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19 May 2016

10 years of marketing evolution, an exciting journey

Time goes fast. I’ve been at The House of Marketing for 10 years now. It makes me think of course about what I’ve been doing these last 10 years and how Marketing evolved. Clearly a lot has changed in marketing in just 120 months. If you look at other sectors you see some big evolutions as well of course. Take the medical sector for example, where we can treat diseases today off which patients were still dying a couple of years ago. In some areas you have ground-breaking improvements. Think about robots being used in the operating room. Can we say we made ground-breaking improvements in marketing? How has marketing evolved the last 10 years? Let’s focus on some key evolutions. 


As a good marketer you should focus on the consumer first. Let’s start by looking how this consumer evolved in just 10 years. There has been an important evolution in consumer expectations. We don’t have passive consumers anymore. Brands need to interact whenever the consumer wants to interact and need to deliver fast whenever the consumer wants you to deliver. It’s about real-time today. The consumer also expects that brands make their life easier. It’s all about being relevant, to bring the right content that helps the consumer at the right moment. More than ever the consumers are in the lead as they have so many options. And if the client interaction isn’t smooth, you can be sure this negative experience will be shared via one of the many channels. 


The evolution of the number of channels, leading to a magnitude of touchpoints, is another big evolution. In the past consumers just had a phone number to call you or an address to mail you. We weren’t speaking yet about smartphones, tablets, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.  Finding the right balance in terms of the communication mix between these different channels is an additional challenge for marketers compared to 10 years ago. On top of that, some channels are not really controlled by the brand or its marketers anymore. Again, the consumer is in the lead and the channel evolution doesn’t stop. Look at mobile which will become one of the key channels in the coming years. 


Next to the channels there is also a big shift in terms of competition. Competition is everywhere and comes from unexpected angles, offering lots of possibilities for the consumer, both offline and online. Look at the banking sector. 10 years ago competitors were just the other traditional banks. Today a telecom group like Orange offers banking services, tomorrow Google might be a key player in the sector with its Google Wallet payments service. Changing business models and new competitors (should) keep marketers awake. Look also at how customer loyalty evolved in just a decade. Traditional loyalty programs aren’t working anymore. Loyalty is now about customer experiences, about strong customer engagement. 


Today it’s much more about being relevant with the right personalized message at the right moment, via the right channel. We clearly evolved from a mass-approach to a personalized approach. Luckily today’s technology assists the marketer in this new approach. Without technology and marketing automation it would simply be impossible to manage. So just like in the medical sector, technology changes marketing drastically. Three marketing aspects have become much more important compared to 10 years ago as we evolve with marketing automation: data, content and customer centricity. It’s about using data to identify where prospects are in the buying cycle, having content at all stages of the funnel, and keeping a single view on the customer. Without these you can’t have personalized communication, be relevant and deliver a personalized experience. 


So yes, quite some evolution in 10 years. A marketer who just missed the last decade would clearly be lost in this new reality. It’s fair to say a lot has changed and it continues to evolve at an incredible pace. If we achieve in our challenge to make life of our consumers easier and to bring relevant content at the right moment, I believe we made a huge step forward. Maybe not ground-breaking improvements yet, but that will come in just 1 or 2 years with marketing technology being implemented in most companies. I’m looking forward to the next 10 years, where artificial intelligence and robots will probably play a key role. But as long as creativity remains a key skill of the marketer, robots will be our partners, not our bosses. 


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