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Marketing 2020: our predictions

9 January 2014 Jim Harrison,

Roger Pride writes...

As we all enter the new working year following, for many, an extended Christmas and New Year break it is a good time to look forward and wonder what marketing and branding might look like in the future. Late last year I was asked to speak at a Chartered Institute of Marketing event - Marketing 2020.

The assembled speakers were asked to think about marketing at the end of this decade and to make some forecasts. On the face of it looking 6 years ahead might not seem too difficult but when you pause for a moment and consider how much the world has changed over the last 10 years the task becomes just that bit more difficult.

In 2005 you had to really look to spot the person with a smart phone, now, it’s harder to find somebody without one. I read recently that making phone calls is now only the fifth most popular use of a mobile. I guess that’s not surprising when you realise that you can use “phones” as: a universal remote for the house, a remote for the car, a heart rate monitor, a measuring tool, a scanner, a mobile TV, a map, a highly sophisticated camera and 101 other things.

If the smartphone is a clear symbol of change, it is just a part of the reason for a fundamental shift in the relationship between brands and customers. Generation C which depending who you speak to stands for connected, community, creative or curators is taking power away from traditional brands and businesses and changing the behaviour of marketers. Gen C are curators, endorsers, opinion formers, they question authority and conventional wisdom and perhaps above all they are a lightning rod for the truth.

Taking this as my starting point here are my 3 predictions:-

1. Marketing will be too important to be left to marketers.

If the reputation of a brand or an organisation will be judged by people’s experiences of the brand it suggests that every aspect of the organisation, every touch point will need to consider whether it adds to or diminishes the value and reputation of the brand.

In most businesses many of these touch points are not within the control of the marketing director. And in many they are outside even the influence of the marketing department.

In 2020 all truly successful businesses will understand how each touchpoint reflects on the brand. What will this mean for marketers? I believe one of two things will happen. Either the profession takes its proper place at the heart of a business, ensuring that a market and customer perspective is at the heart of decision making. And that marketers rather than Finance Directors are more likely to become CEO’s. Alternatively marketing as a function will become redundant. Traditional marketing directors will be replaced by Directors of “Experience Improvement” or “Ideation” driven by the notion that it’s not what you say it’s what you do that matters.

2. Everyone including the media will finally realise that a brand is not a logo.

In 2020 it will be less and less about what the brand looks like, and more and more about how it behaves and the relationship it has with a maturing Gen C. The logo will be dead, changing the logo will mean nothing to Gen C if the business still behaves and acts in the same way. Clever brands will turn tedia to media - every channel and touchpoint will be way for the brand to communicate, whether it be verbally or visually, so changing a logo does little if anything.

3. Relevant Creativity and Innovation combined with complete honesty will be essential for any successful brand

We will live in a world where digital and social media will create almost total transparency. There will be near unlimited access to information and data together with an ever increasing proliferation of media. This means that creativity and powerful ideas will become even more important than they are today. But innovation will have to be relevant to peoples changing lifestyles and needs. Successful brands will challenge convention, but it won’t be a case of breaking the rules because they will have realised there are no rules anymore.

Digital and Social media has given the world a dose of honesty. The truth will out. It will all be about honesty. The more brutal the better. Consumers will be increasingly sceptical about being marketed, and advertised to. So brands will rely more on content to engage with Generation C. The content can be physical (events, books, experiences, product initiatives), or digital (web TV programmes, games). These will be things that will die or thrive on their own merit.

The future, short-attention-span/on-demand society will need instant gratification from brands - simple, short fast messages; engaging ideas; surprising routes to market.

But remember creativity can be found everywhere, not just in the marketing or design department. Gen C is full of creative people. The challenge will be to ensure they are creatively constructive rather than destructive when it comes to your brand.  Knowing brands will purpose build communities to harness this inventiveness. They will realise that Gen C are not just customers they are contributors.


 Header image courtesy of Flickr user ‘x-ray_delta_one’

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