Katrin Zimmermann, Managing Director of TLGG on Marketing Digitization
Ep 27. Katrin Zimmermann, Managing Director of TLGG on Marketing Digitization
The MD of a global digital consulting agency shares what we can all expect to see in an ever- changing and sometimes scary world of digitization and data privacy
Hey everyone, this is Rudy Fernandez from Creative Outhouse. Katrin Zimmermann is the managing director of TLGG Consulting in New York, a strategic digital consulting agency. But more than that, she’s someone who really understands the overall landscape of digitization. Our conversation was about what we can all expect to see in the ever-changing digital world. There are a couple of times in the conversation where I was just blown away, especially when she talked about privacy issues. We also talked about trends and counter trends, and how she started the Innovation Hub at Lufthansa. I really enjoyed the conversation and you will to check it out. Welcome to Marketing Upheaval,
Rudy Fernandez 0:45
Welcome to Marketing Upheaval. My guest is Katrin Zimmermann, the managing director of TLGG Consulting in New York, a strategic digital consulting agency. Katrin is an expert at identifying disruptive trends in the digital space and is somewhat of a disrupt herself. She was formerly at Lufthansa, where she co-founded their Innovation Hub. We’re going to talk about digital disruption, the future of digitization, and what that means for how companies engage with customers. We’ll talk about AI and whether or not any of us will have jobs after this. Thanks for joining me, Katrin.
Katrin Zimmermann 1:17
Good being here, Rudy.
Since you’re in this every day, what do you see as the biggest disruptive trends in the marketplace? And how are they going to change the way you reach potential customers and engage with existing customers?
I think one of the biggest trends and there’s obviously a multitude of trends that we’re seeing that are being disruptive, in a multitude of industries is definitely the what and the how regarding data. And I know that that is a bit of a theme for a while now. But there’s very few who have figured it out. And what can we actually do with data if we connect the different data lakes or data buckets that we having within organizations but also across traditional boundaries, put to essentially, to create new types of interaction, new types of personalization, new types of individualization to optimize for convenience and values of different stakeholder groups that we are addressing. But it’s also very much about the how we are doing this. Many organizations, many cities and even governments are struggling, of how this new opportunity comes about how we’re protecting consumers, how we’re allowing them to, you know, experience new opportunities. This trend I think, is one that will define us for a while and will lead to some joined maybe even society discussion on how we want to treat this fact. I mean, just recently, there was some legal discussion about for example, facial recognition laws and what is being allowed in the US. We have a rise in some protection discussion, and that we see to see consumers being protected, that is definitely one. And then every trend has a counter trend and whereas a data enables us to have great experiences through technology with companies and between each other, etc, etc. That’s also the counter trend of a need and the wish and a hope for more human interaction. And so I see that is something on the rise where the impact and the destructiveness of that trend is yet to be seen.
Rudy Fernandez 3:21
Well, you just brought up about 10 things I want to talk about in that one answer. Let’s start with the one you focused on the most. I think it was the how, and protecting privacy and etc. Europe has their GDPR protection. We don’t have anything like that the United States we’re sort of self-regulating, which means not regulating. How do you see that at least the United States? How do you see that working out with privacy laws and, and how we protect people’s privacy but at the same time, we’re collecting basically every piece of data we can about them,
I think we are collecting a lot of data, we are not yet always in the position to make use of the collected data in, in the ways that we potentially can. That is, maybe for the benefit yet, because we I think, as society need to decide on, because it impacts how we are operating as a group of people in a country. Interestingly, Europe has come up with GDPR laws for probably some of the strongest data protection laws, we see some rise of that in Latin American countries, but we also see the subject arising here in the US. And with the CCPA. In California, that’s somewhat similar, and probably the strongest data protection law for companies operating within the geographical boundaries of California. And we also see that politics is kind of picking up the subject, right? Elizabeth Warren is talking about breaking up the big tech companies because it’s kind of slightly difficult or even impossible to kind of monitor and understand the opportunities and implications that the data collection that they are being unable to do because the platform businesses will have on individuals. And that’s we see increasing numbers that people can’t distinguish facts from fake information anymore because the amount of information we are being targeted with the tunnel that we are consuming media in, it’s kind of so customized at this point to feed into our behavior and our thinking and how our psyche at this point, that is definitely a discussion that we will need to have as a society. And politics can provide the legal framework of how we want to stimulate that in the US. And I think that is a discussion to be had not yet in the public eye too much. But it feels like we need to get there and there’s every once in a while this rise of concern from individuals or even groups and then also the validation that the concern was being true or real. Mainly for the fact that other political powers can make use of people’s inability to actually identify what is a source or an information that is valuable versus one that maybe create something fake from me or collect my data to make us in a way that maybe I’m not really willing to consent to, without me asking. So it is definitely a component of education of people, but it’s also a component of finding new ways from a society standpoint and then realizing them through legal requirements or legal laws.
Rudy Fernandez 6:35
Yeah, my biggest fear is that idea of getting people to care. You know, I think a lot of times people just give up personal information, and they don’t round up enough about it, at least not here. To understand what the amount of data about them that is out there and how it’s being used.
I agree with you, but we can see when we look towards China, we can see the implications of that, right? I mean in China because the Chinese government has been closely collaborating with the private sector and data collection, and kind of bringing human profiles together to come up with somewhat of a social reputational framework similar to an Uber rating, and a Chinese citizen in certain cities, and more and more across the country has a rating of the value to society.
Yeah. And if your value is not high enough, for example, you might not be allowed to travel on a national holiday in order to minimize the friction, that huge amount of mass travel causes in the city. So there is some real implications that we might not feel here in the US yet. But that can come about when society doesn’t have an open discussion of the pros and cons of data collection and making use of data. Wow.
I had no idea.
That is definitely something we should have as a joint discussion in a democratic and open society.
Yeah, while we still are I suppose. You had also talked about, every trend has a counter trend, which is fascinating. And how this trend obviously of more and more digitization is causing a need for more and more human contact. How is that manifesting itself?
What are we seeing is loneliness rates rising, what we seeing is despite the fact being more connected digitally being less connected, and physically and in communication terms, there’s been some great studies in Europe on the reduction of human interaction in the physical sense, and due to the use of technology. And all of these implications are probably not short term implications, but rather long term implications, the way we having our children interact with voice assistance, how that impacts their understanding of language towards a technology and potentially then also to other human beings. All of these things are implicating how we interact with each other. And we are just like group people by nature. We need to be interacting with humans. We need human touch to reinvigorate ourselves because we’re not only the mind, but also the body. And I think this trend, for example, leads to an interesting news that I’ve just read that one of the fastest rising industries in the US is the massage franchises. So people actually go to find human touch and other solutions. And the whole wellness component and self care goes in that direction as well. So we see counter reaction to digitalization of creating more of that need for humaneness in society and in the way we interact with each other. That has business implications, but obviously also individually implications and society implications.
Rudy Fernandez 9:49
So let’s say you don’t own a massage company or spa. How could a business take advantage of that counter trend? Everybody is trying to get Ahead or trying to catch up with the digitization – How might a company take advantage of a counter trend of people wanting more human interaction?
I think the most things that we would recommend all the time is looking at a holistic perspective of how do you want to create interaction across the multitude of other channels or touch points that you are able to cater to? And how do you want to represent yourself? We see studies say that, particularly talking about corporations, that talk to end consumers that end consumers see the relationship with a brand or companies similar to a human to human relationship. And that is the baseline of everything and your understanding of how you present yourself in the marketplace. Then you have to cater to all of the five senses and all of the needs and value creations that you can bring to a consumer. And when you have that holistic model of perception at the base of your design for a customer experience, then you will cover the human interaction as much as the digital interaction.
Rudy Fernandez 11:03
But how does that let’s say something like, for example, Amazon is just killing the retail outlets. So how, how could let’s say a retail company that is you know that they’re doing less and less traffic all the time? How can they create that human interaction? Because right now people are saying, I’d rather just buy those, whatever on Amazon, then go somewhere to buy it.
Yeah. Which still happens. I just talked to a retail store in my neighborhood, and the ladies have a lot of people still come in, look for something and then buy it on Amazon. I think people are being more and more aware of the fact that if that is your behavior, right now, at some point, the retail will have to go out of business because you need to also spend your money to experience the product. I think that is one component of consumers being more and more educated about that fact. However, there’s also and particularly here in New York, I think we see a lot of great examples on how some more digital first companies, like for example, the beauty brand Glossier is able to tap into community into physical and digital state of the art creation of touch points. So people line up in front of these stores to actually get in and experience that physical product, that interaction with other customers the interaction with brand representatives. So it’s really about, you know, thinking things through becoming a destination brand in the physical space and in the digital space. And looking at Amazon to be quite frank, we see that with Amazon to at least to have representation in the physical spaces with more and more Amazon ghost stores, but it just caters to a more convenience driven and click on the go audience, right? Yeah, if I’m in the mood for a more human interaction lunch, then I probably won’t stop by their stores. So it really depends on also what consumers are looking for and what you bring as a brand, and that you need to look for the human interaction.
Rudy Fernandez 13:03
So jumping back to the digital nonhuman world, the types of platforms and technologies, do you think are making the biggest impact or will make the biggest impact?
For sure, I think what would be seeing more and more on the rise and it’s not fully deployed it it’s highly complex is to build from a backend perspective, intelligence on top of all of the interfaces that you’re creating. So that’s an interesting and rising technology trend that I think is going to have quite some impact on creating new and optimized experiences personalization and individualization for consumers. Yeah, and a front end perspective. I think one of the highest growth platforms in the US is one of the delivery services and we’ve seen for example, Uber, moving into enhancing their driving services by leveraging the human interaction they have as an asset into creating more convenient services for other human beings that can only be done by human beings. So going a little bit in the Mechanical Turk kind of direction. So there’s a lot of interesting trends going on in that space to see how we can create mass convenience and human enhanced through technology. And then obviously, this always a rise of some more consumer trends oriented talking about TikTok, for example, where communities come together in new ways. What I see as an interesting trend that we see here in the US and more from a lending perspective, but that’s interesting in China is Pinduoduo is a company and many people haven’t heard about it. It’s the third biggest ecommerce platform in China, that actually allows consumers to kind of consolidate into a group and buy a product as a consolidated group that’s asking for reductions of price because they kind of consolidate demand for product. So that’s quite an interesting trend of recreating and building new types of platforms for commerce in that sense.
Rudy Fernandez 15:06
Wow, that’s pretty neat idea.
Yeah, it’s an amazing idea. And it totally it kind of it’s copied from a B2B context and just brought it to…
Rudy Fernandez 15:14
Its kind of a digital marketplace.
Katrin Zimmermann 15:16
Oh, absolutely fascinating company also the for the time frame that they kind of grew in. Another interesting trend that we will see particularly coming more about in the US is still all around the aspects of how mobility is kind of like at the base of, of everything that we doing as humans, because mobility gives us the freedom to explore all of the things that we want to do, and the new platforms and micro mobility and consolidated mobility as some interesting and exciting trends.
What do you mean by micro mobility?
Micro mobility is more of all of the different types of infrastructure that we’re seeing coming into the marketplace that are facing difficulty in rebuilding business models that transport you between one to five miles.
Rudy Fernandez 16:04
I see. Yeah. So we’ve worked with the Department of Transportation and transit and so we you know that their term is the last mile, you know, getting people that last mile.
Katrin Zimmermann 16:14
Yeah. Last Mile mobility. For inner city mobility. There’s a lot of terms that kind of described the same situation
Rudy Fernandez 16:20
And TLGG just did a campaign for is it Hoot in San Diego? Is that what it is?
Katrin Zimmermann 16:26
Yeah. So we were helping one of our clients to grow or to test and validate a product hypotheses around an electrical vehicle community service in California in this case, and who drives to see how are certain geographical regions utilizing such a service? Is there a business model behind it? What are the key KPIs to see how would we be able to scale something like that? Yes, that’s what we just executed in the last three months.
Rudy Fernandez 16:56
So it’s electrical vehicles that go around town and people carpool in it? It that what it is?
Katrin Zimmermann 17:01
Yeah, you kind of carpool the vehicle or you order it from A to B kind of destination can be a few people in there. It’s just a different and more group oriented type of transportation.
Rudy Fernandez 17:12
I wanted to step back and talk a little bit about your background. Yeah, because I found it fascinating. you disrupt things yourself. You were at Lufthansa where I believe you started as a flight attendant, right?
Katrin Zimmermann 17:24
Yeah, almost. So in Germany, we have a special educational program or in at the times that I was doing in anyhow, is where big corporations offered work, employment kind of situations in form of an apprenticeship, at the same time sent you to university so I was the lucky one out of the quite a few applicants to be picked for such a paid kind of education. And then after that, I felt I was too young to do the day to day business work. So I became a flight attendant and actually traveled the world and yeah, I guess I built my character at that time.
Rudy Fernandez 18:00
But you work your way to different positions. And ultimately, you pitch the idea internally of creating an Innovation Hub. Yeah. And you created a team to create digital innovation within the airline itself. So how easy or how difficult was it to get buy-in from, from a corporate perspective to just jump in and say, I want to create something totally new here.
Katrin Zimmermann 18:24
I think at the time, probably the time was somewhat right. We were a team of three executive assistants to the C-suite. And we kind of, the whole subject of digital transformation came across our desk all of the time from like more external sources, and wasn’t so widely discussed within the organization. During a conversation that I had with the Chief Financial Officer at the time, where she asked him how we potentially could deploy Facebook within the organization. We kind of use that moment to provide her with a POV of what Lufthansa should be, you know, taking on in terms of digital transformation. And that’s kind of opened the door for her to say, hey, you have a point of view, why don’t you build this point of view a little further? And this is also how I met TLGG. Because then TLGG helped us to, to build that POV and come up with like this, one of the first projects for digital transformation for those times and ultimately also the foundation of the Lufthansa Innovation Hub as the digital innovation unit for Lufthansa globally.
Rudy Fernandez 19:30
So you had this pitch sort of in your back pocket. Good for you. So I find that whole idea of intrapreneurship just really fascinating. What advice would you give to, let’s say someone who works in a larger Corporation, who maybe has these goals and dreams of creating something new within their organization? Any advice on how to go about that?
Katrin Zimmermann 19:54
Yeah, go to the highest level and be persistent. So I really believe with everything C-suite interaction I had as there are, there is an open ear and an opportunity for this. Oftentimes, decision makers are somewhat detached from the organization to the organization, not because of their own interests. And so if you have a good idea and you’re a little bit bold and you think you can really move the needle, then you should pitch it to whoever you think is most suitable for it and might have the highest drive to pick it up. And if you’re consistent, I’m sure you will find it.
Rudy Fernandez 20:30
I’m sure part of the equation was the people at Lufthansa who were willing to listen, is there any anything within the Lufthansa structure or something that you would think companies would need to have in place to welcome ideas from bottom up?
Katrin Zimmermann 20:45
I actually think Lufthansa did two very smart things that created a bit of a movement within the organization that not necessarily creates like full crazy revenue impacts right away but definitely a strong cultural impact. Which is on the one hand side. And you’ll have that creative side budget, where every employee could pitch their idea to a group of people that was selected and had people from the C suite to some regular employees in them to decide upon whether the idea was good. And then they would then get funding to kind of bring these the prototype or minimum viable product to life of the idea whether it was process improvement, a totally new idea or something. And that really led to a lot of like global movement towards changing and becoming more digital, and bringing things to life that maybe sit outside of the classical budget structure of big corporations. And the second component was a tool that Lufthansa deployed organization wide, where employees got a virtual currency, to invest in different ideas of their colleagues, to actually help the organization in general make investment decisions to what’s new products and services. But also allow for higher participation and innovation, for transparency, for overview and for understanding of the need of change. So that was quite impactful tactics that were deployed to communicate change within an organization.
Rudy Fernandez 22:16
That’s great. Wow. And it also helps you learn how to hone your message and sell it because you need to sell it to your coworkers.
Katrin Zimmermann 22:23
Exactly, I mean, there was a long term philosophy and it was employees first. If you focus on your employees, then you will also satisfy the customers and it is service industry, obviously, talking about human interaction, again, in the airline industry, and the human interaction is quite important despite the opportunity that technology creates.
Rudy Fernandez 22:43
Well, tell me about TLGG because you sell yourselves as the digital consulting and transformation agency, but what does that mean?
Katrin Zimmermann 22:52
I mean, born out of a classical digital agency would kind of realize that digital in general has more impact than in the Customer touch points and interfaces pretty early on when early and big platforms came into the marketplace. And the idea was always to take corporations on the journey to bring either better products to technology or a whole new product to technology to the marketplace, and find all of the different solutions of how these new products and services could be born out of an organization or deployed within. So finding solutions of how outsourced R&D innovation can come to organizations, but also how an inside out innovation can be deployed was one of the early starting points. And today we are more all across the board in terms of helping organization understands that digital is not a function within the organization anymore, but it’s a mindset and a general behavior that we need to deploy in a world of connectedness between human beings between organizations across the board.
So what are some circumstances, for example that a client might come to you? What are the challenges they’re facing?
I mean, oftentimes would be seeing organizations is that at this point, many organizations are deploying different types of innovation, infrastructures being it corporate venture funds, laps, accelerators, incubators, in partnership, or even on their own. And oftentimes, that really helps to bring change within the organization and employees or outside partners have great ideas. But to scale them to size that it’s attractive and relevant for big corporation is most of the time where we see a lack of either breath in terms of financials or also strategic need at the moment in time, so we can for example, come in to help on this front and take on the solutions in this middle time, where we then find through TLGG ventures opportunities to build these new companies into a size that are relevant and impactful. Also from a revenue standpoint for big corporations, we can also go and embark on a journey to look into the deployment of new technologies and impact across the seas. In a multitude of industries, we are trying to help understand how technology impacts or undercuts business models and finding opportunities and new revenue streams to really look at that from a global scale. So it’s a multitude of questions that our clients come to us with to find a solution that suits that particular company on that particular moment.
Rudy Fernandez 25:40
Because obviously, you have people who are knowledgeable in terms of digital platforms, technologies, innovations, etc, across a broad breadth and landscape. But how do you take that knowledge then, and customize it for a vertical of a particular industry?
Katrin Zimmermann 26:00
We focus on particular industries, to some degree, because we have some clients that we, you know, worked on for a long time within their particular industries and have quite some knowledge of the impact that technology has on their business model and the implications and opportunities that we can derive from that. And these industries are in the healthcare space, everything around automotive and mobility, we’re also looking at, or having a lot of clients in the CPG space, everyone who’s kind of disrupted in the sense of being enabled to technology to talk to customers directly. And that is obviously also quite some has quite some impact on marketing activities, and all of these clients within our portfolio within our field of expertise.
Rudy Fernandez 26:47
So in the healthcare space, do work with I mean, throughout all the breadth of technology like the EHR is and let’s say wearables?
Katrin Zimmermann 26:55
Actually has quite some breath. And so from really going into how can we from a business strategy standpoint, and leverage the implications that technology has on our r&d and r&d, as we all know, is quite a relevant investment field and healthcare and pharma. And how can we reinvent the processes of innovation? Um, so that that would be one angle that we’ve been taking with one of our clients and finding a new solutions and bringing these into the marketplace and communicating them around the globe and making them a relevant factor within the future of healthcare innovation, to looking into the implications of wearables the implications of on existing business models.
Rudy Fernandez 27:42
Yeah, no, the technology and healthcare is every year, more and more billions of dollars go into healthcare technology and developing new technology to try to solve that puzzle. I find it fascinating.
Katrin Zimmermann 27:56
Yeah, it is super fascinating and also, it’s also quite a challenge because here again, we’re coming to the subject of data, right? And the more data we’re collecting, and in the b2b space, there is actually quite some data protection logics. And in the b2c space that is a bit of a different animal every once in a while, but HIPAA in the US at least is creating some protection terms that we have to comply to. Yeah, it’s still that is changing in so many ways, and also a subject that the big pharma companies are still figuring out.
Rudy Fernandez 28:30
So I actually just quick question on transportation, in terms of mobility and how it might impact how people commute?
Katrin Zimmermann 28:38
We have seen some very early versions in terms of mobility subscription services that allow you to choose between different modes of transportation, and you’re just paying for one solution kind of in a subscription model. But I also think what will be interesting to see is all of the data collection that comes about with that, I think it was yesterday read in a particular People about facial recognition software in the vehicle. And kind of on the way or trajectory to an autonomous vehicles, we would probably see more human assisted driving and looking into whether we’re fulfilling legal requirements in the car Are you buckled up? And all of this kind of information could be collected and could even be transmitted to the OEMs of the infrastructure providers. So there’s some quite interesting ideas coming to potential marketplaces. And we’ll have to see how consumers and the legal legislation providers are reacting to these situations.
Rudy Fernandez 29:40
You know, I joke that I recently got a new car and it’s the first time I have a car that’s more intelligent than I am. It’s constantly telling me what to do and how to do it.
Katrin Zimmermann 29:49
Yeah, and it’s I mean, it’s really like touching your privacy and what is your own decision making versus how much assisted decision making is then still maintaining human freedom.
Rudy Fernandez 30:00
Because you talked about driver autonomous vehicles. I forget the exact percentage. But for many of our states in this country, the number one job type is some type of driving. As we move more and more towards this technology, pretty soon I imagine algorithms will be the ones creating algorithms instead of humans. What sorts of jobs do you see sort of going away first, and what does that mean for our future in terms of all this AI and automation?
Katrin Zimmermann 30:35
Well, I’m generally a strong optimist in that sense, because I’m always fascinated by the human creativity despite the fact that I absolutely see the threats. I feel that we do have a discussion about the subject we do not always have the right answers to the subject, or we are refraining from facing what is actually happening by trying to deploy old school solutions. Obviously the biggest threat is on very transactional kind of tasks. But every job that entails in some shape or form human empathy, specific metrics of human beings, all of these skill sets that are very particular and difficult to just fully deploy without the full sensory of the human body. That is definitely the jobs that will persist the longest. However, I also believe in this is going back to the counter trend, and we will see a lot of service jobs that will remain and it’s so interesting that Uber moves into that space of looking into what a lot of the services that we will still need a human to deliver, they will not be in the near future, the aspect of an autonomous vehicle delivering you your groceries and then having a robot drive to your apartment. And to actually hand the package over to you either you would have to go down and pick it up out of the car. But there will always be people who are willing to have that service brought to that door. And for that we will need service solutions that are being provided by humans. So despite the fact that there might not be a human driving anymore, the service aspect that can be provided only through a human will remain for quite some time. It’s not like we can just substitute the human out of the workplace and too easily in all of the scenarios.
Rudy Fernandez 32:24
in terms of marketing, all the changes coming across our world, what excites you the most and what scares you the most?
Katrin Zimmermann 32:33
Human ignorance or human lack of curiosity and scares me the most.
Good for you.
Katrin Zimmermann 32:42
And the most hope I have is that we actually taking on oftentimes the responsibilities that we have and that we see some great young leaders in the young generations showing us at the mirror in some non so digital subjects like sustainability and climate change. Example. Yeah, to make this widely and even globally discussed movement, and I’m looking forward and how this transpires into other categories where we as society still needs a disruptive change that is not technology induced.
Rudy Fernandez 33:15
That’s great. I just to clarify, when you say human ignorance and lack of curiosity, do you mean in terms of, let’s say climate change or sustainability or other areas?
Katrin Zimmermann 33:25
Well, I think it’s in humanity. And over history, we’ve always been looking to widen our knowledge space. Yeah. And I think everyone should be a growing up in an environment where that remains to be the case. And I think America with the understanding of there’s always room for growth and personal development and improvement is at the forefront and stimulating this understanding moving forward. And I’m looking forward for our leadership to instill that in the young generations again, to not be too convenience-driven, but actually taking on the next level of opportunity rather than being satisfied with simple storytelling and keeping busy through all of the digital interactions that we can create today.
Rudy Fernandez 34:13
That’s wonderful answer. Well, thank you so much, Katrin. I really have enjoyed this conversation, and I appreciate your time.
Katrin Zimmermann 34:20
Thank you so much, Rudy. This is fantastic.
Rudy Fernandez 34:23
Thanks for listening to Marketing Upheaval from Creative Outhouse. Check out the work that Katrin and TLGG Consulting are doing at TLGGconsulting.com. For show notes, previous episodes and previous to upcoming episodes, visit CreativeOuthouse.com/podcast. And if you liked this podcast, give us five stars. Subscribe and share it with your friends. Our producer is Susan Cooper. Special thanks to Gopal Swami and Acoustech Music for creating our earcon and to Jason Shablik for his audio advice. Well, that’s it for this episode of Marketing Upheaval. And remember, if the current state of marketing’s got you confused. Don’t worry. It’ll all change. See ya.
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