Time For Digital Transformation

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How much will marketing change in the next five years?

It’s hard for me to believe this, but it was about a year ago this week, that I was in New York City at the Google offices launching my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete. It really was an incredible evening (and book launch) that hosted over three hundred guests, who came and watched a conversation about the book with Seth Godin (you can watch the full video of the presentation below). In the book, I write about the five movements that have changed business forever that most brands are doing little-to-nothing about. The book also looks at what we, the professionals working within this new environment, must be like in order to adapt and thrive in this very different work space. The major message of the book was that the next five years are going to look nothing like the past five years, and things are going to get more disruptive than ever before.

That ain’t no hyperbole.

If you think about the past year, you can already feel just how true and dramatic things have changed. Think about this: the rise of connected devices has already relegated the PC to an accessory for mobile. Google has bought a bunch of robotic companies. Google also bought Nest for over three billion dollars, which acted as an indicator that the Internet of things is going to have a substantive impact on everything we thought we knew about the Internet. And yes, even Facebook‘s acquisition of Oculus Rift points to an ever-changing Internet that will be more virtual reality than screen-based. So, the question becomes: what is a Chief Marketing Officer to do?

In the face of disruption, perhaps transformation is the only choice.

At the end of CTRL ALT Delete, I write about how marketing must shift from a vertical within the organization to a horizontal that flows through every department at every level. If the Chief Marketing Officer of a brand is not staying abreast of the latest in disruption, it is going to be increasingly more challenging to transform the brand into one that can embrace the realities of consumers and their digital first posture. Accenture Interactive recently launched their CMO Insights 2014 with a report titled, CMOs: Time for digital transformation or risk being left on the sidelines. It is a must-read.

What are the areas of fundamental change for marketing over the next five years?   

That is the primary question that this report asked CMOs from all over the world (this includes both B2C and B2B professionals with varying sales and from emerging and mature markets). The results may surprise you.

The top ten areas of fundamental change for marketers over the next five years (in order of importance):

  1. Analytics skills will be a core competence of marketing.
  2. Digital budgets will account for over 75% of the marketing budget.
  3. Mobile will account for over 50% of the marketing budget.
  4. Marketing will become more of an on-demand information provision function.
  5. Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service will be merged into a single function.
  6. We will not know what a marketing campaign will look like in advance: campaigns will unfold in real time, depending on the individual needs and intents of each customer across every device and channel.
  7. Earned media will be more important and receive more support than paid and owned media.
  8. Marketing and IT will be merged into a single function.
  9. CMOs will be the most important relationship for CEOs, surpassing the CFO and other C-suite executives.
  10. We will be known as a digital company.

Why I believe in the digital marketing agency model.

We live in a world where many brands are looking for a one-stop-shop for all of their marketing needs. Traditional advertising agencies now flex their desire to deliver a "fully-integrated" solution to their clients by bulking up on their digital advertising skills. It’s simply not enough. Go ahead, re-read that list. This is the list of things that is keeping the Chief Marketing Officer awake at night. They’re wondering how to transform. They’re wondering how to move from an advertising-driven model to a business solutions-solving model. When I look at some of the better known digital marketing agencies around the globe (and yes, I count Twist Image among that list), I see a very long (and wide) runway for them, while the traditional creative agency may well be on the cusp of a sunset. A digital marketing agency can lead the brand relationship as advertising becomes one of many channels to build customer engagement.

Did you notice anything different here?

In reading through the report and studying the list above, the importance and dominance of advertising (and its effectiveness) is not even rating anymore. It’s not even about how to be more effective with the advertising budget, and it’s much more about how a brand transforms itself (and its people) from a business, into a digital business. A strong digital marketing agency can guide a brand. They can provide digital products and services that enable a brand to become a digital business. They can build frameworks for success and layer in paid, earned, owned and even rented media properties to tell the tale. Disruption doesn’t have to be a scary word. In fact, disruption, transformation and the evolution towards a digital business make this one of the most interesting times to be an active marketing professional… probably in the total history of the marketing industry.