These are challenging times for CMOs. A well-placed ad in a newspaper or on radio is increasingly becoming redundant. What works today can be obsolete by tomorrow, thanks to volatile technology trends that peak and then fall as quickly.
How can we prepare against these rapid changes in technology as well as in the media ecosystem? There are no right answers to this question, I can assure you that! In an ecosystem where market conditions change overnight and technology evolves even faster, it takes just one new competitor, one new product, or a brand new trend to render all your genius marketing strategies to waste.
This is where future-proofing for marketing comes into the picture. Future-proofing simply means creating marketing strategies that will stand the test of time and changing trends. Flexibility here is imperative. If an organisation wants to create marketing strategies that can accommodate changing trends, it has to be agile enough to adapt.
Technology to the rescue
Malaysia Airlines, for instance, could have averted a crisis in 2014 if the company had a bird’s eye-view of its customers’ profiles and the experience they expected, in order to tie up the campaigns across regions. The airline, which was dealing with a major disaster involving two passenger flights at the time, was also running a fun, consumer-facing contest simultaneously, asking people to send their "bucket list" – things a person wishes to do before dying. Although unintentional, the negative association was unavoidable in a connected world.
Of course, the concept of future-proofing marketing strategy wasn’t prevalent back then, and neither was the technology to support it. But, an agile marketing strategy leveraging data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) could have quickly read through a plethora of user searches worldwide and flagged off the anomaly. AI, for one, creates a link between gathered data and marketing strategies. It can enable marketing teams to leverage technology to anticipate consumer behaviour and thus serve users and clients better.
But then, it is not always easy to predict consumer reaction and way harder to decide an appropriate action to it. It was just a few years ago that content became the holy grail for marketers to grasp consumer pulse. Consumers lapped it up aided by higher penetration of mobile internet.
Today, however, producing great content is no longer enough. In today’s dynamic times marketers must dig deeper, beyond the text-book methods, in order to anticipate consumer reaction.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), for instance, is not just an effective tool for corporate digital transformation, but is also an excellent platform for marketers to adopt. AI and its algorithms can be used to understand, as well as, anticipate consumer behavior. There are other emerging technologies such as blockchain that can give marketers more control on consumer campaigns, while eliminating intermediary channels. These in turn will help companies offer an ultra-personalised consumer experience, which is currently the buzzword in marketing circles.
Back to Basics
But keeping up with new technologies is just half the battle won. In order to achieve true future-proofing, there are certain organisational changes that hark attention:
- Be Flexible – Build a system which is agile enough to accommodate unanticipated changes in technology. A modular framework that can replace or add features without restructuring the entire system is ideal.
- Collect and analyse consumer data – Although technology trends will continue to evolve, consumer data will remain the bedrock. Select the right technology tools to analyze the huge gamut of data, in order to build a future-proof marketing system.
- Be proactive in acquiring technology – Identify and acquire relevant technology on an on-going basis. Anticipate and predict changes in the technology landscape and act on them proactively. There are several newer technologies one can opt for, including machine learning, robotics or chatbots, as well as virtual reality and augmented reality, for better predictive analysis of consumer behaviour.
There are still no right answers to build a fool-proof marketing strategy. But basic pitfalls can be avoided by following these fundamental practices. Although, there is one tenet of traditional marketing that remains relevant even today – don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
(The author is head of marketing, Infosys BPM).