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Marketing 2016: How to separate from the pack

At its core, marketing is at the forefront of shaping a company’s brand promise. As marketers, we need to understand the needs of buyers, especially what is at the heart of their purchasing decisions. We need to anticipate their behavior. And figure out where we are most likely to engage them. Today’s buyers are more connected and informed than ever. And marketing is a completely different game. It, too, is smarter and more integrated. But the change has only begun. What will marketing look like in 2016? Here are my predictions:

Digitization will take hold

Social media and networks have taken the lead in shaping perceptions about brands, products, and companies. Today’s buyers aren’t struggling to find information about companies. They are crowdsourcing the information they need to make buying decisions. Savvy marketing organizations will embrace these channels to increase their brand awareness and drive sales.

Simple wins

Marketers need to separate their brands from the pack. Clean and engaging brand design will prevail with messaging that is relevant and speaks to customers. Out will be boardroom corporate speak, and in will be creative, pithy words that grab buyer attention.

Messages will cross channels

According to research, consumers touch at least two channels when making purchases. They may, for instance, search for a car online and compare prices, then visit a dealer to buy it. Or, they might see an item in a store, scan its barcode on their mobile phone and check prices, then purchase it online. To accommodate these new behaviors, marketing will create seamless, omnichannel experiences that engage customers when, where and how they want to be engaged.

Companies will take a stand

So much of marketing today is focused on trying to differentiate products. But this is a tough proposition. No sooner are you out there promoting your offerings do your competitors show up talking about how they provide the same thing – or better. Research shows that if given a choice, most consumers will purchase a brand with a cause over one without. Marketers will leverage this and go beyond the functional value they provide to align with a cause and separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Think Toms, which through its One for One program donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased in stores around the world or contributes funds to educate and abolish bullying in schools. Or the RED initiative started several years ago by Bono of U2 fame that some of the biggest brands in the world have lined up behind, including Starbucks, Apple, Target and SAP.

The end of the year is always a good time to look back. To reflect on accomplishments and celebrate successes. But it’s an even better time to look forward. To see the future. And shape it to your advantage.

Alicia Tillman is Chief Marketing Officer of Ariba, an SAP Company

Follow me: @aliciatillman

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