Consumers navigate expertly from Facebook, to their blog on Tumblr, to their mobile banking app, to their Apple TV, and back again. Their digital expertise now requires brands to behave with equal agility and provide relevant and timely content unique to the platform and consumer need.
This means that marketers and brand managers must be multi-skilled in social listening, community management, content creation, customer service, and act with the speed that consumers now demand.
Added Value South Africa first suggested that the new age marketer would need a different skills set when it analysed over 100 hours of interviews it conducted with the country’s leading marketers to identify 12 imperatives occupying the marketers’ thought processes, all pointed to a rapidly changing face of marketing in South Africa.
Eden Lanser, who led the South African team, concluded that only marketers who are adaptable and willing to accept a new paradigm will succeed personally, and for their brands and companies, in the years ahead. He added that winning in the ever-changing and digitally-driven environment would require a new skills set, including:
- In line with measuring commercial accountability, there is an increased need for marketers to have a foundation of commercial skills over and above their functional marketing skills.
- Greater consumer segmentation coupled with increasing channels of communication means that marketing roles are more varied and specialist roles are becoming more prevalent.
- The need for digital to be embedded into brand marketing is becoming increasingly important, and companies look to younger talent within the organisation to drive this integration.
“This is one of the most impactful shifts,” said Lanser. “Marketers are going to have to unlearn a lot of what they have learnt in the past. They are going to have to demonstrate increased commitment to training and development and develop a culture that has the desire to embrace change.”
Writing in the Huffington Post, Added Value President in the United States, Jonathan Hall, said: “It’s a fair bet there’s no-one left in marketing today who isn’t constantly reminded how fast our industry landscape is changing. So, how do you navigate this uncharted territory – and determine what this change means for marketing thinking and behaviour?”
Hall identified seven paradigm shifts; each has a clear implication for how brands need to change, and listed examples of brands that are getting it right.
SHIFT 1 – FROM PRODUCTS TO EXPERIENCE ECOSYSTEMS
Brands of the future don’t just sell products or services: enabled by technology, they create inspiring content and experiences that engage people in their brand world…a world where each interaction (and that includes marketing) adds as much – or more – value as the product itself.
Brands must stop thinking just about pushing communication – and start thinking about creating content that holds genuine value for their audiences.
Red Bull has evolved from an energy drink into a media empire, creating deep experiences across channels that the audience truly values.
SHIFT 2 – FROM SAYING TO DOING
Talk is cheap – it’s what you do that counts. Brands need to have an active purpose at their core that frames the conscious role they play in people’s lives, the value they will bring. This purpose will drive all forms of activation, and should be demonstrated through actions, not just words.
Brands need to move from static transmitters to purposeful, active enablers.
Dove has taken its purpose off the page and into action by establishing a fund to educate young people on a broader definition of beauty.
SHIFT 3 – FROM LINEAR TO MULTIPLE
Today’s consumer has a T-shaped attention span – scanning broadly and quickly over content and diving deep when they find something of interest. In a world of fragmenting touch-points and proliferating content, the notion of a linear customer journey is simply irrelevant. Result: brands can no longer control the way in which consumers interact with their messages.
Brands need to rethink their approach – and engage in two-way conversations that reflect the way people consume content today: modular, multi-channel, accessible at any point.
Chipotle gets across its message of ‘Cultivating a Better World’ through short films, an online game, a song available on iTunes – which in turn link back to rewards at their restaurants.
SHIFT 4 – FROM SINGLE TO MULTIPLE MARKETING ROLES
Brands are expanding the roles they play in people’s lives, developing multi-dimensional relationships with their audiences. Those who manage brands must have the flexibility to wear different hats and adapt as required: from brand manager to community manager, brand guardian to brand journalist, from content creator to curator, leader to listener.
Marketers need to think about what new processes and partners will best support them in the short term as marketing departments gradually evolve toward this new reality.
Gatorade has set up a ‘Mission Control Center’, a war room to oversee the brand’s performance online. As well as monitoring social media, marketers track brand attributes and sports trends, keeping Gatorade on top of what’s important to fans.
SHIFT 5 – FROM CONTINUITY TO DISRUPTION
In the past, successful brand performance was about continuity, delivering the same reliable product time after time. To stay ahead today, brands must show themselves capable of reinvention, even disrupting their own model in order to remain relevant and fresh – before someone else does. New technologies have spawned many new possibilities, causing category disruption impossible a few years ago.
Brands must curate more of an entrepreneurial mindset, developing cultural awareness and becoming alert to change in order to identify and quickly harness opportunities to evolve.
Nest (now owned by Google) created the emerging smart home segment through its fresh application of technology to home climate solutions.
SHIFT 6 – FROM UNIFORM AND IMPERSONAL TO PERSONALIZED AND TARGETED
While prioritizing the commercial agenda and focusing on efficiency means consolidation and streamlining of consumer communications, the danger is that brand and marketing initiatives become less specific and therefore less relevant. Yet the more messages proliferate, the more important personalisation becomes. With Big Data, brands have the possibility to bring personalized, targeted experiences to their audiences – but these must start from consumer needs, not business efficiencies.
The real opportunity for brands is to focus on the value that Big Data can bring consumers, rather than the value it brings the business.
EBay continues to introduce innovations that hand control to users, including a new homepage that allows them to create instantly shoppable visual collections, creating a deeply personalized shopping experience.
SHIFT 7 – FROM STATIC TO MOBILISED
Just like electricity, mobile technology is a constant in our lives, something we can’t do without. It’s increasingly the way we choose to consume all manner of things, even when we’re not ‘mobile’. Yet many brands aren’t enabling us to engage how and when we want. How often is the mobile version of an experience substandard, compared to the version on a PC? How often is there no mobile version at all…?
Brands must develop a mobile-first mindset, reflecting the way people live today – providing rich, relevant content that adapts in real time.
United Airlines have made a stand with their free mobile app. Co-development of the app with customers means optimal relevance to their mobile travel needs – when many of the world’s large airlines still don’t offer a mobile site.