2020 Vision expert insight

Anne Godfrey on the changing face and pace of marketing


In one of her last interviews as Chief Executive of CIM (The Chartered Institute of Marketing), Anne Godfrey considers how technology and the availability of data will impact on the future of marketing, and the imperative for businesses to use this responsibly.

About the author

Anne Godfrey was Chief Executive of CIM for three and a half years, until December 2015. She is a Chartered Marketer and a specialist in change management within the not-for-profit space. She has held leadership roles in a diverse range of membership organisations, including the Law Society and the CBI. In her new role, Anne is Chief Executive of CIEH (The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health).

Anne Godfrey

At a glance: Digital technology will create opportunities for two-way communication flow with customers. Investing in the quality of data will create efficiencies and productivity gains. Technology needs to be used responsibly to build trust. Smart businesses should create a strategy covering privacy, data protection and cyber-security.

Marketing can provide the customer insight to implement strategy and deliver growth. Forward-thinking businesses should make the most of that opportunity, but remain mindful of their responsibilities too.

Customers are living in an increasingly digital world, and consequently digital will become an ever-larger part of the marketing mix – businesses need to do it, and do it well.

That feeds into the rise of big data: digital creates great opportunities to collect data on consumers and trends, but you have to harness it effectively, and that means honing those skills within your organisation.

Fast, informed decision-making

The digital world is your chance to always be where your customers are. And you can use the insights that your marketing or data team gather to create the right customer experience, the right products and the right services. Social media in particular is a great opportunity to build up your brand reputation – but that reputation can be tarnished at the click of a mouse. You can’t always control the conversation – so you must deliver on your promises. Don’t forget that marketing is an opportunity for information to flow in both directions – it’s not just about raising market awareness.

If your marketing team is working effectively with the wider business you deliver broad benefits. For example, quality data can boost efficiency and productivity by helping you make informed decisions quickly and get to implementation faster.

Taking your responsibilities seriously

However, we’re also likely to see a corresponding increase in consumer unease about what data is being used for. We can now gather so much information about where a person is, what they're doing, what they're buying, how they're buying it – but technology needs to be used responsibly. Facial recognition adverts that react to passers-by have come under fire, for example – we must be mindful of what people are comfortable with.

Businesses need to understand what all of this means in terms of responsibility and ethics. Brands need to do what their customers expect of them – this doesn’t just mean identifying and reacting to trends, it means you need to build trust. Responsible use of data is crucial in a digital age.

The pace of change makes it imperative for businesses to establish a strategy around privacy, data protection and cyber security.

Be wary of consumer comfort zones

It’s also important not to just follow trends. Things change fast, and so must you. Digital and social evolution means you can interact with customers and consumers at the touch of a button and the next ‘big thing’ is never far away. If you stand still you'll be left behind.

In my view the UK is embracing the digital world and recognising it as a great opportunity. One of the things I love about digital, as both a technology and a channel to market, is that any company can do it, no matter where they are and how big they are. British companies are using that accessibility to their advantage and applying digital in innovative ways. Used well, digital can create a brighter future.

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