MarTech  Interview with Chris Leong, Chief Marketing Officer at Schneider Electric

Sustainability plays a key role in all business and commercial growth efforts, Chris Leong, Chief Marketing Officer at Schneider Electric shares more in this quick catch-up with MarTech Series:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Chris. You’ve had an interesting marketing journey through the years, we’d love it if you could take us through the key highlights and your top learnings over this time?

As a marketer, I could not have asked for a more enriching and exciting marketing journey. I have had the opportunity to be a brand practitioner from both the agency side as well as the client side, across B2C consumer brands and B2B industries, playing roles at local, regional and global levels across continents. What could be more exciting than that?!

What is evident is through the last few decades, the marketing playbook has been significantly redefined. It seems like a lifetime ago when brand building was all about TV commercials and big mass-media budget. A brand “speaks to” its target audience with a one-way approach, multiplied by reach and frequency to deliver Share of Voice; this, believe it or not, has served faithfully as a leading indicator of commercial success in Market Share, when executed in alignment with the other 3Ps – great products, great distribution, priced at the right accessibility or aspirational price point!

The internet has democratized information, knowledge access and distribution. We live in a 24/7 always-on world with information flow at lightning speed. When we combine that with a complex global-local interest in social media, narratives and messages are no longer under the absolute control of the marketer. 

Marketers’ capacity to create the next marketing breakthrough will not come about only by riding the wave of the constantly evolving digital ecosystem, but also by the need to have the emotive gut to tap into the social and psychological tapestry of consumers. Today, brands that win the hearts and the minds of consumers connect beyond a one-to-one level. Consumers hold brands accountable for their contribution to the environment, the society and to humanity. 

I do believe the enduring part of marketing that still stays true today is the strength behind the clarity of a brand – the purpose, mission and values that it brings not just to a consumer but to the larger ecosystem within which it has the privilege to exist.

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Take us through your role as Global CMO at Schneider Electric? A few top martech and marketing processes and strategies that help push marketing ROI at Schneider Electric that you’d like to talk about?

Sustainability is at the core of Schneider Electric, guiding everything we do. While many companies may have a sustainability agenda, what is unique about Schneider Electric is that we are both a sustainability practitioner for over 15 years and our business is in providing sustainability solutions for our customers, from consulting, auditing to IT and OT implementation. Who wouldn’t be proud to work for the world’s most sustainable corporation, as recognized by Corporate Knights

All of our efforts march towards a well-defined set of goals which are mapped against United Nation Sustainable Development Goals. We’ve set a goal to help customers save 800 million tons in CO2 emissions and provide access to green electricity to 50 million people by 2025. How we do it? Our IoT platform, EcoStruxureTM, provides efficiency which is not only good for our customers’ topline and bottom-line, it is a solid line to every company’s climate commitment. 

When it comes to marketing specifically, our engagement has pivoted to digital completely with over 100 million web visits annually, with an increasingly self-service experience thanks to the continuous breakthrough in our Customer Journey innovation – mobile, AI, seamless, selectors, chat, ecommerce and more. 

Our signature Innovation Summit World Tour has gone fully digital in 2020, being covered in local languages in over 15 key cities around the world, and completed with deep engagement of Innovation Hub Tours and Expert Panel discussions. In total, we hosted 5,000+ digital events for half a million customers worldwide. In 2021, we are taking digital to the next level. Innovation Summit World Tour 2021 combines global trends with local insights, kicking off with a Global Keynote on October 12, followed by 11 local and regional events taking place around the globe, expecting 20K+ customers and partners from more than 100+ countries discovering the future of energy management and automation. In North America, for instance, we are looking forward to welcoming a projected attendance of over 3,000 industry professionals and enthusiasts at our regional event on November 10 to learn more about the sustainability paths they can take to achieve their decarbonization commitments. 

At Schneider we see Sales & Marketing as a spectrum of one: we make the life of our sales teams easier, and together we deliver results for our core business, acting as an acquisition and retention digital machine. For example, in 2020 in the US, Marketing pivoted to rapid growth segments and activation at the end of the purchase funnel. The Rise of the Digital Seller was a program to support the sales teams, as they were no longer on the road but needed to stay close to our customers.  

For decades, we have been innovating in power distribution and now, through Innovation at Every Level, we are redefining power distribution and automation with EcoStruxureTM coupled with agnostic software solutions with partners such as AVEVA, eTAP, RIB, Planon to serve our 4 core end-markets : Industries, Infrastucture, Data Centers and Buildings. 

All of these inter-connected processes help us achieve our mission: to be the leading digital partner for sustainability and efficiency. If our vision is to bridge progress and sustainability for all, then a big part of the answer lies in the power of digitization and how, together, we can reinvent a smarter and greener future together.  

Sustainability today plays a key role in not only growing a brand image but ensuring they build a more win-win experience for the community at large, can you talk about the ways in which you drive this at Schneider Electric and also, a few thoughts on what B2B and Enterprise brands need to do to strengthen their sustainability practices?

At Schneider Electric, we see sustainability as a win-win for communities all over the world. The warning signs around climate change could not be clearer, unfortunately reinforced with the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report declaring “code red for humanity”.Accelerating our way to a net-zero carbon world should be an absolute focus for businesses and brands of all sizes. We’ve also seen governments making ambitious commitments to a greener future. 

At Schneider, Sustainability is embedded everywhere: at the core of our business, at the core of our DNA, in the way we interact with communities around us and at the core of our governance. No surprise, it is our sustainability ambition that triggers innovation on multiple fronts to contribute to a smarter and greener future for everyone, everywhere. 

In January 2021, we announced the acceleration of our sustainability strategy by setting ambitious targets for 2025, delivering on six long-term commitments. Our sustainability commitments contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations and reflect our holistic vision of how we can deliver sustainability to people, planet and the economy.  

In so many ways, strengthening sustainability practices begins and ends with making efficiency, resiliency and connectivity priorities in people’s lives. We are at the epicenter of the biggest Energy Transition and Digital Disruption of our generation. What could be more exciting than managing more than 50% of our portfolio as decarbonization solutions, supporting our customers to achieve our collective Climate Actions?

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Can you share a few highlights on how Schneider Electric has enabled some of the world’s top brands with their sustainability programs? 

A big part of what we do at Schneider is to enable our customers to serve their customers better, smarter, more meaningfully. I like to say that Schneider Electric is the world’s largest invisible brand, always working hard behind the scenes—of course to power the infrastructure around us, but also to contribute towards the world’s top brands on their sustainability ambitions. 

Schneider Electric worked with Pepsi Co. to more than double its climate goal to target a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% by 2030, and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040—more than a decade earlier than the Paris Agreement. 

Walmart is working with Schneider Electric to explore renewable energy options for its U.S. suppliers through a first-of-its-kind aggregated procurement cohort. This program supports Walmart’s goal to remove a billion tons of emissions from its global value chain by 2030.

Another one is Montgomery County, in Maryland, USA, with 9,000 employees, 400 buildings of 9M square feet has limited budget like other municipalities. It has achieved carbon neutrality and the resilience it needs, all without any upfront investment, thanks to our renewable energy microgrids and Energy-As-A-Service solutions. And we just announced a groundbreaking project with Brookville’s Smart Energy Bus Depot, where we are transitioning 44 buses from diesel to electric by 2022, and like this Montgomery County will reduce lifetime emissions of greenhouse gases by 155,000 tons.

We believe in an open ecosystem. Schneider Electric Exchange is our open platform where partners, developers and end-users connect with peers and experts across market segments. It gathers 100+ communities, API, SDK for technology access and encompasses a marketplace with 500+ digital offers for scalability and market access. 

Last but not least, as sustainability practitioners, 300 of our factories and logistics centers in 40 countries are Smart Supply Chain where we reached 80% renewable electricity mix, while five of our factories are recognized by World Economic Forum as LightHouse, including our 65-year-old Lexington, Kentucky factory which we have digitized. We have recently opened our most sustainable site in the world, IntenCity in Grenoble, France, made for greater well-being and optimal efficiency, using only 11% of an average per sqm energy consumption in Europe – that’s almost 90% energy efficiency. 

As impact and importance of sustainability to business and marketing evolve, what should brand marketers keep in mind for the near future?

I think ‘near future’ is a key aspect here. We know that climate change is real, and it’s here. Now more than ever, business trends are well aligned with what the world needs the most – a greener and smarter future. 

We are the generation to know climate change, and we have the technology we need to be the generation that modifies the trajectory of carbon emissions and therefore climate change by addressing the biggest disruptions of our time – Digitalization and Electrification which will form the solution for Sustainability.

And this speaks to us, marketers, too! The role of marketing is to deliver business impact; we hold one of the greatest responsibilities of any brand leader for our ability to deliver the Schneider Electric story in the most compelling and relevant manner – engaging our customers to explore decarbonization solutions, empowering our partner ecosystem to co-create breakthrough sustainability innovation, rallying and inspiring communities to join the good fight for Climate Action for our unique planet. 

Consumers are increasingly voting with their dollars against unsustainable brands. A recent HBR study* has shown that sustainable brands perform better in terms of actual purchases and that consumers do buy sustainable products. More and more investors are supporting companies in making the investments needed for the pivot towards sustainability across industries. *Ref: NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business research as shown in HBR 2019 article

My advice to marketers as they look toward a more sustainable future: be clear about the kind of change you envision for your brand, and place it as a true north in all that you do.

And work with the other leaders of your brand to build credibility around it. Becoming a change maker, to me, means that intentions must be translated into action. 

Some last thoughts and marketing / martech takeaways before we wrap up?

Live in the present, look to the future, know your customers and operate in real-time. 

If you are not a digital marketer, you are no longer in marketing. Be sure to take full advantage of what martech offers you – abundance of customer insights thanks to Big Data, unlimited access to the evolving digital landscape – and what the lastest tech can do for you as a marketer. If you are not thinking and innovating in your Digital Customer Journey and Experience, consider it a Marketing Debt and get cracking!

And, whatever you do, be the best professional you can be – know your business, master your skills. If you are a social media guru – be the best social media guru. If you are a SEO expert – be the best SEO person there is. 

Confidence comes from knowledge! Remember to be curious and speak up. Sometimes it is not about having the answers but asking the right questions. It shows that you are engaged, interested and that you have a point of view to contribute. 

Ultimately, there is no silver bullet. Respect and trust are earned, not given. 

Schneider Electric’s purpose is to empower all to make the most of our energy and resources, bridging progress and sustainability for all.

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Schneider Electric | iF WORLD DESIGN GUIDESchneider Electric’s purpose is to empower all to make the most of energy and other resources, bridging progress and sustainability for all.

Chris Leong started with Schneider Electric in January 2012 and in 2015, Chris was appointed as Chief Marketing Officer, responsible for making marketing a competitive advantage for the company – building a strong brand and leveraging digital to increase awareness and drive growth.

Previously, Chris led Nokia Greater China, Korea & Japan region and held various senior management roles in marketing communications firms – WPP agencies Bates Asia (Hong Kong), Ogilvy Europe (London, UK), Grey Global Group (Singapore and Malaysia). 

Chris is extremely passionate about giving back, regularly working with charity groups. She speaks four languages: English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay, is married with two children and based in Hong Kong.

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