What CMO’s Say: Marketing Game Changers

marketing game changers

MARKETING as we know it is dead — long live the new age of marketing. In a recent survey of nearly 2000 CMOs (chief marketing officers), IBM uncovered 4 marketing game changers — changes in the environment around marketing requiring massive changes in the way we now do marketing. Below, is a graphic outlining the 4 marketing game changers that came out of the survey:

  1. The explosion of data available to guide decision-making
  2. Social media
  3. The proliferation of channels and devices used by consumers to search for products
  4. Shifting consumer demographics

marketing game changers

Marketing game changers

As you can see, CMOs identified the 4 marketing game changers  Thanks to my reader,  Sanjay Shetty, for bringing this to my attention and creating the graphic.

Of course, it’s probably the additive and multiplicative effects of these 4 marketing game changers that create the most impact and change business as usual.

In their executive summary, IBM notes:

Customer expectations are rising.  They want better products and services, more choice and more value. And, they expect organizations to act in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

So, let’s take a look at how you’re business can use this information to explode your business opportunities.

Marketing game changer #1 – data explosion

IBM’s report highlights the amazing amount of information created online every day. As an example, YouTube users upload more content in just 60 days than the TV networks created in the past 60 years.

The data explosion is a 2-edged sword. It creates a way for businesses to learn new tools for optimizing their business and learning about their customers and prospects. Online data also help businesses do a more thorough environmental scan allowing firms to construct strategies for success. Brands can evaluate these marketing strategies to aid in making better decisions that result in higher profits.

GA report

But, a plethora of data makes it hard for your firm to derive meaningful insights from the massive amount of data at your fingertips. As you can see on the homepage featured in the image above displaying a firm’s GA4 (the newest version of Google Analytics) the amount of data makes it hard to see the trees for the forest. And, GA4 is only one of the tools at your disposal for deriving insights to guide decisions. You have data from your email marketing programs, social listening tools, Google Search Console, organic social media programs, and advertising platforms. Analysis paralysis results if your firm doesn’t have the skill to dig down to find the nuggets of information necessary to drive insights amid all the numbers.

  • How do you search through all that data to see tactics drive the most revenue?
  • Can you find the information you need to optimize your business with so much information out there?
  • How do you ensure you find and respond to comments from customers and prospects in a timely manner?
  • Can you effectively engage customers with so much noise out there?
  • Are you reaching the right consumers and how does each consumer group respond to your marketing efforts? Is your reach optimized?

 How to handle this marketing game changer

  1. Establish goals and metrics to evaluate those goals, commonly referred to as KPIs or key performance indicators. Choose KPIs that represent both top-of-funnel actions and conversion. Then set up dashboards to monitor these KPIs that match your needs. For instance, you might need an overall evaluation of KPIs, one divided by region or product line, and one that compares performance over time. An interactive dashboard, created using a tool such as Cognos, provides each team member the view that most help with the decisions faced by that team member. By reducing the metrics to those most impactful on results, you have a method to reduce the complexity and see insights more readily.
  2. Effective search engine optimization (SEO). Effective SEO helps customers and prospects find your firm in the ocean of data available online. SEO helps your pages show up near the top in search results when folks search for solutions related to your brand, which is critical because folks select the first 3 search results 79% of the time, as you can see below.

    organic traffic
    Image courtesy of Backlinko
  3. Effective listening. Even if you don’t have an online presence for your firm, you need to listen to what customers and prospects are saying about you online if you want to protect your brand. The ability to hear what users say about your brand online is a major marketing game changer. That means you need more than simple sentiment analysis. You need natural language processing to identify opportunities and threats for your brand.
  4. Dedicated employees trained to handle engagement. Don’t expect employees to squeeze customer engagement into their already busy schedules. Plus, PR and marketing folks don’t usually understand how to engage customers — instead using disruptive, push marketing rather than being customer-focused. Building engagement requires a deep understanding of what your target market wants and providing value through casual conversations, not ad copy. Plus, ignoring comments on your website or on social media can cause damage to your brand. So engagement requires a two-way conversation.

Marketing game changer #2 – social media marketing

Today’s consumers spend vast amounts of time using social media platforms. In fact, the average user spends over two and a half hours every day plugged into social media, with young people spending substantially more time on social platforms than older consumers. By 2027, research suggests that 5.85 billion users will access social media platforms worldwide.

The explosion of different social media options means firms face increased challenges when choosing which platforms to include in their marketing plans. Bandwidth limits mean firms must choose a select few platforms and focus their attention on building community on those platforms rather than trying to maintain a presence on all the possible social media platforms. According to Wikipedia, there are 32 social media platforms with at least 100 million users but there are likely thousands with a smaller number of users. Below is a graphic showing the top social media platforms in 2023.

marketing game changers, social media
Image courtesy of Statista

Ignoring the vast potential for social media marketing is no longer an option, making this one of the most consequential of the marketing game changers.

Marketing game changer #3 – platforms and devices

Today’s consumers, especially younger ones, tend to use multiple devices at the same time. For instance, a consumer likely watches programming on their TV (likely streaming) while using their smartphone or tablet to surf the internet, order stuff, or check social media. We call these connected consumers and you never gain 100% of their attention. Instead, you must be where they are so you can reach them. This makes integrated marketing communications even more critical, as you need to send the same message in multiple formats based on the platform hosting the message while still ensuring your target market associates the messaging with your brand and interprets the messaging in a similar fashion.

That’s a tall order.

Marketing game changer #4 – shifting demographics

So, what are some major trends we see in demographics across developed economies?

  • Changing roles of men and women. In the ’70s, the roles of men and women were relatively clear. No more. More women are interested and active participants in sports, for instance. And more men are concerned about their appearance, creating an increased demand for skin products and more fashionable clothing. In fact, women now out-earn their significant others in nearly 1/3 of all households.
  • Baby boomers are aging and creating a new senior reality. And, aging baby boomers are the healthiest and wealthiest generation of retirees ever to emerge. They’re also very active and have the money to indulge in their passions. They also put a serious strain on the safety net by virtue of their sheer numbers. Finding a way to pay for their income and health programs falls on younger workers and the numbers aren’t in favor of being able to sustain the programs. 
  • The growing power of minorities. The US is now comprised of more ethnic groups, with Hispanics now being the largest minority group in the US. African Americans and Asians round out the top 3 minority groups. Not only are the relative sizes changing, but the wealth controlled by minorities is greater than at any time in the past. This concentrates a lot of buying power in minority groups.  Our population also contains more diversity in terms of alternative lifestyles. Brands must adjust in many ways to take advantage of minority wealth without appearing disingenuous.
  • Family structure. The nuclear family of Ozzie and Harriet now only reflects 21% of US households and most of these (59%) are 2-income households, rather than stay-at-home moms. There are also over 2 million stay-at-home dads.
  • Better education. Most Americans now have a high school education (although only 87% are graduates, up from 69% in 1980). And more folks have some college and 30% have a college degree.

Managing shifting demographics

  • Firms need to think about individuals, not stereotypes.
  • New products created for emerging groups offer pronounced strategic advantages to their developers.
  • Advertising through mass channels must be supplemented by targeted ads in niche markets.
  • Services must cater to increasingly time-crunched individuals and families.

Unprepared for changes

According to the IBM study, not only do 63% of CMO believe shifting demographics create a significant impact on their business, but 37% feel they don’t know how to manage the change.

Gone are the days when aggregate customer data drove corporate strategy. Shifting demographics means there is no AVERAGE consumer today. Instead, our economy is made up of a multitude of diverse people. Today’s successful organization knows they need to understand INDIVIDUAL customers. Constantly monitoring customers across touchpoints, evaluating analytical trends, and micro-marketing to diverse niche markets are the new normal.

Market research based on surveying customer needs has given way to developing a true understanding of individual consumers — what they value and how they construct their lives. Instead of target markets, marketers need to think in terms of personas like the one below.

segmentation and targeting
Image courtesy of Boag World

Today’s firms need to learn how to manage the vast amount of data available on social networks giving unprecedented insights into the lives of everyday consumers. Here, the tools of the anthropologist are more important than those of a statistician. Here’s what the report says:

Real-time conversations with real individuals are also a valuable source of new ideas. And when an organization monitors these social sources for brand mentions, it can rapidly respond to negative exposure before it can spiral out of control.

Jobs — I’m gonna change the world

Steve Jobs recognized these marketing game changers early on. Jobs didn’t set out to create a better computer, he set out to change the world and I think most readers would agree that Apple, led by his vision, DID change the world. And, Apple Computers became synonymous with innovation — from the innovative graphic interface of the early Mac, to the intuitive iPod, the miniaturized iPad, and the ever-changing iPhone.

Of course, not everything Apple Computers touched turned to gold. For instance, the failed Lisa Computer, named after Jobs’ illegitimate daughter. And Jobs himself, was an incredible ass — from walking away from Lisa’s mother when she told him she was pregnant to the way he snubbed those who sweated with him in his parents’ garage by giving them no shares in the company when it went public.

The brilliance of Steve Jobs

Of course, his lack of people skills didn’t help the company, but his brilliance allowed the company to flourish despite his arrogance, his impatience, and the way he alienated those closest to him. His brilliance was that he intuitively understood and embraced elements of innovation management without studying them. He also knew some realities about marketing that every marketer should understand.

  1. Customers buy solutions, not products. Jobs knew this. Computers solved problems for buyers and that’s what they wanted. They didn’t want a computer, they wanted what a computer did for them.
  2. Consumers don’t know they need something until you show them. Traditional market research asks respondents to imagine something that doesn’t exist and they aren’t equipped to do that. They commonly state they want something better, cheaper, faster until someone shows them the marketing game changers that reflect true innovations. Consumers struggle with a problem and accept it because they don’t know there’s a solution somewhere. Analysts predicted air travel would remain a novelty at State Fairs until Pan Am started scheduled flights. Now, air travel is ubiquitous and the foundation for an entire industry. Steve saw a problem and fixed it.
  3. You’re not competing with others in your industry. You’re competing with 2 guys out there in their garage willing to give up everything to change the world. At the time that the Steves (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak) founded Apple Computers, IBM ruled the computer industry with an iron fist. Companies like HP, Sperry, Honeywell, Commodore, and a host of others created businesses based on one-upping IBM. Only Steve Jobs knew that you can’t create an iconic business by doing what your competitors do — just doing it better. Instead of jumping into the red ocean (filled with the blood of hyper-competition), he plunged headlong into a blue one (where no one else had gone).swimming in the red ocean.
  4. Identifying your company by its products is a fool’s game. Apple didn’t make computers, it changed people’s lives by helping them with problems. If Apple only made computers, we might never have smartphones, or apps, or little computers that fit in your purse.

You can’t run a company with numbers

Now, don’t go off the deep end. I’m NOT saying you should ignore numbers — and as someone currently writing a book on social media analytics you can bet I’m a firm believer in numbers. But, you can’t let the numbers tell YOU what to do. Metrics help GUIDE decisions — they don’t tell you what to do. And, metrics are backward-looking. They tell you where you’ve been. That’s great for tactical decisions like how much product are we selling so we know how much to make. Using metrics for strategic decisions is a little more intuitive. You can’t just extend a trend line and expect that sales will follow the trend.

To make strategic decisions, you need metrics that are forward-looking — like what are consumers saying about your brand — NOT what are stockholders doing with your stock. Almost by definition, the stock price is a short-term valuation of your brand and doesn’t look at the long run. However, your strategic decisions must look 5 – 10 years out. Putting money into an obsolete technology – the Apple II — just because it was currently selling well is naive and short-sighted.


How is your company managing these four marketing game changers? If your answer is that you’re not or only poorly managing against changes, then you have a lot of work ahead.

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