In two years, we won’t recognize our jobs in marketing. I believe the world is changing that fast! I love scanning the horizon for ideas and trends that will shape our lives. There are LOTS of changes in marketing’s future, but here are five that signal new directions for our profession:
1. The Experience Designer
Two years ago I observed a trend that the Chief Marketing Officer title has been morphing to Chief Experience Officer, or CXO. I think this is a healthy trend, acknowledging that our marketing success is truly shaped by the 360-degree customer experience. Naturally, the CMO should be responsible for every touchpoint that influences customer perceptions of our organization.
Now, there’s a new job title floating around that takes this development to the next level: Experience Designer. Yes, that’s a real job!
Think about the increasingly difficult challenge of connecting to customers through ads and content. It’s getting tougher and tougher to break through. But customers seek positive, engaging, and entertaining experiences.
I’m energized by the fact that the next iteration of marketing is laser-focused on the total customer experience. That’s the way it should be!
2. Real-time customer connection
I’ve stopped considering any research report developed before 2020. It’s almost certainly inaccurate. The pandemic was not an aberration or a bump in the road. This was a re-set in almost every way. March 2020 was the beginning of a new global business dashboard — a complex cocktail of new forces is rapidly shaping consumer views and habits.
This reality is reflected in a McKinsey report declaring that traditional customer surveys are nearly irrelevant. We simply cannot forecast consumer needs based on a snapshot of the recent past. The world is just moving too fast, and a company cannot possibly keep up with the pace of change through traditional surveys.
McKinsey predicts that in marketing’s future, customer experience will be in gaining an ability to constantly and rapidly assess a flow of real-time customer feedback.
This has always been a challenge in marketing — how do we tease out that signal from the noise and the problem will just get worse in the future. Marketing advantage will come to those who figure that out!
3. Relevance in cultural moments
About two years ago, I was fascinated by a Pepsi presentation declaring that traditional branding is dead. The CMO claimed that instead of forcing an image on consumers, marketing’s role is to become relevant within cultural moments.
At the time, I filed that away under “something interesting” … but I didn’t entirely understand what this meant at the time. Since then, I’ve seen more companies adopt this approach. A marketing leader at another company told me that branding used to be about creating bonfires. Now it’s about little sparks created to respond to fleeting cultural moments. Marketers are interpreting the relevance of the brand on the go. Isn’t that fascinating?
My friend Fabio Tamobosi, the CMO for Saucony told me:
“My job is to find the connections that are in the fabric of the community that intersects with our values. Then we give them the brand as a platform and the product as a canvas to amplify their voice.”
That is really next-level thinking that introduces a new expectation of connection and speed to the marketing equation. If a brand embraces and enhances a cultural moment as it is happening, it will be relevant. If it is simply positioning itself to “pile on” and look cool it will be ridiculed.
The pandemic provided an example of this. It was more than a crisis. It was an enduring cultural moment. It has become an era we will always remember and discuss. Most companies were slow to respond and eventually created look-alike ads saying the same thing: “We are with you in these unprecedented times.” Ugh.
But the companies that rolled up their sleeves and DID something unique and profound in that moment will be remembered. And isn’t that what great marketing is all about?
Perhaps the best and greatest source of differentiation going forward will be relevance. Relevance in moments of meaning.
4. AI and ethics
At the beginning of my book Marketing Rebellion, I provide a little history lesson to show that every time companies abuse consumers (through lies, secrets, interruptions, and privacy violations), the consumers fight back and eventually win.
The next area ripe for corruption is Artificial Intelligence and its ability to rapidly create Deep Fakes — video likenesses that are so real that they are undetectable and utterly convincing.
Without question, this will unleash an unprecedented era of creativity in marketing’s future. It may rival the beginning of the internet in significance!
But unfortunately in this world, where corruption can occur, corruption will occur. And when it comes to these Deep Fakes and how fast misinformation spreads, I just don’t know how we will be able to fight back unless there is legislation soon that creates stiff penalties for those who use this tech for evil.
I think two years from now AI and deep fakes will dominate our content and our conversations.
5. The most human company wins
Perhaps you were expecting this from me? What excited me is that the projections I made in Marketing Rebellion are coming true, amplified, and sped up by the pandemic.
Fabio Tambosi recently had another characterization for this: “The kinship economy.”
The world has never been more divided, polarized, alone, afraid, and isolated. Doesn’t it make sense that the companies and brands that can unite, connect, and create true community will win?
Here’s a recent video I did explaining one of my favorite examples of a human company:
Honorable mention: The Metaverse
The biggest ideas in tech often lurch into the lexicon before they are truly coherent. Jargon like the internet of things, the sharing economy, the cloud become over-hyped and overused. So let’s be cautious about “metaverse.”
The metaverse refers to a variety of virtual experiences, environments, and assets that gained momentum during the online-everything shift of the pandemic. Together, these new technologies hint at what the internet will become next.
Will we be building our own worlds in marketing’s future? Will the creator economy run on non-fungible tokens? Will we join Faceook’s vision of virtual reality conference rooms, populated by lifelike avatars? Will we finally live our best lives through the lens of AR glasses?
The answer is, who knows?
Bits and pieces of these developments will certainly come together in meaningful ways but I think the only thing we can project is that 1) it will take longer than the evangelists tell us and 2) these marvelous developments will be mashed up by creative humans in ways we cannot even imagine!
Eventually, most of our business world will have some metaversatality. I just made that word up by the way. But where will it show up and when … a couple of years away to even project right now.
What do you think about marketing’s future? What trends are you watching that will change marketing the most in the coming years?
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