The dramatic changes taking place in the marketing industry are creating wonderful new opportunities to connect with consumers. However, amid these opportunities, chaos reigns, said Unilever's Babs Rangaiah in his opening keynote at the iMedia Brand Summit in Coronado, California. The industry is facing countless challenges: overwhelming amounts of data, the mobile Wild West, shifts in agency models, the need to create and disseminate content across an ever-fragmenting media landscape, and more. It's enough to make any marketer want to curl up in the fetal position and wait for it all to just blow over.
Rangaiah, VP of global media innovation and ventures at Unilever, had a simple message for brand leaders at the summit: Don't be afraid. Now is the time to take risks. Brand leaders today have the access and budgets to drive the changes needed to create a brighter future for marketing.
"I'm not here to talk about our history, but rather our destiny," Rangaiah said. He presented multiple Unilever examples throughout his presentation -- from the well-known "Real Beauty Sketches" by Dove to lesser-known case studies such as Unilever's bold radio campaign in India -- but he pointed out that each and every brand has a unique opportunity to shape the future in its own way. "It's about getting a discussion going on what needs to be done to take away the complexities," he said.
Rangaiah noted that the current MVPs in marketing -- meaning the most valuable platforms -- are the ones that focus on being:
- Made for mobile
- Visually social
But it's about more than that, Rangaiah said. Beyond the key elements behind any MVP, marketers are tasked with unravelling the complexities related to four areas:
Brands today are publishers and newsrooms. Content creation and distribution are complex and difficult phenomena. "Real Beauty Sketches" doesn't just happen. To become the most viewed online ad in the world, you need a solid strategy behind fabulous content.
New models in e-commerce emerge every day. Warby Parker. Birchbox. Trunk Club. The brands that are rethinking the traditional commerce model are the ones that will shape the future for marketers and consumers alike. Such innovation doesn't have to be built into your DNA. Just consider Hellmann's, which combined technology and consumer insights to rethink something as simple as a grocery receipt.
Programmatic buying and other forms of marketing automation started as solutions for remnant inventory. But in the future, programmatic will fundamentally reshape all areas of marketing and buying, Rangaiah said.
The role and importance of HR has evolved dramatically. Employees require different skill sets, many of which will supplement knowledge gaps among senior marketers. HR representatives aren't just hiring managers anymore -- they're brand ambassadors.
So, how are you thinking about the above challenges? (Are you thinking about them at all?) If not, it's time to start, Rangaiah said. "This is our time," he concluded. "It's not just about great case studies. It's about great partnerships that will help us sort this whole thing out. It is an unbelievable time to be in marketing."
Lori Luechtefeld is publisher at iMedia Communications.
"Hands holding the sun" image via Shutterstock.