News & Views

Opinion / Four 'How' Questions for Marketers in 2017

by Dan Southern

Contagious Insider’s Dan Southern proposes four questions to help marketers focus in a changing landscape.

It’s been a year in which the marketing landscape’s centre of gravity has continued to shift rapidly towards digital and data capabilities. With 2017 around the corner, what should the main priorities be for marketers looking to adapt and keep pace with change?

Earlier this year, research from marketing consultancy R3 indicated that the first half of 2016 saw a significant increase in mergers and acquisitions activity in marketing and advertising compared to the same period in 2015. A large portion of that was focused on digital marketing capabilities, with the likes of IBM, Accenture, PWC and Deloitte behind the uptick as they continued to build out their offers to marketers. Voices from the creative industries may well scoff at the suggestion that their proverbial lunches could be eaten by the number-crunching suits. But according to Ad Age’s Datacenter, Accenture Interactive has revenues of $3bn, Deloitte Digital has around $1.6bn, PwC Digital nearly $1.1bn, and IBM IX $1.9bn. As a point of comparison, their combined revenues are now $7.6bn versus WPP’s £12bn ($15bn). Whatever they’re up to, it’s not to be sniffed at.

Another sign that media is being replaced by data as the driving force of creativity is the recent purchase of customer-relationships expert Merkle for $1.5bn by Dentsu Aegis. A scalp soon followed when, earlier this month, Warner Bros moved its $250m digital media account to the agency. Meanwhile, data-driven Epsilon has been in the headlines throughout the year as it builds out its creative practice, most notably for claiming agency of record for Del Monte.

What else? Unilever’s $1bn purchase of Dollar Shave Club in July was a piece of related activity on the client-side and showed the ways in which consumers shop for all manner of goods could change radically in the coming years. Critics of subscription services will wonder how many of these relationships any one person or household will want. However, from a standing start in 2011, the male grooming startup has captured 3.2 million subscribers through its direct, data-driven model - one that many a data-poor business, looking to evolve, innovate and adapt to the digital world, will look at with envy.

As the march towards data and digital capabilities continues apace though, it can be easy for us all to get excited and distracted by new technologies, business models and hotshops, and in turn lose sight of what matters the most: the customer.  With that in mind, here are four ‘how’ questions to help marketers focus as 2017 approaches. They’re nothing to do with the latest widget, and everything to do with reaching audiences and serving customers:

  • How can your end-to-end customer experience consistently meet the needs and expectations of consumers?
  • How can you reach the right audiences at the most appropriate time?
  • How can you create impact with the audience through the most useful, relevant or entertaining communication possible?
  • How willing are you to question how organisationally and strategically fit your business is to deliver effective modern marketing?

The questions are based on some of the thinking we published in our Marketing Metropolis article earlier this year, which sought to make sense of the fast-changing agency landscape. As our new model of that landscape made clear, while the types of partners, capabilities and technologies that marketers must orchestrate expands, it’s worth remembering that all of them are ultimately in service to the customer. With these questions in mind, good luck aligning to yours.