The future of brands: 7 takes from Jim Stengel

Recently, Jim Stengel, the former global marketing officer at P&G, opened up on his blog on what he perceives as the future of marketing. I very much liked what he had to say. My takes and comments.

1. Brands are becoming more important not just as identifiers in crowded markets but also as valuation mechanisms. As Stengel points out, 30 years ago, “almost none of the market capitalization of the S&P 500 could be attributed to brand equity; today it is above 30%.” Stengel sees that as a sign that marketing has become more important. I agree – certainly in the sense that brand can now be visibly seen to add value on the bottom line. I wonder though whether marketing itself has gotten more important or whether it has become increasingly important for marketers (with their heritage involvement in communications) to evolve their understanding of the value, performance and application of brands.

2. Marketing will be more and more about the behavior of the people behind the brand, not what the brand says. Absolutely. Last week’s post about “human marketing” centred entirely on this point. Increasingly brands are judged not just by what they deliver, but how they deliver it – and people are the key component in delivery. If your human marketing doesn’t cut it, nothing else will compensate.

3. Marketing will integrate and synthesize with other disciplines. And vice versa in my view. The globalisation of markets is being clearly mirrored by the globalization, convergence and integration of functions. Delivering “on brand” now involves not just everyone – human marketing again – but almost every aspect of the organisation’s intellectual and operational arsenal.

4. Competitiveness will increasingly be right-brained in its orientation. Stengel’s own words: “Empathy and artistry will get more important. Empathy is at the heart of marketing because it is the ability to see and feel through someone else’s perspective. Artistry is the intuition and creativity to invent something that offers something new and important for a customer” Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.

5. We’ll all know more, so we better make sure that, as brands, we understand more. Hadn’t really seen the full implications of this one I have to say, but Mr Stengel’s absolutely right. “Big data and advanced analytics will profoundly impact how well we understand our business.” We tend to hear so much about the privacy concerns of big data, but this marketer’s point that it will also yield big insights is very true. The key seems to lie in what brands do with all the information that will flood their way. Those who percept and act will swim and win. Those who try to filter and wait will drown or be swept away.

6. Great brands will continue to “[upend] the business model”, questioning and reframing the frameworks, zones and channels within which they do their business. And they will do so, not for innovation’s sake, but because the changes they make to the ways they are organised will bring them closer to consumers. Great point, well made.

7. Finally, marketers will need to become more nimble and adaptive in how they present their brands and associated messages to communities of consumers who are no longer at their desktop. Instead those people will, in time, be moving rapidly, impatiently and individually, through areas of a city or town that they are highly familiar with. Getting their attention, remaining part of their conversation and attracting them to engage will require new approaches and new ways of thinking about media. Stengel quotes Eric Schmidt in saying that the future for brands will be “social, local and mobile”.

Plenty for all of us to think about here as we power into 2012.

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