In “A Christmas Carol”, Charles Dickens’ immortal character, Ebenezer Scrooge, confronts the consequences of his past decisions and foresees his future through the visitations of three spirits, each embodying his past, present or future experiences. As the holidays and year end approach, it is an appropriate time for CMO’s and other marketers to reflect upon their past year’s activities and to more deeply ponder the past, present and future of marketing.
Instead of a misery, mid-19th Century businessman, what if Scrooge were a modern day Chief Marketing Officer? What ghostly conversations would he be having this Christmas Eve?
Scrooge’s first visitor, the Ghost of Marketing Past, might conjure visions of slick television ads, catchy radio jingles, glossy print ads, and lots of (untargeted) direct mail.
“Those were great campaigns,” Scrooge remarked, “Big creative executions which were broadcast through all available media channels. We told consumers about our great brands, and what products and services they should be buying. Later on we could send the same message through email and even banner ads. It was great…we could barrage customers with the same ads over and over again”.
“Yes, that’s true, ‘Scroogie’, but you didn’t understand who your customers were or what they really wanted. You sent ads and direct marketing communications to countless people who weren’t interested in your brand, or your products and services”, the Ghost remarks, “You weren’t able to send the right message to the right customer when they were actually interested in buying your product or service. You spent lots of time and money, but in the end, your customers weren’t very happy. Don’t worry, things got better though; at least for some marketers. Time to go home now”.
Later that evening night, escort #2, the Ghost of Marketing Present, takes Scrooge out for a spectral spin. The two gaze upon a scene of a modern day shopping mall. When a consumer comes within 100 yards of a preferred retailer he receives a personalized mobile ad which is customized based on their customer history, demographic profile and recent online search activity. Once inside the store, the customer compares product prices with the retailers’ competitors on his smart phone. He is greeted by a sales agent with iPad in hand containing the customer’s complete purchase history and profile.
The scene switches to the office of one of Scrooge’s key competitors. A marketing executive is speaking to several co-workers, “Awesome! We have all this great customer data, including purchase history and other CRM data. We have hundreds of demographic data attributes, so we can create complete customer profiles. And, we have mover and other life stage data, so we know when ‘in transition’ customers are likely to spend significant amounts of money and engage new brands”. And, we are getting online, browsing data so we know when customers are in-market for our products and services.”
“Yeah, this is great,” a co-worker enthusiastically remarks, “we can use all of this data to identify our most responsive and most profitable customers, along with prospective customers who are like are best performing customers. With all this great customer identity data, we can reach the right customers, with the right messages, at the right time, through all the right channels”. T-O-T-A-L-L-Y Awesome!”
Scrooge turns to the Ghost of Marketing Present and remarks, “OK, so things have definitely gotten better. The customer is more in charge of the brand relationship, and brands are doing a much better job of engaging customers with timely and relevant experiences. How in the world could marketing improve?”
“Hey, my shift is over ‘Scroogio’, you’ll have to wait for the next chapter”.
As dawn approaches, Scrooge receives one final visitor, the Ghost of Marketing Future.
“Ok, ‘Scroog-a-rino” it’s pretty late, so let’s skip all the time travel nonsense. I’ll just take a seat and let’s have a little chat. So, que sera, sera… what the future will be is a little hard to see sometimes, but maybe I can give you a few hints about the future of marketing.”
“Oh that would be great,” remarks Scrooge, I was getting a little tired of all this flying around in the middle of the night. Please, go on with what you were saying.”
“OK, so all kinds of marketing technologies are going to continue to improve and that means better access and usage of data in the future. Data that is now siloed within organizations will become more accessible. Better business intelligence platforms will enable marketers to easily and effectively utilize data. Robust data management platforms will enable greater volumes and varieties of data to be consolidated and utilized in real time by greater numbers of marketers. Just look at the growth of data cooperatives and other data management platforms, which is only going to continue.”
“Data sciences will continue to improve and be more accessible to broader groups of users. Finally, new channels of customer engagement will transmit and produce growing amounts of data. Consider the expanding Internet of Things and its growing influence on customer intelligence and engagement. All these data sources and related engagement channels will ultimately lead to greater customer insight, predictability and connectivity. In many ways, marketing will evolve into a seamless, “always on”, multi-channel experience which accurately anticipates and acts upon changing customer desires and needs.”
“Things are going to evolve at an ever increasing pace, Ebenezer. So it’s important to keep moving forward. But, if you are interested in becoming a better marketer and driving more effective brand relationships with your customers, then I must say the future looks pretty bright. Even, for an old “Scrooge” like you. If anyone tells you that the best days of marketing are behind us, just tell them “Bah Hum Bug”.