These are challenging and interesting times to be in Marketing. The twin forces of technology and a more empowered consumer are making it increasingly necessary for Marketers to lead in a complex and dynamic environment.The future of Marketing Leadership

Brand Learning’s Singapore leadership seminar, attended by senior marketers across industries spanning FMCG, technology, banking, paints, sportswear and lubricants, discussed the opportunity and challenges for marketing leadership going forward. In a lively and engaging conversation, they shared the issues they face, and how Brand Learning’s new customer-centred leadership framework can help address these.

Everyone acknowledged that technology is creating more complexity in the way business is being done. The number of consumer touchpoints has increased dramatically and consumers have taken charge of how they engage with brands. For example, for Nike, the role of the high street is being redefined in relation to online behaviour. This has called for a resetting of how marketers look at consumers. Marketing remains central to the customer journey but at the same time has to work with other functions like Sales, R & D and Production to be able to deliver the core promise to the consumer. To generate a rich customer experience, the whole organisation needs to work in a cohesive and seamless way.

Three of the themes that emerged are particularly valuable for defining Marketing Leadership now and in times to come:

1. Commitment - to the larger purpose for which the organisation and brand exists

Flowing from the need for the organisation to be more cohesive, the need for collaboration across the different stakeholders requires commitment to a common and larger purpose. There is a pressing need of uniting under a common WHY – a reason to exist that is bigger than the products and services sold by the organisation. This then becomes the glue that unites the different internal functions and inspires the organisation to be more customer-centred.  To arrive at this larger purpose, the organisation needs rich consumer insights that will allow it to become relevant yet different. This was exemplified in the case of Dulux where the focus moved from product functionality to inspiring consumers with the potential of colour enriching their lives. This created a paradigm shift which revitalized the brand, both externally and equally importantly internally.

2. Clarity— to enable collaboration between sales and marketing

The relationship between sales and marketing has often been a contentious one and even more so in a B2B business where there is a bigger confusion (tension) over who really owns the customer relationship. Given there are often fewer customers and that sales people have a better pulse on their individual needs, the role for Marketing needs to be clearly defined as the strategic leaders of the customer agenda. As B2B leaders at the seminar discussed, when Marketing adds most value to business growth, it demonstrates a strategic, longer term, insight orientation, defining and servicing customer segments. Sales focuses on servicing individual customers, usually with a shorter term horizon. But both work together hand-in-hand. Seen from the perspective of Microsoft, it was enriching to see how Marketing had created value in this way, driving the segmentation of the customer base and the different propositions each segment required, making the brand more resilient to new competitors.

3. Customer-Centred Insight— a key focus for Marketing Leaders

Whether in B2B or B2C, marketing leaders have a particular responsibility to inspire, generate and drive insight in the organisation.

This should be done at 3 levels

  • Insights that drive company strategy—e.g. segmentation, forecasting and business models
  • Insights that drive brand development—e.g. using data and analytics to differentiate the brand offer
  • Building capabilities around Insight e.g. creating organisational alignment and a curiosity-led culture that fosters insightful thinking across all levels.

Putting all this together, Brand Learning’s Customer-Centred Leadership (CCL) framework, identifies the critical elements for how leaders need to be and what they need to do to drive insight, purpose, partnership and performance.

If you would like to learn more about this framework and see why it was so well-received by the APAC marketing leaders at the seminar, read our white paper.

Marketing in the future is going to be different to what it is today and what it was in the past. As Darwin said, it will not be the strongest or the most intelligent that will survive but the most adaptive to change. The themes discussed in the seminar could well be, for Marketing leaders, the bedrock of the brave new world!

Read our top 25 tips for today's Marketing leaders.

This post is by Harriet deSwiet, Board Partner APAC at Brand Learning