Marketing in the Age of Disruption

May 10, 2017
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Navigate digital disruption through analytics, customer experience and marketing technology.

Three years after the inaugural Gartner for Marketers Conference, digital marketing continues to disrupt, and be disrupted. We’re at the dawn of an age of disruption and marketers are in the driver’s seat, said Yvonne Genovese, Gartner for Marketers group vice president, in the opening keynote to the 2017 Gartner Digital Marketing Conference. “Digital disruption is a state you will be in for a long time and is defined by the disruptors and the disruptions in the marketplace,” said Ms. Genovese.

The Disruptors

Scott Galloway, CEO and founder of digital marketing research firm L2, (now part of Gartner), noted that winning companies in the new era of change “are like Benjamin Button companies – they take customer data and use it to create value all while aging in reverse.” This new “algorithm of value” is more about leveraging customer data combined with intelligence to create new forms of value for customers. Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon wield outsize influence on the marketplace because they have become the operating systems for the lives of every brand’s customers. Marketers need to have a strategy for each to remain relevant and avoid being disintermediated.

“The future doesn’t belong to the big – it belongs to the fast,” said Mr. Galloway.

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Scott Galloway, CEO and founder of the digital marketing research firm L2 (now part of Gartner), speaking about creating value with customer data during the Digital Marketing Conference Keynote.


The Disruptions

Customers judge brands through the lens of the best companies and experiences on the planet, regardless of industry or vertical. Marketers need to deliver on their brand promise. Jake Sorofman, Gartner research vice president, noted that now more than ever marketers have a need for speed and precision. “Everything that isn’t nailed to the ground needs to be automated. That’s one of the reasons more than a quarter of every marketing dollar spent is spent on technology,” he said. CMOs are on track to spend more on technology than their CIO counterparts.

There’s never been a better time to be a human being in marketing.

The new normal for marketers is a constant state of change where machines, humans and “things” interact to meet and exceed customer needs. The prize for creating rich and engaging experiences that anticipate and fulfill customers needs is enduring customer loyalty.

The age of experience

Marketers have more or less mastered the “buy” phase of the customer journey but it’s the “own” phase that matters in the Buy-Own-Advocate customer experience journey. Marketing leaders are responsible for the realization of the brand promise through customer experience. The age of experience means no more hiding behind a false brand promise. By 2018, every category leader in customer satisfaction will have appointed a chief customer officer of equivalent.

The age of voice

In 2016 voice-based searches were barely on the radar of marketing leaders. Now they represent an ever-increasing share of search volume (roughly 50 billion search queries). Eliminating the need to use eyes and hands for searching opens new possibilities and environments including those surrounding driving, exercising, walking and socializing.

As a result, connected waking moments for most human beings will rapidly approach 100% and marketers need to solve for these new screenless use cases while targeting and engaging customers and audiences. By 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.

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Jake Sorofman, Gartner research vice president, and Martin Kihn, Gartner research vice president, discuss automation and dealing with machines during the keynote presentation at the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference.


The age of things

Vehicles, equipment, machines and appliances are now connected and take on decision authority on behalf of consumers. That means marketers need to account for how machines will influence these decisions. Martin Kihn, Gartner research vice president, challenged marketers to consider what happens when consumers delegate decision-making to virtual agents. By 2020, 25% of digital commerce transactions will originate from an IoT device.

The age of machines

This new normal has a machine component happening in three phases. Phase one is marketing with machines such as when a marketer uses marketing automation to create a campaign or runs an A/B test. Phase two is marketing through machines in cases such as programmatic advertising where the machine does the work. Phase three is marketing to machines where the software is semiautonomous with a certain amount of agency to optimize outcomes for its owner such as developing marketing content and copy that is more attractive to the Google natural search algorithms. By 2020, virtual agents will participate in a majority of commercial interactions between people and businesses.

The age of humanity

Marketers need to “remember the plot” amidst all the buzz around data, machines and algorithms. While data, analytics and machine learning are now an ensconced part of marketing, humanity is still what makes marketing a uniquely human and meaningful endeavor. Machines free marketers to focus on the human-aspects of marketing. While machines can run all night without sleep, they’re not good at humor, irony or empathy. Mr. Kihn challenged the audience to consider that machines are meant more to amplify the human aspects of marketing rather than reduce those aspects. “There’s never been a better time to be a human being in marketing,” said Mr. Kihn.

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