Earlier this week I attended AMA Atlanta’s Signature Luncheon, where a panel of experts discussed the chapter’s white paper on the future of marketing: 20/20 in 2020: Toward a New Vision in Marketing. Moderated by Dr. Ken Bernhardt from Georgia State University, the panel included marketing pros from Chick-fil-a, The Coca-Cola Company, Cox Communications, Engauge and Google. You can read the full white paper here, summaries from AMA Atlanta President Jo Ann Herold here and Dr. Bernhardt here. I’ll give you a few highlights of what the panel covered.
Personalize it! There is a power shift happening from marketers to consumers. Consumers want personalized messages and want brands to make it easier for them to participate with the brand. They also want to have the same experience in social marketing as they do in person, say in a retail or foodservice environment. This requires faster engagement at all touch points. For example, if a customer has a negative experience and reaches out to the company via social media, the brand needs to respond in minutes or hours, not in days. A fast, authentic response can help salvage a bad experience.
It was noted that while it’s important to listen to your consumers to direct your marketing messages, it’s even more important to know your brand and align messaging accordingly. In other words, don’t let a few consumers re-define your brand to the extent that you stray too far from what your brand represents to the masses.
Be flexible. The future will require that marketers are flexible and can learn and adapt quickly. While 2020 is just a short eight years away, look at the last eight years and how rapidly brand marketing has changed. The emergence of social media, as well as technology (most notably mobile applications), has caused this shift. The 2020 consumers with spending power will have grown up with this technology, literally in hand.
The panelists commented that marketing has long been about research and planning. Looking at mounds of consumer data, then creating a five or 10-year strategic plan is becoming the way of the past for smart brands. Of course marketers will continue to crunch data and plan accordingly, only in the future it will be on a shorter timeframe. Often that data will come directly from consumers’ engagement with the brand, not necessarily from traditional market research. The panelist from Google noted they don’t typically plan more than 18 months out, because the marketplace is shifting that quickly. If you plan too far out in advance, what will you miss because you aren’t in position to shift gears? Know that along the way, missteps are bound to happen, but what’s important is how quickly you can recover and change direction.
Hit the target. Permission-based marketing continues to evolve. Consumers will continue to be more in control of the messages they get from brands, and they seem to be willing to give up some privacy in order to interact with a brand – for example by checking in with location-based applications, or using brand loyalty programs, to have a more targeted experience. Therefore those messages need to be more relevant. The challenge is to be able to maintain successful mass-marketing programs within that desire for a one-to-one relationship with your brand.
Get the skills. New skill sets will be required for marketers. One panelist noted that it will be vital to not just know marketing, but to know the technology behind it. Some brands will create their own platforms for engaging customers. Others will rely on those common resources that emerge in the marketplace, such as Facebook and Twitter today. In either case, marketers will need a grasp of what makes those applications most effective for customer engagement, not simply the messaging the brand pushes out. The panelists also agreed that the field of marketing is changing so rapidly it’s a challenge to predict what a brand marketer will look like in 2020. Looks like those still in the field then will be those who were able to adapt their own skills while keeping their brands on pace with the changes customers will demand.