How marketing moved from 2020 to 2030 in six weeks

Estimated reading time
4 minutes
17th June 2020
Author: Kit McKay
Posted in: People, skills and leadership

Like it or not, the marketing function has been dragged into the future, forced to undergo a level of digital transformation most weren’t expecting until a decade from now.  

The way we operate has fundamentally changed. A recent survey in the US found that 42% of respondents nationwide are working from home – an incredible jump from 9% pre-pandemic.

“There are hundreds of marketers across Cisco now working from home,” tells Faith Wheller, Director of Segment, Brand, and Advocacy Marketing EMEAR at Cisco. “A lot of us have children and it’s very difficult to work full time and keep your own business going while homeschooling and making sure you’re there for your children.”

Companies are allowing employees to work flexibly around their home commitments, with some like Twitter and Square even making this option permanent.

A woman works from home with her french bulldog in her lap

“Our whole marketing organization and strategy has been refocused to make sure we have that balance in our home lives,” says Faith, “but that we’re also focusing on the areas where Cisco can add the most value to our customers and partners who are experiencing the same challenges as us.”

For some marketers, this change is a welcome one, offering a chance to spend time more meaningfully. Darren Carter, Regional Marketing and Communications Manager at Morgan Sindall Construction, used to spend hours of his workweek traveling between cities, time he has now reclaimed to spend on both work and family.

“The marketing team at Morgan Sindall Construction has been given the gift of time: time to reflect on what we’ve been doing, educate ourselves, and rethink how we approach everything in a digital world,” Darren tells us.

The difference between talking digital and being digital

Rethinking digital is something countless businesses are faced with right now. The brands coming out on top are those that are able to be dynamic in their digital operations. Messaging needs to be updated on a weekly, if not daily, basis, which means lengthy workflows and heavy reliance on agencies have become debilitating. 

“We used to go back-and-forth with agencies and freelancers with amends to the point where, by the time it came to publish, the content was already out of date,” Faith highlights. “This drove us to make the shift to dynamic content operations about three years ago.”

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) conducted a survey during the pandemic which found that in-house functions are playing a critical role in the development of creative assets – 55% of marketers are now relying on internal agencies and 42% on other internal teams. This process is likely to accelerate the pre-COVID trend of brands assuming direct responsibility for varied marketing tasks. With success stories like Cisco, it’s easy to see why:

“Last year we moved 70% of our content creation away from creative agencies, set up our own in-house creative team, and equipped them with the right technology. We’re on track to save ¾ million this year. This all meant that we were in a good position to hit the ground running when digital channels became the only channels.”

An inhouse team of one man and one woman brainstorm together at a desk

With this operational agility, marketing can be more responsive and relevant to target audiences, which is what being digital is all about.

“We’ve been using our digital channels to tell the stories of our customers and coworkers working across the UK,” says Darren, “to bring the most value to our audience.”

The creativity required to reach audiences exclusively through digital has pushed marketing from 2020 to 2030 in about six weeks. Marketers have thrown out their old ways of working and are looking at new ways they can stand out on such noisy channels. 

“This marks the difference between a company talking digital and being digital,” explains Nick Mason, CEO and Founder of Turtl. “It’s the capacity to push the envelope and think beyond what was possible before.”

Is this merely a blip or will it bring about lasting change?

With plenty of talk about the new normal, it does remain to be seen how this forced transition to an agile, digital-first approach plays out in the longterm.

“We’re all going through massive changes right now and this is only the beginning,” Faith summarizes. “From how we work to how we communicate, the focus will be on holding the customer at the forefront of what we’re trying to achieve.”

To find a positive out of all this, we should look towards the opportunities for change that an upheaval of this scale creates. As Nick concludes:

“I think we’re going to see a lot of innovation through digital content off the back of what’s going on in the world as the increased competition for headspace drives marketers to think outside the box and be more creative than ever before.”