How to Innovate a Traditional Marketing Campaign: Q&A with Mo Katibeh

AT&T Business CMO Mo Katibeh tells In The Future that humanizing technology is the key to selling a brand.


Conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.

AT&T Business is the integrated business solutions arm of AT&T that focuses on enterprise solutions such as mobility, technology and security. Mo Katibeh, its chief marketing officer, launched the AT&T Business brand just last year which today serves more than 3 million customers and growing.

Katibeh-moKatibeh is driving an integrated market campaign that pushes the value of edge-to-edge intelligence: positioning AT&T Business as a one-stop shop for the customer’s needs, from getting mobile to getting secure. AT&T Business Solutions generated more than $39 billion in revenue in 2017—more than 24% of the company’s total revenue for the year.

Katibeh spoke to In The Future from AT&T’s Dallas headquarters about how he drives the marketing campaign for edge-to-edge intelligence—and what he does to make that campaign click with everyday people. He also offered his advice to other CMOs struggling to innovate their traditional companies.

In The Future (ITF): Technology is changing things quickly—how are your customers’ needs evolving?

Mo: All of our business customers are going through what we think of as a digital transformation journey. That’s a fancy way of saying that every business is trying to figure out how they grew their revenues, how they reduced their costs and how they improved their customer experience, by bringing together the best from the digital and physical worlds. What we see is that everything is being interconnected, which is driving a fundamental change in how our business customers are thinking about networking and connectivity. Businesses are global, workforces are mobile and new technology is helping them with revenues and customer experiences.

ITF: How have you tailored your marketing campaign to meet those new demands?

Mo: Customers are asking us something fairly basic, like how do we simplify what we’re using to connect our businesses. We see AT&T Business and the marketing function as helping our customers integrate their systems and processes from one edge of their business to another. Every business has data flowing out to the cloud, so every business has to worry about their data and security. Do they use one company or dozens of companies to do that? And that’s where AT&T Business sits in a unique category where our intelligent network platform can serve every business no matter what their size is, across all of their domains. And that’s also where we see the evolution of our customer needs going. Edge-to-edge communications, the premise, the cloud—all wrapped in security.

ITF: Then why launch AT&T Business as its own distinct brand to get this done?

Mo: Our entire marketing focus this year is around edge-to-edge intelligence. We launched the AT&T Business brand in 2017 and historically we had not been called that. It may seem like its subtle, but the goal was to really distinguish the brand from the other business units within AT&T. We wanted to make sure that AT&T Business had its own identity in the market, to speak to the millions of business customers looking for partners to help them with their digital transformation.

ITF: And how did you end up developing the campaign?

Mo: We started really looking at how our customers and sellers approach the market, and looked at how we can shift from products to full edge-to-edge solutions for our business customers in a repeatable way. We were able to see the things that we were selling and take them in what would historically take 6 to 9 months, put them together and make them deployable in a matter of days. As we realized we were able to do this, the concept of edge-to-edge intelligence emerged.

ITF: Edge-to-edge intelligence is your main focus—tell us more about what’s at the core of the campaign.

Mo: Edge-to-edge intelligence is about demonstrating our business differentiation and delivering agility for our customers. Rather than having to work with dozens of different companies, business customers and our edge-to-edge intelligence is intended to illustrate the point that we can help businesses with their mobility, devices, IoT and edge solutions. It’s everything that they need in order to power a premise location, whether it’s a bank, a retailer, a manufacturer or health care. We help them with their connectivity beyond their premise and look at how they get data to and from those premise locations, whether it’s dedicated internet, broadband, wireless or VPN solutions. We then take that data into the cloud, whether it happens to be public, private or content distribution networks, and then wrap all of it in security.

ITF: Looking at this campaign, what else have you done to help sell the AT&T brand?

Mo: Beyond the technology, the campaign was meant to humanize and help soften the brand. Technology is massively important but you’ve got to bring a personal, human-centric lens to technical subjects as well. You’ve also got to instill a little bit of humor into the campaign. The tone of the ads was lighthearted, humorous and it gets business customers excited about what’s possible. A lot of business decision makers are younger—many millennials are now involved in product or purchase decision making in their companies.

ITF: What is it about AT&T Business that makes its branding unique from its competitors?

Mo: When you look at our branding versus our major competitors, it really boils down to the fact that AT&T is in a fairly unique category. We are one of the only companies on Earth that can bring together all the solutions, edge-to-edge, that any business customer needs whether they’re small, regional or large. In general, a business would have to go to lots of individual point solution companies in order to do what AT&T can do on their behalf. We’re here to simplify our business customers’ lives, help save them money and provide solutions that drive new revenues and new customer experiences for them.

ITF: What’s your major takeaway from this marketing campaign so far?

Mo: One of the interesting things we’ve been seeing is how the role of marketing can become more human—how we can help humanize the brand alongside the innovation side of the equation. Humanization and innovation are real things that we think about everyday. Our society has fundamentally changed in the last 10 years, and people and businesses are more connected than they’ve ever been. Bringing that back to our recent advertising campaign, every single one of those ads are about different industries but show how consumers interact directly or indirectly with solutions that allow digital experiences to be brought to life. It’s not just about the technology, but also about how humans interface with those technologies to really bring them to life. It lets business customers think about how new technologies can evolve the way they interact with their end customers.

ITF: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other CMOs who need to innovate their companies’ marketing campaigns?

Mo: First and foremost, don’t fear the future. You have to embrace new technologies in order to reach out to your end customers in a new way and create new experiences for them. Two great examples of that are IoT—which is fundamentally changing almost every business customer that we work with—and the transition to 5G, and how that builds on IoT and existing mobile technologies. Think about new experiences that 5G and IoT enable like virtual reality, telemedicine, self-driving cars, robotics and smart cities. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, 5G is going to fundamentally create new ways for you as a CMO to help update your brand and more importantly, update that brand in a way that allows you to reach out to your customers in new ways.