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According to Havas’ meaningful brands survey, 75% of brands could disappear overnight and most people either wouldn’t care or would easily find a replacement.1 The pandemic was an indicator of this, as many well-known brands fell by the wayside following multiple lockdowns and as a result of changing consumer behaviour – most notably an accelerated move to digital, including online delivery, remote working and learning, ‘telemedicine’ and online entertainment.

These changes have given birth to a new era of marketing, where the function plays a more significant role in connecting with consumers, driving revenue and sustaining business growth. Marketing is no longer just about building brands, promoting products and conducting market research – it’s about having a customer-centric view and driving engagement across the entire customer journey.

Three key enablers of effective marketing

To serve consumers well and drive company growth, marketing operations need to collaborate across functions, deliver personalised 360-degree experiences and use data to create valuable insights. Companies that have best managed this shift have implemented the following three key enablers.

1. Cross-functional teams

Despite significant market changes, the marketing function in many organisations continues to demonstrate linear and siloed ways of working. Teams work independently, with little cross-functional interaction or consideration of online and offline customer experiences, resulting in a fragmented user journey. As new ways to market become a blended operation, for example with the use of Instagram and TikTok, marketing should work closely with other functions, breaking down team silos to accelerate the route to market.

The internal organisational structure and set-up should mirror this aspiration. Companies that do this successfully have implemented cross-functional teams, connecting digital, traditional media, merchandising and consumer service, and are in the process of extending this to commercial, supply chain and innovation.

In 2016, L’Oréal UKI launched ‘Marketing 3.0’, with the aim of transforming its marketing function to respond to changing consumer behaviour. The company removed siloes and brought teams together in project mode rather than a sequential go-to-market operation. This created a holistic approach to consumer experience and engagement, driving compelling and consistent stories across L’Oréal’s brands to support company growth.

2. An interconnected marketing ecosystem

In an ever-changing market, it’s important to understand how to leverage external partners and create an interconnected ecosystem that fully supports marketing activities. External marketing and media agencies can support with strategy and customer data, enabling companies to better serve their customers with speed and accuracy, driving loyalty and attracting repeat and new business.

A recent example is GSK Consumer Health’s global partnership with Publicis Production and Tag to reinvent its end-to-end marketing ecosystem. Of GSK’s transformation journey, Chinju Satheesh, former programme director (marketing and digital separation) at GSK, says: “Previously our agencies were set up in silos, with brand managers spending a lot of energy on co-ordination, and with many decisions focusing on efficiency gains. We wanted to break down these silos and free up that energy from the brand managers with a global solution that could work at scale, as well as a solution for high-priority markets, which would allow them to be much more agile and produce content more quickly.” This model aims to close the loop between content investment and performance, and employs a single technology platform that connects the entire workflow. It deepens the collaboration between brand marketing teams and production partners via on-site studios, and creates a production capability that enables global, regional and local teams to deliver marketing content faster, leveraging data to optimise content effectiveness and efficiencies.

3. A sophisticated insights and analytics capability

Companies need strong data and insights to enable marketers to maximise customer engagement at every touchpoint across the customer journey. This is an area that’s seeing increased investment, with companies in a ‘gold rush’ for data – yet few know what to do with it once they have it. This is supported by our recent study, “Keeping customers close: Customer-centricity in a rapidly changing world”.2 Nearly two-thirds (62%) of businesses surveyed said they collect plenty of raw customer data but do not know how to turn it into actionable insight. It is not enough to have the technology to collect data – teams must be able to turn this into valuable intelligence.

A Forbes survey reported that only 19% of marketing leaders have a robust set of analytical tools that enable data-driven decisions.3 Mark Sinnock, global chief strategy officer at global communications agency Havas, comments: “Businesses want an ultimate metric, they want to understand what they should care about when talking about engagement, and there is still a debate on what the definition of a quality interaction actually is”. Investment must therefore go into analytics, and we need to be confident that we know what the data is telling us. A crucial output of analytics is a company’s ability to attribute their spending. “Today, due to the explosion of digital media channels and digital commerce, we can track digital impressions and ultimately the consumer journey to an online commerce site purchase, attributing a sale much more clearly,” says Chinju Satheesh. Many companies are on this journey of trying to get to the right attribution model, but it’s a complex science that will take time to get right.

Nike is an industry leading example of this capability, having acquired data and insights company Zodiac in 2018. This has allowed them to combine data and engagement from all of their platforms and translate it into comprehensive recommendations for their business, including targeted, personalised communications for customers.

The journey ahead

The conversation around marketing is ultimately shifting from a function that has traditionally been the target of many efficiency-related decisions, to one that drives effectiveness, revenue and business growth. We have noted the three critical enablers for this change, but many companies are still on the journey to achieving these best-in-class capabilities. It’s important not to forget though that marketing is both a science and an art. Companies need to create the powerful creative ideas that tug at consumers’ heart strings and answer their challenges with compelling product offerings, as well as tracking and measuring the results. This, combined with a customer-centric view, and a clear understanding of return on investment, will be what elevates marketing to be the strategic powerhouse of the organisation.

Louise Rey
Chrissie Muhl

Stay tuned to find out more about how you can transform your marketing into a strategic growth function.