AdAsia was invited to the ‘Salesforce Trailblazers’ event. We attended. Here’s what we found out. As a bonus, at the end, we will share with you the critical success factors for truly trailblazing marketers.


Why Trailblazers?
Trailblazers, according to Google Dictionary, is either a person who makes a new track through wild country, or the first person to do something i.e. an innovator. Turns out, Salesforce chose it for the second definition, but as it happens, also has a trailblazer store as its standard demo.

The event itself was basically a panel discussion where Salesforce clients that use the platform for marketing and CRM purposes meet with the press. In panel style discussions, moderated by Derek Laney, the head of product marketing, plus marketing and CRM leaders from Luxasia (Avis Easteal), Fonterra (Caitlin Nguyen) and Resorts World Genting (Nicco J.L. Tan), talk and exchange experience about how they use the solution for marketing.


From left to right: Nichola Palmer, Customer Marketing, Asia and India, Salesforce; Avis Easteal, Regional Head of Consumer, Luxasia; Caitlin Nguyen, Global Digital Lead of Digital Transformation & Innovation, Fonterra; Matthieu Vermeulen, Editor-in-Chief, AdAsia; Lee Hawksley, Senior Vice President, APAC, Salesforce; Shawn Lim, Journalist, The Drum; Derek Laney, Head of Product Marketing, Salesforce; Nicco J.L. Tan, Vice President of Relationship Marketing & Social Media, Resorts World Genting; Joe Escobedo, Chief Content Officer,; Kevin McSpadden, Editor, e27; and Angela Lau, PR Manager, Asia, Salesforce.


So this is basically a sales pitch?
Well, it’s a Salesforce event of course. The 4th member of the panel, or 4th wheel on the wagon if you want, was Lee Hawksley, SVP APAC for Salesforce. But true enough, the three marketing leaders in the room did share interesting cases and at times poignant views on how technology comes secondary to good marketing strategy. So if we dial out the Salesforce platform pitch, what you’re left with is stuff that we’d gladly report about.


Fonterra; who wants to have a relationship with milk?
Caitlin, as Fonterra’s Global Digital Lead of Digital Transformation and Information (yes, this title fits on a business card), explained why an ‘old’ dairy brand like Fonterra needs to develop a digital strategy. How do you add a B2C strategy to a company that has operated for its entire history on B2B, focused on distribution and heavily relying on brand building and streamlining operations? CRM is a transformational bet for Fonterra and it includes smart fridges and collecting customer data. This is definitely a company to follow as they know they are challenged by smaller local brands with e.g. an environmental purpose. Unilever and P&G are in the same situation. They are challenged by customer focused brands, like the One Dollar Shave Club (which has now been bought by said Unilever, by the way).

Fonterra understands that in the new digital environment consumer behaviour is drastically changing (and we won’t mention the term millennial here, oops just did…). It will be fascinating to see how this New Zealand dairy giant rides the wave of change.

Avis had already presented her experience at Luxasia with AdAsia. So, did she have anything new to tell?

Yes, she did. Avis, in her typical entertaining style told us about how Luxasia found itself having to transform the way staff sells in the stores because they now have access to customer data on tablets. She explained also how the strategy of putting CRM data to work in the shops increased basket size of members, regardless of the brands’ positioning. From mass to luxury, ROI went up across the brands they distribute in Asia. In her trademark British tongue in cheek style she said: that is rather nice, isn’t it?

The transformation did not happen without challenges. Some of the sales staff understood the changes and the opportunities the tablet offers in the sales process and embraced it. Other didn’t and left. Age, apparently, didn’t play a role here.


Is there a Doctor in the house?
Nicco Tan, Vice President of Relationship Marketing & Social Media at Resorts World Genting, started off by announcing that he just got his Doctor’s degree. He can now be addressed as Doctor of Business Administration, specialised in Technology Adoption Models & Monetisation. Nicco said it does help him in defining strategies for marketing. It sounds indeed like a recipe for success in today’s data and tech oriented marketing industry.

Dr Tan had a lot of intelligent things to explain, as one would expect from a newly minted Doctor. One of the most interesting was certainly that Genting changed their segmentation strategy, once they upgraded their CRM platform. Resorts World Genting is now able to develop micro segments based on multiple data dimensions. This allows them to develop very specific messages, offers and customer lifecycle strategies. Apart from running fairly cutting edge digital marketing operations Genting started experimenting with Einstein, the AI component that Salesforce introduced last year and started to ramp up in 2018. Nicco explained that they use it to analyse large amounts of data and generate insights. That said, he emphasised that they still look with a critical eye at the data, specifically to avoid false causalities. After all AI can come back suggesting that you should not move to Florida because the chance of getting dementia is significantly higher.


Was it trailblazing?
This type of event is organised around the globe by Salesforce and to be honest, we truly enjoyed it. That said, others like the Oracles, Adobes and IBMs of this world organise similar events. The compactness of the trailblazing concept makes it a good learning experience though. What does transpire, is that each of these three leaders in marketing have a number of things in common.


The Recipe for Success
They take technology for what it is – an enabler; they are relentlessly customer focused; and they dare to innovate. Also of not insignificant importance is the fact that all three enjoy serious support from their respective C-levels. But they also innovate in small incremental steps, managing the changes and challenges one by one along the way. They use data and testing to determine what works, not their personal beliefs or the convictions of anyone else in their organisation

Follow these guidelines, keep reading AdAsia, will help your career as a marketer moving in the right direction.






Editor’s note 13/9/18: This article was amended as it initially wrongly identified Dr Tan’s Doctorate as Psychology, rather than Business Administration. Our apologies.

Editor-in-Chief: Matthieu Vermeulen


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