Business transformation, content marketing and strategy

The Future of Marketing: An introduction and a secret

The following is the first extract from my forthcoming book, "The Future of Marketing: Lessons from 16 major brand CMOs on how authenticity, relevance and transparency are forcing the evolution of marketing". To stay updated with extracts, please sign up to my newsletter.

I’ll let you into a secret.

I’m a bit of a sceptic. I’ve worked in marketing for over ten years now, and founded two companies focused closely on the business of marketing for large corporations.

And gosh, there are a whole lot of snake oil salesmen, aren’t there?

It’s the names that give it away. Who - apart from 8 year old boys and highly trained martial artists - calls himself a ninja? Why are there so many ‘gurus’ about nowadays? Don’t get me started on the ‘rock stars’.

My day job is to run a business intelligence company. I founded it based on the observation that I wasn’t the only one getting a bit tired about the big promises and buzzwords spouted all across the marketing ‘community’.

Marketers kept telling me that what they wanted, really, was to talk to each other. To people ‘at the coalface’. People with ‘real world’ experience - not a couple of big ideas and an incredibly slick PowerPoint deck.

So that’s what I facilitate at our events, and that’s how I’ve written this book. Ask the right people the right questions, and get out of the way.

The book in your hands isn’t based on other books. Nor am I attempting to foist a ‘Big Idea’ on you. I’m essentially - depressing and disconcerting as this sounds - a delivery mechanism. A way for those leaders to talk to you directly.

Any acronyms - and there’s one in particular, ‘ART’ - are simply my attempt to parcel up many disparate comments and ideas into an easily understandable package. Importantly, the acronym came to me after I began to write the book. I didn’t wake up one night with a clever title in my head and set off to write a book to go behind it.

The book is the result of years of conversations with senior marketers from major brands around the world. I’ve done everything I can to ask the right questions and then get out of the way.

Who is it for?

This book is designed for marketers who want to understand why their role seems to be changing so quickly and how that evolution will continue.

It is - as you can probably tell from the title - a pretty broad work. I’ve attempted to give you not only a clear look into the future of marketing (as anticipated by the people leading the charge into that future), but a grounding in the past - and how we’ve come to find ourselves in this situation in the first place.

Don’t worry - there’s depth too, and the book contains numerous practical guidelines and ideas, as well as case studies (from brand building in a multi-channel world to driving internal alignment) and charts and statistics you can use to benchmark your own activities and map your own path into our somewhat turbulent future.

The book is split into four parts:

  1. Part one investigates how we’ve got to where we are right now. It looks at the history of marketing (briefly), the influences on the changing the relationship between corporations and their customers - and why Authenticity, Relevance and Transparency should therefore be the three pillars of any forward-looking marketing approach.
  2. Part two lays out where companies are right now. Filled with statistics, charts and benchmarks, this section of the book is designed to give marketing executives clarity on what the current corporate response to changing relationships with customers looks like - giving you the ability to benchmark, discovering whether you’re ahead, or behind.
  3. Part three highlights some of the core elements in a future-proof approach to marketing, and investigates the following areas in depth:
    1. Brand Building and Storytelling: How rising customer power has changed what ‘brand’ means and how it is defined. Why ‘storytelling’ is so popular, and how it can help companies to build an authentic brand. Examples of how companies at the cutting edge have made storytelling a fundamental crux of marketing strategy -and guidance as to how you can do so.
    2. Conversation and Social Media: Investigating the imperative - and opportunity - of a conversational approach to marketing in a world of social media. How brands can build authenticity through conversation, and the six core elements of conversational marketing - from brands that have done it well.
    3. Content: A popular term around the marketing community, in this section we look at examples of exceptional content marketing, why relevance is so critical to engaging content, how to disseminate content in the right way, measure impact and track success.
    4. Internal buy in and structure: To deliver authenticity, relevance and transparency requires not only a pretty fundamental restructuring of corporate organisational models, but strong buy-in from both the C-suite, and the employee base. Including case studies from Molson Coors on encouraging employee buy in, and Randstad on eradicating silos, this section highlights how leading companies are getting their own house in order to match up to new customer expectations
    5. Data for Relevance and Personalisation: Marketing has always been a mix of art and science. In this section, we investigate the extent to which it should be dominated by science given the flood of data available nowadays. We give examples of how successful companies have incorporated data-driven approaches into their marketing organisation, and investigate why relevance matters - and how data can help you achieve it. There are two case studies - with One Medical Group on social listening to inform future strategy, and KidZania on how their loyalty scheme helped deliver exceptional customer experience through enhanced relevance.
    6. Multi-channel campaign management: This section of the book looks at how successful marketers are able to deliver success on a rapidly fragmenting marketing landscape, and includes a case study on a multi-channel brand launch from insurance company Hiscox.
  4. Part Four makes (what I hope is a convincing) proposal for what the future of marketing will look like, and lays out a framework for success in the years ahead, based on feedback from Chief Marketing Officers from around the world.

Research and Development

The fundamental basis of this book is the primary research I conduct on a daily basis in my role as founder and head of Incite 360. I am lucky enough to spend my time working with senior marketers from major brands around the world - and those conversations began to coalesce around a few key ideas back in early 2014.

I spent the latter part of 2014 deep in research, talking in particular with 18 Chief Marketing Officers from major global brands. You’ll see detailed submissions, opinions and predictions from them littered throughout the book and it is to them I owe the most major debt of thanks.

I also conducted a major survey with global marketers. 426 marketers - based in-house, not at agencies or consultancies - contributed to four in-depth surveys on all elements of marketing’s evolution. The charts based on their insight are littered throughout the book to provide guidance on where the marketing world is right now, and where they expect to be moving forward. Obviously the numbers make a somewhat small foundation on which to build a persuasive argument, so they have been augmented by research, charts and statistics from other sources wherever possible.

The result, I certainly hope, is not a book based on impressions, on gut feeling, or on guesswork but - appropriately in an evermore data-focused marketing world - on research, numbers and solid findings.

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Nick Johnson