Steve Lok is Head of Marketing Tech & Ops at The Economist has been working in technology for more than 20 years, though his team likes to refer to him simply as “The Plumber”. Steve has received numerous awards for his enablement of smart use of data in marketing acquisition and in helping his team execute on their visions of the future. Steve started his career as a web developer in the 90s with his own healthcare IT startup and then led agile project programs before accepting his current role in The Economist’s global circulation team. Applying those learned principles into marketing led The Economist team into taking home a Cannes Lions, DMA Grand Prix, and last week the IPA award for smartest data and technology use in The Economist’s recent Brand Response strategy and to the highest single-year increase in circulation revenue in a decade. Steve is a frequent speaker and teacher on the subject of Martech and Agile. He often speaks about how the confluence of tech, data, and content is now real – and provable.
Divide 2017 by 1843: Growth hacking The Economist creates record revenue and perception change of an historic brand
The Economist has great content, but how do you sell the relevancy and change the perception of a 173 year old brand?
Research has shown that investment in awareness and market penetration correlate, and that awareness creates demand. The Economist has enjoyed steady growth over the last few decades, but like other publications - were facing some intense challenges. In the face of declining advertising revenue across the industry, it was clear they needed to hedge on growing subscription instead–but how? The Economist knew that the efficacy of traditional marketing methods were already flizzling out – and they had to build a workflow that would be smart, immediate, scalable, and completely trackable.
Novel perspectives have always driven The Economist to disrupt opinion from the inside out. Steve describes how a customer-first, technology, data, and content-led vision transformed circulation marketing at The Economist, and empowered them to innovate a new acquisition platform. The combination of marketing and tech not just in platforms and data, but also the internal processes, people, and culture geared towards agility and amplification. They knew their potential customers wanted fresh messaging and that they would have to find customers where they were, not the other way around. Combining a fresh perspective and technology experience, they sought to provide personalised shopping journeys to customers across multiple channels - at scale! Steve tells how winning the Cannes "Smart Data In Real Time" Gold Lion is nice, but getting martech a seat at the head of the table - and a larger budget and a larger staff - were the real reward.
Tech was going to help us understand the missing element – Context. Steve describes how designing a system in mind at The Economist around three goals: understanding effort, value, and personalisation through technology plus a healthy dose of some forward thinking and brave action led to the transformation of the subscriber acquisition business at The Economist – and created new challenges they're working to solve today.