Marketing - past, present and future…

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
December 11 2014,
July 3 2020

Don Draper had it easy. Madison Avenue in the '60s meant expense account lunches, Lucky Strikes, Old Fashioneds and the adulation of peers and clients alike. Having Peggy and others to do the legwork left him plenty of time to come up with gob-smacking creative and those quotes which still inspire today's marketers. Sounds like the good old days, eh? Because surely no one, not even the geniuses at Sterling Cooper, could have predicted the pace of change that marketers - probably the most adaptable creatures on the planet - would be facing as we hurtle towards 2015. Right?

Every year we stick our head above the parapet to predict what we think is around the corner; the channels that will dominate and the issues we'll all be facing. But it wasn't until after we'd published our views (16 Marketing Predictions for 2015) that I stumbled across this document from 1966 published by McKinsey, still leading thinkers in the world of business. Take a look at this summary of their "6 changes" article to compare and contrast what has changed since DD's day and, spookily, what in fact hasn't;

1. The dominance of the customer
McKinsey recognised that the consumer was changing and that submarkets, with their own characteristics, would each demand a different and targeted approach. The report warned against developing marketing aimed at the "average customer" and that not being alert to the customers' needs and the changing complexities of marketplaces would invite disaster.

Sound familiar? "More focus on customer experience and engagement" and "Widespread adoption of personalisation" are the strategies marketers are now adopting to keep pace with customers' expectations and preferences.

2. The spread of marketing research
2015 and beyond will see marketers challenged to gather, and utilise, Big Data. There's no escaping it as an entity, and as a term that dominates currently for marketers. Unheard of in the 60s - 70s, 80s and 90s too as it turns out - instead then the focus was on marketing research, with the same aim to "materially increase the efficiency of the total marketing function".

3. The rise of the computer
Seems McKinsey was right, the computer did catch on! The view then was that computers could become a tool to help make marketing more efficient and be used for "electronic data-processing analyses, online communications, and information-retrieval systems". A glimpse into the future indeed; as marketing technology and automation will become the most essential tools in our armoury and, with an increased focus on mobile, will be the most direct route to customers' hearts and minds.

4. Expanded use of test marketing
Test, test and test again. It's a war-cry marketers have become familiar with. Luckily, digital - as in both print and online – means we now have the ability to test and measure our interactions and touch points accurately and speedily. Five decades ago this test marketing was viewed as "controlled experimentation to narrow the odds of an error in making marketing changes." And now? Well, marketing analytics, is what we call the insight that will continue to drive and direct our campaigns.

5. Metamorphosis of field selling
A vision that sales people would become "planning oriented, service oriented, and technically skilled—in short, sophisticated marketers" has become a reality. While there are still salesmen out in the field, online browsing, showrooming and of course shopping, has meant old media channels such as display advertising are slipping off the radar, and endorsement/recommendation on social media keeps brands and sales people on their toes.

6. Global market planning
The term global village has become synonymous with the Internet and trading with customers on the other side of the world can now be as simple and profitable as trading with your next-door neighbour. McKinsey referred to the need to become "a worldwide company" and the corresponding key challenge to marketing executives with their planning and campaigns. As strategy and budget time approaches for many of us, seems the headache and stress 50 years ago was much the same as it is now.

Remember the #WWDDD hashtag? It's not trending anymore but, in this context, "what would Don Draper do?" doesn't seem such a silly question after all!

- Article: McKinsey Quarterly, "The changing face of marketing" by John D. Louth published September 1966

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