Let’s travel back to 2000. No one had heard of Facebook or Twitter, mobile marketing was in its infancy, and Big Data existed only in the realm of rocket science. Given the increasing rate of technology and business evolution, just imagine the surprises that 2020 will have in store for CMOs and their marketing teams. “The pace of change for technology, data, and the way consumers communicate with each other is going to accelerate even more. It’s mind-boggling,” said Ted Woehrle, CMO for Newell Rubbermaid. Woehrle is among a number of marketing leaders to prognosticate about what the world of the CMO will look like in eight years. Read on.
Tom Collinger, executive director of the Medill IMC Spiegel Digital & Database Research Initiative at Northwestern University, calls them the “artist geeks.” “Those with the analytical chops married to strategic or creative talents will be increasingly valued” in the corporate marketing organization, Collinger said in an interview with CMO.com.
Ted Woehrle, CMO for Newell Rubbermaid, the $5.6 billion maker of housewares, hardware, and more, said he’ll be looking for marketing professionals who are comfortable with a balance of left- and right-brain thinking. “We’ll be looking for marketers who are well-rounded, very good at connecting with consumers and one another, have a high level of emotional intelligence, and are sensitive to what’s going on around them,” he said. The data analysts he’ll hire in 2020 will harbor a creative and business side, working closely with those who he calls his “connectors,” who will maintain their analytic smarts, as well.
Woe is the CMO of the future who needs to draw lines in the sand. “There are going to be things happening that we can’t control and won’t want to control,” Woehrle said. “You can’t carve out an area and say, ‘This is my turf.’”
Every last piece of the enterprise will be involved in brand-building, with the CMO playing the roles of collaborator and coordinator. “Teams of specialists will be responsible for social engagement, digital strategies, research, advertising, and other activities that may not always reside in the marketing department,” said Joellyn Sargent, principal at Atlanta-based marketing consultancy BrandSprout.
Some companies may not even have a single CMO anymore, said Paige Arnof-Fenn, CEO of marketing consultancy Mavens & Moguls, in an interview with CMO.com. “It will be more like the ‘office of the CMO,’” she said, “with a hybrid team of leaders in such areas as data and analytics, channels and devices, customer insights, and storytelling.”
“The most futuristic scenario [for 2020] is the one that doesn't require any technological innovation—just a change in mind set,” says Marjorie Kalter, clinical professor of integrated marketing at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies. “Marketing without silos—consumers don’t think or shop in silos, and we need to anticipate that we will have even less control over the transparency of information and the purchase-decision process.”
Marketing will need to be channel- and technology-agnostic, Newell Rubbermaid’s Woehrle said. The four to six primary channels of today could evolve into dozens or hundreds by 2020. Big companies that are TV advertising-centric or direct mail-driven will be left behind, while agility and flexibility will be rewarded. Those battleships are notoriously hard to turn around.
“Today, many marketing departments are largely assembled from marketing natives,” said Chris Hewitt, senior director of marketing operations at software maker Lumension Security. “Eight years from now, marketing departments will be dominated by marketing immigrants.” Interdisciplinary teams—cognitive psychologists, nano-mathematicians, data scientists, sociologists, and software developers—will be best-positioned to succeed in the future. To make that work, however, CMOs must create a culture that enables those valuable outsiders to earn their marketing chops on the job.
One word: platforms. According to the Corporate Executive Board, the marketing function is moving from a primarily marketing, communications, and branding role to end-to-end customer experience management—from product innovation to customer-service excellence. “I think experiences and experiential marketing will overtake and transcend traditional products and services in 2020,” Mavens & Moguls’ Arnoff-Fenn said.
Creating a platform that gives customers what they want will be more important than delivering a particular product. “The customer-value proposition, which hasn’t changed fundamentally since the dawn of capitalism, is already being fundamentally transformed from ‘helping a customer get a job done in exchange for money’ to ‘helping a customer find connection, status, and personal and professional growth by helping build our business,” said Bill Lee, CEO of the Customer Strategy Group and author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset, in an interview with CMO.com. “Companies [will] make a big mistake by overfocusing on their products and services to achieve this.”
To do that, CMOs will need what Collinger of Northwestern calls “servers.” “We’re already moving from ‘selling things’ to ‘serving customers’ needs,’” Collinger said. “People who bring this orientation, desire, and skill will be increasingly valued.”
In 2020, “mass marketing will cease to exist,” said Andrew Hayes, a CEO and CMO recruiter with Russell Reynolds Associates, in an interview with CMO.com. “Mass customization will be the norm.”
Digital marketing, from social media to mobile, will reach full-force. “There will be much less broadcasting and much more narrowcasting—segmented, data-driven, highly targeted, and speaking specifically to the needs and desires of a given target,” said Eric Fletcher, CMO of law firm McGlinchey Stafford. "Global consistency will give way to local relevance. According to the Corporate Executive Board’s survey of 150 marketing executives, CMOs plan to target more than 50 percent of their messages in the future based on context like time, location, mood, or weather.
In the future, CMO will be spending more money on technology than even the CIO, predicted BrandSprout’s Sargent, who has held chief marketing positions in financial services and telecommunications companies. “If CMOs don't adapt and become technology leaders with a keen focus on driving financial growth, that job will be history.”
There’s no doubt that Big Data analytics will be the single biggest enabler of corporate marketing in the future. But it could also be CMOs’ biggest downfall if they’re not careful. “I’d love to wax romantic about a marketing future that resembles the hyper-relevant, ultra-targeting retinal scanning we find in Minority Report, but the reality is that the role and responsibility of marketers will be radically broadened into the area of information security,” Lumension Security’s Hewitt said. IT leaders understand the growing threats that accompany the collection and analysis of critical data; most marketers do not.
Marketing will be the key organizational driver behind collecting and analyzing the sensitive data of users, prospects, and customers in 2020. “Not only do organizations have to contend with the usual suspects of corporate espionage and cybercrime, but the growth of ‘hacktivism’ is a very real threat. With each breach and subsequent news story, customers become increasingly aware of the trust they are placing in brands,” Hewitt said. “There is an exponentially growing demand on marketers to responsibly use and thoughtfully secure those systems and that data.”
Remember when you created an annual plan and budget and, more or less, stuck to it? Those days will be gone forever. “The annual plan is going away,” Newell Rubbermaid’s Woehrle said. While CMOs will still create an annual framework, they’ll be making adjustments to it every month to respond to changing conditions and opportunities.
Just as the marketing organization largely will be made up of professionals from varied backgrounds, the CMO of the future will have made his or her corporate rounds, as well. “The CMOs that have worked in previous environments that exposed them to many more tactical ideas [by] 2020 will be better able to coordinate and implement them strategically—like a project manager,” said Rodger Roeser, owner of the Eisen Agency in Cincinnati, in an interview with CMO.com. “The CMO will understand more fully integrated issues, bringing together concepts of data, design, PR, marketing, and advertising because the experience is becoming so much more broad.”
The sales-to-CMO trajectory? Extinct.
Everyone throws around the term “crowdsourcing” today. But in 2020, those throngs will truly be in charge. “The market will create and define the message,” McGlinchey Stafford’s Fletcher said. “Marketing will increasingly focus on the customer experience—first, because a company can define it, and, second, because it will be the impetus for the message the customer delivers to the marketplace with which he interacts.”
Word of mouth has been an important part of marketing forever. In 2020, “there will be an even more pronounced reliance on brand advocates,” Newell Rubbermaid’s Woehrle said.
“Marketers will continue to look for, and then cater to people whose judgment is trusted—individuals with a point of view who aggregate audiences because they’re trusted,” Northwestern’s Collinger said.
“Marketing success will depend less on persuasion, more on fostering peer pressure,” Customer Strategy Group’s Lee added. Traditional MarCom, PR, and advertising skills will be usurped by prowess at bringing customers and prospects together to influence one another—and your brand.