Picture: 123RF/ilixe48
Picture: 123RF/ilixe48

With little sign that Covid is slowing, and with many businesses increasingly in financial trouble, the marketing function is now emerging as the nerve centre of companies’ survival response.

In a new report, the World Advertising Research Centre says a growing need for flexibility and strong internal relationships to navigate changing circumstances has made the C-suite realise the crucial role marketers play in connecting various parts of a business, especially in managing the relationship with consumers.

The organisation says: "From shopper insights and brand positioning to e-commerce and crisis communications, the marketing team is delivering heightened value during Covid. The role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has been wholly revitalised. Some of the large brands that have done away with CMOs in recent years — McDonald’s, NatWest and Telstra, to name a few — have reinstated the role this year.

"Expect more brands to place an emphasis on marketing leadership in coming months."

That view is strongly endorsed by IMM Graduate School of Marketing executive academic head Angela Bruwer. She tells the FM: "[Marketing] is especially relevant and pressing because the world of commerce will be different post-Covid.

"It is a perfect opportunity for thinking marketers to make their mark."

Bruwer says today’s marketer needs different skills to those that were required previously. Before, marketers had to understand consumer behaviour, as well as the "seven Ps", she says, referring to price, product, promotion, place, people, process and physical evidence. "Today they need to be specialists in marketing but also have generalist skills for the full understanding of how marketing affects business and other management areas."

The Association of MBAs says the pandemic has made a difference to the future of marketing in the critical area of search engine optimisation and paid search.

"The current health crisis is changing the behaviour of consumers. As people can no longer run to the shops for every little thing they need, consumers prefer to search beforehand rather than browsing through the available options in person and risking exposure to the disease. Lots of new businesses will pop up, and customers will want to search and discover the ones that are worth checking out."

Bruwer says new-age marketers need to be "futureneers". She says: "They need to have a mindset of innovation and creativity as well as analytical and numeracy skills, with a solid leaning towards technology. They should especially understand data and have an appreciation of its impact on business in general and on marketing.

"This must be aligned with [knowledge of] the advances in artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain technology, neuroscience and big data.

"They need to know how these will affect a business and the future of marketing. All of this has to be founded on an insight into language, writing and communication."

So, against that backdrop, what type of person is best placed to don the new marketing cloak?

Says Bruwer: "They need to be competitive, expressive creatives and, above all, lateral thinkers; all of which should be [customer centred]. Ultimately good marketers — those who are the game changers — should first and foremost have excellent business acumen. They need to be people who just happen to be great strategic marketers with the skill to concretise their imagined future."

The Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK believes the Covid crisis is fertile ground for innovation. The organisation says that within the marketing fraternity waves of creative destruction are occurring continually. Marketing strategies are being revised constantly and tactics are being sharpened so that businesses are not being left behind.

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