Ismail Butun joined Turkcell from Nestle in 2016. He discusses the importance of brand, being able to speak the language of digital and the launch of an internet-only tariff You sit on Turkcell’s executive committee. How important is it for marketers to have a seat at the top table?

Ismail Butun: As much as marketing is a combination of art and science, marketing results are often a mix of tangible and intangible performance markers.

This makes it difficult for marketers and boards to find a common ground to discuss the significance of marketing strategies and actions.

It is important to educate board members on the role of brand and brand management, but it is also imperative to translate consumer and marketing language into financial language to ensure that everybody’s on the same page.

The brand is a company’s most critical intangible asset.

A strong brand is not only the primary requirement to bring in new customers and keep the existing ones; it also carries strategic importance for talent acquisition and employee engagement.

Moreover, it also has an integral role in attracting the attention of the investors and analysts.

So a brand is much more than marketing communications; it is more than a consumer attraction and it certainly is more than a visual identifier.

It is a core driver in a company’s current and future shareholder value.

Therefore, it would be a tremendous mistake to think that the brand is the responsibility of only the CMO and the marketing team.

The whole company, starting with the board, is responsible to and for the brand.

This means marketing should indeed have a role and voice in the boardroom and so it does at Turkcell.

There is a lot of discussion around the skills needed by telco marketers as the industry becomes ever more digital. What are the most important skills that you think CMOs need?

Today it is imperative that the CMO’s primary focus is not only on demand generation but on the entire customer journey.

CMOs need to position their brands at every touch point and they need to do this in clever, effective and unique ways.

Naturally this requires that marketing is not only concerned with creating offers and communicating them but equally with every step of the customer journey.

This means a true expansion of marketers’ and CMOs’ roles.

Marketing is now responsible for trailing the customers’ digital breadcrumbs, making sense of this trail, positioning unique offers and experiences that will not only stand out from the message clutter that consumers are exposed to every day but also will become an integral part of how they define themselves and the world around them.

This means that, in addition to the customer, marketers need to speak digital. They need to speak technology.

I am still surprised to see that a lot of companies and executives still see digital as an area of expertise.

I believe that digital is a language that every marketer needs to speak fluently.

It’s an area that whoever is in the business of creating and promoting a brand should master.

This also entails the issue of the very very big data.

Telcos sit on a tremendous amount of data regarding consumer preference and behaviour.

The challenge is to make sense of all this data, to harness it so that it provides us with true insight about what our customers really want and need.

Marketers need to learn to ask the right questions so that the discussion naturally leads to a path that will eventually enlighten us on how to read this data.

As much as the future is digital, retail has a significant role and continues to be an important element of customer journey as well as growth.

Therefore, marketers need to understand the dynamics of retail operations and be able to incorporate them into their holistic initiatives.

This is how omni-channel management will provide a unique experience for customers.

How are you asking the right questions to better read the data you have?

As CMOs we are under tremendous pressure to more effectively use the customer data that’s available for targeting, personalisation and campaign execution across different channels.

With the wealth of data that’s available for businesses to draw on (40 zettabytes by 2020), and as CEOs and organisational leaders become increasingly aware of the power of big data and analytics, most of us recognise that we have to take advantage of the available cutting-edge tools and information to deliver the goods.

At Turkcell we using the right analytics tools and as a CMO I have the chance to access to real-time data streams with our innovative “Marketing Cockpit” application.

We call this application the cockpit because we can make our decisions by seeing what is happening instantly on our network.

This groundbreaking data visualisation capability strengthens our decision-making process by enabling us to quickly grasp emerging customer or marketing performance trends.

Turkcell launched Lifecell – a digital-only tariff – in September. Can you tell us more about how this plan and works and the idea behind it?

Following the launch of the LTE-Advanced technology in Turkey last year, users, especially young users, began to more broadly use the internet to meet all of their communication needs.

This encouraged us to take action, so we created Lifecell as Turkey's new digital brand to meet all of its customers' communication needs, including calls, entirely over the internet.

With Lifecell, we are redefining the rules of the game in communications [by] providing our customers with only over-the-internet communications services.

We believe that the solution developed by Turkcell engineers will set a good example for other telecommunication companies in the world.

One of the most important objectives of this journey is the shift from being a technology-focused network operator to being a service-oriented experience provider.

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