Ready, Set, Grow! How can marketing organizations ready themselves for 2019 and beyond?

Thinking Beyond the Listicle of 2019 Predictions

As last year drew to a close, there were, as always, many predictions circulating about marketing and the marketplace in the year to come. In order to make sense of them for our clients, those of us in the Organization Transformation Practice of Kantar Consulting started compiling them. Eventually, we had a list of 230, ranging from the obvious, like growth in voice technologies, to the less obvious, like a religious resurgence or a bigger footprint for private equity.

Our experience has been that the underlying dynamics of individual predictions are always spot on and offer useful guidance. So rather than add more predictions, we have taken a step back from the myriad possibilities to figure out the big themes running through them. Our goal is to work out the implications for navigating the future successfully—in particular, what these themes imply for talent and organizational design.

Two questions are critical to answer. How can companies best build their marketing teams, and the skills of the individuals within them? And how can companies best equip their teams to measure up to the considerable risks and opportunities inherent in 230 possible trends?

The future is getting clearer as it comes into view. It will be more complicated and more competitive, yet it will be predictable enough for companies to begin to know how to have more confidence around how to organize resources, teams and people. As a starting point for working out the implications, here are the big themes we distilled. Here is our summary of those 230 items.

  1. Change is the new constant. Each year there are one or two new break-out technologies that tip over into the mainstream. This happens just as companies are getting a grip on the previous year’s break-out technologies.
  2. Channel fragmentation. More of everything—media, stores, lifestyles—will pit marketers against audiences even more. But this will actually begin to make life easier for consumers through better matching of options to preferences. Meanwhile, large swaths of people will continue to watch TV regularly and use Facebook, even though for many marketers it may not feel that way.
  3. Marketing and sales will merge. Consumers can now shop anywhere at any time. Thus, the line between marketing and sales is blurring. Almost every communication channel is an opportunity to shop while every shopping transaction is a platform for a brand experience.
  4. Data and AI. Whatever the reservations about privacy and security, the reality is that consumers are swimming in a vast ocean of data. This is not going to change. AI, machine-learning and programmatic solutions, already part of everyday marketing and, indeed, of everyday life, will grow exponentially.
  5. Competition from anywhere. Digital has lowered and even eliminated many of the traditional barriers to entry, while go-to-market models have shifted online. These shifts expose companies to disruption from any and every angle, whether it’s from a neighbor’s garage or from the other side of the world.
  6. Cultural mash-up. Three giant generations dominant the marketplace with loud voices and an eclectic mix of influences. Centennials, Millennials and Boomers (sorry Gen Xers, you’re just outnumbered) are borrowing from everywhere. Activism and political distrust expose brands to greater, more varied and much more insistent demands, even as higher expectations of seamlessness, customization and quality raise the stakes. Plus, there is the growing influence on the popular imagination of other cultures such as China and India. To ignore culture these days is to be boring plain vanilla.

This view of the near future presents marketers with three big, must-win battles. First, more choices and more competitors mean that marketing strategies and plans must master two timeframes simultaneously. Marketers face the dual yet very different necessities of investing against the biggest current opportunities while also sowing seeds for where the future is headed.

Second, propositions and executions must break through ever-increasing noise. This means staying ahead of a raucous cultural curve, while getting noticed, connected and remembered in precise, uncomplicated ways.

Finally, talent matters more than ever. At the center of everything are the right people with the right skills. To keep and equip talent for an ever-changing world that requires break-through propositions, companies must invest more to ensure they have the necessary structures and support to attract and retain the right people with the right skills.

Marketers are worried that they don’t measure up to the challenges of these must-win battles.  Kantar Consulting fielded a study in 2018 for the American Marketing Association that found only 41 percent of respondents think that they are equipped to win at marketing in the digital age. Just 29 percent believe that they have enough training to win in today’s digital world. A mere 27 percent agree that they have the right processes, structures, tools and operating models.

Organizational transformation is a fundamental part of this. Over the next few months, this blog will explore the implications of the future for marketing organizations and business leaders. It’s a complicated topic. It takes more than a listicle of possibilities.

We hope to spur a balanced and thoughtful conversation as we tackle key questions:

We look forward to engaging with you as we discuss possible answers to these questions. Please check back regularly at this blog for updates and new posts. In the meantime, if you want to hear more about our organizational practice, please get in touch. We would love to hear about your challenges.

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