s an expert, it’s going to reveal blind spots and opportunities… If you’re an expert, it’s a good way to make sure that you’re aware of what your team’s doing and to make sure you’re up to date with best practices across platforms.”

Ultimately, though, Ong says, “Equally important to skills is culture.” Beyond the specifics of hard skilling, Ong emphasizes the need to invest in digital culture, i.e., take risks, have curiosity, and collaborate — evergreen soft skills. There will always be so much unknown, so you need to create a culture of constant learning to be responsive to consumer changes and build new solutions to problems. “It’s a day-by-day, week-by-week situation. The idea of being data-driven in the digital age cannot be underscored enough: keep your ears on the ground for the data pulses, large and small.”

Beyond curiosity, this takes courage: “Have the courage to try to actually go to a place that’s unknown to you. Understanding the nuance and how to do it well is a whole different story altogether.”  

Want to learn more about GA can help you future-proof your marketing teams today? Get in touch or download our marketing product catalog

General Assembly’s Social Impact

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Our number one mission? It’s quite simple. We empower people to pursue work they love. 

Core to that mission is a commitment to closing opportunity gaps and ensuring that all people from all walks of life, regardless of their ability to pay, can pursue a career in tech, data, or design. But our social impact efforts and achievements are never solitary — we reach others by reaching out to others. Along the way, we’ve learned that we are most effective and impactful when we team up with partners who share our commitment to access, equity, and inclusion.   Our partnerships are dynamic and in sync with social and global issues — we are always evolving and growing.

Since we launched our first fully funded tuitions seven years ago (sponsored by an alliance of benefactors, including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohananian and hip-hop legend Nas), we’ve provided tuition and innovative financing options to tens of thousands of learners in diverse circumstances. The pandemic has only heightened the urgency for creating pathways to meaningful work, particularly for those who are struggling to find footing in a rapidly changing economy and world. Now, GA is participating in numerous collaboratives to help create pathways to economic mobility, and today, we’re excited to share some of the work we’re doing in the U.S.:

Nationally, we are proud to be a part of Microsoft Accelerate and the Adobe Digital Academy. A little about these core initiatives:

  • Through Microsoft’s Accelerate initiative, we’re teaming up with local coalitions in Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Miami, L.A., and New York to deliver skills training to members of underserved communities, with an additional ten markets on the roadmap — we’re just getting started. Learn more.
  • Our signature collaboration with Adobe, the Adobe Digital Academy, is going into its sixth year. Interested students can apply now for fully-funded tuition for GA Immersives, coupled with opportunities for paid apprenticeships at Adobe. Apply now

We are also excited about the many region-driven partnerships that continue to come out of our community reskilling initiatives launched in 2020:

  • In Houston, we’ve teamed up with nonprofit BakerRipley, tech incubator The Ion, and Microsoft to provide fully-funded tuition to adults with demonstrated financial need. Learn more about Microsoft’s Accelerate program.  
  • In Buffalo, we’ve teamed up with M&T Bank, TechBuffalo, the Western New York Skills Initiative, and a network of regional employers to launch the Buffalo Tech Academy, which will be taught live, onsite at M&T Bank’s new community training center in downtown Buffalo. Learn more
  • In Connecticut, we’ve built a coalition with Synchrony Bank, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, and AdvanceCT to offer free and discounted GA Immersive programs throughout the state of Connecticut in Synchrony’s new community training center, opening in fall 2021. Learn more.

Our incredible network of partners continues to expand — ensuring that our collaboration can continue to impact countless individuals’ futures. 

The Takeaway

While we are grateful for the progress made, there is still much work to be done. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for announcements and insight from our partners, our sister training providers, and our incredible grads. The quest to do more and do better is what fuels us — in every aspect of our business and initiatives. 

In a world of uncertainty, you can be assured that our commitment toward continuous progress is quite certain. As our CEO Lisa Lewin says, ‘More to come.”

How To Overcome the Top 5 Hurdles CPG Companies Face

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We work with CPG companies to successfully transform their traditional marketing teams into high-functioning digital marketers, helping them drive their top-end goals: eCommerce sales growth, omnichannel experience, and reduced dependence on agencies.

When companies come to us, they’ve often been trying to transform their marketing functions on their own — and, despite their best efforts, do not see the results they want. Their teams may demonstrate a grasp of digital concepts or familiarity with new data-driven technologies, but those wins aren’t yet translating to meaningful changes in digital goals.

What holds these CPG companies back? Well, there are telltale trends. In our experience, overcoming these five common hurdles helps clients make their marketers successful.

Hurdle #1: Investing primarily in engineers and data-driven specialists to drive transformation.

Naturally, your corporate transformation strategy requires engineers and data scientists to get your digital enterprise up and running. But a common mistake we see from CPG companies is focusing their investment in high-tech roles without upskilling the teams that connect to and support them. CPG companies need fluency across their organizations in order to create a coordinated go-to-market push, both across and within teams, that successfully implements modern techniques.

L’Oréal took a more comprehensive approach: they focused on driving digital literacy across 85,000 employees worldwide. Beyond focusing just on specialists, L’Oréal defined a company-wide standard for digital skills and measured all current employees and new applicants against it. For anyone who needed to improve, they provided personalized online learning paths and in-person deep-dives to provide more sophisticated training. This broad foundation of digital skills enabled L’Oréal to coordinate digital strategies across teams so that they could leverage data to personalize recommendations and, ultimately, grow their eCommerce business to 25% of total sales.

Hurdle #2: Relying on historical insights about your customer (and how a household brand embraced change).

Let’s say you’re a household name, and you have decades of experience in successfully reaching your target audience. So it makes sense to keep what’s not broken, right? Maybe not. Today’s consumers are demonstrating seriously rapid changes in consumer behavior, with the pandemic accelerating the shift to eCommerce in five years. That’s not to mention evolving gender norms, family life-cycles, increasing prevalence of DINKs, greater demand for sustainability and social responsibility, in addition to rapidly-accelerated digital platform usage. Today’s customer-centric strategy requires an ongoing connection with consumer trends and an openness to go against the “time-tested truths” of a traditional CPG. 

One of our Fortune 100 CPG clients is known for its best-in-class brand management, which challenged GA to help it use digital techniques to improve its marketing function. This client invested in proficiency-focused bootcamps designed to build hands-on skills per digital channels for both practitioners and SMEs, giving marketing teams hands-on training in digital marketing specialties like eCommerce. Investing in modern, customer-centric marketing skills helped them to better deliver on strategic initiatives to compete with new “digital native” brands. 

Hurdle #3: Under-leveraging data… and not generating insights.

A key piece of that customer-centric mindset requires generating ongoing data-driven insights about what your specific customers want and do. However, the best approach to data-driven marketing requires coordination across functions. For example, “Is my purchasing data demonstrating niche markets I can engage with tailored marketing messaging? Or, “What are the customer engagement channels that drive consumers to buy products in-store?”If the systems for tracking these datasets do not talk to each other, you miss out on opportunities to identify channels for improvement. A global children’s entertainment and toy company honed in on data-driven marketing as an area to improve their sophistication. Through GA’s “Data-Driven Marketer” workshop, they honed skills on optimizing digital spend by focusing on the highest ROI channels, reducing reliance on data teams by de-siloing access to data, and choosing the right KPIs for their goals, helping them interpret data and reveal insights for data-driven decisions more independently. 

Hurdle #4: Overreliance on agencies.

A common issue among CPG clients is that they don’t have the in-house skills for key digital functions, like using MarTech, generating data-driven insights, or interpreting marketing analytics, so they outsource a bulk of their digital marketing to agencies. This leaves brands facing a “black box” in terms of what their agency partners are doing, without the skill set to collaborate deeply or specify strategic areas for partnership. This often results in brands not owning the data or strategies needed to close the loop and drive innovation. By building up capabilities and possibly taking some functions in-house, you can better own your customer journey.

For a global CPG master brand looking to reduce agency dependence, GA helped them build internal capabilities to improve collaboration. Through GA’s Getting the Most Out of Your Creative Partnerships workshop, the marketing team worked to increase their skill at using data to generate actionable customer insights, developing personas, charting their customer journey, and pitching creative briefs. By taking the drivers’ seat with these capabilities, CPG companies can have more leverage in making partnerships successful.

Hurdle #5: Underdevelopment of key functions.

Even as you build towards this closed-loop control, any weak link can pull down the opportunities for advancement in your marketing organization. What good are great customer-centric insights if you only get them from your agency at a single point in time, and you don’t have the tech infrastructure to maintain and update them? Or the MarTech knowledge to activate them and drive results?

This is where it is critical to not only have broad digital literacy and strong core marketing skills (like leading with customer insight and applying data-first marketing) but to invest in cutting-edge instruction of marketing specialties. Digital functions like eCommerce, SEO, and Content Marketing evolve at a rapid clip, and staying up-to-date on them is key to applying the future-proof skills that will take your team from skilled traditional marketers to fluent and innovative digital marketers.  

That’s a wrap!

Getting over these five hurdles can be the difference between maintaining the status quo (despite your talent investment efforts) and seeing a noticeable improvement in your KPIs and bottom line. At GA, we specialize in helping CPG marketers make a deep, sustainable transformation in their marketing functions across insights, creative, channel activation, data usage, and marketing technology.

Want to learn more about GA can help you future-proof your marketing teams today? Get in touch or download our marketing product catalog