Marketing directors and CMOs have experienced a decade of rapid change, thanks in part to the explosion of digital media and digital technology. While this wave of change has included the dramatic ascent of mobile and social media, I believe there’s far more radical change to come. Change that will directly affect the way agencies and brands work together to answer the needs of the digitally enabled consumer. What I’m expecting to see is a dramatic redefinition of marketing and the role of the marketing professional.
We all recognise that the modern consumer now has more power to choose, access information, and shift between different mediums and devices. Yet strangely, the majority of the marketing industry has been slow to respond effectively to this change.
Yes, we recognise that there are more devices in the hands of the consumer and yes, we are all discussing buzz phrases like big data, but where is the evidence that we’ve successfully started moving away from the archaic ‘interruptive marketing’ model of today and into the ‘mass customisation’ model of the future?
Brands are still spending the majority of their budget blasting ads onto the pages of glossy magazines, into commercial breaks in television and radio programming, and onto full page web page takeovers. While creating ‘reach’ is important, and while I do believe in the need for big ideas and strong brand stories, we’re still stuck in our marketing silos when trying to communicate these ideas. Instead, we should collectively all be finding ways to engage, converse and be relevant – with a media agnostic approach – rather than broadcasting and interrupting.
When was the last time you heard a consumer describe a brand in silos? Or the last time you were engaged in an integrated communication from a brand that had great context, felt relevant to you, and added value to your lifestyle? Not to mention, lasted beyond a single campaign? If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer to all of the above is very rarely, and as an industry, we need to take this situation seriously.
As more and more data is collected by brands, consumers will start expecting all brands to create a relationship beyond broadcasting – one that deeply integrates into their likes, wishes and personal needs, and does not simply entail their name in the first sentence of an SMS.
My sense is that in order to achieve this kind of relationship, brands will need to restructure their own marketing teams completely. This will firstly involve creating one central team where everyone has the same end goal – to listen to and anticipate what their consumers want, to build and adapt great products and services for them, and finally, to work with agency partners to create engaging stories that communicate these to each audience in a relevant and personal way. Secondly, it will require adding disciplines to this central team structure, more than likely starting with embracing sales and technology.
On the agency side, it will mean an increased number of specialists working together in a collaborative environment, with two central aims and measures of success: Maintaining customer stickiness and sales.
Aside from the restructuring of teams and departments, the future will also involve large investments in the deeper skill sets of analytics and insights.
In terms of how these newly formed teams interact, they’ll need to realise that constant change is a reality of the modern consumer. So, beyond the big brand story, brands need to be able to move with these changes in an agile way. What were once set as yearly plans, must instead become basic frameworks that are revisited and evolved every week or month – depending on the data that comes back from the audience.
If we can collectively get this right, then I believe this is an exciting future as it will move the discipline of marketing closer to the centre of every business. Marketing will control the biggest enabler of change – data – and this data will create insights into customer behaviour and marketing effectiveness that will drive direct knowledge of what target audiences want brands to deliver, and which of these services and products are actually working.
Marketers will no longer be required to simply market products that are given to them. Instead, they will play an active role in the creation of these services.
The end result is a power shift towards marketers. But beware: If the data and insights are not acted on soon, consumers will simply start ignoring brand messaging and move to alternative brands that were braver in their prediction of the future model of marketing. Brands that consumers feel have taken the time to know them better.
From a client side, the ideal marketers of the future will have a creative soul and an appreciation for technology; a heart for customer service and a head for analytics. Above all, they will promote collaborative relationships with specialists, drive agile marketing models, and believe in telling great brand stories in a channel and technologically agnostic landscape.
In summary, I believe the future is bright, if we can move away from thinking that disrupting the lives of our customers is the answer to creating long-lasting relationships and loyal advocates of our brands.