11 Insights to Shape Marketing in the Not-So-Distant Future

We locked two industry thought leaders in a room and asked them to discuss the future of marcom. Dave Bulger has worked in behavioral science for over 15 years and leads EMA’s Strategy, Insight and Planning team. John Favalo leads EMA’s Group B2B and has served as Chairman of the Business Marketing Association International.

Dave Bulger: “Where’s marketing headed?” We get that question almost every day. Simple answer: “It’s headed where people are headed.” That’s especially true for online. Successful online marketing will soon be: Asynchronous, Portable, Social, Interactive, Dynamic and Knowledge-centric. By asynchronous, I mean people will be able to hold meaningful two-way dialogs without conversing in real time.

John Favalo: I get it. Dialogs, trialogs, clusterlogs…wherever people happen to be, whenever they can. Agreed, but I think the real question is “How do people want to communicate?” First and foremost, audiences want relevance. There’s not enough time to jack around with borderline value.

Dave: Exactly. Which leads to my next point. A time-pressured, asynchronous world constantly on the go requires portable interaction devices. I think, within the next few years, the primary online tool will be closer to the iPhone or iPad than a laptop.

John: I see access as the bigger issue. Our audiences demand access to relevant information how they want, when they want. The norm will be multi-channel access, including that old standby—print.

Dave: Access and interaction will be more social than domain-based. Our world is moving oh-so quickly from directing people to a brand’s URL, toward making it easy to engage with a brand wherever you happen to be online.

John: Social makes sense to me, but I think the driver is the desire for experiences. In B2B, face-to-face is still as important as events. Our audiences learn more—remember more—experientially.

Dave: You say experiences, I say interactivity. In online development, lots of folks focus on navigation. Navigation is not interactivity, no matter how well it’s planned and built. Soon, the most common online experiences will be conversations. Navigation will be contextual and augmented by search as opposed to forcing visitors through a pre-defined site map to find what they’re looking for.

John: Yes, that’s because people want more personal experiences and customized content. Think about how you feel when you’re served up something that fits your need perfectly—happiness, excitement, satisfaction. Exactly the kind of emotions we all want to draw out of our hard-nosed audiences.

Dave: It follows then… content delivery must be truly dynamic. The best marketing conversations will construct themselves based upon customer interaction. Marketers will create interaction scenarios for key points along the Buying Cycle. Intelligent applications will tailor and present the correct scenario at the most appropriate time based on the individual’s unique needs, interests and attitudes.

John: So content and delivery better be authentic. Given the thrust to conversations and personalization, it’s all about building relationships. No place for fuzzy facts or disingenuous data. A brand needs to stand for something and remain standing. There are too many ways for people to scrutinize.

Dave: Agreed. But what the brand stands for is only relevant in the context of how the customer perceives it. We must tag and manage content in ways that help people access and interact with the brand based on their unique needs at their particular locations in the buying cycle. That’s how I see it, anyway….

John: While we do see things from different perspectives, we agree that we’re in transformation. A big “From/To” movement that will inform our decisions and directions. What’s nice is that with clients, we’re using these thoughts as mileposts for new strategies that fit new times.