Some Insights On The Evolution Of Marketing
I see three major trends that are not exhaustive.
The first is the end of the conversion tunnel. It is less and less linear: Prospects no longer always start their purchasing journey at the beginning of the funnel and often skip some of its steps in their discovery, through multiple channels, of a potential supplier. This has been obvious for several years now in B2C markets, notably under the impetus of D2C dynamics, and this is now shaking up other sectors. 57 percent of the B2B purchase process is completed before a customer’s first serious engagement with Sales. This is due in particular to social media: 75 percent of B2B buyers and 84 percent of B2BC level/vice president executives use them to support purchase decisions. The good news is that those customer practices make the potential impact of marketing strategies infinitely greater than in the past. The not-so-good news is that they will drive a wedge between the companies that adapt to those new conditions and these that don’t. Indeed, all companies now have to deal with major marketing challenges, such as predictive audience analytics, experience production automation, unified data model deployment, digital trust (security and privacy), performance measurement and, last but not least, alignment of marketing and sales teams in all those areas.
The second major marketing trend is mass personalization. As the attention deficit of their audiences continues to grow, brands can no longer afford to poorly target their content towards them. But they still do it too much. In fact, only 5 percent of their content generates 90 percent of their interactions with their customers, which means that 95 percent of their content is at best useless, at worst damaging to their image. In the same vein, customers expect to benefit from a relevant individual experience regardless of the channel or device they are using in the physical or digital world. This creates a headache for many companies across their value chain, not least because this approach no longer allows for any internal silos. Furthermore, the impending disappearance of third-party cookies means that brands will have to gain the trust of their customers and put in place the right processes to collect first-party data.
Thirdly, I would like to address artificial intelligence in a deliberately optimistic way. We all know that those solutions suffer from biases that can have dramatic consequences. However, we are also seeing progress towards a technological empathy that would allow them to understand us more and more. The emergence of an emotional artificial intelligence, notably by virtue of its ability to better understand the context in which it operates, will represent an unprecedented revolution for marketing, especially in view of the above-mentioned trend towards mass personalization.
To those three trends, I would add a fourth of a different nature: It relates to the increasing convergence of all types of marketing: B2C, B2B, B2G… All of them are adopting B2C strategies at the same pace as their audiences are changing the way they consume media. Indeed, it no longer makes sense to address them and try to persuade them differently depending on which industry they operate in.
Today, all companies, regardless of their business, are digital companies. The distinction between digital specialists and non-specialists is obsolete. If a company doesn’t master the digital revolution, its life expectancy is very limited and the same goes for marketers. But, on the other hand, marketers should not think that digital expertise can replace strategic foresight and content know-how. In fact, using a channel isn’t enough to create a convincing one-off experience or a lasting brand image.
Marketers need to be agile enough to pivot at the pace of their ecosystem. This agility is also critical when it comes to conducting experiments, which I see as the “airbags of innovation” because they limit risks. But a series of actions doesn’t make a marketing strategy. Thus, just as one’s digital expertise isn’t an absolute guarantee of success, one’s creativity is useless if it doesn’t contribute to a long-term vision.
Finally, marketing can’t be limited to commercial aspects. To the famous 4Ps of marketing, I like to add the 3Cs: Customers, communities, culture. Marketing that only focuses on customers misses out on two key elements in positioning a company: Its role towards its communities and its culture. Those two elements create an authentic connection between a brand and its stakeholders beyond financial imperatives and technological tools. Ultimately, this connection helps brands acquire and serve their customers.