Marketing 2020 See what the future of branding may look like
Have you ever tried to drive down a country road at night, while looking out the back window of your car? The late Peter Drucker, often called the founder of modern management, said trying to predict the future is akin to that experience. "The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different," Drucker said.
The same could be said about the future of marketing departments, too. Today's marketing department, driven by technology, is evolving rapidly across all aspects of marketing – distribution, advertising and research. The marketing department of the future will likely be quite different and require updated skills, revised roles and a new contemporary culture.
One of the anticipated major influencers, The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming more of a reality than a lofty vision. ABI Research estimates that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things by 2020.
This ubiquitous computing in an increasingly smart world is sure to shape the future of marketing, says Jeff Sierra, founder of Mind Fuel and a 25-year veteran of the marketing services industry.
"As the Internet of Things starts to evolve – your refrigerator sends your car a message that you are out of milk, and your car tells you where the closest grocery store is with the lowest price – it's going to create new opportunities for how and when to engage customers," Sierra says. "This will require marketers to be better rounded, and certainly even more technically savvy than they need to be today. These trends are going to shape the growing skill set for basic marketing jobs in the future."
Victoria Treyger, CMO of Kabbage Inc., a fast-growing technology and data company that has pioneered an automated way to lend money to small businesses, says that even more analytical and technical skills will be required than in the past. "We are focused on innovation and moving technology forward. Today's effective marketing requires interpreting large volumes of data and synthesizing it into marketing strategies. More than ever, marketing teams are working tightly with data science and technology teams to develop new products and marketing approaches."
Mind Fuel's Sierra predicts that the future will hold more convergence among traditional marketing roles. Marketing jobs of the future will require people to multi-task at some level across disciplines such as data, analytics, content creation and delivery.
"Who knows where content will reside and how it will be delivered in the future," Sierra says. "It's going to continue to be more technology driven. There will need to be roles and teams that combine an understanding of data, content, brand and customers – and people who have the ability to pull all that together in a collective manner; not in the silos that exist today."
A CMO today might be an expert at branding, customer experience or a digital specialist, but in five years a CMO will need to be able to do all of these things on some level, kind of in a collective environment. "To lead successfully, a CMO will need to be much more well rounded and have a broader base of experience in addition to traditional marketing acumen," Sierra says.
Millennials are a match
Joan Kuhl, founder of Why Millennials Matter, a New York-based Gen-Y speaking and consulting company, focuses on raising employers' awareness about the value of investing in their future workforce and the Millennial customer segment. She contends that Millennials are well-suited to these emerging converging roles, and not just because they are tech savvy, seemingly possessing a digital sixth sense.
"In general, Millennials want to be experts in a million different things," Kuhl says. "They don't want to be the marketing person just doing analytics, they also want to be the person proposing recommendations – creating the report and presenting it to executives. This gives them some visibility and credit, and also helps them refine their communication skills and hone their executive presence so they can move into broader and bigger roles. Employers should encourage their confidence and creativity, because, in less than 10 years, 75 percent of the global work force will be Millennials."
The new culture
Many Millennials are finding the professional satisfaction they desire at companies like Kabbage, which recognizes the value of hiring and retaining this demographic. Kabbage attracts top talent by keeping the bar high, and valuing strong leadership skills and aptitude over any particular skill set.
"We keep standards high, because smart people want to work with other smart people, and they are attracted to a company that empowers them to build and define an industry and redefine their area," Treyger says. "We are doing revolutionary things – every day is new and different. We get to build the financial services of the future."
A legendary thought leader, Peter Drucker, is also credited with saying that the "best way to predict the future is to create it." Kabbage and other innovative companies are creating their future by keeping valued employees on board with perks such as daily-catered lunches and snacks, weekly company-wide town-hall meetings, volunteer projects, and plenty of beer and caffeine on tap. And don't forget about traditional benefits and higher salaries. Committed to nurturing esprit de corps, Kabbage recently created a music video – a Bruno Mars Uptown Funk parody – that features employees and showcases their upbeat culture (check out http://bit.ly/1AThVaG).
In March, employees spent a workday outdoors making improvements at a local non-
profit camp for seriously ill and disabled children. "Marketing starts internally, and we are focused on creating a positive culture and an environment where people want to come to work," Treyger says.
Despite the updated skills, revised roles and new contemporary culture that the future will bring to the marketing world, some things remain constant: Employee satisfaction is a cornerstone of successful marketing. Says Kuhl, "We sometimes forget that our best brand ambassadors are our own employees."