The first week of December we celebrated an event at Esade Business School where professors, academic collaborators, C-suite executives, PhD students and post-docs discussed what the future of marketing will be. More precisely, this very rich group tried to answer two complementary and interconnected questions: (1) What are the key areas and trends that will drive the future of marketing? and (2) What are the capabilities and skills that marketing professionals will need to develop and strengthen in the future?
Very interestingly, the area that emerged as most relevant for the future of marketing is that of conscientious marketing. This is about transcending shareholder primacy and the short-term approach to business and instead promoting more conscientious approaches to management and marketing.
Conscientious marketing should reconcile purpose and profit and embrace a balanced stakeholder perspective. Companies such as Patagonia and Danone are leading this revolution.
In parallel, martech will become a second key area where companies will need to devote significant investments. The emergence of artificial intelligence, the internet of things, marketing automation, and many other disruptive technologies raises many interesting opportunities, but also relevant challenges.
What is the role of marketing when the client is a robot and the brand is AI-driven? And what are the ethical implications and challenges?
The third trend that we believe will shape the future of marketing is the shift from products to outcomes. For instance, customers will increasingly be looking forward to using products/services instead of buying them. However, competing on outcomes requires companies to rethink their value propositions, revenue models and organisational processes.
Conscientious marketing should reconcile purpose and profit and embrace a balanced stakeholder perspective
These emerging areas/trends will require managers to develop new skills and capabilities. First, managers will need to embrace and foster more conscientious and human leadership styles. Here business schools have a great responsibility. We need to train managers with a deep and broad humanistic perspective and help them to develop good intra-personal and inter-personal competences.
Second, this fast-changing disruptive environment will demand that managers learn to learn. In essence, we cannot expect to be ready to perform, contribute to the betterment of society, and enjoy a meaningful career, unless we become avid learners. This is about becoming much more humble, open and curious.
Managers will need to embrace and foster more conscientious and human leadership styles
Third, managers will also need to become more empathetic. It is not possible to promote more conscientious leadership styles without truly caring for others. Nor is it possible to be ready to constantly learn if we are not truly open and interested in what others can tell us.
Additionally, managers need to develop better skills for critical thinking. There is no conscience without critical thinking. There is no learning without critical reflection.
Overall, we are living in an exciting but also challenging era. Marketing is evolving rapidly and the role of marketing professionals and academics also needs to advance. Unless we open up spaces for discussion and we challenge the conventional approaches to marketing we will not be capable of really showing and demonstrating the real value of the marketing mindset and function.
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