Digital rethink: Google's new high-tech pitch to marketers

May 5, 2014

Marie Josée Lamothe is not yet "thinking like a Googler," she admits. She's still thinking like a CMO. But that may be exactly what Google Inc. needs.

The former chief marketing officer of L'Oreal Canada is just a few weeks into her new role at Google Canada as the liaison with marketing executives like her. She'll be selling marketers on how Google can play a bigger role in their communication with customers. Her role – director of consumer packaged goods and branding for Canada – did not exist before. (She is also marketing director for Quebec.)

Within the past year, Google has been making a greater effort to woo both advertisers and their agencies on its technology. At its root is an attempt to get a bigger slice of ad budgets by persuading clients and agencies to think about digital as a more central part of their advertising.

This week, the company is holding its Think Brand event in Toronto, showing off campaigns in a gallery-like space for an audience of marketers from across the country and ad agencies. "We'll be helping marketers to bring their messaging to life in a very integrated way; not just online or offline," Ms. Lamothe said during her first interview in her new role. "There's no such thing as a 'line' to consumers, any more."

At L'Oreal, Ms. Lamothe was part of an effort to shift its communication strategy. For example, rather than simply sponsoring the Toronto International Film Festival, it hired its own correspondent for celebrity red carpet interviews that aired on L'Oreal's YouTube channel. It enlisted online fans to create a special makeup collection ahead of TIFF, which sold in stores during the festival.

"In old marketing it used to be, if we had the right price, the right communication in the marketing, the right [point of purchase strategy] and the right TV ad, we were great," she said. "The brand ecosystem has enlarged. It's not about when the brand wants to talk to the consumer; it's when the consumer feels like hearing it ... it's the consumer coming to the brand where it's relevant – assuming the brand is there."

Google's sales pitch, then, is to persuade marketers to allow the tech giant to help them consider digital as more than just a silo in their marketing strategies.

As a marketer herself, Ms. Lamothe says she would see campaigns by advertisers such as Burberry, which built a way to send digital kisses with personalized lipstick prints – and would think that there was no budget for a something like that at L'Oreal. But Google wants to show marketers how others have used its APIs – the coding that can enable digital campaigns – so that they can see what already exists without needing to build a campaign from scratch.

"Marketers understand they need to talk the way consumers talk," Ms. Lamothe said. "... They don't see it as, 'Here's a campaign from this brand, and then three months later there's another campaign.' They just think of the brand. If it's always on, it always exists, and I find the brand where they're relevant. The consumer is way ahead of the industry in the way they consume digital, because they make it part of their everyday life ... and yet we don't market that way."

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