Science has permeated marketing for decades. Fans of the television drama Mad Men saw a fictionalized encounter when an IBM System/360 mainframe computer physically displaced the creative department of a late-1960s advertising agency. In reality, though, the 1960s through the early 1990s witnessed a happy marriage of advertising and technology as marketers mastered both the medium of television and the science of Nielsen ratings. These years gave birth to iconic advertising messages in categories ranging from sparkling beverages (“I’d like to buy the world a Coke”) to credit cards (“American Express. Don’t leave home without it”) to air travel (“British Airways: the world’s favourite airline”).
Until recently, marketers could be forgiven for looking back wistfully at this golden age as new forces reshaped their world into something completely different. These new trends include a massive proliferation of television and online channels, the transformation of the home PC into a retail channel, the unrelenting rise of mobile social media and gaming, and—with all these trends—a constant battle for the consumer’s attention.
The resulting expansion of platforms has propelled consistent growth in marketing expenditures, which now total as much as $1 trillion globally. The efficacy of this spending is under deep scrutiny. For example, in a survey of CEOs, close to three out of four agreed with the following statement: marketers “are always asking for more money, but can rarely explain how much incremental business this money will generate Chief marketing officers (CMOs), it appears, don’t disagree: in another recent survey, just over one-third said they had quantitatively proved the impact of their marketing outlays. Paradoxically, though, CEOs are looking to their CMOs more than ever, because they need top-line growth and view marketing as a critical lever to help them achieve it. Can marketers deliver amid ongoing performance pressures?
At the core of the new era are five elements that are simultaneously familiar and fast changing. The first two are the science and substance of marketing. Leading marketers are using research and analytics to shed light on who buys what, and why; who influences buyers; and when, in the consumer decision journey, marketing efforts are likely to yield the greatest return. That understanding, in turn, is making it possible for marketers to identify more effectively the functional benefits that customers need, the experiences they want, and the innovations they will value.
But this isn’t just another missive on the power of big data. Organizational simplicity is fueling speed, and story is pulling things together while inspiring both the customer and the organization. Happily, the story just seems to get better as creative minds express themselves through digital means, and it then echoes and expands through social media and user-generated content. As you’ll see, the emerging new rules for marketing extend well beyond data and analysis, crucial though those are, and even transcend the marketing organization itself.