7 Key Takeaways From Gartner Digital Marketing Conference 2018

Marketing leaders learned how to think big, execute smart and deliver growth in a challenging and polarized market environment.

In a market environment characterized by “lightning strike” crises, polarized consumers and eroded trust in institutions, marketers need to sharpen their strategy and execution practices to compete effectively. Gartner Digital Marketing Conference 2018 offered marketing leaders insights and best practices for navigating this new wilderness of disruption.

Bringing together expert analysis, data-driven benchmarks and peer-proven best practices from Gartner L2, Iconoculture, CEB and Gartner, the 2018 event delivered specific support to move from vision to strategy and execution.

Takeaway No.1: Elevate how you implement marketing strategy

Research director Ewan McIntyre and Anna Maria Virzi, senior research analyst, mapped out the key findings from key Gartner Strategy and Spend surveys and encouraged marketers to address specific capability gaps in marketing skills, technology and multichannel efforts. For example, 74% of marketers rate customer insights as very important, yet only 57% report that customer insight capabilities exceed expectations. Closing those gaps will help marketing leaders improve the execution and implementation of their strategies to ultimately deliver the results executives expect.

Action Item: Look at the top five areas of your marketing spend and think about how they align to and support your business goals.

Takeaway No. 2: Have a plan for the platform titans

Data drives the modern marketing organization, and four platform titans (Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook) control a lion’s share of consumer data. VP and distinguished analyst Andrew Frank outlined tactics to maximize interactions with, and competition between, these four firms. “Tame the titans by increasing dependency on your first-party data and maximize consent to combat the walled gardens of data,” said Frank.

Action Item: Collaborate more to get first- and second-party data

Takeaway No. 3: Prepare to market in the era of fake news

Brands need to prepare for a current and future reality dominated by the rolling thunder of fake news, attack tweets and highly polarized market environments. Gartner research director Jay Wilson detailed the five themes that define the fake news era — lack of a common fact base, virality, audience polarization, new brand enemies and lack of trust. Richard Edelman, CEO of PR firm Edelman, rallied marketers to lead by example.

Action Item: Monitor broadcast media, conduct image and logo analytics for misuse, and address fake accounts on social media.

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Takeaway No. 4: Build powerful CX experiences

Eighty-one percent of marketing leaders responsible for customer experience (CX) say their companies will mostly or completely compete on the basis of CX in two years. Yet only 22% say their CX efforts have exceeded customer expectations. Reality needs to catch up to aspiration if companies are to realize a customer-centric future. Augie Ray, research director, described how brands can build powerful customer experiences that lift satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy and start to chip away at the chasm between expectation and reality.

Action item: As you move up the customer experience pyramid, gather appropriate voice of customer data and expand your vision to include the entire customer journey to reduce risks.

Takeaway No. 5: Understand customer data platforms

With 9.2% of marketing budgets going to marketing analytics and customer-centricity — a cornerstone of many marketing strategies — customer data platforms (CDPs) are gaining attention and hype. Gartner managing vice president Christi Eubanks demystified CDPs and showed how marketers can best assess this emerging category. Start by learning how to talk about data ownership and granularity.

Action item: Consider who will own or manage a CDP, how it will integrate and what data will go into it.

Takeaway No. 6: Take your data and analytics capabilities to the next level

Although experienced data and analytics talent is hard to come by and a critical part of marketing success, expensive analytics talent is misaligned. Lizzy Foo Kune, principal research analyst, shared key findings from the 2018 Gartner Marketing Analytics Survey, which found that nearly half of marketing leaders surveyed said some of their most expensive and experienced analysts spend their time preparing data to be analyzed rather than analyzing the data.

Action item: Rethink your allocation of resources. Leaders need to question if they need so much dedicated in-house analytics staff.

Takeaway No. 7: Optimize your agency and in-house talent

Questions on the right agency model abound: Do we have too many? Too few? What personnel should we bring in-house? Are we using agencies for the right work? Research director Chris Ross explored five organizational design criteria to build the optimal insource/outsource model for your organization. Look at fit, duration, task, commitment and the extent to which the work can deliver a competitive advantage.

Action item: Be clear with yourself and with your agency partners. Tell them what problem you need solved and be clear about it.

“Think about the changes in who consumers trust and rising values such as safety, serenity and inclusion. What narrative are you creating to connect to those changes?” said Ross.

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