A Conversation With IEX’s Marija Zivanovic Smith On The Future Of Web3 And The New Age Of Disintermediation Designed To Reframe CX + The World
The perfect storm of break-neck level transformation, the pandemic and proliferation of blockchain technologies designed to eradicate the middleman and create more DTC relationships, has equated to a changing power dynamic between brands and consumers. The latter are more in control than ever before and the set of criteria for the brands they do business with only continues to increase, both in volume, and complexity.
With that in mind, customer acquisition, retention and overall growth have never been more important. As a result, brands across industry, are looking for the best means of creating superb customer experiences that not only meet but beat expectations. Web3, which sits at the epicenter of all these shifts, will turn everything on its head, and allow consumers to have the power to influence decisions about what corporations need to make, manufacturer, and sell to them by controlling their own data on decentralized systems.
With all this in mind, I wanted to speak to someone sitting in the cat bird seat of the Web3 revolution and new era of consumer control, which places an even greater challenge to brands to innovate around how to meet consumers where they are at. I recently sat down with Marija Zivanovic Smith, new Chief Marketing + Communications Officer at IEX, and former CMO and Head of External Affairs at NCR. Marija’s career spans marketing, communications, and public affairs. She has helped leading brands get their messages heard from K Street to Wall Street and around the globe. Following is a recap of our conversation:
Billee Howard: Tell me about your new role and your first 100-day vision?
Marija Zivanovic Smith: It’s been a refreshing and fascinating 100 days. To transition from a Fortune 500 brand into a completely new industry, with a mission-driven company that is scaling up, is beyond exciting and very motivating! At IEX, I have this beautiful opportunity to shepherd a brand into the future. I am working with this amazing company that has been around for only a decade and was founded around a deep desire to drive meaningful change in the industry. And the best part is that we are actually doing it. For a CMO, being tasked to think about how to build a future legacy for a relatively new brand, especially one that is as mission-driven as IEX is — it’s meaningful and exhilarating.
IEX is a company driven by a mission to ‘build fairer markets’ and to level the playing field with technology that serves a wide variety of market participants. This mission really appeals to me at a deep level because my purpose has always been to be a builder. IEX’s growth mindset and philosophy are well aligned with my purpose to build. And we are truly just getting started. Today, the exchange trading landscape is evolving fast as investors and brokers are more focused than ever on performance and regulators continue to promote transparency.
If I were to sum up my 100-day vision it would be: To build upon the trust, innovation, and brand equity IEX has already created by modernizing and unifying the company’s narrative and reinvigorating their go-to-market strategy as we enter new spaces.
Howard: Why is crypto so important for any brand to help them be able to best meet consumers where they are at?
Zivanovic Smith: Digital assets in general will be one of the next mediums through which brands will connect to their customers. This means that digital assets, from a marketing perspective, also represent a next wave of customer-centricity tools, reach and innovation.
Think back to before the internet existed when stores, banks, and restaurants were all brick and mortar. As the internet emerged in prominence, those that hesitated to get onboard and create an online presence were left behind. Iconic companies like Kodak, Blockbuster, and Toys R’ Us who either waited too long or were simply unable to keep up and adapt to the speed of technological advancements and evolving consumer demands simply didn’t survive. Digital transformation was essential for companies and their marketing teams to embrace if they wanted to thrive.
Brands need to have the foresight to meet their customers where they will be in the years ahead and this will require an entirely new set of strategies and tools. Customer obsession is now the North Star of marketing and brands will need to move from personalization to individualization to achieve 1:1 customer intimacy at scale. Critical to success for brands will be transforming their marketing from data- driven to insights-led, at the enterprise level, to unearth more intricate customer understanding.
Howard: What are the most important things marketers need to be aware of related to Web 3?
Zivanovic Smith: Web3, being the next iteration of the world wide web, with token-based commerce and blockchain technology, will require the next wave of customer-centricity tools, reach and innovation. If we think back to the way we integrated email marketing into our toolkits, and then further utilized tools like Adobe’s Bizible to understand attribution, integrated chat into our websites or created plans around social media – we need to start exploring those tools and innovations that exist within the Web3 context. We can’t ignore or neglect this. We need to find new ways to participate in the conversations.
I am asking myself: What is the next version of automation and measurement that exists in Web3? What’s the next social tool? How will social evolve? As marketers, we need to get proactive and begin the process of rapidly exploring and learning the answers to these questions. Today consumer expectations have never been higher and consumer sentiment shifts minute by minute. This requires a customized buyer journey that incorporates technology that gives them additive data sources to generate loyalty and acquire new customers.
There is also an entire new world of digital, and financial, literacy via ‘tokenomics’, that all marketers need to learn about. A new language is emerging, and the understanding around all this is frankly lagging. If we don’t act quickly the rug will be pulled out from under our feet before we even see it.
Howard: How is the definition of brand purpose changing to match consumer expectations in our new
age of stakeholder capitalism and what must all brands do to succeed?
Zivanovic Smith: The phrase, “Don’t just talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk,” has a renewed meaning for both employees and consumers today. What you say and what you do are two completely different things. The employees and consumers of the future have very little tolerance for a ‘low say/do’ ratio. The consumer of the future would rather own less if what they own, and the creators behind it, are aligned to their values.
Brand performance and company performance are tightly linked. Brand growth in the future will span beyond just product and profit – with social and cultural output taking precedent. The consciousness and accountability with which a brand participates in the world will be a pre-requisite.
Given this shift, brand strategy will need to advance from a product-focused strategy to one focused on building communities and collaborations. Brands that exist to serve themselves or look like the hero will no longer be the brands that win. The brands that can meaningfully answer the question: ‘how am I making my community / the world a better place’ and back that up with action – are the brands that will succeed.