Marketing will have to demonstrate value in 2023 as the global economy slows down, says WFA President and Mastercard Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Raja Rajamannar.
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No one would disagree that marketing has had some tough times recently. The good news is that those testing times are due to continue.
I say good news because tough times are when marketing most needs to prove its value. Testing times force us into good habits and ensure that we demonstrate our impact both externally and internally. By contrast, when the economy is growing fast, the temptation to slowly abandon best practice can grow as life gets a bit easier.
As marketers, we know how critical our skills are as both interpreters of consumer expectation and identifiers of the next big opportunity. We know we must constantly reimagine and reinvent ourselves, continuously learning and advancing our expertise. Retraining and retaining top talent will be critical in 2023 and well beyond. When technology and data are prolific, what will set your brand apart is your team’s ability – and creativity – to leverage these technologies to win for your company.
What we have traditionally been less good at is demonstrating how our skills and our activations drive company growth. As we head into a year with a lot of uncertainty, it will be critical for marketers to be able to credibly connect the dots between marketing actions and business outcomes. It will not only help prove ROI to the C-suite, but also prove that dialing down marketing investments will have a negative impact.
That means we must establish effective measurement of nascent platforms and technologies such as the metaverse. This is critical if we are to understand our impact and to consider such investments as part of a broader marketing mix.
Customer is king or queen
The need for marketing to be customer-centric is never so important as when times are tough. It’s more important than ever that we can act as advocates for our customers with our business and ensure that our products and services meet their ever-changing needs.
In 2023, that means bringing our sustainability visions and goals to life. Whether it’s taking a hard look at marketing supply chains to minimize carbon emissions or identifying exciting ways to rally consumers around eco-friendly initiatives, there is a tremendous opportunity for marketers to use their power and reach for good.
We will also continue to see live events returning at scale. After nearly two years of attending virtual seminars, panels and festivals, people crave in-person experiences. I recently went to a Mastercard-hosted customer conference and we had more attendees than ever before. The excitement was palpable.
The same was true at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, where there was rightly great focus on how technology can improve people’s lives rather than simply being about glitzy gadgets with little substance.
I picked up three marketing takeaways:
- As the real world and virtual worlds start to collide, multisensory elements can play a key role in marketing to engage consumers in totally immersive ways.
- Using technology to democratize expertise is a trend that is likely here to stay. We need to rethink and reframe our products and services with that in mind.
- The number of connected devices we own is increasing, and they are constantly gathering data. It is critical that marketers and businesses be extremely cautious surrounding issues of data and privacy.
This latter point about data and privacy also reminds us that marketing also needs to act as the guardian for consumers. We understand concerns about too much data and issues such as brand safety; coming together as marketers to raise the issues and challenge the platforms is one more way that we can demonstrate the value of marketing.
Carving an ethical path in emerging tech
Marketing also needs to take a stand on key issues such as AI and Web3. And, we need to do so while they are in the development phase so that tech can be good not just for Silicon Valley but for wider society as well. We didn’t take a stand on Web2, and we’ve had to deal with the consequences of that. This time, we need to be there using our scale and our consumer insight to ensure benefit for all.
This is a hugely exciting time for marketers. We’re in the middle of a tsunami of emerging technologies that are sure to bring a lot of disruption. But legitimate concerns around data don’t mean we should become fearful of new technologies. In just a few years, we’ve gone from in-person events only to harnessing the metaverse to open up more experiences to more people in more places around the world. We are limited only by our imaginations.
We need to continue to explore, experiment and learn what works. The looming economic downturn can make marketers nervous about investing in newer platforms, but the best approach is to have a basic understanding of what’s new and prioritize a few technologies for exploration, monitoring the ecosystem carefully so you can learn, adjust and learn some more. That’s what this is all about.
I look forward to learning, testing and proving the resounding value of marketing together with you in 2023 and beyond.