Fast Company magazine asked a range of 'leading lights' in the marketing industry for predictions on how the marketing landscape would evolve over the next 5 years. I was a bit disappointed.
Most predicted further growth of already familiar trends; the growth of mobile and highly personalised brand experiences driven by real time customer data; increased customer focus on whether the brand was 'good for me and good for the planet'; the rise of video, more co-created content, products and services and winning the battle for cultural relevance where the buying experience will be as important as the product itself.
These are all solid and sensible predictions but I was rather hoping for some more radical ideas where marketing is no longer focused on simply selling more stuff to aspiring consumers using past purchasing behaviour to refine future purchasing behaviour. Marketing techniques and experience needs a bigger purpose if it is to thrive. It has to become a driver and enabler for social, economic, environmental and cultural change.
It is no surprise to me that very few FTSE companies have a Head of Marketing on the Board because marketing is viewed as an operational tool, not as a strategic asset. My hope is that by 2020 marketing teams will spend much less time churning out content and managing activity and more time deepening their understanding of psychology and its use at an individual and mass audience level. Then marketing activity will be less reliant on trial and error and more informed by an ever-improving understanding of behavioural science. This is not to suggest that all marketing currently is based on trial-and-error and none is based on behavioural science. However, much greater focus on the latter by marketing would, in my view, greatly improve the immediacy and scale of the desirable outcomes sought across a much greater range of social, economic, environmental and cultural issues. Marketing would be elevated from a focus on selling stuff to one where driving desirable and necessary behavioural change on a wider scale was the goal.
Marketing's deep understanding of stakeholders can, and I believe should, make them an essential strategic asset in any enterprise not just a means to help sell more stuff.