The Future of Marketing

While I was away, I had an article out in Executive Decision and an interview with Investor’s Business Daily discussing various opinions on the road ahead for marketing. If I could always be this productive while on vacation, I’d never come home.

The Executive Decision article is probably the most succinct discussion I’ve written in the past few months about the challenges marketers face in today’s business environment. The crushing day-to-day requirements for most marketing departments puts the lie to all the best-selling pap about "customer-centricity". The ugly truth is that the average marketer today doesn’t have nearly enough resources to spend time worrying about the customer–there are far greater pressures to reshape the marketing function into an omniscient analytical machine. 

The interview with Investor’s Business Daily isn’t all that illuminating on the surface. Just a few quotes on background in an article about Dell’s recent misteps, with a focus on the impact of marketing. What’s interesting is that the discussion about marketing’s shift toward an analytical framework was so fascinating to IBD, and they saw it as a lens for understanding significant challenges facing companies like Dell. If marketing got that much respect in the boardroom… You can find the IBD article here.

What does all this have to do with the future of marketing? Marketing is at this very moment in the middle of a massive re-engineering. The focus on building an analytical foundation for marketing that utilizes technology to track customer lifetime value and weigh opportunity value is important, and will certainly shape marketing for decades to come. But it’s not an overnight transition. The shift has been underway already for at least five years, and will be another five years before the expectations business managers have today for useful dashboard measurements will be realized in any intelligible form. In the meantime, the incredible pressure to effect this transformation is taking marketers away from their primary task: knowing and serving the customer.

The immediate future of marketing will be marked by two basic types of marketing organizations: those that get so distracted by a focus on the promise of emerging analytics that they completely abstract the customer (Dell?), and those that manage to keep a firm grasp on knowing and serving customers first (Apple?). For now, it seems there are far more companies in the former camp than the latter.

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