Rajamannar is in a unique position to know what’s on the horizon – along with his current role as Chief Marketing & Communications Officer of MasterCard, he is also the President of its Healthcare division, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Ad Council and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).
Marketing’s Existential Crisis
In 2014, when Rajamannar began suggesting that marketing was experiencing an existential crisis, he was often considered ahead of the times – but today it is widely accepted that the function is at a critical juncture. Rajamannar points to a study from Fournaise Marketing Group that says more than 70% of CEOs have no confidence in their CMOs and most have no confidence in marketing teams as a whole to contribute to building the business.
Raja has seen these beliefs around the role of marketing manifest in two primary ways. The first is the elimination of the CMO role, which we’ve seen in companies like Johnson & Johnson and more recently, General Mills. In the stead of a CMO, new roles like Chief Revenue Office, Chief Growth Officer, and Chief Customer Officer are created. The second is the fragmenting and outsourcing of the traditional responsibilities of the marketing function to other departments and roles like Chief Product Officer or the Sales team tackling most of the promotional work.
So, what can be done to create a new relevance for marketing, given this threat of elimination?
To counter-act these damaging beliefs, Rajamannar proposes that we understand this next phase of marketing as “Quantum Marketing,” drawing a parallel between the traditional approach to advertising and classical physics. In both cases, new discoveries and a changing world render old approaches ineffective, but marketers can draw on this period of disruption to re-establish their value in the c-suite.
Embracing new channels
Currently, there are more than two dozen new technologies coming at us, at a heretofore unheard-of speed. To name a few of these technologies, there is AI, AR, VR, Holographic Projection, Blockchain, Wearables, Smart Speakers, and the Internet of Things. All of them can dramatically impact how consumers behave which means they have a direct impact on marketing. Given this, it is important that marketers be able to identify and know how to use new channels in order to reduce how alienated they are from their own discipline.
Take, for example, the Internet of Things. When Mastercard collaborated with Samsung to launch a refrigerator, the product included a screen which represented the food products inside. When a product was low, the refrigerator would automatically order it from Fresh Direct. In the future, marketers should anticipate an increase in devices that will order products themselves which almost completely eliminates search and discovery. When every device becomes connected, every device becomes a device for commerce and necessitates a new marketing strategy.
Out with the old
Rajamannar warns that a lot of things we take for granted as marketers today are going to fall apart. For example, hundreds of billions of marketing dollars are currently spent on loyalty programs, and yet, humans are not loyal beings even when they want to be, explains Rajamannar, citing a recent article from the BBC revealing that, amongst people in a committed relationship, more than 70% of people said they have cheated on their partners. Brands cannot continue to invest in a fundamentally flawed model. Revisiting outdated practices will be vital for the future health of the marketing function.
Employing new tech
If Rajamannar’s prediction is right, artificial intelligence will be the biggest single disruptor of marketing. If you scoffed at that statement, you are not alone. Rajamannar acknowledges that in most cases where technology touts AI, there is no real AI there. Even worse, functional AI can take in bad information and drive you to the wrong answer or solution. But, when AI succeeds, it can be very powerful and useful. Rajamannar has found success using it at Mastercard in a B2B context putting together RFPs. The previously labor-intensive painstaking process now is done in a matter of hours, as opposed to weeks. Likewise, Rajamannar has seen AI technology capable of creating music and art at the highest level, suggesting that the creative marketing potential of AI is not far off. At Mastercard, they have already used AI to create banner advertisements in a matter of a few minutes to great success.
The big picture
Marketers should not depend on delegating knowledge. Rajamannar offers his own technique of spending five hours each weekend learning about new tech in order to, at the very least, separate the signal from the noise. Secondly, he advises marketers to form a new kind of marketing team, hiring people who are truly competent in each of the areas experiencing acceleration.
And, what about the future of Insights? Rajamannar says human insights will remain vital. Marketers need to relearn how people are thinking as their lives are changing. Whenever a change happens, consumer lives are impacted, so insights remains vital in the future of marketing. As Rajamannar states, “What was true yesterday is not necessarily true today, and most certainly, what is true today, is not going to be true tomorrow. I see that classical marketing is simply not going to work tomorrow and we need to re-imagine and re-invigorate the marketing function.”