From political and social unrest sparking controversial ad campaigns to the complexities of GDPR, 2018 has been a wild ride for chief marketing officers (CMOs). With all that turmoil, marketing chiefs may very well be looking forward to what the New Year has to offer.
Forrester has presented a preview of what to expect. The research firm has released its CMO predictions for 2019, its version of a crystal ball for brands looking to better connect with consumers.
The report explains that organizations are continuing to shift toward customer-centric practices, and that 2019 will be the year CMOs prioritize strategies that harness their customers’ energy and then use that collective vivacity to reinvigorate their brand.
Keith Johnston, Forrester vice president and research director serving CMOs, and coauthor of the report, told The Drum that with the ubiquity of digital technologies, there needs to be more differentiation in the marketplace, and that starts with branding.
CMOs will capitalize on societal divisions to disrupt
Part of any marketer’s job is to cut through all the noise and clutter. Forrester believes this will involve CMOs “treating societal divisions as a mechanism to tap into their customers’ energy.”
Nike did just that with its Colin Kaepernick campaign as it exploited “short-term gains by animating a large enough segment of its customer base” to hopefully pave paths to new long-term growth.
Johnston said this approach can galvanize a company’s customers and internal employees, but not every organization can afford to do this.
“You need to be the right brand for sure, but [being] the right brand is contingent on who your consumer is,” said Johnston. “It’s not really about launching a campaign; it’s about setting an overture in the market and letting consumers respond to it. That’s when this stuff is most effective, and not all brands do that.”
Nike has a large enough consumer base to launch such a campaign without risk of total alienation and with speed.
Johnston said exploiting cultural, political, or societal tensions is about being opportunistic and fast, so the timing of press events or content creation is crucial.
Branding will bring oomph to differentiate customer experience
Forrester predicts that 2019 is the year marketing “gets sexy again.”
The report claims that CMOs are the executives most responsible for customer experience, which has stagnated year after year. Forrester expects that, to combat this, companies will undergo brand transformations.
“We’re starting to go back to old-school, and maybe that’s a horrible term for it,” said Johnston, “but I think brand has been left behind because there’s been so much emphasis on martech, adtech, programmatic and technology overall.
“Well, what happens when all of this stuff matures? We’re back to you needing to feel some sort of emotional connection to the brand. We’re in the experience economy.”
Companies won’t need to rebrand. Instead, Forrester predicts they’ll need to refocus on branding to catch the eye of the consumer in this oversaturated digital landscape.
CMOs will finally champion data privacy and trust
Johnston believes that CMOs will have to be more mindful of data practices, and they can no longer pass the buck to technology executives.
Forrester predicts that chief marketers will appoint themselves as internal advocates for customer privacy, and the most proactive CMOs will integrate this in brand messaging, while “some will use it as a strategic differentiator.”
“It’s tough for [Amazon] to thread those two messages,” Johnston said. “There will be two kinds of strategies out there, and one will be full on about customer privacy and trust.”
Brand promise will spark enterprisewide transformation
Forrester predicts that CMOs will not only take on more responsibilities with customer data, but also will keep companies on-message as “the smart ones never lose sight of their essential purpose and brand promise.”
Johnston explained that when brands fail with their messaging or customer experience, it often comes down to how they’re communicating internally.
“If you organize the entire company around your brand promise, it allows somebody to traverse the entire organization and make sure you can deliver on all the things your customers expect,” said Johnston. “CMOs have the set of skills that allow [them] to be great collaborators across the entire enterprise.”
Johnston added that just a few years ago the average tenure for a chief marketer was about 18 months. As the CMO has come off the endangered species list, the role has evolved to include technology budgets and a focus on internal and external messaging.
“If you replace the ‘M’ with collaboration, customer, or experience, you’re probably looking at the same role,” said Johnston.
The consumer tech stack will outplay the marketing tech stack
With technology usage plateauing, Forrester predicts that “savvy CMOs will push marketing technology vendors to emphasize the four forces underlying consumer technology adoption – tools, coordination, conversation, and emotion – and refine their approach to engaging customers.”
Johnston said this will happen because brands are struggling to break through customers’ cocoons. Consumers can choose the brands that are and are not allowed in their lives through their own technology.
“Marketing has been continually manipulated by customers,” he said. “CMOs definitely need to [tell] marketing technology vendors that [they] need to emphasize what consumers are doing with their technology, which essentially is using it to facilitate, coordinate, and create conversations in their own way. They need to revise their approach to serve that: not the marketers’ needs, but the customers’ needs.”
Johnston said 2019 could see a complete pullback on all programmatic spending in favor of customer experience technology that emphasizes the features that matter to consumers’ mobile or online experiences.
“We don’t need more technology. We need less that’s more effective,” said Johnston.
Savvy companies will always be keen on invigorating customer experience, but pendulum keeps swinging between technology-driven response marketing and branding. We’ll see where it lands for 2019.