DMA’s &Then 2017: Today’s Marketing Landscape Poses Big Challenges, and Even Bigger Opportunities

Ever-evolving technologies and rapidly increasing amounts of data have presented marketers with both challenges and opportunities, but marketers must be agile, speakers at DMA’s annual &Then conference asserted.

“Once marketing was all art, driven by creativity and instinct and intuition, and now it is art and science, bringing together right-brain and left-brain possibilities for new and improved outcomes,” said Michelle Peluso, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at IBM, during the morning keynote. “Once we could quantify almost nothing, and now almost everything is quantifiable, allowing us to drive outcomes at an unprecedented rate. We have a much more exciting and influential seat at the table than we’ve ever had, and that’s an honor and a privilege.”

For Peluso, the question is how should marketers take full advantage of these new capabilities. “I see a few things: we don’t want to be advertisers; we want to be storytellers that can engage our customers in meaningful relationships. We don’t want to be messaging experts; we want to drive outcomes for the business. We certainly don’t want to be just the voice of the customer; we want to compel customers to take action to build relationships and loyalty with the companies we represent,” she said. “We can no longer afford to be purely siloed and discipline-driven; our customers are buying stories and investing in brands where they have authentic relationships, so how we show up in the market really matters.”

With this in mind, she outlined four key principles for organizations to observe:

  • Be obsessively customer-centric.
  • Be performance-driven to the core.
  • Be agile “as a discipline, not just an adjective.”
  • Be inclusive by having a diversity of talent to drive innovation as well as by adopting “open and agnostic technology that enables speed and flexibility.”

In the afternoon keynote, Ronalee Zarate-Bayani, head of global integrated marketing and digital advancement at Hershey’s, homed in on how to effectively utilize data. “Data is meaningless…data without actionable insights is absolutely meaningless. Our job as marketers is to drive growth and consumer demand by building brands and representing the voice of the customer throughout our companies,” she said. “But in order to succeed on delivering on these goals, we can’t just capture the data; we have to sift through the noise; we have to uncover the key insights; and we have to make the right decisions that are going to drive our business.”

And the sheer amount of data at marketers’ disposal make this difficult. “We live in a world where we are literally swimming in more data than we know what to do with,” Zarate-Bayani said. “Yet if we take a few moments to pivot our perspective and look at data in different ways, there’s so much of it, we should be able to extract enough consumer insights to define a meaningful way of differentiating ourselves within the marketplace and with our consumers.”

She noted that today’s hyper-connected consumers “literally have the world at their fingertips,” making competing for their attention that much harder. “As we continue to learn about our consumers and understand them, we have to also know that technology is constantly disrupting their lives, day in and day out,” she said. “In this ever-changing landscape, the marketers that win are those that are going to be agile and be able to pivot to quickly meet the needs of their consumers. Getting a consumer’s attention often enough and long enough to build a meaningful brand is incredibly challenging…because marketing amidst this world means marketing in moments.

“The good news for us as marketers is that technological advances are changing their behavior but they’re also providing us with more data to actually transform our marketing models, to transform the way that we connect with our consumers so that we can connect with them in the moments that matter to them and ultimately bring them to our brands,” she continued.

One technological advance that marketers should stay on top: intelligent assistants. “This little landscape [of intelligent assistants] is going to move a lot faster than…pretty much everything before it,” said Doug Robinson, founder and CEO of Fresh Digital Group, in the session “Alexa, Google, Cortana, Siri, Viv: The Marketer’s New Bestie?” “If you don’t move pretty quickly you’re probably going to be irrelevant a lot faster than you might think,”

He added that the voice capabilities of intelligent assistants extend the relationship between the consumer and the brand, and that the rise of digital assistants will yield more interactions between the two that marketers must build upon.

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