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March 30, 2017

How to Keep Up with Rapid Change in Marketing?

by Tom De Baere



Marketing is changing rapidly. Do you also have the feeling that marketing has changed more in the past 2 years than the past 50 years?

Marketing is changing faster, I agree. Even stronger, most marketers today feel overwhelmed with the speed of change happening in the job we are passionate about.

On top of that, marketers do not have a clear consensus on what areas to focus on in the future. And when they want to introduce new marketing innovations into the organization, they hit resistance to change, lack of budget and lack of skills.

In this blog post I want to cover the following:

  • The entire history of marketing and technology through time: how fast are things going?
  • Why you need to go faster when introducing change,
  • How you can speed up the introduction of these changes into your organization.

Okay, let’s get started…

Is the speed of marketing change really increasing?


Image source: Adobe Study 2013 – “DIGITAL DISTRESS: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night? “

Marketing has changed more in the past 2 years than the past 50 years. That’s a quote I found in a study from Adobe, on the things that matter most to marketers back in 2013.

But is that true? Are marketers anno 2017 indeed faced with much more changes than in the past?


The History of Marketing Technology Through Time

So the question is : are marketers anno 2017 indeed faced with much more changes than in the past? My gut feeling says yes, but to be sure I plotted everything that I can think of as being marketing technology innovations on a timeline.

Why did I take marketing technology as a reference for change? Well, because marketing technology seems to be the one thing that is driving the change in marketing. More broadly speaking: marketing technology is the biggest enabler when it comes to bringing new customer experiences and keeping up with customer expectations.

Although most probably not scientifically correct, this is the way I’ve plotted them:

  • Everything in  the past is plotted in the year it first appeared.
  • Everything in the future is plotted in the year it really becomes relevant and visible to the majority of marketers.

This is what I came up with:




If you plot that on a graph, you get something like this:



My “scientific” conclusion: yep, change is happening faster and faster. While many companies are still trying to master social media, chatbots are entering the marketing world as we speak.



Why you need to speed up marketing change?

If you look back into the past, marketing innovation is something of all times. It comes and goes in different shapes and forms. Some innovations, like telemarketing and banners ads, are tactics that do not work anymore in the world of today.

The difference with the past is that these waves of innovation seem to be occurring quicker and quicker.

Think of a couple of years ago, where self-driving cars where just a dream. Today they are reality. The same goes with chat-bots, augmented reality or artificial intelligence.

virtual reality arcade pods - fourth digital transformation

Virtuality VR arcade pods of the 80’s (Ben Delaney)

I still remember myself as a student experiencing virtual reality back in 1996, through virtual reality arcade machines.

But the history of VR is much longer, going back to stereoscopic photo’s and viewers in 1838, early flight simulators in 1929, and the first VR head mounted display in 1960.

So VR has a long history. But then, suddenly, technology catches up and things get into an accelerated pace.

Suddenly artificial intelligence and chat-bots hit the market. Suddenly augmented reality headsets are everywhere at affordable prices.

These technologies have been long in the making, and advances in computing and technology are now making them possible.

The rapid pace of innovation and technology advancement has had a profound impact on marketing strategies. Almost in every marketing domain things are changing rapidly:

  • customer touch points (letter, phone, email, website, social, chat, voice, beacons, artificial intelligence, …)
  • customer behavior (purchase, recency/frequency/monetary, loyalty, online behavior, omni-channel, personalized, predictive, …)
  • advertising (catalog, personalization, automatic, …)
  • logistic innovation (store, delivery, 1 hour delivery, drones, 3D printing,…)

The biggest challenge for most companies is  how to introduce these innovations in a  fast way, so technology doesn’t catch up by the time you finish your implementation.

How to increase the speed of marketing innovation adoption

speeding up marketing innovation adoption - fourth digital transformation

Image source: “Hacking Marketing” from Scott Brinker

Funny enough, almost all change that is needed to speed-up marketing innovation introduction is related to the human side of the business.

At the risk of becoming “fluffy”, high performing companies are doing this better than lower performing companies:

  • Investing in digital channels and programs
  • Investing in hiring staff with digital expertise
  • Investing in digital marketing technology.

But the key is not the investment in itself, but it is about how you organize yourself to make the most of these investments. These are the main ingredients of the change required to speed-up marketing innovation introduction:

  1. Onboard strategy first “T-profile” people: people that can tackle diverse projects with creativity and agility while maintaining high effectiveness – these profiles have a wide knowledge, often one single expertise (hence the “T-shaped” profile),  know when to bring other expertise into a project.
  2. Liquid marketing technology stacks: by choosing the right marketing technology architecture, you will be able to quickly introduce new technology or replace outdated technology. Check out this post to learn more .
  3. Partnership with IT: as marketing is becoming a more technical discipline, we need more IT skills and resources. IT departments that want to remain in control hamper marketing innovation introduction. The ideal environment is where marketing is working together with IT towards one single common goal.
  4. Incremental and iterative thinking: leadership needs to start thinking in terms of short sprints or minimum viable campaigns, promotions or programs. Rather than planning 1 year ahead, start building version 1.0 of a deliverable. This thinking requires a new organization set-up, in which you start working with multi-disciplinary teams, iterative design thinking and more.
  5. Agile marketing organization structure: At its core, agile marketing is simply another method by which a marketing team communicates the value of their product/service to consumers, with the goal of earning a purchase from those consumers. But it distinguishes itself from other marketing strategies by focusing on short term goals whose validity can be tested with hard data and continually revised. Check out this post on digital marketing organization structures to learn more.
  6. Agile governance: also decision making must change, and learn to adapt their strategy based on results. Management can make adjustments based on bottom-up market feedback, and move from strategy 1.0, to strategy 1.1, to strategy 1.2, using progressive insight from each increment and iteration.
  7. Customer journey aligned organization structure: by aligning your organization along the customer journey, the whole organization and it’s resources are focused on the customer and their needs.

That’s it for this one. If you liked this post, why don’t you share it on social media ?

I would really appreciate your feedback, as it motivates me to continue my work on helping modern marketers to embrace the challenges of tomorrow. Just drop me a note on Twitter @tomdebaere.

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere