What marketing leaders should focus on in 2021.
Communicate covers The Marketing Society’s “Global Conversations” monthly webinars, featuring senior marketing leaders from around the world to discuss critical issues for the industry.
This month, New Year’s revolutions are in the spotlight.
Sophie Devonshire, Chief Executive at The Marketing Society
Wendy Walker, Senior Director Marketing Asia Pacific at Salesforce (APAC)
Tracey Gilbert, IBM iX Leader, UK & Ireland, at IBM (UK)
Angela Ceccarelli, Chief Marketing Officer at Symbridge (US)
Mitin Chakraborty, Head of Marketing, Babyshop at Landmark Group (MENA)
Marketing is the growth engine of a business
Wendy Walker. There is absolutely no doubt that we, as marketers, will continue to perform a critical role over these next 12 months. Many of us are already leading the growth engines for our respective organizations. As we continue to navigate what we can only describe as uncharted territory, it’s an opportune time for us to embrace innovation, experimentation, agility, all with empathy at core.
Tracy Gilbert. Marketers are used to interpreting data into actionable insights. That is absolutely the time for marketers to step up and do that inside their businesses, and not only with customers. I’m seeing much more joining up inside of businesses, with marketers influencing the design of products, systems, services. One of the key ways to harness this soft power is to really demonstrate how, as a marketer, you have that sense of agility and how quickly you can learn to interpret what you’re seeing. And you can start to predict.
Mittin Chakraborty. Purpose-led marketing is not new to us, but the COVID era has probably expedited that entire journey. Purpose has to be embedded in the organization’s DNA; it has to start at the top and then percolate across the organization and stakeholders. It’s all about creating shared value for everybody who’s linked to the brand. You need to first define why you’re in the business and then make sure that you build a beautiful, purpose-led thinking that’s communicated to the customer. All we have to do is take that leap of faith. Customers, especially Millennials, want to be close to you. They want you to be the change driver. Purpose is not a fluffy word; it’s a huge responsibility that we, as marketers, have more than anybody else in the business.
Continue to be agile, adaptable, and resourceful
M.C. One big revolution would be to simplify. As retailers, we are used to simple business fundamentals and the challenges that the last few months have thrown at us have, to an extent, brought in a ton of complexities. I would try to step back as much as possible and see that holistic picture.
Angela Ceccarelli. Really challenge the norm. The norm is gone. From a talent perspective, it’s anyone’s game now. You can be anywhere. Having that flexibility for people to have work and life, and maybe enrich their life in a different way.
W.W. Firstly, reskilling is now pretty cool in many marketing teams, particularly increasing digital skills more broadly. Ensuring your teams have opportunities to learn new skills, giving them a no playbook environment so that everybody has an opportunity to experiment and contribute is really important.
Secondly, really carving out time for our team to deal with the unexpected – going back to our DNA, our curiosity, and our willingness to study consumer behavior, particularly in times of crisis. There’s definitely been a transition to progress over perfection. Many of us have come to realize the scale of what is achievable with the resources in our teams. The pandemic has helped shape us into better and more efficient marketers, and most of us will recognize that our team’s ability to relate to and empathize with our consumers to provide accessibility and execute authentic content is absolutely exhilarating and this skill will continue to play a significant part, as we move forward in the next 12 months.
T.G. Everyone was determined to do whatever was needed. That brought pace and it also brought a coming together of wills. Now, many of our clients are asking how to hang on to that ability in a way that is sustainable rather than an emergency mode. One of the big areas that we see people using as an anchor for transformation is digital platforms. Another thing that we’re starting to see a lot is how to properly harness your customers and your employees as designers. I would love to see much more crowdsourcing of design for organizations – the braveness to say, ‘You’ve been a customer of my brand for 20 years; you design the next thing we want to put in the market.’ Imagine how that would feel to really trust people in helping to design the evolution of what you want to do next.
Continue to improve diversity and inclusion
A.C. Be the change that you want. From a brand perspective, you have got to look at your internal staff to make sure that you are having that diversity, that angle, that view; that it’s not only public but that your business is also aligning too.
Be empathetic, not only as a leader but as an entire business
A.C. We, as marketers, are really good at listening to the market and to our customers, but we also need to listen to our own people internally. We do that from a team perspective but maybe not so much across the organization. At times, we can be pretty siloed. If you make your employees happy, then your customers will be happy. This thread around empathetic leadership, or even servant leadership, is about understanding what we need to do to thrive and hearing when people have challenges to adjust upfront and quickly.
T.G. One of the key things that really accelerated last year was this idea of holistic listening. We used to talk about user experience and we somehow thought that we have different groups of humans – customers, employees, partners. But we only have one set; we are all of those things. So, this desire now to make sure that we listen to that complete voice is really there. We see many people really systemizing that and using tools to do it, like Qualtrics and Medallia; but we also see people really leaning into design-led transformation, which means really thinking about the outcomes that you’re trying to achieve. Also, when you’re changing in this level of uncertainty, you have to stay close to the humans that you are creating the change for. You have no choice but to refine the art of listening and empathetic leadership, and the people who will be successful are the people who get that really quickly and invest in leaders who can do it. Listening isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity. And it should have been hygiene for us all anyway.
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