The future of marketing is here. It may not include you.

future of marketing

By Mark Schaefer

I expected to get some backlash over my book Marketing Rebellion. It presents some hard truths about the future of marketing where loyalty is in decline, the sales funnel is gone, and our customers are in control.

But perhaps no comment in the book raised more eyebrows than this one from Olga Andrienko, head of global marketing for SEMrush:

“In our field of marketing, experience is a burden. In other disciplines, the world hasn’t really changed all that much. Take sales, for example. There are certain cold call skills, emotional appeals, sales triggers … and then you’re done. It’s been that way for ages. But in marketing, if you’re not embracing the rapid changes and constantly refining your vision, you will fail completely. If you were successful in marketing 10 years ago, that does not mean you will be successful now.”

As a “person of experience” myself, I can see why somebody would be alarmed by this statement. But the fact is, this new economic world demands an entirely new mindset … and established mindsets forged by years of experience are very hard to change.

To make this transformation, we need to be humble and learn from the digital natives re-inventing our field. In fact, if you don’t, you might be left behind.

Wake-up call

Many seasoned marketers I know are asleep and don’t know they’re asleep. They were hired many years ago to do a job and they’ll do that job to the best of their ability based on their experience. Problem is, most of us are so busy, we haven’t had time to look up and notice that the marketing world has been turned on its head and that our experience may not be relevant any more. Or, perhaps we’re afraid to look up.

For the young people coming into the business, the digital world is all they’ve known. It’s business as usual. Digital natives entering the space look at “traditional” marketing that annoys, intercepts, and interrupts and think, “Why would you do that? People don’t want that.”

I read somewhere that this is the first time where a younger generation is teaching an older generation. The world is changing so fast that older people could be apprenticed to people in their 20s. Many companies have set up reverse mentoring programs to do just that.

My friend Franklin Goldberg, CMO for Parable Group, said:

“Many businesses need to rethink their requirements for high-level leadership positions, especially within the Marketing and Sales departments. Some of the best talent is excluded with prerequisites like “10 years experience required.” I’m shocked that we don’t see more Directors, Senior Directors, VP’s, and even CMO’s in their 20’s. Not only are they digital natives, they have fresh eyes, a drive to try new things, and they aren’t jaded by years of being told things can’t be done. Honestly, being a VP for 35 years might be a major disadvantage.”

The future of marketing is human-centered

One of my favorite examples of human-centered marketing right now is Glossier. They’re a fast-growing skin care and cosmetic company built by digital natives  disrupting the old school world of beauty products. They’re connecting to customer in a personal way:

  • Founder Emily Weiss earned her reputation as a blogger. She built her business on her personal brand and an audience built from the ground up. She is the brand. It’s not unusual for her to answer specific customer questions and comments personally.
  • She noted that traditional companies talk down to customers and establish impossible standards of beauty. She wanted to create a company that is a friend.
  • Glossier does virtually no advertising. “Almost all of our business is word of mouth,” Emily said.
  • Emily puts the customers at the center of her story. Her products are built through customer feedback channels. Her customers are the models you see on the site, a position they aspire to by spreading the word on social media.
  • She considers her business to be a content business. Every product she ships is a piece of content that is social media share-ready including pink bubble packaging, stickers, and other interactive elements. The customers are the marketers.

This is the future of marketing. Are you ready for this human-centered marketing mindset?

Moving forward

I am in the senior set of marketers today (at least as measured by age!). But I’m determined to be open-minded and humble in this new era. I’m no “expert” or “guru.” Nobody is. We are required to be students, every day.

Part of being open-minded is embracing and celebrating the next generation. There is too much youth-bashing in this world. I am in awe of the digital natives. They are teaching us a new way to do business that is so natural, organic, and inspiring. They are my heroes.

Shed the skin. Embrace new ideas, even if you don’t understand them at first. There is an amazing new world ahead of us. There has never been a more interesting or exciting time to be in marketing.

I hope you’ll wake from your marketing slumber and not just watch the future of marketing unfold, but lead it.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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