Nick Johnson

Brand Director interested in the future of marketing

It's time to change the definition of 'marketing'

opinion, futureNick JohnsonComment
How can we sensibly define 'marketing' moving forward?

How can we sensibly define 'marketing' moving forward?

I've been spending time recently thinking about some of the bigger trends impacting on marketing recently (so I can develop better products for Incite, and to help guide the forthcoming book) - and one area I've been thinking about is the changing responsibilities for marketers, the changing role of 'marketing' and a sensible redefinition of what 'marketing' means for large corporations.

What 'Marketing' does is going to change

Over the course of the next five years, companies are increasingly reshaping their marketing, customer service, sales, data analytics and communications departments to work better together. From preliminary results from the 'Surviving the Age of the Customer' survey, 65% of brands say that new customer expectations are changing internal organisation (with a further 29% saying 'maybe'). My recent white paper, 'Peacekeeper, Navigator, Student: The Marketer to 2015' [PNS] backs this up, with 88% of marketers saying their function is facing significant pressure to evolve.

The aim is to provide seamless customer experience over multiple touchpoints - an increasingly important goal in a time when the customer has much more power to understand and then choose between brands/products, and much more power to influence brand perception themselves. The PNS research shows that 88% of brands say customers have more power to affect brand than 5 years ago.

This increased internal collaboration is already happening - in our last Incite whitepaper, we found that 95% of marketing/communications executives say that multiple departments need to work better together for an enhanced, unified customer experience.

Regardless of the level of collaboration within internal departments, and regardless of current plans for a more extensive restructure, the imperative to deliver ‘seamless’ experience is increasingly important, and the desire to foster better internal collaboration across departments with a ‘customer focus’ is strong - though confidence in how to do it is weak. 65% of brands responding to the 'Surviving the Age of the Customer' survey say they're not confident in shifting their department into a more 'customer-focused' unit, while 78% of PNS respondents said that customer data is currently shared across many departments - with 80% of them saying this was a bad thing.

How will a new definition change the marketing department?

It seems inevitable that marketing departments will begin to expand their remit. That expanded remit will focus on three main areas:

  • Experience: Consumers increasingly value consistent and valuable ongoing experiences with brands, not short-term transactions. Thus campaign-based marketing (while still having a role to play) will become increasingly augmented with longer-term, relationship-based marketing strategy. Increasing internal resource is given over to content provision, and an increasing focus on storytelling around brands, rather than pitching products. Equally, customers expecting authentic conversations with brands means one-way ‘loudspeaker’ approach to marketing is rapidly becoming outmoded. Fragmented media landscape means traditional TV ad campaign is being replaced with something more complex. Also, we’ll increasingly find that relationships with agencies will change - with brands bringing far more in-house (creative, programmatic media buying, etc).

  • Insights: Marketers are increasingly expected to be more of a strategic lead within their business - responsible for gathering, synthesizing and disseminating insights on customer behavior/preference/response. New insights on a rapidly changing customer journey will lead to changes in GTM strategy, while deeper understanding of customer demographics and preferences will have a significant contribution in product/project management and development.

  • Agility: Even in a period where marketers have more data available to them than they know what to do with, they still struggle to quickly turn this data into action. At the same time, marketers are seeing real opportunities in being more ‘agile’ - and even moving towards ‘real-time marketing’ (most famous example being Oreo at the Superbowl). Marketers must get far better at customer analytics and measurement to make sensible spending decisions and be more agile without increasing brand risk. Marketers will consequently focus more on internal changes and strategies to deliver that more ‘agile’ business - changing organisational structures and processes to be more responsive, able to react to changing insights, and implement new strategies.

Obviously, this is a first attempt at organising what's rather a chaotic space right now. One could quite easily make the splits in different areas - experience, outreach, and insight, for instance. Or simply experience/insight. 

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.