The Gartner 2016 CMO Spend Survey indicated that an estimated 33% of marketing budgets go on technology and the evolution of hybrid roles like the chief marketing technology officer reflects the importance of how marketing has to work so closely with technology — and the substantial influence the two have on each other.
Equally, the role of creativity in marketing engenders new products, services, channels to market and experiences. So how do marketers ensure that creativity and technology are working together to form the best marketing output?
Technology permeates every aspect of our lives, both professionally and personally, and has been the catalyst for changes which could not have been imagined even 10 years ago.
As a 21st century marketer, it feels like we are in a golden age where technology and digital connectivity have created an always-on world with unprecedented access to customers through social, mobile and online.
New devices, new words
The adoption of smart devices, phones and tablets, coupled with wide internet availability, increased broadband penetration and cheap cloud-based storage, means that customer data, often available in real-time, is enabling marketers to move away from pushing messages at people to engaging them in an ongoing, often real-time, dialogue and relationship.
The marketing lexicon has been enriched with new phrases and terminology to describe this brave new world: content marketing, inbound marketing, pull marketing, customer engagement and experience.
These all address the same marketing principles which have been around since the 50s, namely to put the customer front and centre of any communication: to inspire, inform, engage, motivate and create an ongoing relationship.
The challenge for modern day marketers is to keep up with the speed of change and take advantage of all the opportunities afforded by technology.
Technology, often referred to as ‘digital’, is no longer a vertical function controlled by IT.
Not only is it driving efficiencies in real terms to workflow, collaboration and automation, it is also liberating creativity and challenging us to think differently about how, why and what we communicate.
We have unfettered access to global audiences through words, images and sound and, with the latest developments in virtual reality, 3D multi-media content and customer experience, technology has unleashed previously unimagined forms of storytelling to inspire, engage and inform consumers.
Information asymmetry is a thing of the past as consumers have unparalleled access to information and can share their thoughts, feelings and experience of brands in real time, as well as give peer-to-peer recommendations via social media. The balance of power has shifted irrevocably.
Marketing now a growth-driving engine
Traditionally, the marketing function was seen as the creative function focused on developing, building and executing campaigns to build brand awareness. Increasingly, thanks to direct feedback from customers, marketing campaigns can be fine-tuned and adapted, virtually in real time.
For the first time, we can start to really understand the impact that marketing has on the business, rather than using fuzzy metrics like reach and frequency.
Thanks to technology, marketing performance can be measured and benchmarked to capture the impact on top and bottom line growth. Increasingly, the marketing function, underpinned by technology, has become an engine to drive growth and tangible return on investment.
This shift in emphasis is creating new roles and responsibilities within the marketing function, which have a wider impact on established organisation structures.
Technology, often referred to as ‘digital’, is no longer a vertical function controlled by IT. Rather, it is a horizontal function which impacts on every function within an organisation.
As a result, the marketing function has become a hybrid model of creativity and technology with new roles being created to exploit the opportunities afforded by technology. These include:
- Strategy – a move away from tactical deployment of a sales strategy to a central strategic function has seen a wave of new job titles including chief customer officer, chief digital officer, chief customer experience officer
- Analysis – from the rich sources of data available, there has been an increase in the need and demand for data scientists and statisticians to analyse and derive insights to inform and drive marketing strategy. Titles associated include chief data scientist, consumer insights director, eCRM director
- Technology – marketing now owns and operates its own “technology stack” to identify the right platforms and software products to build a coherent architecture to best serve the customer. New titles include chief marketing technologist and, in start-ups, growth hacker
As in any organisation or function undergoing change, there are tensions and striving to keep a balance between left and right brain thinking is not easy.
The integration of technology and creativity is finely nuanced. Relying too much on data, which is historic and helps make sense of the past, is dangerous and can impede on creative thinking and sometimes plain common sense.
Given the speed of change in terms of new channels, customer behaviour and technologies, historical data can quickly become outdated. Agile marketing teams comprising creative and technical people with complementary skills and experience with a unifying customer-first mind-set will be successful.
In summary, combining creativity and marketing is the way we do marketing now. The bottom line is that the guiding principle of marketing in the 21st century is a combination of art and creativity augmented by code and data with 100% focus on the customer.