The Marketing Industry Has Gone Off the Rails and Here’s How to Get It Back on Track

It’s the experience, not the messaging

The marketing industry is in upheaval. CMO tenure continues to decrease and some are questioning whether the title is even relevant. Agencies are suffering from margin compression and talent exodus and consultants who tout the value of data over creativity are failing to achieve results. In fact, by 2023, 60% of CMOs will slash the size of their marketing analytics departments by 50% because of a failure to realize promised improvements.

So, why is the system broken and how can it be fixed?

Experience is marketing and marketing is experience

Since marketers are in charge of driving sales, it’s worthwhile to consider the factors that influence purchasing and loyalty. Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer indicates that only about half of Americans trust businesses. Even fewer (41%) trust brand marketing. But more than 75% of people trust product reviews and more than 90% read reviews before purchasing, according to research from BrightLocal.

In other words, experience moves the needle, not marketing.

It’s common knowledge that digital natives like Uber, Airbnb, Netflix and Amazon reached market dominance by delivering great customer experiences. Yet the majority of marketers continue to focus on messaging and campaigns rather than the totality of interactions with their brands’ products and services.

Part of this disconnect is driven by permission. Marketers only have control of promotions and media—not the product and service delivery, pricing or incentives that are core to the customer experience.

To remain relevant and grow market share, marketers must move beyond messaging and media to address all aspects of customer experience.

Technology’s role in experience

Experience rests on three fundamental pillars: creativity, data and technology. Marketers can’t deliver on experience unless they integrate all three.

The technology required to deliver a customer experience isn’t just content management systems or decisioning engines. It’s engineering to build and scale mobile applications, ecommerce systems, security, privacy, employee support tools, voice and augmented reality. Without the proper technology, the whole thing crumbles. Technology also plays a key role in turning the torrents of data that marketers face into meaningful insights that can drive creative and customer experiences.

Technology cannot be an afterthought—it must be foundational to developing a customer acquisition and engagement strategy. Yet a majority of marketers continue to operate in silos and see technology as an enabling function rather than as a partner with joint accountability for outcomes.

This isn’t necessarily the fault of the marketer—few companies set up the right governance and shared incentives to drive collaboration between those responsible for marketing, data and technology. Creating awareness of this problem is the first step to eliminating it.

Too often, technology decisions on areas core to delivering a customer experience are made independent of marketing thus limiting the marketer’s ability to effectively build a brand and attract and keep customers. But marketers must be involved. In fact, they must become the orchestrators of the full customer experience.

Collaboration and integration as the solution

To solve this problem, marketers need to form strong partnerships with their technology and data peers and align with them on a common experience vision. They need to identify a set of partners who bring a mix of creative, data and technology capabilities that will make the vision of a seamless customer experience a reality.

These capabilities need to be integrated with a team structure and methodology that supports a central point of accountability (the marketer) who can then deliver the ultimate customer vision.

Deepthi Prakash is the head of strategy and design for Cognizant Interactive, which designs and builds well-crafted experiences for customers and employees by aligning a company’s systems and stories. Prior to this role, she held positions at Accenture, BBDO, Havas and Ogilvy.