At our most recent MarTech Conference, there seemed to be a transformation percolating throughout the sessions and presentations.
After several false starts in previous years, it seemed to me that “marketing” is now clearly becoming something bigger.
Marketing, of course, has grown way beyond websites, emails and ads. It’s now augmented and virtual reality, intelligent voice agents and messaging bots, the Internet of Things’s environmental sensing, and the insight and cognition available through artificial intelligence.
In many ways, marketing is looking, sounding and feeling less like its traditional role of “demand generation” and more like “experience management.”
To test my sense, I went to the Chief Martech, Scott Brinker.
Brinker, who recently joined HubSpot as VP of platform ecosystem, is the conference chair of the MarTech Conference and author of the famously complicated marketing landscape. He has recently written about “a grand view of martech” in a Martech Manifesto.
“I think you’re right on,” he told me.
The mission and the department
“Marketing,” Brinker said, “is becoming responsible for customer experience throughout the organization.” But, he continued, in order to understand marketing’s new role, one first needs to distinguish between “marketing as a mission and marketing as a department.”
Look at what IT went through, he said. It used to be that IT departments in organizations were responsible for all technology. You couldn’t do anything tech-related without having IT involved.
Now, IT still rules the companywide, internal big systems, but its larger role is one of governance. It sets direction, gives expert advice, makes sure all the pieces work together.
The same thing is happening to marketing, he said. There are still Marketing Departments, but marketing also now often serves as a kind of “governing body for customer experience” — even if there is a specific staff dedicated to customer experience.
The product design team, for instance, is tuned to the marketers’ sense of customer experience, as are the sales and service teams. Marketing often serves as a hub to connect the dots.
On one level, Brinker said, marketing has moved beyond being a collection of tactics — press releases, ads, websites and the like — and is now often a set of strategies about how the brand should relate to the customer across the board.
Its central role these days is what Brinker calls “creating happy customers.” This means that it has input in creating products and then designing and building the many ways in which those products are discovered, desired, acquired, used and serviced.
“Marketing,” he said, “takes on more experience-oriented responsibilities,” acting as the guiding influence on customer experience the way IT acts as the guiding influence for technology.
‘The most valuable incarnation’
Widely available tech is driving that enlarged set of responsibilities, as are the many ways customers are experiencing your brand. It’s also driven by the fact that, for digital products in particular, the product is “created” at the same time and in the same space as the customer and the experience.
Brinker pointed to Netflix, where you experience its search interface and its movies/TV shows at the same time that you participate as a customer. “Much of the marketing is the product itself,” he said.
That merging of selling, presenting the product and experiencing the product — all at the same time — is only going to increase dramatically.
Imagine you’re exploring some successor to the Pokémon Go augmented reality phenomenon on your smartphone or through intelligent glasses. The Pokémon marketers have helped envision what you’re doing and how you react, as have the marketers for any product placements within that space.
You can talk to the brand as well as live in its space, because there’s a merged environment that includes demand generation, sales, product and service.
“Customer experience is not eliminating marketing,” Brinker told me, “but it’s the most valuable incarnation of how a company markets itself and interacts with its customers.”