Jeannine Falcone examines Accenture Interactive research to determine the five ways marketing can evolve for the post-COVID era.

Whilst the pandemic has been uniquely challenging, it doesn’t account for nearly all of the problems modern marketers face. Over the years, sector leaders have been restructuring with the intention of getting closer to their customers but the irony is that the opposite has occurred. Most marketers today are spread too thin, with CMOs keeping watch over an ever-expanding portfolio. At the same time, we have a perfect storm of more specialised internal teams and partners creating more silos, specializations, and blind spots.

It’s a recipe for dysfunction, and the pandemic brutally exposed it. The only responsible solution to this dilemma is to rewire the marketing model itself, making it fit for the challenges of 2021 and beyond. But doing this on-the-fly, with targets and deadlines ever-looming, is no small task. Instead, we should look to find ways we can reinvent our existing infrastructure, and where to start and how to stay focused are often two of the biggest questions.

According to Accenture research, more than half of senior marketers report double-digit revenue growth over the past three years, and just under half report double-digit profit growth over the same period. These marketers perform above the industry average in eight out of ten non-financial performance indicators across customer experience, innovation, and technology and talent categories.

These organizations perform so well because they work in distinctly different ways across five crucial areas. By studying these standouts, marketers can make bold moves to design their organizations to deliver for customers and for their business.

  1. Orbit around purpose (and your customers)

Even as the rules of engagement evolve post-pandemic, one certainty is that purpose will continue to be sky-high on the list of consumer priorities. Audiences are seeking out brands that can deliver new experiences centered on trust, convenience, relevance and empathy and half of consumers say that they have completely revised their personal purpose in the last 12 months. They want to know what a brand stands for and ensure that its values align with theirs. In fact, eight in every ten say that purpose is ‘at least as important’ to them as customer experience.

Winning marketers know that purpose is at the heart of customer-centric marketing. They deliver experiences grounded in a clear and powerful brand purpose, because they have intentionally organized their business around it. Everything they do – from making day-to-day decisions to designing the operating model to selecting agency partners – aligns with the brand purpose.

Another positive knock-on effect here is your ability to attract top talent. High performers simply don’t want to work for a marketing organization that isn’t purposeful and customer-centric.

  1. Respect creativity

Top-performing marketers are emphasizing uniquely human skills in their future talent needs. Quite simply, the heart wants what it doesn’t have. A full 70% of top marketers say that they have the customer experience, data insight, and innovation skills in their marketing department to a great extent today.

As a result, they are prioritizing traditionally creative skills when it comes to future hires, in a bid to craft the balance that a great marketing department needs. They say that creativity, innovation and originality, and communication are among their top five most critical future skills.

  1. Orchestrate both humans and machines

Marketers know that technology is not magic. You can’t simply ‘plug in’ new tech and immediately expect its sorcery to transform your fortunes. Instead, it's about understanding what the core processes are, which processes can be shifted to machines, and which involve expressly human skills.

This strategic approach to marketing technology is evident among top performers: 58% of them influence and participate in technology strategy decisions across their organizations. They implement technology through a human lens – both in terms of how marketers use the technology, and how the technology ultimately impacts the customer experience. When compared to other marketing organizations, top performers are twice as likely to say they have successfully leveraged process and workflow management technology. What’s more, 73% are able to ensure that automated outputs from innovative technologies do not conflict with their brand values (once again, winning marketers are orbiting around purpose).

  1. Get a seat at the table

All marketers take pride in knowing customers better than any other function in the business does. That close connection to a business’ audience should naturally earn marketing leaders a seat at the table in driving the strategic agenda.

Not surprisingly, top performers excel here. They use their proximity to the customer to bring valuable data and insights to other parts of the organization. In the process, they are bridging silos and building agile, cross-functional teams tuned to customer needs and behaviors. Recent evidence reveals a significant gap in influence between top performers and other marketers in customer experience strategy (75% vs. 55%), sales strategy (74% vs. 57%) and product strategy (71% vs. 51%). Notably, 65% of top performers say they influence and participate in the corporate strategy.

  1. Spend smart

Perhaps surprisingly, top performing marketers are not spending more money than their peers. Instead, they have cultivated a notably different mindset when it comes to spend and accountability.

Top-performing marketers are more likely to measure spend against previous results and current expectations. They are also more likely to conduct past cost, expenses analysis and tracking. In addition, they set themselves apart in spend management because they don’t rely on historical expenditures to make today’s spending decisions. Instead, they locate funds by current needs.

Beyond being highly disciplined and comprehensive in managing and measuring spend, standout marketers create a marketing culture where everyone makes financial decisions with an owner mindset. Thirty percent are embedding a cost management culture in their organization, compared to just 16% of their peers.

The way things are isn’t the way they need to be

They say that doing the same thing over and again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. By that logic, marketing has spent too many years slowly losing its mind.

Great marketers want to connect with customers in line with the brand purpose and drive future growth. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to fix what’s been broken, but strong leaders are ready to breathe new life into the marketing model.