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The Futurist: Will you deliver value on the go?

Unless you were living in exile in a faraway forest for the past five years, you’d probably know the world of marketing is changing at warp speed.

This trend will only continue given the continuous consumer landscape changes, thanks largely to the slew of technological enhancements. So, armed with my favourite octopus and crystal ball, here’s a look into the future of marketing.

Mobile is going to become the centre of marketing

From cell phones to smartphones, tablets to wearable gadgets, the evolution of mobile devices is one of the prime factors influencing the marketing world. As the focus is shifting to smaller screens, brands will be able to strike up a more personalised relationship with their customers by leveraging mobility. The ability to deliver “value” on the go will become the critical success factor as customers look for convenience, speed and simplicity in living their lives.

Customer data will be ever more powerful – and accurate

In the not so distant past, media ratings companies were the main sources of information about preferences, image ratings and behaviour of an anonymous sampling of audiences.

Fast-forward to the current day and digital and performance analytics firms are growing in numbers and do the same thing (and more) with digital content. But whether it’s in 1985 or 2015, the limitation of this approach remains the same: You can’t really attribute the data back to the actual customer, nor can you tie it all together to tell cohesive customer stories.

Marketers of the future need real-time access to anything they want to know about customer segments, their lifestyle and behaviours and the ability to unify it into one complete picture of the customer. This approach creates the potential to extend a brand’s reach and build more relevant customer relationships.

Word of mouth will drive evidence-based honesty

Customers’ relatively new ability to share their brand experiences to massive online audiences has completely changed the game when it comes to influencing buying decisions. After all, would you not be tempted to check reviews of products and services that thousands of consumers have used, testifying first-hand to their effectiveness?

Customers trust stories from complete strangers far more than they trust the stories brands tell. Consumer reviews keep brands honest. While a brand still has to provide the emotional appeal audiences want, marketers must also deliver fact-based reasons to buy that will meet the approval of vigilante reviewers.

Personalised content will be delivered at scale

What started a few years ago as the ideal “end state” model is now a reality. Some companies have shown evidence that it is possible to deliver the personalised experience consumers yearn for and do it at scale.

The days of hiring an agency to just create a few high-impact ads and broadcast them out to millions of people are long over. Now, marketers need a mix of insightful and authentic content as well as a carefully mapped out list of channels that will deliver personalised content wherever the customer happens to be.

Technology underpins this possibility, providing the means to bring together data from multiple sources to get an accurate view of the customer – and then to use those insights to personalise experiences. Technology is also what will make it possible to increase the impact of that experience by delivering it contextually, that is, at the right time and in the right place.

It’s all about the execution

While the four points above are changes brought about by technological enhancements, one thing will not change – the need to have a flawless execution. For that, the brand owner’s involvement is critical.

It used to be that if you had a budget, you could just hand over all of your marketing, advertising or public relations and sit back and “unleash the magic”.

The problem with this, and where we are going in the future, is that smarter, faster, relevant communications and advertising requires participation from the client.

To do this, CMOs have to roll up their sleeves to lead the way. It becomes the business of CMOs to get involved in how SMS, eDMs and Facebook postings are curated, just to name a few. These touch-points are central to the brand positioning and personality.

All of the above trends, coupled with the disciplines of digital marketing, e-commerce, analytics and customer experience management, all make up the responsibilities of the CMO. It’s an exciting time to be a CMO. There’s no “school” that teaches what the CMO of the future needs to know – it requires on-the-job inventing.

Here’s a challenge to fellow CMOs – will you step up and masterfully blend the best technology solutions with the most creative communications to deliver the most measurable ROI, resulting in the best customer experiences we’ve ever had?

The writer is Eric Wong, head of customer franchise, Citibank Berhad, Malaysia.

Read our Futurist column here.

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