The What, How, Who, and YOU of The Future of Marketing

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Written by Sanjay, our CMO

It’s been just over a month since I spent four days in Las Vegas for our annual Marketing Nation Summit, and I’m still excited about the time I had with more than 5,000 attendees and some of the best minds in the business.

The chatter in the halls was infectious and often lasted well past my bedtime as attendees swapped ideas and traded war stories about what they were doing to stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing digital world.

I was fortunate to have an opportunity to offer my own ideas about the challenges to tomorrow’s marketers in the Day 2 keynote address, where several marketing icons joined me on stage. The program captured the theme of “Tomorrow’s Marketer.”

The future of “what”

As Phil Fernandez, CEO of Marketo (my employer), said during the Summit’s opening keynote, marketers now play on a bigger stage, so the expectations for both content and success are high.

As Ken Wincko, the CMO of PR Newswire, noted during his Day 2 talk, credibility follows only when your customers trust you. That means marketing to moments that matter and delivering exceptional customer experiences take on increased importance. Consider the following:

  • Trust equals credibility. Credibility is shaped by the accumulated expertise of every person in an organization who interacts with current or prospective customers. By the end of this decade, most boards will be asking their organizations to create metrics that measure how well they fare when it comes to customer trust.
  • Great marketing is about serving, not selling. The question will be how well you know your customers’ wants and desires.
  • Invest to foster customer advocacy. Great customer experiences will need to be contextual, empathetic and inclusive. In tomorrow’s marketing world, it’s vital to adopt a holistic approach that can engage your customers no matter the channel they choose.

The future of “how”

When Gary Briggs started his career in 1985, marketing had little idea of what worked and what didn’t. In 2016 we’re awash with data on our every campaign.Briggs, now the CMO at Facebook, rightly noted that consumers nowadays spend more time than ever on multiple devices, and while their interactions may be more fragmented than before, they are also more measurable than ever. A couple of points to keep in mind:

  • We’re at the dawn of the era “of people-based marketing.” Use this measurable information to bolster your ability to tell a great story and get people to interact with your business.
  • Marketers now have an opportunity to understand consumers at a level they never could previously. Take advantage of the ability to communicate with them like never before.

The future of “who”

If the chatter today is around decoding millennials, Wunderman CMO Jamie Gutfreund offered an astute reminder that the next generation is coming — Generation Z. This group, she noted, has become a proxy for all consumers. By 2020, it will make up 40 percent of the global population, and it is a picky bunch. (I should know — I have two of them at home right now!)Generation Z doesn’t like the way the world is going and has little confidence or trust in brands, governments or politicians. Consider this when marketing to these unconventional consumers:

  • Trust is the new currency. It is a challenge to capture this generation’s attention, loyalty and confidence. They don’t only judge individual products but also take a broader look at the companies behind the brands. These digital natives, who are growing up with technology, are the ones who will decide whether or not to engage with you. And they will immediately head elsewhere if they believe you’re lying to them.
  • This is the “optimization generation.” Gutfreund told us that Generation Z prefers to rely upon themselves and wants things to work well. If you want to cultivate a relationship with them, you’ll first need to understand their passions, values, issues and needs to communicate that you really get them and aren’t just interested in trying to sell a new widget or service. They have higher expectations, so disappoint them at your own risk.

The future of “you”

That leaves me with the fun stuff: the future of YOU in tomorrow’s world of marketing. What is the organization and talent profile required to succeed?

You need special types of marketers to navigate this new world, and you can’t narrow your criteria to the same old experiences and personas. We’ve seen some of the most successful marketers come from backgrounds as diverse as zoo keeping and biology and teaching. These are not people who are classically trained four-P marketers, but these are people who had the right intrinsics for this new world.

Marketers need to be intellectually curious and possess the grit and determination to power through whatever challenges you throw at them. Look instead for intrinsic traits to find the people with the right stuff.

In a world where data drives everything that we do, marketers need to adapt and be analytical. Find these people and bring them into the profession — they will soar.

At the same time, look for people who love customers and have a gift for storytelling. After all, this is marketing. You’ve heard me refer to them as the “Da Vincis” — the unique individuals who are talented across a variety of interconnected disciplines. They are in short supply, so don’t let the opportunity slip when you find one, and also strive to cultivate these traits within yourself.

There’s no single marketing playbook anymore, and you and your people will need to be creative, analytical and strategic. Straitjackets and narrow specialties don’t work anymore.

And finally, take no sh*t

How should future Da Vincis behave in this marketing world of tomorrow? Very simply: Take no sh*t.

Our Day 2 keynote ended with an inspiring performance by singer-songwriter Rachel Platten. Her inspirational hit “Fight Song” became popular after she had already been demonstrating grit, determination and passion…for 14 years. She faced a lot of naysayers and a lot of challenges, but kept at it until her talent and commitment paid off tenfold.

It’s a life lesson to keep in mind. The fact is that tomorrow’s marketers will never get all the recognition, credit and popularity they deserve — at least not at first.

So count on resistance from entrenched thinking — you’ll be in pretty good company. But remain determined and persistent, and you’ll overcome any and all obstacles. You will soar.

This post originally appeared on Marketing Land on June 30, 2016.