Big companies can be harder to pilot than oil tankers. And when those companies have been around for 125 years, like Dutch electronics multinational Philips, there will no doubt be many entrenched attitudes and processes in place that can make changing the company culture to face new challenges all the more difficult.
Yet many of Philips' product and industry sectors are subject to more intensive competition than ever, and it has fallen to Blake Cahill, global head of digital and social marketing, to spearhead the company's online responses, shaking up multiple fractured efforts into one coherent and unified digital strategy.
When he arrived at the company in 2013, it wasn't that Philips didn't "do" digital. Rather, its online efforts were divided, with different teams for different lines and inconsistent styling and even branding to some extent. All of this hampered the company's ability to do "joined up" marketing and customer engagement.
Indeed, Cahill's job title indicates exactly how the chief digital officer role fits in at Philips.
"What I do is build global capability for all of our business groups in our markets. So we identify the technology, the processes, the way of working, the KPIs, the metrics and ambitions around all parts of the digital ecosystem, from search engines, CRM and social media, to e-commerce," he said.
"Basically, we build it, deploy it and bring it to our businesses and markets, and we embed it the same way consistently around the world with an eye to having a harmonised customer experience.
"Why do we do all that? Ultimately to increase brand preference, to make campaigns more effective and to drive sales."
However, Cahill's CDO role is about more than just technology and is perhaps more closely aligned with marketing.
"We're considered a part of the marketing remit. In digital, part of it is technology, but a lot of it is really about doing business differently. About shifting behaviours and the organisation's way of working," he explained.
Cahill has unified the digital teams across Philips under his management so that approaches and priorities can be focused.
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