BMW's digital marketing choice

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan May 13, 2013
BMW and Unilever are among the global brands to turn to Accenture for digital marketing support but do the IT services firm's credentials stand up to scrutiny?

If you're looking for a partner to help with your digital marketing drive, who do you turn to?

A marketing specialist? A social media agency?

Or an IT services and outsourcing giant more commonly associated with massive and costly enterprise systems deployments?

If you're German car manufacturer BMW you opt for the last option and sign up Accenture for two contracts to help manage your digital marketing strategies.

The first contract will see Accenture manage the roll out of a new customer-facing web site across 100 of BMW's markets, while the second means that the firm will manage the global implementation of BMW's centrally created digital marketing campaigns.

According to a BMW statement, Accenture will:

manage content localisation for each market, including deployment to social media channels, starting with Facebook, as well as deployment to mobile versions of the site…Accenture is managing all aspects of the rollout, including the agencies involved, scoping digital requirements, training local content managers and agencies on the new platform and coordinating testing and post go-live support.

Anatoly Roytman, managing director of Accenture Interactive’s practice for EMEA, said BMW customers are ripe for digital marketing solutions:

In a recent survey of 13,000 drivers in 11 countries, Accenture found that more than three quarters (80%) of the respondents said they wanted more intuitive, customized content made available to them, while 77% want car makers to provide them with a simpler way to configure a vehicle. The research highlights the need for a stronger digital presence and better integration of digital marketing by automotive manufacturers to address consumer demand.

It's not just BMW that reckons Accenture is the best partner to turn to for digital marketing assistance. Last month consumer goods giant Unilver signed with the firm to build a "digital social platform" based on's platform.

A central hub is being created for each of Unilever's brands to allow marketers and partners to collaborate on campaigns and content as well as allowing marketing employees to monitor social media sites and collaborate internally using the Chatter tool.

Marc Mathieu, SVP Marketing, Unilever, explained:

The platform provides our team with the tools they need to develop and build our brands in local markets, which is critical to driving our 'Crafting Brands for Life' strategy. It also frees up time for our team to create more magic - that is, to engage with consumers and create more effective marketing, which will be key to delivering our ambition to double the size of our business while reducing our environmental footprint and increasing our social impact.

Accenture was chosen by BMW because it has "the right combination of digital marketing and technology experience in all the countries in which BMW operates", while Unilever says it wanted to draw on the broad expertise of Accenture's 2,100 strong Salesforce skilled division and its Cloud Centers of Excellence.

Chasing the money 

Accenture's interest in the digital marketing space is hardly surprising given recent predictions from Gartner that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are going to have larger tech budgets than the CIOs that the services firm has spent so many years cultivating for major systems rollouts.

According to the Accenture report Turbulence for the CMO, 70% of executives believe that corporate marketing will undergo a dramatic overhaul within the next five years and that their organizations need to create a digital strategy to generate higher revenues and increase market share.

Brian Whipple, global managing director of Accenture Interactive, the Accenture digital marketing practice, said:

Marketing executives are growing increasingly concerned that tight budgets and the lack of a clear strategy for implementing digital technologies - are hurting their company's ability to compete in the digital age. There is a clear performance gap between the demands of the marketplace and the ability of marketing organizations to apply the digital technology talent required to be more effective.

The survey results show that:

  • Two-thirds (66%) of marketing executives will be allocating at least one quarter of their budget to digital marketing over the next twelve months.
  • Nearly one-quarter (23%) say that more than half of their spend will be on digital marketing. 
  • To help retain and grow their customer base, nearly half (48%) of CMOs say they will spend more on managing customer data
  • Some 40% will increase budget spend on web analytics 
  • Around 39% will spend more on marketing analytics. 
  • Half of the executives said they would begin an internal re-organization to become more digitally focused.
  • More than half said they would be hiring more people with the necessary digital skills (52%) or providing their existing staff with digital training (55%).

So if you buy into the Gartner theories around who's going to be holding the big bucks in the tech budget, then the marketing department becomes an obviously appealing source of revenues for Accenture.

It also means that the firm needs a story to tell that will convince CMOs that an IT services giant should be on the short list when looking for digital marketing support.

To that end, some expedient findings are trotted out to justify why CMOs need to talk to Accenture rather than traditional marketing agencies:

  • Just over a third (36%) of marketing executives said that their agencies execute flawlessly
  • A third (36%) said that the agencies are not able to deliver what they promised.
  • Only 44 percent said that agency partners help marketing executives transform their marketing organization.

In other words, the traditional agencies just can't cut it in the digital economy.

Credibility questions

OK, so the numbers indicate there is a need in the market from the buy side and an opportunity on the sell side. But can Accenture escape accusations of opportunism here? Isn't it really an IT services provider more used to rolling out SAP ERP implementations than a digital age marketing advisory firm?

Actually Accenture has some good credentials when it comes to digital marketing. It actually launched Accenture Interactive back in 2009 - long before Gartner decided to talk up the CMO's clout - and today can count 27 of the Fortune 50 among its customers and manages $12 billion in marketing spend.

It was also recently named Adobe's European Digital Marketing Partner of the Year 2012.

It's also fleshing out its capabilities to beef up its digital story. Last October, Accenture took over digital production services vendor avVenta Worldwide to enhance its interactive platform.

Most recently it acquired UK-based design agency Fjord for an undisclosed amount. Founded in 2001, Fjord specialises in developing creative and customized designs to make understanding of complex systems easier. Clients have included Nokia, PayPal, Citibank and the BBC.

Fjord co-founder Olof Schybergson rationalises the merger with Accenture as productive for three reasons :

The first reason is about vision: Accenture Interactive share our vision for the future where services adopt around the individual, and design is at the heart of powerful business transformations.

The second reason is skills: together, Fjord and Accenture Interactive will represent a truly unique set of talent and skills. Our combined expertise means that we can offer clients a spectrum of best-of-class skills covering design, technology, marketing, and data.

And finally, talent: Fjord and Accenture Interactive share a common dedication to building great teams and cultivating talented individuals.

Ambitious goals

All told, it's clear that Accenture has some big ambitions for tapping into revenue from the digital marketing sector.

The kind of wins it's scored to date have been with global enterprises of the kind with which Accenture has spent decades building inroads to the boardroom and the IT department. Next stop, the marketing department.

Whether the firm's relationship with the likes of Adobe and with their focus on the CMO delivers the kind of business and margins that Accenture's relationship with SAP did back in the on premise ERP heyday remains to be seen.

But for an enterprise organisation with complex digital marketing needs, Accenture increasingly has a compelling argument to make that it has a viable proposition to offer the budget-rich CMO.



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