I’ve been in this digital marketing racket for nearly 20 years. I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. Dot-com bubbles bursting. Platforms re-deployed (Friendster, anyone?). Entire technologies go <POOF>. And gadgets become paperweights.
But the one that I find most intriguing is digital marketing people.
I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. In fact, I have one client who’s been with us so long that whenever a new person comes on board there, they schedule an appointment with us to get the low-down on what’s actually going on, because we’re the only ones with organizational continuity.
With all of this coming and going, something much larger is happening: For the first time in history, the C-Suite is being led by digital natives. If you thought change has been dizzying because of technology, you ain’t seen nothing yet. (This excellent piece by Brian Kardon, CMO of Lattice Engines, about his almost desperate need to reinvent himself for the digital age, is an absolute must-read for anyone sitting in the CMO chair.) Consider what’s going to happen to brands when leaders who actually understand, fundamentally and from their own personal experience, what digital consumer experience means are at the helm.
To date, most of the spellbinding digital experiences have been led by startups, not large corporate brands. These startups are nimble, not often well funded, and lean. Imagine what happens when large companies invest billions of well-intentioned, well thought-out, and well-executed experiences. I expect the next 20 years in digital marketing to be unbelievable for the simple reason that, for any brands, this will be the first era where innovation is led by a seasoned digital executive.
To begin, the marketing department is ripe for an entire overhaul, from the org chart to how it’s defined. In my opinion, the word “marketing” is one of the analog age. As a term, it’s time to die. The traditional implication, that companies talk at audiences, is simply a major mental hurdle that keeps people who work in marketing from being in the correct frame of mind. Customer experience turns the focus in the proper place—on the person who is going to interact with a brand. Successful brands obsess over how a customer interacts with all areas of their business, from simple e-mail communications to in-store touch points to customer services. Current renegades are embracing how real-time customer feedback improves products and services. None of this is really “marketing,” per se. It’s called The Business.
So in the coming weeks, I am going to use this space to write about the key transformations I see happening in marketing departments, where they need to go, and how it might all go down. One thing is for sure: Digital is headed toward awesome.
I look forward to your comments and feedback.