Tom Seddon, chief marketing officer of InterContinental Hotels Group, thinks his employer, the largest hotel group in the world, has already glimpsed the future of marketing and says he is already practising it (see cover story, page 12).
Seddon says relationships with customers are at the heart of everything. He talks about putting customers in control of the direction employed by each of IHG’s brands, using insight gathered from the 44 million members of IHG’s loyalty scheme to guide innovation. Such reliance on data is only going to increase. The better and cleaner your data is, the more ability you’ll have to tailor meaningful conversations with potential customers.
A true understanding of social media and how to track your consumers as they move seamlessly through the online and offline elements of their daily lives, will also be key. The real-time and “24-hour” aspects of social media cannot be ignored. Your customers don’t stop talking about your brands, or indeed their own lives, outside business hours. Such conversations are ongoing. Joining in and engaging in these dialogues can be ten times more powerful for a brand than a broadcast campaign. If mobile marketing represents the latest phase in the evolution of direct marketing, social media is PR’s newest and most potent incarnation.
Where else is budget going to be spent? Engagement will be key. The biggest brands are looking at involving their customers in all their communications. Samsung is inviting consumers to produce the ad campaign for its Blue Earth touch phone. Marks & Spencer has launched a digital campaign to push its environmental message ahead of the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen. The retailer is inviting customers, staff, investors and suppliers to create a patchwork quilt of images and messages to send to world leaders at the summit.
And Nissan is reported to be looking for an agency to help it with activity that is response focused rather than brand led.
This is not the ceding of control for marketers. Instead, this is marketers understanding the social trends that are going to elevate their status within the business world of tomorrow.