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The Futurist: Transformational leadership

About five years ago, I wrote what I believed would be “The future of marketing” from the perspective of a marketing director for Marketing magazine. Much of what was predicted did take place. Having now moved from the “safe marketing formulae”of the FMCG industry to running businesses in the dynamic luxury retail industry (a category that is heavily discussed with significant advancement in omni-channel development and m-commerce), I hope to share greater insight on why I feel the future of marketing will be closely associated with the requirement of transformational leadership in marketing.

I believe the marketing industry has entered an era of transformational change. Marketers will play a far greater leadership role in the survival of companies and brands within a landscape that will see “change” being more and more of a consistent theme. Marketers will need to embrace a more engaged leadership role in the boardroom, with strong and more direct accountability on the performance of the company. They need to be experts in leading and managing all forms of change – from turning around businesses to restructuring agency networks. Marketing will expand to require leadership in driving the greater convergence of technology, analytics, merchandising, research and development and innovation. Many academic learnings will become obsolete, along with traditional marketing roles such as “marketing director”.

Globally, the competitive environment has made it extremely challenging for a “number two” player to maintain its position in most categories. Many FMCG brand companies that had star brands are declining due to ageing brands that don’t appeal to Millennials. The competitive environment for the mobile, retail, food and beverage and travel businesses will continue to be transformed by the requirements of the Millennials and Gen Z.

Companies who didn’t venture out of their home market or have a plan to do so in the near future will face decline and (perhaps) extinction,with compressed margins and saturation of the marketplace. Consumers will dictate how and where they want to be engaged and serviced.

The demand of marketing leadership will focus increasingly on those who can comprehend the drivers of the consumer journey; integrate channels and touchpoints creatively, develop new concepts and innovate to meet needs of their consumers. Such marketers will also need to demonstrate leadership to orchestrate and inspire teams with their analytics skill sets while commercialising in the digital economy.

I believe strong marketing leaders will need to go beyond just the consumer insight and understand the psychology behind the consumers. Marketing leaders will need to keep up with the times and be experts in human resource management (and be recognised as such).

In the past year, many companies have had to restructure and remodel their entire organisations based on shifting consumer growth trends. Thus, marketers must possess the human resource skills and the psychology of a change agent to deploy, retrain and adapt such structures. Going forward, we should be preoccupied with how we groom these individuals to be future transformational marketing leaders.

The writer is Wong Mei Wai, former business director, Aspial. The article first appeared in Marketing’s The Futurist print edition.