November 21, 2016
It’s the end of the marketing world as we know it—are you ready?
By: Sohel Aziz

Most people continue to have a rose-tinted view about what marketing is, or–to put it more accurately–was.

Thanks to the success of “Mad Men,” the majority of people still think of your average marketer as a Don Draper sort, a creative spouting inspirational visuals and taglines that would run for up to a year and make tonnes of money in the process.

But as anyone who works in marketing can tell you: Those days are long gone. Marketing today is less about Mad Men and more about Maths Men. Digital tech has obliterated traditional marketing, but from its ashes something much more powerful is emerging.

The main catalyst for this change is the consumer. Today’s consumers have what are often referred to as “liquid expectations.” They’re nonstop consumers who expect superlative experiences over a wide range of seamlessly integrated channels. The main effect of this nonstop consumer is that they’ve made the traditional marketing “path to purchase” funnel obsolete.

Is it a good thing?

Billboards, print and TV advertising are expensive and static. You now have the valuable ability to deliver and tailor messages in real time. Not only does this give you the capability to target consumers more appropriately and conveniently, this impact can be tangibly measured. This allows you to quantify exactly what works and what doesn’t, while proving the worth of each campaign. Digital technology has brought versatility and measurability to marketing. It’s made understanding return on marketing investments easier, and marketing’s contribution to the bottom line more visible.

Rethink the rules of engagement

In an age when consumers could be on any number of channels at any time, marketing organisations are rethinking how they engage. By its very nature, this demands a transition from purely creative to more agile, analytical and technology-enabled processes.

For the relaunch of its Axe brand in Brazil, for example, Unilever created a series of short films entitled “Romeo Reboot,” which could be programmatically served in over 100,000 precision-targeted ad variants. Trailer scenes were personalised based on parameters from musical tastes to brand purchases, to create individually tailored viewer interaction.

Employ “maths” marketers

If you want to really understand and engage the consumer in a way that’s relevant to them, big data analytics and automation are imperative. Campaigns must be based on deep consumer insights that go well beyond the traditional consumer market and insights function. This change needs to be facilitated by data scientists who know the right questions to ask of your data to get the insights you need to really engage your consumers.

Dating site eHarmony, for example, has built a sophisticated attribution model that allows it to spend and target its advertising more effectively. It optimises content shown to would-be matches based on a wide range of behavioural information and traces conversion back to the very first engagement, to constantly optimise its models.

Drop the traditional campaign and become “always on”

The way you think about campaigns needs to change, too. In fact, it might be worth dropping the idea of campaigns altogether. Campaigns are limited by time and by scope, which means they are too waterfall and old-school for the nonstop consumer. Instead, you need to have an always-on marketing function that generates new and exciting elements of experience and content all the time and across all relevant media and channels.

Transform the design process

One of the biggest challenges for marketers is how to make this shift. It demands a move from the traditional waterfall project cycles to an approach that’s much more agile and less bound by timelines. There’s no way around it: All marketers need to rethink their skills, and some will not make the cut. If you want to thrive in the digital age, you have to make sure you have that right balance of tech, data, and creative skills.

If you can make this leap successfully, you have the opportunity to own the entire end-to-end consumer journey. In this role, you should leverage data across all touchpoints with the nonstop consumer to rethink what the next best action should be before every given experience. You also need to harness this data and insight to drive more personalised marketing, capable of pushing a consumer to make a purchase at each and every part of their journey, across any channel.

Fight your corner

Of course, this change is not without its challenges. If you’re to redefine your role to make marketing fit for the digital age, you’ll need to fight your corner. By owning the end-to-end consumer journey, you’re going to step on some toes, not least those of your colleagues in sales. For example, in a digital world marketing needs to be able to ensure the online purchase experience, an ecommerce function that sales might think belongs to them. It’s vital you work through these conflicts and establish clearly defined roles that are more collaborative in nature.

Rethink the role of agencies

In the past it’s been easy to outsource elements of the brand experience to agency partners, but this becomes much more difficult in an environment where you want to deliver a seamless, integrated brand experience. CMOs should bring back in-house any work that relates directly to the brand experience. This is the face of your business, and it’s too precious to outsource.

To achieve this, you’ll no doubt need to build up your digital tech function, as this has historically been the preserve of agencies more than your internal IT department. Your success as a digitally enabled marketer will largely come down to your ability to integrate ad tech, marketing tech, commerce tech, data and insights.

Take action

It’s time to take a look at your marketing capability and organisation and see whether you’re ready for the changes that lie ahead. Do you have the right skills and technology in place? Are you able to think outside creative and instead look at acquisition, conversion, customer service and loyalty holistically across organisational boundaries? And do you have all the metrics needed to drive customer insight and engagement? Rethink your strategies and organisation to fuse creative, technology and data to deliver remarkable experiences at scale, all of the time.

Once you start addressing these areas you’ll soon find your marketing organisation has transformed into something much more powerful: the consumer organisation. Read more at:

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