Gartner asserts there are five underlying digital marketing trends currently shaping the advertising landscape. They are:
1. “The purchase funnel has been blown to bits. Customers have moved from a discrete linear purchase path to moving at their pace when and wherever they want to.” As I noted in a previous article, “The rise of e-commerce and the digital path to purchase have poked so many holes in the traditional marketing funnel that it leaks consumers like a sieve. In order to reach consumers in today’s business environment, marketing must become more personal and more mobile.”
2. “CRM is dead. It’s the customer who manages the relationship.” Or I stated in another article, “Today, the consumer is king and the royal road is the digital path to purchase.”
3. “The rise of big data. Collect it intelligently to move customers along their path.” Sorting through data is going to become even more challenging as the Internet of Things (IoT) matures and exponentially more data is generated.
4. “The rise of big content. According to Gartner surveys, content is the most important thing marketers can do and yet they’re unequipped to take it on from the a skills and sourcing level.” Boston Consulting Group analysts agree with Gartner analysts. “Digital advertising can engage with and benefit consumers by delivering highly relevant content in real time, but many advertisers and agencies fail to fully realize this potential.”
5. “The experience economy. Think less in terms of discrete steps for a standard campaign and instead think of every interaction over time as the experience.” A few years ago, Lisa Arthur reported, “Poor customer experiences result in an estimated $83 billion loss by US enterprises each year because of defections and abandoned purchases.”
There may be other underlying factors, but I agree that the five mentioned are profoundly affecting marketing. Dave Morgan (@), founder and CEO of Simulmedia, believes changes are going to continue to reshape the advertising field and the sand beneath the feet of most marketers is going to continue shifting. He explains:
“Media and marketing channels like newspapers, magazines, radio, telemarketing and direct mail suffered mightily over the past 15-plus years, as ‘ad-tech’ — the multibillion-dollar tech industry providing ad serving, targeting, retargeting, analytics, machine-bidding and buying, etc. — was applied to Internet-born behaviors like Web browsing, search, social and email. Ad tech created, at least theoretically, a better way for marketers to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time — a massive improvement over those legacy alternatives. Thus, we have an ad-tech industry today that is worth tens of billions of dollars. However, over the next five years we will see ad tech supplanted, albeit short-circuited, by technology and companies that directly serve marketers and their enterprises — rather than ad industry ecosystem intermediaries, where most ad tech today is centered. Think closed-loop marketing platforms, omnichannel data mining, prospect profile management systems and dynamic messaging and pricing systems.”
In other words, the advertising that was disrupted by e-commerce is about to be disrupted again; this time by advanced technologies that could cut out the middle man. In a follow-up article, Morgan bluntly stated, “I believe that the rise of mar tech is going to have an enormous impact on the structure and operation of the digital advertising supply chain. Put simply, it will obliterate the supply chain as we know it today.” He continues:
“The digital ad supply chain is problematic [and] has been a top-of-mind issue among industry leaders for years. The supply chain is massively complex. It leaks tons of data. It leaks tons of money. It is a patchwork quilt of thousands of companies and different technologies and protocols that has been exploited by fraudsters, bots and zillions of redundant intermediaries for billions of dollars a year. If that’s not enough, the supply chain’s end product, the consumer’s digital ad experience, has become so poor that tens of millions of consumers have turned to ad blockers in the last year alone to remove, declutter and de-clog their digital devices of redundant, irrelevant, annoying ads.”
If marketing technology can help improve the situation described by Morgan, both sellers and consumers will benefit. Morgan concludes, “As Peter Drucker taught us, the purpose of marketing is to create customers: nothing more, nothing less. As more and more companies connect their back-end customer and sales systems to their front-end communication channels, activities that provably create customers will get more resources. Those that don’t will be starved.” Among the activities predicted to attract customers is content marketing. “The age of traditional marketing and advertising techniques is pretty much over no matter how much the old guard pretends like it’s not,” writes Rick Delgado (@). “Today, it’s all about businesses promoting their brands, products, and overall vision through creative content. Think of it as the new way to grab consumers’ attention, one that, in the right hands, can be more effective than the older methods employed for so many decades.”
Dr. Lee Frederiksen, a managing partner at Hinge, explains, “Content marketing uses relevant, educational, engaging information (not marketing materials) to attract prospects, build trust and lasting brand visibility. It also touches influencers, potential business partners and prospective employees.” The revolutionary philosophy underlying content marketing appears oxymoronic — that is, providing content not directly aimed at selling. Frederiksen explains, “If you regularly provide high-quality information that is relevant and educates buyers, you will not have to sell. … When you educate, prospects will see you as an expert and also be more likely to trust you.” Parveen Panwar (@), CEO of Vidaptiv, provides an example of how content marketing leads to sales.
“It’s not the hamburger the fast food restaurants should advertise; it’s the benefits that those restaurants provide busy, on-the-go families. The objective is not to be the stereotypical used-car salesman. It’s to connect with your customers on a deeper level, offering information and articles that are often more relevant than the publisher’s own posts. Content marketers take platform, technology and audience into account when tailoring content for placement. … Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the advertiser creating the content to research their consumer, tailor its message and voice, and deliver a product that grabs attention and provides value. Successful content marketing creates a connection resulting in deeper brand awareness and conversion.”
Understanding what kind of content consumers are looking for and what types of messages will motivate them to become buyers still requires advanced analytics. There are so many variables to be considered that the capabilities of a cognitive computing system are required. Cognitive computing systems are likely to be found at the heart every digital enterprise playing a significant role in helping with the consumer experience. That said, content marketing could be a hard sell in many companies because its impact takes time. Frederiksen notes, “Content marketing is not a campaign that will give you immediate results. It’s crockpot marketing, not microwave marketing.” Even though marketing technology might change the advertising landscape, it will still take the right mix of technology and skill to create and promulgate relevant content. In the end, content more than technology is likely to determine winners and losers in the marketing arena.
 Heather Levy, “Top Emerging Trends in Digital Market,” Smarter with Gartner, 6 May 2015.
 Stephen DeAngelis, “The Digital Path to Purchase Punches Holes in the Marketing Funnel,” Enterra Insights, 20 October 2015.
 Stephen DeAngelis, “Mastering the Digital Path to Purchase Remains Challenging,” Enterra Insights, 6 January 2016.
 Paul Zwillenberg, Dominic Field, Mark Kistulinec, Neal Rich, Kristi Rogers, and Samuel Cohen, “Improving Engagement and Performance in Digital Advertising,”bcg.perspectives, 16 September 2014.
 Lisa Arthur, “Four Ways To Improve The Buyer Experience Starting Today,” Forbes, 26 June 2013.
 David Morgan, “Why Ad Tech Should Worry About The Rise Of Marketing Tech,” Online Spin, 14 January 2016.
 David Morgan, “Marketing Technology Will Collapse The Digital-Ad Supply Chain,” Online Spin, 28 January 2016.
 Rick Delgado, “Big Data’s Impact on Content Marketing,” Customer Think, 24 January 2016.
 Lee Frederiksen, “What Every Managing Partner Needs to Know About Content Marketing,” Hinge, 14 September 2015.
 Parveen Panwar, “Content Marketing: A New Frontier,” Huffington Post The Blog, 7 December 2015.