Helena Norrman is the chief marketing officer at Ericsson, she’s been with the brand for 12 years and started with the company in communications and media relations. AList caught up with Norrman at MWC 2019 to speak with her about Ericsson’s core message this year and how she manages customers trust and being a publicly visible marketer, as a member of Ericsson’s C-suite. For what it’s worth, Norrman will be departing the company in June to become a partner at Kekst CNC and managing director at communications consultancy JKL. 

What is Ericsson’s core message is in 2019?

2019 is all about 5G becoming a reality.

Because, last year it really wasn’t a reality, yet.

The first commercial network was in October in the U.S., and that’s still the only commercial network that carries traffic that there is in the world, but 2019 will be the year when it actually when the commercial networks start, then, of course, it will pick up over quite some time.

What are some consumer applications?

If you look at how will this roll out, the very first use case is not so sexy, but it’s a very good one and it is the whole cost of delivering data. It’s a more efficient system. Which means the cost of delivering data [to consumers] goes up, which means that in densely populated areas where people consume a lot of data it will be more economic for operators to build 5G than 4G. It doesn’t necessarily change the applications [in the beginning], but it changes the economics.

As a chief marketing officer, how do you concentrate on the bigger picture? How do you avoid micromanaging?

First of all, you can’t control everything, I mean we work in 180 countries and our technology touches everything and everyone. So, that sheer volume means that it is impossible to control everything and that’s actually a really good starting point.

I don’t have that [issue with] control, I don’t have that in me. The important thing is to decide what you need, maybe not the control, but the commonality, what you need to do together and what you need to do to build a brand. It’s more about identifying what those things are and push[ing]. Because if you go out in the fringes there are an endless amount of things that are happening and lots of small activities in different countries with different customers, different use cases, and that’s good, that’s great, as long as you stick to some sort of fundamental principles.

In what areas of martech are you investing?

We’re doing a facelift on digital marketing, but it’s from quite the basic level, so we are nowhere near anything fancy. We’re doing the basic we’re doing the uplift on the CRM, marketing monetization, on the website and on mobile.

What do you think young CMOs should be most concerned about?

I think that they should just be most concerned about the trust element.

Customer trust?

Yes. It’s easy to lose in this world that we are going into. It’s becoming a more and more valuable currency. I think that you have to, there are lots of examples of how brands have betrayed customer trust and I think that is very dangerous. I think that you can have problems, I think that you have to be transparent, I think you have to accept responsibility for what you are responsible for and that is difficult.

It’s seemingly become normalized that you hear about a breach a year later. 

In companies, there is this tendency if possible, “maybe we don’t have to tell.” Where we’re trying very much to work the other way around. We’re trying to start from assuming transparency and sometimes for reasons of customer confidentiality, we can’t. Because maybe it’s not our thing to talk about, it’s someone else’s thing to talk about. But when it comes to us, and what’s within our control, our assumption is we should be transparent.

What about the accountability of chief marketing officers? Especially as we see some companies doing away with the position altogether in favor of chief revenue officer, etc… 

It’s the trust in the brand—not the logo or the type and how many times you can flash it but what it stands for. I think that is the key. I don’t think that a chief revenue officer- that’s sales and sales is great, but it’s not the same thing. If you don’t have the trust in the eyes of your customer, the trust in the eyes of your stakeholders then you don’t create foundations for making the sales. Many companies do recognize that and many companies do work with a mixed marketing/communications/brand/public affairs/community relations- doesn’t matter which words you use. It all comes back to: how do you create the trustworthiness of the brand so customers will want to engage with you?

Can you talk about being a public presence as CMO?

First of all, we all try to represent the company and we all try to be visible. That’s also important from the transparency point of view: that the company has faces, and we are people that represent it. Our kind of business is very much thought leadership and insights, and to be able to show and discuss where the industry is going. It’s very important to our customers. Because that’s how they make these big investment decisions and partners that we stay with for a long time. We want to make sure that they’re moving in the right direction and that means that to be out there and talk about the industry, to talk about insights, to talk about the development that’s something that we do jointly in the leadership team, because it’s important that our customers see that we do that. Then we have our different flavors.