No Rest For The Weary Marketer

At last week’s Marketing Unbound conference, breaking the speed barrier emerged as the next great marketing challenge and a key to separating leaders from laggards.

No Rest For The Weary Marketer

Congratulations, marketers. You’ve won every argument. You have your seat at the table. You are a strategic thought partner to the CEO and a trusted colleague to the entire C-suite.

You have the budget, the technology, and the people to collect, analyze, and deploy data to your hearts’ content. You own the customer experience, have shifted to digital, and think like a publisher. You’re personalized, you still own the brand, and you have line of sight to revenue. You’ve got a skunk-works team developing a killer virtual reality idea.

Well done.

Now you have one more, small obstacle to overcome. You simply need to bend the laws of space and time.

I exaggerate. You don’t need to beat the laws of space—just time.

At last week’s Marketing Unbound conference, organized by my colleagues at Economist Events, breaking the speed barrier emerged as the next great marketing challenge and a key to separating leaders from laggards.

“The old, siloed ways of doing business don’t work anymore,” said the event chair, Charlotte Howard, The Economist’s consumer goods and marketing correspondent. The new environment “means working with outside partners in a way that is agile, fast-moving, but still making good decisions as you make quick decisions.”

Time is a kind of silo, a constraint that can make the difference between success and failure. Studies show leaders in business make decisions 2.5 times faster than laggards and with three times more data, said Laura Beaudin, a Bain & Co. partner. Many marketing teams are organizing around customer needs rather than functions or products, she said, enabling more flexible and faster decision-making.

“When people ask for a five-year plan, I tell them they can have an 18-month plan,” said Geraldine Calpin, CMO of Hilton Worldwide. Calpin, who recently rolled out a global, unified campaign for all of Hilton’s properties in record time, said she gave her team “one mission and not quite enough time to do it.”

At General Mills, chief creative officer Michael Fanuele said the solution is to take more educated guesses. “We’re trying to build intuition into the organization,” he said.

Even today’s digital upstarts struggle with speed. Phil Schwarz, CMO of Tinder, said that getting instant feedback on digital tests is only half the equation. You also need to be prepared with a scalable response to the feedback. “The organization needs to be prepped on the same metrics,” he said, “and be ready to scale it quickly.” That requires marketing to be involved across the organization.

In an age where absurdly low switching costs undermine brand loyalty, where customer experience trumps price and even product, where competition can come from anywhere, and where channels, mediums, and modes of communication are in constant flux, marketers big and small, online and offline, challenger and incumbent, all need to find dramatic increases in speed. Oh, and while you’re at it, please don’t harm your brand, lose sight of your value proposition, or become a commodity. And please note that your customers are comparing you to every company they have contact with, not just your competition.

So, yeah, congratulations on the incredible progress you’ve made, marketers. Your impact over the past several years has been truly significant. Now get on with it. Fast.