Interview with Janice Caston, VP Global Marketing, Toluna

Published Aug 31, 2018

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Tell us about your role at Toluna and how you got here? What galvanized you to join Toluna?

I joined Toluna in 2009 when ITWP acquired the company with the aim of expanding into a new category of market research. At that point in time, I’d experienced the best of what the consumer insights industry had to offer but was open-minded about a change. When I met Frederic-Charles Petit, Toluna’s Founder and CEO, I became inspired due to his commitment to successful acquisitions and vision for the consumer insights industry. Frederic is the kind of person who explores possibilities beyond the confines of a certain industry and isn’t bound by the way things have been done in the past. He is a pioneer who is truly looking towards the future and inspires others to do the same.

How does Toluna fit into a modern CMO’s tech stack? How do you differentiate Toluna from the competition?

Toluna provides on-demand insights that empower marketers to make more informed decisions. The company’s platform-based approach to accessing consumer insights connects brands and consumers in real-time and showcases Toluna’s conscious decision to invest in technology ahead of the curve. The real-time nature of Toluna’s end-to-end platform, the richness of data it can provide, as well as the ease with which data can be interpreted and reported, have made it possible for us to broaden our conversations. Not only has Toluna become relevant to consumer insights professionals, but also to marketing professionals who can now access insights directly.

How are marketing research platforms different today from when you first started?

Today’s marketing research platforms have evolved to provide a better quality of insights. This innovation has totally disqualified the idea that DIY surveys and direct-access approaches only serve as ‘quick gut check’ research. Our research expertise, coupled with our understanding of sampling, consumer populations, and data analysis, are legitimately backed into the solutions we offer.

What is your “Ideal Customer Profile”? Which markets and geographies are you currently targeting?

Our ideal targets are consumer insights professionals who work in agencies, however, we consider brand managers, innovation teams, and strategists to be part of our core audience as well. With our consumer panel consisting of more than 21 million influencers spanning 68 countries/regions and with offices in 24 markets, Toluna truly targets a global audience.

What are the major pain points for Global Marketing teams in delivering meaningful and conversational omnichannel messages to audiences?

I’d say that at this point, we always want to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. That’s the goal of any marketer. In some cases, your strategy is bound by your channel, and you need to think creatively about how to optimize your tools. Although this isn’t ideal, we acknowledge that it is a reality in this business and that’s why we’re working deliberately to provide consumer insights that can inform the best way to engage with consumers across all channels.

How do you measure your Sales Fitness? What tools would you recommend to CEOs and CMOs as a Sales Hack in 2018?

Using marketing automation systems that are integrated with our sales systems have allowed us to measure our Sales Fitness more efficiently. For CEOs and CMOs, I would recommend automation technologies that provide rich intelligence and help ensure full cohesion across marketing and sales campaigns. This has been a critical element for our organization.

Which startups in the martech and adtech industries are you keenly following?

Smartling is an interesting company that is helping international brands expand by translating marketing materials and websites into local languages. Influential is another company doing interesting things. They use predictive analytics and machine learning to help brands find qualified personalities for influencer marketing campaigns based on a target audience.

What marketing and sales automation technologies do you use?

We’re very experimental, and given our global nature, we often find that there are things that you can do in a certain market that are niche that may not be available in another market. Innovation always starts in pockets, and we’ve actually found vendors who do very cool things that aren’t yet inclusive. I’d say that the global nature of our team gives us the ability to try many new and innovative approaches before we digest them as best practices universally.

Tell us about the new standards of tech integrations that you find very interesting. How do you steer clear of data chaos?

We’re very fortunate as a consumer insights firm. We’re all data geeks here and always have our eyes on how data can be integrated to better inform our decision-making. That being said, we also know things can get out of hand quickly, so we’re extremely proactive. Our mantra is to integrate what you need and can ultimately act on, and we apply this to clients as well.

Elaborate on your best digital transformation campaign. How did you measure the performance among your audience?

One of the major components of our success was the perception among professionals in this business. While we have our own internal systems for measuring exposure and attribution, we also have a series of external sources and studies afforded by our industry. For example, after our most recent re-brand, we were able to understand impact very quickly post-launch due to digital making campaigning and message delivery virtually instantaneous.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric ecosystem as a global marketing leader?

AI is something we study very closely and is something that has the potential to change the way marketers can make sense of, and garner insights from, massive amounts of data. However, consumer insights are about the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ and so I don’t see that going away. The need for qualitative insights will only increase as the level of AI-powered quantitative insights increases.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

We’re by nature a technology-driven company, and my entire marketing team is naturally inclined to embrace and use technology. It’s built into the work we do for clients and to advance our own B2B marketing initiatives.

How do you consume information on marketing and sales technologies?

In addition to ongoing training and certification, I personally encourage my team to take 1 – 2 technology vendor meetings a week. That’s the approach we take for learning about what’s out there and what competitors are doing in order to stay ahead of the game.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I am a big proponent of organization and I think I’ve used my Amazon Echo Show to its fullest capacity. Productivity tools that can be applied to both work and home help to blur the lines between work life and home life in a non-intrusive way.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

At Toluna, we use a lot of our own data for content creation, and I realize how lucky we are as we’re in the position to do that. Our platform and analytic tools make it easy to create something once and use it many times, while also managing translations – it saves us loads of time, and also provides us with the ability to collaborate. Also, managing global marketing calendars can be time-consuming without adding immediate business value. I’m in the process of evaluating several new platforms, though we’ve not yet landed on one that meets our business need – stay tuned!

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

I’m reading ‘How Brands Grow’ by Daniel May and recently finished ‘Contagious,’ which was awesome.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Make time to be your own advocate.” Marketers often devote so much less time to developing their own personal brand. It’s important. I received this advice from a former boss of mine who had a background in PR and journalism.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

Jonah Berger

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