Connecting the future of marketing with the present
Mahesh Enjeti, managing director of SAI Marketing Counsel, considers where marketing’s future lies and what changes are needed to better market the discipline.
What can marketing do to market itself better? It’s perhaps an odd question to pose to enlightened marketers. It’s a no-brainer; rebrand the function, launch a social media campaign, host a glitzy industry event, seed a few media stories, hire a different communications agency, import a new marketing head, devise a digital content strategy, set up an online community, dabble with big data, mention behavioural economics a few times… the list goes on. Tongue in cheek? Yes, but not too distant from how marketing is perceived by many today.
At the other extreme, there has been some game-changing marketing thought leadership in evidence. Take for instance, the document on the future of Marketing titled ‘Six Visionaries Speak’ published by EIU (The Economist Intelligence Unit) and Marketo late last year.
It includes Seth Godin urging marketers to “make things that matter” (to generate a buzz rather than being fixated on creating the buzz itself). Unilever’s Marc Mathieu repeats a quote, “Marketing is no longer about creating a myth and selling it but finding a truth and sharing it,” highlighting the importance of sustainability, transparency and trust.
Jim Stengel who sees marketing as being at the centre of strategy, talks about a future where the hard stuff and the soft stuff come together. According to Jim, an ambitious purpose and a growing sense of humanity will become as significant as ‘innernet’ (inbound internet that enables things to find you instead of you seeking things out), personalisation and automation. John Hagel, Gavin Heaton and Aditya Joshi also offer some sharp insights in a stimulating document.
Another paper titled ‘The rise of the marketer’, also published by The Economist Intelligence Unit and Marketo in March this year summarises a survey of marketers worldwide which takes a more familiar approach around driving engagement, experience and revenue.
Six out of seven marketers (the eighth was away trekking in Peru) shortlisted last week for the UK Marketing Society’s Marketing Leader of the Year Award in their messages chose to dwell on business and life in general rather than marketing per se. All these have one common thread.
If marketers at any level are to progress from their roles today to leading the aspirational future envisioned by the likes of Godin, there is an urgent need to look beyond the narrow confines of our own discipline. Because marketing will cease to be a strait-jacketed function and will soon assume the mantle of a facilitator and fountain head.
The future will see well-being and sustainability as customer needs. Metrics around market cap of brand value will be talked about in the same breath as brand health. Research will explore understanding buyers as individuals and how products/services fit into people’s lives. Market segments will make way for channel and hour of day clusters, and so on.
The critical challenge is in managing this transition so those who are practising marketing as it exists today can steer the business of tomorrow built on entirely new models.
This is an area where a progressive, apex body of marketers such as the Australian Marketing Institute can lead catalytic change. It is pleasing to see that the conversations at the AMI are beginning to address these very issues. At a time when the organisation’s immediate priorities are increased efficiency, greater cost discipline and enhanced performance and accountability, there is a commitment to direct considerable effort towards how the discipline of marketing can become more relevant (and add value) to business than ever before.
The dialogue has also been about how the AMI can help young and experienced marketers to learn new skills, embrace new technology, acquire contemporary knowledge and develop new perspectives that will prepare them for a future where marketing’s role could be unrecognisably transformed. Some of this could involve leveraging the AMI’s extensive linkages with academia to make available cutting edge developments in marketing science, business, economics, humanities, and more that will enable marketers to be more effective in their dynamic roles.
Marketers will have to learn to speak the language of profit as well as purpose; not merely revenues or shares, train to bridge the gap between art and science, and promote a culture of customer intimacy across the organisation.
This will not be an easy task but will require great courage, enormous initiative, unlimited passion and above all the involvement and cooperation of marketing leaders, enterprises, academics, the business community and above all the broader AMI membership.
The 4Ps may take on a new meaning as those in the profession pursue marketing careers and networks, perform to their peak, progress in their roles while enabling their businesses to prosper.