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The Futurist: Marketing reboot

In 2014, an article by the Harvard Business Review titled “The Ultimate Marketing Machine” said that in the past decade, how marketers engage with customers has really changed beyond recognition. It said that “with the possible exception of information technology, we can’t think of another discipline that has evolved so quickly”. Currently, this whirlwind of change continues, and can be both discomfiting and exciting.

With the explosion of data, a key factor in driving the marketing reboot, every brand’s digital marketing transformation journey needs to place strong emphasis on data and analytics, to create a more meaningful brand experience for customers. While what we tell our customers remains relevant, how they experience it is important. Borrowing from WPP CEO Martin Sorrell, we need to shift from broadcast to interactive, to transform from “Mad-men” to “Math-men”.

Culture transformation first, technology next

Fundamental shifts in marketing cannot happen just by jumping onto the tech bandwagon. In fact, doing so without putting the right processes in place can be detrimental to progress. At the heart of any transformation is organisational culture change.

To succeed, marketing organisations need to cultivate the habit of relentlessly using data and business intelligence to shape marketing investment. We have to be religious about demanding to see data before and after changes are made. It’s also about optimising existing systems before chasing new technology. Today’s marketers have to be both great storytellers, and great data storytellers.

In-moment customer experiences

Marketing organisations of the future need to invest in delivering contextual, personalised recommendations based on customers’ sentiment, history and preferences — all in their preferred channels and content format.

Embrace omni-channel

To successfully become customer-centric, we must embed ourselves in the customer journey. That means thinking about banking as an activity seamlessly woven into the everyday life.

Omni-channel marketing needs to be a top priority because customers expect a consistent brand experience regardless of medium. Brands need to consolidate data from multiple sources to obtain a single view of the customer. The more complete the data, the more successful marketing in the digital world will be.

Brands can also leverage data obtained from one channel for clever marketing in another. Last year, Spotify mined its huge wealth of listener data to run an OOH campaign generating headlines such as “Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do?” The campaign was clever and humanised the brand.

Empower marketers

In large organisations, the challenge most marketers face is not in integrating new data sources, such as that from social media or third parties. The big hurdle is internal – integrating this data with enterprise data from their own legacy systems, which were historically built for archival purposes, rather than to facilitate real-time marketing.

The future of marketing, however, necessitates that brands be able to do quick analysis and simulations, and to have instant access to real-time marketing-related information.

The writer is Karen Ngui, head of group strategic marketing and communications, DBS. The article first appeared in Marketing’s The Futurist print edition.