Vineet Mehra

John Elkins

John Elkins



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Trendsetters:  John Elkins Asserts that to be a Strong Brand Today and in the Future, Marketers Must Embrace Leading Tech Solutions

John Elkins knows something about building brands for both today and tomorrow.

He is the Founder of the marketing agency FutureBrand, as well as the former Global CMO of VISA and the past President of International Operations for First Data.  Early in his career, he worked for MegaTrends, where he collaborated with John Naisbitt to identify and monitor trends that impacted markets around the world. Today, John Elkins serves as Chairman of the Board for Elateral, a cloud-based Intelligent Content Production platform that automates the production of marketing content across all formats and channels, enabling marketers to substantially accelerate time to market and slash unit production costs while bullet-proofing brand equity and compliance.

John Elkins believes global brands should do more than simply survive chaotic and transformational times; they use such times as opportunities to seize the initiative and establish market leadership.

So how does one ride the present technology wave into a future position of strength? According to Elkins, the rate of change at which marketing technology and the corresponding analytics can impact customer perceptions is dramatic and he reminds us that consumers' attitudes and demands hold the key to economic growth.

"The current era of consumerism is very complex," he says, "because we have dissected and micro-targeted consumers to a far greater degree than ever before. To engage successfully with consumers today requires having relevant interactions, taking time to listen and learn, and being empathetic and responsive. And brands need to do all this in a dynamic, noisy and often confusing marketplace with shrinking attention spans."

Interestingly, he emphasizes, "It's about creating advocacy, and not about loyalty. Loyalty has become very transient in an increasingly transparent world with expanding optionality, while the ingredients that sustain advocacy require understanding more nuanced lifestyles than in the past."  He notes that today's consumers are more informed with unprecedented access to increasingly rich sources of information and influence. Authenticity is increasingly important to consumers today, and marketing success now hinges on relevance in communications; after all, nothing undermines authenticity like a lack of relevance.  He believes that those brands with an "always-on content philosophy"will get to market first with relevant, authentic, and engaging communications.  They will then enjoy the opportunities of first-mover advantage and potential advocacy.

"In the past," he says, "brands could achieve loyalty and profitability by delivering quality, good service and value. This is not enough anymore. Skepticism is the new normal; trust is earned begrudgingly. Brands must operate in a closer association with socioeconomic and political trends, and this can make achieving lifetime customer value a more challenging proposition."

According to Elkins, today's consumers simply expect more. In fact, it's all about resonance and authenticity. "Consumers expect to be understood.  They are willing to opt in for the value that makes sense to them, but they want the ability to opt out when it doesn't. This is evident in the growing trade-off between privacy and security. Consumers expect a much greater level of transparency and forthrightness."

He adds that the ability to access information and facts surrounding poor customer experiences versus fudging or trying to paper over poor experiences has become very costly. Accountability is highly valued.

John Elkins believes that technical advances have created an opportunity for marketers to keep up with the pace of changing consumer needs. "Consumers have become so multi-faceted and expect highly personalized communications in real time across multiple channels – the web, mobile, social media, and even in-store."  On this point, he notes that continuity of online marketing into the in-store context is often overlooked, and yet can have a crippling impact on marketing success.  

"When consumers explore a brand or a promotion online, and fail to recognize consistent themes and visuals at the point of purchase, it can abruptly truncate their buying process.  They increasingly expect to interact with brands on their own terms, with a balance between relevance and authenticity on one hand, and consistency and continuity on the other, or they move on. This requires leading technology solutions that can empower marketers to create highly relevant content, consistently across all channels and media types, which will resonate with individual consumer preferences, behaviors and need states. However, it also takes engaging communications that relate to consumer's emotions and values, while showing respect and understanding in a highly complex and changing world."

John Elkins believes that user experience and standards of acceptability are very high. "E-commerce is changing the face of retail, but it would be at an accelerated pace if the systems and user experience online matched more effectively. It's coming, as are the delivery systems of Amazon and others that match the transactional nature of the buying experience."

He reminds aspiring marketers that they should have the consumer insights to match the "always-on content"capabilities that deliver relevant and on-brand content anywhere through any channel at any time. "Marketers, at brands and at agencies, can no longer afford months to implement a new platform to execute campaigns or monitor customers' behavior. They must have technology and insights that work in real time that will allow them to immediately address the changing needs and demands of consumers. This is where cloud-based platforms become mission critical. Speed to market with exceptional user experience and relevant content should be the most critical goal for brands that want to thrive in today's real time marketplace."

At this point in his career, John continues to shape the present and future of marketing technology by serving as Chairman for Elateral, an Intelligent Content Production solution that transforms content supply chain economics, enabling the production of large amounts of more relevant content at substantially lower costs and shorter timelines, as much as 90% or more. John chose to join the Elateral board because it supports his vision of what marketers most need today - an agnostic platform for producing relevant content that integrates and enhances the performance of other MarTech systems in the IT stack.