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We’ve written about the importance of digital marketing certifications, while the popularity of courses like these underscore just how much the marketing field is changing, and how quickly. In fact, Mondo’s annual Tech and Digital Marketing Salary guide reported a “huge demand” for digital marketing professionals, with a 70 percent increase between 2016 and 2017.
These trends were front and center at our recent Future of Marketing panel discussion, where digital marketing experts from some of the most innovative brands (including Google, Uber, Shopify, Procter & Gamble, SickKids Foundation, Sid Lee) were on hand to talk about the current marketing landscape and what to expect in the future.
Here’s what snapshot of what they had to say.
The Current Marketing Landscape
Across the board, our panelists agreed on the need for user-focused marketing and continuous learning – whether that be from data, testing, or mistakes. As part of this, they stressed the importance of:
Understanding Your Customer
“We don’t need to market to the average person anymore,” said Elana Chan, Head of Customer Marketing and Brand and Reputation at Google Canada. “We can market to our best customer.”
To effectively market to your ideal customer, you must first find out what they want.
“Be passionate about learning about your end user. Whether that’s a consumer or a client, you need to become obsessed with understanding them,” said Lindsay Reynolds, Performance Marketing and Innovation Lead at Procter & Gamble.
“Consumer understanding is the foundation of marketing, and that will never change. So if you can master that, you will be timeless as a marketer.”
Having the right skills is crucial for Digital Marketers today, but the ability to learn new ones may be even more important.
“At Google, we think that the number one skill a marketer needs to have is the ability and the passion to learn new skills,” explained Chan.
“The challenge is the skills gap that we have with marketers today. The marketers we’ll need moving forward need to be able to do analytics, attribution, and identify the actual KPI (key performance indicator) that’s going to make a difference.”
As the industry continues to evolve, the willingness to learn, and to keep learning, will only grow in importance.
“If you can learn, then it doesn’t matter that in ten years it will probably be something else,” said Chan. “Do you have a passion for learning and the analytical mindset to find the right numbers?”
Learning From Failure
Google, Uber, Shopify, Procter & Gamble, SickKids, Sid Lee. They all have one thing in common: a focus on innovation. And great innovation doesn’t come from getting everything right, but from experiencing failure, learning from your mistakes, and trying again. Thankfully, digital marketing often allows for more flexibility when it comes to testing new strategies and customizing your approach.
“The thing that we like the most about digital is the ability to be flexible,” said Lindsay Liptok, Head of Marketing at Uber. “We move extremely quickly at Uber, so being able to make a decision on the fly as well as being able to customize creatives to different people and on different channels is something that we really value.”
With that said, our panelists acknowledged that not all organizations are digital-first, and this changes the way you market.
“On our team, there’s a permission and appetite to fail in a way that I think not a lot of companies have,” said Chan.
“There are people who work in organizations where you’re not able to move as quickly as more digitized companies are. And there is really a knowledge that needs to be shared with leadership around the skills and capabilities of digital channels,” said Joan Mweu, who does Growth Email Marketing at Shopify.
When it comes to determining which digital channels or tools you should be implementing within your marketing strategy, our panelists turn to data.
“It’s about all of us looking at past data to determine where we think marketing is going to have the biggest impact, and that’s typically how we decide what to invest in,” said Liptok.
Mweu likes to treat every channel differently. “Don’t try to replicate what you do in other channels, each channel should have its own KPIs.”
Heather Clark, Vice President, Direct and Digital Marketing at SickKids Foundation put it simply: “Keep the proven and test the unknown.”
The Future of Marketing
We asked our panelists to provide their best insights into what the future of marketing will look like, and the answers were unanimous: the future of marketing is data-driven in one way or another.
Making Data-Driven Decisions
“Machine Learning, AI, is changing everything,” said Elana Chan. “It makes complex tasks simpler, so where does all that time shift? I think it provides really unique opportunities for storytelling.”
The focus, however, shouldn’t be the data itself, but how data can be used to elevate the experience of consumers.
“Consumers now are expecting brands to know them and to deliver some sort of utility to them,” said Reynolds. And this is exactly what data is enabling digital marketers to do; learn more about users while still maintaining their privacy, and tell stories that are more impactful and relevant to customers.
“I’m very heartened that in a discussion on the future of marketing and what’s going to change we kept coming back to people, how it’s going to impact people and their interaction with us,” said Jon Crowley, Strategy Director at Sid Lee.
Maintaining a Human-Centric Focus
Crowley highlighted the importance of maintaining a human-centric focus as marketing continues to evolve with data, and all panelists agreed.
Heather Clark explained that at SickKids, they’re focused on using data to draw insights that then influence their narratives and campaigns.
“Data is allowing us to develop completely customized, relevant, hyper-targeted creative,” said Clark. “Data is everything, it will continue to be everything, and it is what’s going to lead us into the future.”
Looking to prepare for the future of marketing? BrainStation offers multiple digital marketing courses and training options.