What is the Future of Marketing? It is a question that has, and does, vex me considerably.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Marketing Leadership prompted by Mark Choueke’s call for leadership in Marketing Week. He got a good reception for his article, and rightly so, and he followed it up with “Join the Marketing Plan for Marketers” which is worth reading.
The need for credibility is undoubtedly crucial and we need to avoid our industry turning inwards and defaulting to the seemingly age old, “we’re not wrong, we are just misunderstood” excuses. We must not default to the position that the solution to any lack of standing as a profession is solved by just needing to “market” marketing within businesses and “to the board”. We need new ideas and a vision for marketing’s role with the organisation.
As I mused on this I turned to my almost untouched (shame on me!) copy of “The Future of Marketing” for inspiration. This beautifully produced book was recently published by the Marketing Society for its 50th Anniversary. My depression deepened as I read the collected thoughts of 50 CEOs, from the “world’s most successful companies”, no less, in answering the question “What role will marketing play in the future success of your business?”
Guess what the answer is? A lot of “consumer is boss”, a truck load of “digital”, some “it’s all about growth” and shockingly little on sustainability (apart from good old Unilever). Andrew Marsden’s introduction boils it all down to “absolute agreement about one thing that will not change” – the battle for consumer’s trust.
What’s interesting about these snippets from these CEOs is that, by definition, what these CEOs think is the status quo. They extrapolate from the current trajectory of the world and their businesses to predict the future. Envisioning a radical future is hard for anyone but it is impossible for them. Incidentally this is compounded by the shocking lack of diversity in the group. Strikingly there were only 2 women and 2 non-white males in the group of 50!
I think marketing is on a collision course with the future. Our current marketing paradigm is inextricably linked to the driving of consumption and the creation of habits of consumption. This is the economic purpose of marketing: to ensure that demand outstrips supply permanently and profitably in a world of plentiful energy and resources. Economic growth has been the single minded outcome upon which we have built our brands, our marketing models and our rasion d’etre.
But unabated growth cannot continue. Rising populations, increasingly “middle class” and consumerist, means that there will be increasing competition for scarce resources. And marketing is already at some level becoming the thing to blame.
My hunch is that the future of marketing is not merely, or even, a “more consumer focused / digital / growth oriented / sustainable” (delete as appropriate) future but a complete reversal of the current paradigm:
We’ve been used to selling more stuff, the future will be about selling less stuff.
We’ve got great at creating new propositions, the future will be making things last.
We’ve become expert at making people value “goods”, the future will be helping people value what is “good” in every facet of their lives.
We’ve used advanced techniques to satisfy consumer wants, the future will be balancing outcomes for the common good.
And lastly we’ve become hooked on helping our businesses, our economies, often our customers, and in turn our wallets grow “fat”. The future of marketing will be helping people enjoy being “thin” by consuming less and conserving more.
This is an exciting opportunity for those businesses and brands, and their marketers, to move into a completely new and fundamentally more future oriented landscape.
How do we get there? I’ll tackle this in my next blog posting which you can get by signing up to my RSS or email feed – click here.
What do you think is the Future of Marketing? Have your say below.
Thanks for reading.