Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
The age of digital disruption hasn’t just seen technology’s star rise in the marketing function; it’s also placed a firm emphasis on agility. And with consumer expectations only expected to increase, experts believe the future of work for marketers is one where things are even more dynamic and collaborative.
We talk to marketing leads, technology experts and industry commentators to find out the skills the next gen of marketers need to drive the marketing function forward.
The purposeful marketer
“I believe we are experiencing the death of traditional marketing,” founder of marketing project management company B.Kindred, Penny Locaso, said. “The old 4P model of product, place, price and promotion has been sidelined with the emergence of a new model driven by a more socially aware and engaged consumer.”
Locaso argued the future of work for marketers will look like the marketing model presented by Carolyn Tates in her book Conscious Marketing: A ‘virtuous circle marketing model’ driven by purpose. Products and services act as the manifestation of purpose creating a marketing pull, as opposed to the old spend big and push concept.
“In this new model, people matter – from how you talk to multi-level stakeholders from every aspect of your supply chain, to how you treat your staff and your culture, through to the experience of your customer,” she explained. “Promotion almost becomes a creative and innovative byproduct of nailing the other 3Ps.”
You only need to look at the success of the Thankyou group to understand how powerful purpose can be from a marketing perspective, Locaso said.
“Thankyou flipped traditional marketing on its head by connecting people with purpose and then leveraged those engaged beings via social media, with a tiny budget, to create a movement that marketed its products to Woolworths and Coles,” she said. “This saw its products stocked on these giants’ shelves in the shortest timeframe ever.”
Sitecore CMO, Scott Anderson, believed those who continue to invest in ‘push’ marketing will eventually lose out to those doing the heavy lifting to become the information consumers actively seek out.
“Digital disruption, social media marketing, rise of influencers and content marketing all point to one key trend that is transforming how marketing happens: Consumers are now in control,” he said. “No longer should marketers spend time creating content that disrupts what viewers tune in to see. Instead, marketing messages must now become the content viewers want to see.”
According to Anderson, smart marketing organisations will increasingly run their departments like news publishing hubs, hiring journalists, editors and publishers for the best results.
“Much like a news organisation, marketing in a world where consumers are in control requires understanding customer issues, determining compelling value propositions, writing in a creative and authentic style, building an audience and optimising the outcome to continually improve,” he said.
Tackling digital fatigue
For Locaso, there are two fundamental challenges marketers will need to manage in relation to the future of work: Customer engagement and digital fatigue.
“Never before have consumers been more interested in the social motivations of businesses,” she said. “Consumers want to know why a company does what it does and they are using their dollars to support companies who actually live and breathe through every aspect of their marketing, purpose and values. Marketers will need to ensure their business can clearly articulate and engage customers with the purpose of the organisation.”
At the same time, consumers are becoming exhausted by the bombardment of digital automated marketing and are unsubscribing and switching off.
“It has never been harder to get the attention of a customer,” Locaso said. “How often now do you sign up to a mailing list or like a Facebook group and find that your inbox or social media feed is just bombarded with clutter trying to sell you the same product in 20 different inauthentic ways? People are sick of it.”
Managing large-scale strategies in real time
In the vast information economy, we will see more automation of repetitive tasks requiring simpler data analysis, as well as a shift towards more real time analysis, according to Adobe’s director of transformation and digital strategy for Asia-Pacific, Mark Henley.
On top of this, the rise of predictive analysis, machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual/augmented reality and location data will continue to impact the marketing function, but at a much larger scale.
“The difference will be as ever, about the scale and distribution, and it’s the scale and convergence together that will be so powerful,” he predicted. “As the volume and scale of content - what Adobe is referring to as ‘content velocity’ - increases to meet the needs of personalisation, it’s likely that tools to assist marketers with creativity must emerge.
“Measuring content effectiveness, and running tests are one thing, but being more predictive through data and machine learning means less cost, because the content created is more likely to be successful. In addition, the complexity of segmentation and psychographic profiling will mean ever more accurate customer interactions.”
It is this greater volume of data servicing the marketing team that will see the future of work for marketers focused more on agility and responsiveness, Oracle Marketing Cloud A/NZ, Asia and Japan president of customer success, Paul Cross, said.
“While some functions are being automated, the marketer’s ability to be agile and respond more quickly will just transform,” he said. “As a result, the marketer will be more orchestrating messages out to customers and prospects, rather than manufacturing messages.”
Senior APAC director for global online education provider General Assembly, Ryan Meyer, said the transformative nature of the digital age means marketers need to be a lot smarter when it comes to analysing data.
“Digital disruption will continue to dominate the world of marketing, as increasingly, data and data science are becoming core disciplines,” he said. “We now have the ability to collect massive amounts of information on customers at every point of the decision journey and even in their personal lives.
“Using this data for smart communications will further boost the importance of digital. Additionally, the trend to shop, search and connect on mobile devices and the proliferation of mobile on a global level will push digital marketing channels over traditional at ever-increasing rates.”
Meyer expected the marketing function will likely move towards a specialist mindset, where marketers can gain a deep knowledge of certain channels and tactics and apply them more quickly and effectively against new opportunities or market openings.
“Marketing will continue to drive beyond ‘digital’ and into a fully integrated perspective that meets customers where they are and with contextual information at all times,” he claimed.
The marketer as strategist, analyst and technologist
According to eConsultancy’s 2015 State of Digital Report, 96 per cent of A/NZ marketers already recognise a good understanding of technology is crucial for success in the future. This means tomorrow’s marketer will be a strategist, analyst and technologist, exercising increased influence over business strategy, Marketo's managing director, Greg Taylor, said.
“A/NZ marketing leaders are already gearing up for this change, with the eConsultancy report showing 42 per cent place improving data and analytics as their top skills priority, and 53 per cent highlight having the right mix of technical and creative talent as a top team priority,” he pointed out. “So the future of marketing has already begun, with restructures occurring to align with CMOs’ increasing responsibility for the end-to-end customer experience, propelled by their growing access to firmographic and behavioural data, enabling them to complete a 360-degree view of the customer.”
It is inevitable marketers rely on new technology and processes to curate digital experiences for their customers, Taylor said. Global marketing director of Squiz, Robin Marchant, agreed marketers have to stay increasingly aware of new digital trends, adding they must also remain agile enough to incorporate the most valuable tools into their marketing strategies if they’re to stay ahead of customer demands.
“This is where collaboration with IT comes in,” he said. “When you have software specialists paired with creative marketers, the best martech strategies and initiatives can be developed.”
Social media marketing will also be an increasing challenge, Marchant continued, as the more platforms consumers adopt, the more advertisers and marketers will flood them.
“It will become increasingly difficult to have your voice heard and stand out among competitors,” he claimed. “But this also provides an exciting challenge, as marketers are forced to be innovative in their designs and strategies, and think, what is the most creative way I can engage our customers? This is where personalisation and customer-centric CX strategies will be key for retaining customers.”
Balancing efficiency with revenue targets and goals
Marin Software’s director of marketing for North America, Xuan Thu Pham, said the challenge for marketers is tackling the greater need for things to be done more effectively, quickly and cheaply, while also being able to meet objectives, whether they be revenue targets or campaign goals.
“From marketing automation platforms to research methods that allow us to understand and connect with our end users in a more precise manner, I feel that we are just at the beginning of what's to come on how we work in the future,” she said.
According to Pham, the way marketers work isn't going to change too drastically in terms of how they do things or what tools are used. It's the mindset shift that will have the most significant impact.
“Similar to diplomatic entities, marketers will take on their roles like ambassadors to communicate effectively, to have patience and clarity of mind, to have creativity, to identify roots of core issues, and translating them into actionable campaign projects based on past or current successes,” she said.
“We need to ask ourselves: How can we transform our mistakes and incorporate that into stronger results in the next project? How can we meet our goals more effectively without wasting time? Is there a more accurate, visual way we can identify the impact and consequences of doing one thing over the other? From those thoughts, come stronger tools and better ways of working and communicating.”
However it materialises, Pham believed the future of work for marketers will be shaped by soft skills and more inner values, with a focus on simplification.
“Speed and agility is prized, but so is clarity,” she explained. “We will be drawing our ideas and thoughts also from our emotional intelligence. Meanwhile, decision-making will be driven by ethics and results measured not just by profits, but also by social impact.
“We’ll also have an intrinsic desire to connect more creatively and meaningfully with our colleagues and customers. At the same time, we need to keep it lean and focused: Knowing what not to use or do is just as important as what tools we use or what we do.”
Acting as the heartbeat of the organisation
Experts agreed the future of work for marketers would prove a more pressing need for marketing to lead and drive the organisation forward.
“They need to act as the heartbeat of the driving the purpose of the business through the culture of the organisation and into the development of products and services,” Locaso said. “Communication is about dialogue. It’s no longer about hard sell features and benefits. Consumers want to be engaged and understood, not force-fed.
“People seek connection and experiences – this is what creates brand and product love. This means the future holds a clear opportunity for marketers to innovate and leverage authenticity to connect people.”
Founder and director of app developer Buzinga, Logan Merrick, sees marketing really stepping up as a strategic driver in a business. He’s already noticing it in his own organisation.
“The marketers of tomorrow won’t be just a support function, but the ones calling the shots,” he said. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is understand our customer as a person – what do they want, what are they afraid of, what do they listen to – so if we get a really good picture of them, then we can start creating an experience that they’ll be attracted to. This will inform your content marketing, advertising and it will also feed into your operational processes. So I think marketers will essentially become the glue that holds everything together in a business and become the hub of all communication.”
For Pham, marketing will be an ongoing evolution, and a way of working that adjusts and changes over time to meet the needs of the times. Marketers therefore must be visionary enough to plan for the future by testing things today.
“The best innovations aren't always super sexy or have to be super chic,” she said. “Was that ever the goal? The future of work is transformational and empowers the professional and the profession. If it builds impact, improves processes and improves lives - that's what's important.”