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Take courage in the face of disruption and rapid changes to marketing


Take courage in the face of disruption and rapid changes to marketing


As the role of marketing changes rapidly with developments of new tools, Phil Whitehouse urges us to ‘take courage’.


There’s a building near where I used to work in London, by the old warehouses near Borough Market, which had the words ‘take courage’ emblazoned on the walls. Every time I walked by, it always made me smile – even though I knew the sign was actually an old advert for a brewery, it still put a spring in my step.

Sitting as it does in an area with several marketing agencies, it feels prescient for our time. The complexity and opportunity facing the modern marketeer demands a strong backbone, putting it mildly.

take courage sign

At a recent vendor conference, one of the speakers announced the results of a survey; respondents had been asked whether they agreed with the following statement: “Marketing has changed more in the last 2 years than in the last 50” – and amazingly, the results were that 76% agreed with this statement!

Even knowing how complex things have become, this is still a staggering response. This result suggests that the popularisation of the internet itself in the 90’s and 00’s had less impact on marketing departments than the events of the past 24 months.

What’s underpinning this dramatic shift?

There are a few factors. One big shift has been the emergence of new tools that not only dramatically improve conversion, but have a bigger impact on the marketing team than ever before, from junior staff right up to the CMO. These new tools help you manage, and respond to, the deluge of data being generated. And this marketing stack demands integration not just at the technical level, but at the cost and organisational level as well.

This doesn’t just mean replacing one CMS with another one. The potential toolset is more complex than ever before – and it needs to be to deliver a seamless customer experience across every touchpoint. Often this involves introducing brand new platforms, adding an even greater burden of change to the marketing team. Not to mention attempts to move a lot of this infrastructure into the cloud.

As CMO’s grow their understanding of these platforms and what they enable, complex new skills and processes have become essential. There’s a massive shortage of people capable of performing well in this new environment.

We’re entering a brand new era – one where the entire experience can be produced and managed in real time. Check out the fine work done by Google for the World Cup, from a content perspective (case study). Once again, it impacts people, process and product. And even this can be pushed further – as yet, no-one is overlapping this real time content generation with laser sharp targeting to ensure that everyone gets content that’s not only relevant to current events, but also relevant to their individual profile, context and device.

So what can we do about it?

This will vary depending on where you’re starting from, and it would be foolhardy to try and cover all the permutations here. But from a high level, a lot of the tools that have served us well over the years will support us here too – albeit with a bit more patience. We still start with the development of a solid strategy, typically incorporating a commercial model that takes the financial benefits of the customer experience into account. There’s often a significant cost and risk attached to all this change.

Once you’re through this gate, however, you can develop your roadmap in more detail. This is the point where customer needs will directly impact internal skills and process. You’ll need help from people who have been through it before, to help drive restructure.

It will be tough. People don’t like change, especially when careers are involved. But take courage – you’re not alone! Pretty much every marketing department will go through significant disruption in the next few years, if they haven’t already. And the ones who get it right quickly will reap the greatest dividends.


Phil Whitehouse

DT Sydney general manager

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