Emerging Innovations Can Bolster Your Marketing Plan

October 1, 2020
Contributor: Brian Michelotti

Marketing plans need to evolve in volatile times. Leverage the outlook for emerging innovations on Gartner Hype Cycles to drive more business value.

Marketing and advertising leaders are challenged to adapt their brand strategies at a time of great disruption. The Gartner Hype Cycles for digital marketing and digital advertising highlight emerging innovations that can help drive more brand resilience in a volatile environment.

In particular, the innovation profiles described in the Hype Cycles can help marketers identify the areas that matter most and will help drive tangible business value. 

Gartner Senior Director Analyst Colin Reid and VP Analyst Mike McGuire sat down to discuss a few concrete ways organizations can use insights from the Hype Cycles. 

Watch webinar: Strengthen Your Brand Strategy With Gartner's 2020 Hype Cycle

This article recaps the key points, edited for brevity and clarity. 

Learn more: About the Gartner Hype Cycle Methodology

Leverage Hype Cycles in your marketing plan

People get excited about new products. The Hype Cycle synthesizes research on a technology, technology-enabled process, tactic or topic in its early-stage life cycle — as it emerges from development, gains popularity, gets refined and moves onto the Plateau of Productivity.

It’s critical for marketers to identify where, when and how to make the investment in some of these emerging innovations (“innovation profiles”) — and how they fit into the marketing plan.

Customer data ethics

The first innovation profile that Gartner highlights for marketing is customer data ethics. Consumers have a rather large distrust of both big tech and some large brands. A lot of that stems from how marketers use the data they collect about consumers. The abuse or overuse of customer data has caused consumers to push back. Regulatory bodies are taking stock of this situation and looking to weigh in.

It's an important capability of a marketing plan and even a requirement for brands to develop a position regarding customer data ethics. It matters how brands align their use of customer data and their use of technology with the practices and moral and ethical policies that reflect their brand values and what they stand for as a company.

This is becoming increasingly important because of the massive amount of data that marketers are able to collect from website traffic, especially from smartphones, and the datasets are being used constantly. 

Organizations today have moved beyond just being focused on profits — although profitability is crucial. Companies need to instead show that they can be trusted stewards of their customers' data. This is going to require a full company effort, not just one or two individuals making promises about being an ethical company.

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Data clean rooms

Data clean rooms are secure, isolated platforms that link private, anonymized advertising data from multiple parties. They represent an opportunity for agencies and advertisers to bring a granular impression-level set of data. This doesn’t mean trends but rather specific granular information for teams to do some analytical algorithm modeling. Sure, you can measure, but what’s more interesting and more impactful in the long term is that marketers can test and deploy against live campaigns. 

This also opens up the ability to start to experiment — not only measuring exactly what is going on but also very quickly and accurately to improve ad performance. When building a marketing plan, that's a huge opportunity — looking from planning to execution, optimization and measurement. These platforms represent an opportunity for agency planners and advertisers to be better.

Opt for independent providers

Many of the large providers have produced data clean rooms, but look for an independent one where it’s easier to build commonalities, experiment and execute across all the networks where you’re spending. 

Make sure your team can run it

Data clean rooms are complex and require data scientists. They are statistically heavy algorithmic systems that you have to get into and play with, so make sure you can run it.

Be ready for the market to change

Prepare to be agile. You can get some wins from this — you can build advantages — but because it is early stage, you will need to be ready to experiment, handle some trial and error, and be willing to absorb the impacts and benefits that it can provide. 

Real-time marketing

Real-time marketing is essentially a set of technologies and practices that allows marketing teams to respond to opportunities and behaviors in the many touchpoints they have with their customer bases. With the right use of systems, you can take that information and monitor and analyze it so that you can react in real time to a customer's behavior or a particular set of actions taken on a customer journey.

Getting those data points in in real time is increasingly important because you can blend that kind of behavioral analytics with a lot of the automation you have already built into your marketing system. That gives you the ability to act as if you were reading your customers’ minds and responding precisely at the right moment.

Retail media networks

Retail media networks aggregate consumer traffic on digital commerce sites and apps and sell ad space to brands seeking favorable positioning near shoppers’ intended destinations. 

Retail media and co-op marketing principles are well established, but ad tech companies and digital retailers are transforming them with real-time markets and programmatic optimization techniques that automate the placement of ads on commerce sites. 

Even with some big players, however, retail media networks have a long way to go to become a standardized and strategic part of the organizational marketing plan.

Multitouch attribution

Multitouch attribution refers to software and services that help marketers evaluate how much credit to assign to each element of a multichannel marketing campaign or each touchpoint leading to a conversation. Models may use business rules, algorithms and experimental controls to isolate events on the conversion path to determine their relationship to a desired outcome, such as a sale. 

In a marketing plan, you can attribute the value for a given touchpoint not only in an individual journey but for a customer who's going through multiple journeys. Over time, with the right set of multitouch attribution technologies and approaches, you can understand what the most important elements are to drive a successful conversion for one person versus another.

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OTT advertising

Over-the-top (OTT) television or video in a marketing plan refers to on-demand or live programming streamed to any device over the internet. Connected TV (CTV) refers to OTT viewing that occurs on a TV set, streaming through the native TV interface or via a TV-connected device. Streaming video advertising on OTT is one segment of a broader advanced TV ad market that includes optimized linear and addressable TV. 

Influencer and advocacy marketing 

Influencer and advocacy marketing tools help activate word-of-mouth marketing at scale. Influencers include celebrities, industry thought leaders, bloggers and other content creators with desirable audiences. Advocates include a brand’s most loyal customers and employees. Influencers and advocates can be effective in creating content, carrying a brand’s message on its behalf and coming to its defense.

With the audience measurement capabilities available on, say, a social network, you can see very closely just how big your audience is at any point in time.

Ensure that your processes in using influencers and advocates make very clear the actual business relationship that you have with them. 

AI for marketing  

Artificial intelligence (AI) for marketing comprises systems that change behaviors without being explicitly programmed, based on data collected, usage analysis and other observations for marketing use cases. Enabling techniques include machine learning, rule-based systems, optimization, natural language processing and knowledge-graph techniques. Machine learning (ML) — algorithms that use training data to learn how to make predictions — is included in this innovation profile. 

When looking at this and building your marketing plan, the key to success is focus on the use cases. Work with data scientists and the people who will be setting the parameters of the model. Understand the data you have and make sure you can underwrite AI for marketing with lots of tests and give it the time to deploy.

Mobile marketing analytics

Mobile marketing analytics measure the interactions and behaviors of mobile website and application users, enabling marketing leaders focused on mobile marketing to optimize mobile experiences. Solutions must be able to identify device attributes (e.g., OS and screen size); use demographics and behaviors to build customer and prospect segments; automate operations such as segmentation; and offer the ability to predict activities that increase the effectiveness of mobile marketing activity. 

This technology is timeless and will always be relevant. We see that in the evolution of marketing platforms, particularly multichannel hubs and mobile marketing platforms. Mobile marketing analytics used to be primarily stand-alone vendors. Increasingly, these platforms themselves have had to adapt and integrate more granular mobile measurement capabilities. This set of technologies is moving out onto the Plateau of Productivity as more and more brands become more mature in terms of utilizing or investing effectively in delivering offers and engagement through the mobile channel.

Ad verification and viewability

Ad verification services ensure ads are visible and contract terms fulfilled. They verify that humans rather than bots are the source of impressions and clicks. On viewability, the services measure how visible an open programmatic ad is on a website or mobile app to users. They can also address compliance with privacy regulations. 

Ad verification will magnify ad value as well as allow you to conduct better tests and experiment more effectively with the way you buy and deploy your ads, adding greater certainty and greater insight.

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