Marketing is in crisis, warns BT brand chief

The future of marketing is in an "existential crisis" because it remains under-invested and underprepared, BT's chief brand marketing officer Zaid Al-Qassab has warned.

Al-Qassab: traditional marketers 'don’t know how to reach customers'
Al-Qassab: traditional marketers 'don’t know how to reach customers'

Speaking at the ISBA annual conference in London today, Al-Qassab talked about the chasm existing between two "marketing tribes" — traditional markets and the digital marketers who "fail to recognise the challenges of the future." 

According to Al-Qassab, the crisis in marketing is not solely about viewability, despite widespread industry concerns on the issue following from Procter & Gamble chief marketing officer Marc Pritchard’s speech demanding greater transparency from the digital supply channel.

"I am talking about the existential crisis around the future of marketing, which is currently both under-invested and under-prepared," he warned.

The traditional marketers have a deep understanding of the customer but "don’t know how to reach customers" and the digital marketers "understand how to harvest clicks, but have no idea why," he added.

He also criticised the "Mad Men vs. math men" debate, and urged chief executives to look for "Leonardo da Vinci’s who value and understand both science and creativity." Al-Qassab added there are very few marketers coming through the door who have been trained in both the art and science of marketing.

His rallying cry for marketers at today's conference is for the two different marketing tribes to come together and lead marketing into the future.

"The only way out of this marketing crisis is if the digital marketers and traditional marketers were to come together and understand each other." he concluded.

To solve this problem of the two siloed tribes, Al-Qassab presented a six ‘I’ framework that could help the digital and the traditional marketing recognise the marketing challenge of the future.

  1. In-touch

A former FMCG marketer, Al-Qassab said all marketers understand the need to have the customer at the centre of all marketing strategy but they need to ensure that they spend time watching and understanding the behaviours of their consumers. "On my first day at BT I went out on a call with an engineer, visited our call centres to try and be personally in touch with my consumers. That is something as marketers we are not doing anymore," he complained.

2. Insight

"I do not need big data but big insight," he said, calling upon marketers to ensure they need the importance of getting the best insight to help customers not just love a product but also purchase it.

3. Ideas

Calling it the "centrepiece" of all marketing, Al-Qassab said ideas is how marketers could help unlock the potential of their businesses.

4. Innovation

"Not the sexy kind" – Al-Qassab stressed – with marketers thinking of innovation as something that is a sexy new product or shiny new packaging or a new piece of tech but innovation in the "way we do marketing". He called innovation as the means to create an emotional way on how consumers could connect with brands.

5. Integration

"A customer-first ideas-lead media natural approach to how we connect with our customers" is how Al-Qassab described marketers could focus on the concept of integration to help create a unified and seamless customer experience.

6. Investment

Al-Qassab said many marketers continue to see ROI as a "dirty word, but if marketers are not concerned about the return on investment of marketing on their brands then they should not be in this business." Referring to the increasing pressures of marketing, and how marketing investments are needed to produce business results, he called upon marketers to understand marketing as a strategic financial asset.

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