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How Maersk Used Insights to Create Compelling Marketing Campaigns

“Our audience is exposed to huge amounts of content. Each day they typically scroll around 90 metres on their phones and see two and half thousand advertisements. So we need to create something that’s going to stand out, that tells our story”

Dominic Pope, Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Maersk.

Dominic has been with the company for four and a half years. During that time, one of the main marketing focuses has been the repositioning of the global brand of Maersk. In that transition, Sonar played a significant role.

The transition started in 2019 when Maersk decided to not only focus on ocean shipping but become an end-to-end logistic partner for their B2B customers.

We needed some insight into our customers’ views on what logistics is and what it means within their organisation. We wanted to validate what they like and engage with and if they understood the core message of our communications. We did that in order to create these large brand campaigns that could tap in and really form an emotional connection with them.”

Essential insights from different markets

It has been a challenge for the marketing team at Maersk to cut through to their audience in a competitive media landscape. Their approach was to push boundaries and create content that intrigues and interests people. But they needed to validate their content, and they needed validation from a global audience.

“We are a global company, and Sonar allows us to test globally. This gives us the ability to target specific people from our customer segments and show them our creative output and use their reactions to understand them”

With the help of Sonar, Maersk has received customer insights from different markets and industries around the globe. These tests have informed them that although some things might work in one market, they may not produce the expected reactions in another.

The understanding and feedback we get are really rich data for us. We use it to tweak the creative and make changes or even go back to the drawing board entirely. It gives us the assurance that we are developing something that will really connect”

Validation is critical when investing in large campaigns

When Maersk is creating a global marketing campaign, they invest large budgets and want to get an indication of the reception. So in 2020, they released a campaign film called “Disconnected”.

However, as they were developing it they were balancing between making it mysterious and compelling but also more complex.

“The story is quite complicated. It is about these people in a different world of logistics and how they are all connected. Would it really stand out or not? We used Sonar to validate that. Our segment really understood and appreciated it taking away our message,” says Dominic Pope.

The social media benchmarks confirmed this. The campaign scored within the top 5% overall. In addition, when Maersk released the film into the market, it achieved over 150 million views globally.”

“The work with Sonar really helped us in achieving these fantastic results ” Pope emphasises.

The insights deliver a more profound understanding

Maersk is highly focused on being a customer-centric organisation. To improve the delivery of their customer’s needs, Sonar has been a vital partner in providing in-depth insights.

There is a very fast turnaround, which is vitally important to us because we need to be able to understand whether something is ready, needs a rewrite or isn’t going to work at all”

For Dominic and his team, Sonar delivers analysed and organised data from their target audience, for example, whilst testing a film for a campaign. He highlights the quantitative amount as a useful barometer. But it is not the most critical part.

Those insights present us with a really deep dive into the data. The level of understanding we receive tells us how people feel about certain things. So it is the qualitative that gives an important understanding of whether a project is going to present a challenge.”

Sonar’s understanding of their business and what Maersk is trying to achieve has Dominic Pope describing their relationship as “so much more than a service provider relationship.”

For Dominic, these insights are the cornerstone of their work.

“A campaign is nothing without insights as a foundation. That is everything. You can do the best creative work in the world, but if it doesn’t create a connection with your customer, it will not resonate. It’s not going to drive your business,” concludes Dominic Pope.

Maersk’s Philosophy on Customer Centricity

But why does customer centricity really matter when working with a 20-foot-long container? And how do the teams at Maersk actually use customer insight?

In short, their practice is to make the customer shine in front of their own customers. Read along to get the full explanation.

Maersk has embarked on a customer-centric journey

Maersk has a legacy of almost 120 years of shipping. Today, it is the largest container shipping line in the world. However, in recent years, the company has repositioned itself to be an end-to-end logistics partner for B2B customers.

But when navigating a large vessel in a new direction, many unknown factors must be taken into account. Global Head of Insights at Maersk, John Walker, leads global customer insights and solution development for the company.

In this process, his focus has been democratising insights and driving customer-led innovation. In his own words, he has truly taken the journey of what it means to be customer-centric. Let’s have a look at the journey towards customer-centricity at Maersk.

The future is all about the customers

When people think of Maersk, many imagine a whacking great ship with over 20,000 containers on it. That is the company’s legacy. In that context, John Walker says that he is not sure how vital customer-centricity used to be.

“In the past, our customers were just the companies we billed for moving their 20 or 40-foot containers from port A to port B. The future is to be an end-to-end integrated logistics provider, which means we follow the supply chain from raw materials going through factories to the customer’s front door.”

To be able to successfully make this transformation, they need to know a lot more about the customers. So this has been the main focus for John and his team at Maersk.

Customer-centricity should be deep in the culture

When John describes Maersk’s approach to customer-centricity, he asks you to picture a lead singer with his band at a concert.

“Where do you think Maersk is in the picture? At the front, leading the band? This is actually our customer on stage because we believe that being customer-centric is helping our customer shine in front of their customer. Maersk isn’t even in this picture. We’re the lighting crew, the sound engineers and the roadies, John describes.”

He sees it as a humbling acknowledgement that their long-term success hinges on the ability to make the customer shine in front of their customers.

“That is the mindset we must all own and act from,” he says.

At Maersk, customer-centricity means that every colleague must practise customer empathy and see the linkage between what they do and the customer impact.

“Customer-centricity doesn’t come on spreadsheets and in PowerPoint. It is how we behave. It is not just something you turn on when you are talking to a customer. It is culture. It needs to be part of every colleague’s natural behaviour.”

When a company is customer-centric it is not just a few teams that think of the customer. It has to be spread across the organisation. Starting at the very top.

It all begins with the leaders

A part of John’s job is to encourage the leaders at Maersk to stimulate a team culture of ‘customer obsession’. In such a culture, the teams genuinely empathise with customers and employees are encouraged to solve the challenges of today and explore opportunities to shape future value for the customers.

“Leaders should be able to speak with confidence about what customer-centricity means in Maersk, unpack what it means for their function and have personal stories they can tour with to role model customer-centricity.”

At the same time, he mentions the importance of a shared view of the customer. The leaders should do that through data and tools that continuously deepen employees’ understanding of our customers and how to best create value for them.

“Curiosity thrives in a fruitful environment of experiments, data utilisation, and customer interactions. We humbly acknowledge that there is always more to learn through customer interactions, data and experiments”.

John Walker and his team in Customer Insights are using different tools to get a deeper understanding of their customers. Especially when they seek insights into scalable products.

Sonar transforms product insights into actionable outcomes

Maersk has over 40 product teams working with segmentation, but they can only get to a certain point on their own. In order to make insights truly actionable, they often have to be specific to the product.

How do they know what the retailers in India think, feel or do when considering a specific product?

“This is where a platform like Sonars is incredibly helpful. I have tremendous confidence in being able to point Sonar after a stakeholder. Even given the relatively low maturity of our stakeholders, a data-led question will get translated into something commercially relevant, actionable and researchable.”

John Walker goes on to explain that Sonar has given Maersk a reach beyond its own resources when needing a scalable and repeatable model to get quality-controlled insights from its customers.

Maersk uses a range of partners, but Walker highlights Sonar’s ability to conduct scalable online interviews with non-expert stakeholders with a consistency that works globally.

“I feel comfortable pointing the Sonar team at any internal stakeholder. When somebody on our team ‘needs to talk to the customer’, I am confident it will get shaped into a sensible, outcome-based brief,” concludes John Walker.