I talked with Kieran Hannon, CMO of Belkin, about marketing trends, surprises, and constants. He shared his insights on personalization, IoT, and why brands can't over-rely on programmatic.

Q: You've had a diverse and successful career in marketing, especially digital and online marketing. Is there a common theme of your work--something that is a constant, no matter where you are?

Great question, I would say it's always having an innate curiosity in everything you do. With people, products, brands, experiences, one must suspend bias and be constantly learning. This applies even more so in today's world of data overload. Use data wisely to inform but don't lose sight that there's an important qualitative element that overshadows all. We are humans and connecting the "mind and soul" is an art, to be practiced over and over.

Q: You've been in the digital marketing space for long enough to have seen trends come and go. What's one big innovation that you've seen in marketing that surprised you?

In general consumers are accepting that their personal information is readily available. The key is not to break that trust by misusing it. Some marketers, especially in the affiliate arena, and questionable data brokers, see everything as "dollars and cents." Consumers usually understand the value exchange when they get something personalized in return and building on that trust will enable an ongoing, viable, transparent, positive relationship.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a fundamental economic driver. Water is just one example. One of the biggest claims insurance companies get is water damage, generally from burst water pipes when someone's not home. A smart meter attached can recognize pressure fluctuations such as minor water leakage or impending catastrophic damage. The result is reducing water waste and reduced insurance premiums. A win-win all around.

Marketers should reassess how their brand not only interacts with consumers, but also with adjacent and/or enabling brands (e.g. ordering with Amazon Dash or telling Amazon Echo to turn on/off your lights with WeMo).

Within apps there will be multiple brands working harmoniously--many uses and connections not even contemplated today. That will lead to new brands, products and product extensions. It's become a three-dimensional chess set and brands that get it right will thrive. All CMOs should initiate a visionary brand assessment because that new foundation needs to be laid now.

Q: Have we reached a point yet where advertisers and marketers think digital first and traditional platforms second? If not, why not?

My new year's resolution for 2016 is to ban the notion of "digital" and "traditional" being separate elements. They're not; it's all Marketing (with a capital M). Teams must be proficient in developing strategies and tactics along with the prioritization of such programs.

Q: My company works primarily in the post-click, customer engagement area of marketing, so you know we think it's a very important part of the marketing and sales chain. We also know companies tend to overlook the real value of post-click. Are there other areas of online engagement and marketing that you think get overlooked?

One area of paramount importance is consumer reviews. In the consumer electronics space most online searches now start on Amazon, not Google. The star ratings and the reviews are the new form of content marketing.

Q: What's something most brand managers or digital marketers get wrong?

An over-reliance on programmatic buying. It does play an important role, but for me quality is an overriding importance. We've had a number of successful direct partnerships, such as with Hulu for our Linksys brand, in addressing a major customer pain point with slow Wi-Fi. By inserting a very relevant message about having the correct Wi-Fi router (right time, right message), we've seen engagement at the very top of Hulu's metrics. I like to think of it as creating a Public Service Announcement letting people know old routers are impeding rather than enhancing their streaming experiences.

Q: What big projects are you working on now?

Belkin International has three global brands--Belkin, Linksys (consumer and business lines) and WeMo--with something big happening for each brand in 2016. One foundational project underway is a Marketing Resource Management (MRM) along with a Digital Asset Management (DAM) platform. We're in the final stages of implementing an Adobe Experience Management solution that we'll be rolling out mid-Q2.

Q: What has been your favorite marketing initiative at your company?

One example, Hudson News, is an oasis for airport travelers where the Belkin brand helps travelers enjoy their device experiences. Also, our new Valet Charge Dock for the Apple Watch + iPhone is a stunning example of our People Inspired Products philosophy.

As a marketer, our roster of brands in their respective categories couldn't be more exciting. Collectively we're helping people achieve the most out of their technology experiences. That's a calling that makes me very grateful for the role that I'm allowed to shepherd.

Kieran Hannon is the Chief Marketing Officer for Belkin International, encompassing all three of its brands: Belkin, Linksys and WeMo, where he manages every aspect of the marketing organization globally including eCommerce.