From Technologist to “Mensch”: The 5 Key Traits of Tomorrow’s Marketer
In today’s marketplace, companies strive to accumulate maximum knowledge about their customers in order to then deliver to them with the utmost precision. Near real-time adaptation is the Holy Grail. Sentiments, perceptions, behaviors, and reputations can change in an instant. This means that the marketing mix needs to change every week, perhaps even every day. Enabled by unprecedented access to data, marketing’s new modus operandi is constant innovation, constant experimentation.
But future marketers must be more than just super-flexible data wizards. Yes, customers like convenience and comfort, but they love brands that offer them beauty and meaning. Customers appreciate experts, but they follow those who can make them believe. They desire experiences that are unique and precious; experiences that can’t be scaled and must not be optimized. In other words: they want business to be less transactional and more human.
Tomorrow’s marketers must therefore be true renaissance men and women who balance data and science with empathy and artistry. Here are five of their core personas:
- Technologist: Advanced digital literacy is the baseline. Ideally, future marketing leaders can code or are at least conversant enough to hire smart technologists who are able to navigate the increasingly blurry line to their IT departments and CTOs. With back-end and front-end as two sides of the same customer relationship, they must not only understand CRM and database marketing, but also the local, social, and mobile technologies that drive interactions and transactions across various touchpoints of the customer experience. Add to that the controversial potential of neuroscience in understanding (and possibly controlling) customer behavior and preferences, and it is no wonder we are seeing the rise of Chief Marketing Technologists.
- Experience designer: Gap and Banana Republic recently eliminated the role of the CMO and instead created the role of the Chief Experience Officer. Some observers argue that brand is now simply a function of product. That is only partially true. Social media has created a massive echo chamber and re-established the need for a product’s “aura”—that is, for telling the story of the product, often in collaboration with the customer. And the customer’s expectations to engage with brands has expanded far beyond the core product. The experience IS the product. Take Disneyworld: the experience now begins with a “Magic Band” that arrives in the mail to augment and personalize the experience long before the actual trip to Orlando. Tomorrow’s marketing leaders recognize the power of design in creating highly differentiated multi-platform experiences. To do so, they are adept at “design thinking” and able to work with the best designers in-house or on the agency-side. IBM, Samsung, or GE have all created strong internal design cultures, working side-by-side with marketing.
- Values architect: As radical transparency makes every internal issue and initiative public-facing, the internal and external brands of companies merge and integrity emerges as the only lasting value proposition. Concerns over privacy (personal data) and human agency (artificial intelligence) are adding new complex dimensions to the existing ethical conundrums of social and environmental responsibility. More than ever, brands that stand for something will stand out. Therefore, tomorrow’s marketers will increasingly become corporate soul-searchers, spending more time identifying their firm’s purpose and values than packaging or promoting its products or services. They will pay more attention to the why and the how than to the what, by leading visioning exercises and crafting values statements that go beyond safe boilerplates and set a true north star for their organization.
- Romantic: Marketers must understand how to create a sense of romance in their company’s employee and customer experiences. All the things we experience in love—mystery, delight, loss of control, and even break-ups—are also crucibles of our business relationships. Tomorrow’s marketing leaders appreciate the intensity of these emotions and the imaginative power they bring: they are the ultimate differentiators in a world of maximizers and optimizers. They help us create products, services, and brands that our customers truly love, far beyond a merely benefit-driven relationship. Tomorrow’s marketing leaders have the courage to follow their passion and do things “for the love of it.” Without the ability to be unreasonable fools, to dream and potentially fail big, they will not make a mark.
- “Mensch”: With big data and algorithms allowing us to understand and target our customers at scale, it is critical that marketing leaders don’t lose sight of their fuzzier, more subjective qualities. In combination with the now-mandatory analytical skills and quants-savvy, now more than ever, intuition, creativity, and empathy are critical for marketers. Instead of mere connectivity, they need “connectional intelligence”, as described by Erica Dhawan in her new bookGetting BIG Things Done. Truly powerful marketing will remain a creative discipline that combines art and science. Marketers must be more ‘mensch’ than machine.
Too much faith in data can stifle innovation. Yes, data can provide valuable insights and trigger targeted conversations, and marketers may increasingly become technologists, but data-driven “precision marketing” will ultimately suck the life out of customer experiences. “Personal is human, personalized is not,” as the New Clues Manifesto puts it.
The “algorithmic CMO” is going to be the last CMO. Tomorrow’s marketers might behave more like data scientists in the future, but they must never stop being performance artists who create moments of surprise and wonder. They must retain their ability to forge human connections, to dream big and trust their intuition. Serving not only as a dashboard but a moral compass for their organizations, they must determine what is desirable, possible, and responsible.
This article first ran on LinkedIn.
Image credit: ZDF