Let's talk about the future of marketing: It's emotional

Following B2B Marketing’s annual conference, Ignite, Molly Raycraft discusses how to transform the business beyond digitisation. The answer is pretty easy.

Humans are complex beings, sometimes illogical in their thought process and emotions, sometimes even hypocritical. Technology has none of these attributes.

We’ve celebrated the rationality that technology has delivered but let’s face it, things like tailored programmatic ads no longer seem novel. They’re expected. Customers are looking for the next impressive thing to wow them.

From what was said on the transformation stage at B2B Marketing’s recent Ignite conference, the answers could lie in our human imperfections.

It’s no longer about what technology you can use to provide the ultimate digital experience, it’s about using the tech you have in the best way possible to meet your customers’ logical as well as illogical drivers.

In his talk at Ignite, Peter Bell, senior director of marketing EMEA at Marketo neatly summarised the density of the technological power that marketers have in their grips. “If we want you as a customer we have more ways and more tools to get you than we ever had before,” he said.

But everyone has this toolkit. Perhaps, yes, an automated email dropping into your inbox in the 1990s felt like a marketing revolution, but today we’ve all trained our eyes to glide over our inbox, picking only the exceptional messages to read.

It’s a sea of sameness.

Antonia Wade CMO at Thomson Reuters agrees. “If there’s too much information, people can’t make a decision,” she said during her talk.

This feeling of tech over-kill prompted Antonia to take a U-turn. She wanted to claw back some of the human interaction and emotion left behind during our pursuit of digital. Antonia realised that the nine personas Thomson Reuters had separated its customers into weren’t fit for purpose – they were too simplistic to represent the human condition.

We don’t segregate ourselves into colonies with people that have the same personalities. So why would our digital self?

Antonia’s research showed personas intertwined with each other – sometimes they could be the influencer, other times they were being influenced. So how do you drill into the intricacy of human interaction and emotion?

You need to be emotional and interactive yourself. This doesn’t have to mean creating tear-jerking campaigns that pull at the heart-strings. It just means providing an essence of human presence.

“People will tune out if you’re not there,” affirmed Jill Rowley, chief growth officer of Marketo, when discussing the importance of a profile on social media.

We’ve become so hung up on the onus to find behavioural trends and segment target audiences into boxes that we’ve forgotten to bring ourselves to the table. It’s like making pancakes with only milk and flour – both are essential ingredients but you also need eggs to make it work.

So what should we pay attention to as the wow factor of tech wears off?

The connectivity tech brings means customers can see other opinions, what you’re doing and what your competitors are doing. It’s so easy to compare vendors in the click of the button. So while your digitised offerings no longer set you apart, you must compete on emotion.

In her talk at Ignite, Marije Gould, VP marketing EMEA at Verint shared her views on futurology. She gave focus on the emergence of a new customer. (Maybe not new, but definitely hidden behind the short-term amazement of AI-fuelled software.)

Customers don’t care about you using impressive tech to target them, because they expect you to be using that anyway. Instead they have become more ethically aware – and are basing business decisions upon that. They care how you treat your staff, how environmentally friendly you are, and how honestly you behave.

That’s why BP, Vauxhall and Oxfam have all paid a hefty price to resuscitate their brand image and reputation. “People don’t want to associate themselves with brands that don’t act in the right way,” explained Marije.

The mishaps and betrayals of previously well-loved and trusted brands (which mainly proliferated because of the visibility of our digital era) has led to a rise in scepticism. Customers have awoken to the fact that occasionally businesses won’t act in parallel with what their marketing suggests.

And when something does go wrong, it’s not tech you want to speak to for a reassuring response. It’s always a human that reigns supreme.

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