Financial Services Marketing: Reborn in the Digital Age?

Sally Percy


Love Letters Publishing

These days marketing is so synonymous with data, tracking and return on investment that it’s easy to forget the other crucial component of any successful campaign: creativity. Fortunately, however, creativity was a major part of the discussion at the Tomorrow’s Financial Service Marketing Function event, hosted by the Financial Services Forum on 8 February 2017.
The age of discontinuity
Opening speaker David Smith, chief executive of Global Futures & Foresight, pointed out that not only are we are living in a period of rapid technological change, we are living in a ‘discontinuous’ period where the future is not an adapted version of the past.
During discontinuous times there is little point asking consumers what they want because their perceptions are based on what you currently offer up, he observed. Yet when competitors offers a new product or service arrives that they like the look of, people are only too happy to leave you and adopt it. Hence the smartphone is likely to be replaced in the next two or three years by voice directed technologies such as wearables and Amazon Echo like personal digital assistants driven by an artificial intelligence interface. After all you lose the use on one hand just to hold onto a smartphone!
Our intensely disruptive age demands that marketers ask the following tough question of themselves, said Smith: “What could we do differently to excite people that we couldn’t do before?”
For organisations to excite their customers in new ways, their marketing and IT functions need to be “best buddies” with each other. As a result, there is likely to be a proliferation of new job roles that combine marketing and tech responsibilities – roles such as chief experience officer, augmented reality producer and bot developer, for example.
“Marketing may be too important to leave to marketing alone,” suggested Smith.
Seize the digital day
There’s never been a better time to work in marketing, observed Mark Evans, group marketing director of Direct Line Group. “The digital world has given marketing a new lease of life.”
Nevertheless he emphasised that marketers cannot afford to be complacent. If they want to be thought leaders, they need to be curious and they need to keep learning.
Evans shared four key observations with the audience:
1. In this world of abundant data, don’t forget the value of a big idea. It is the big idea not big data that can create a golden thread throughout an entire organisation that engenders employees discretionary effort and can lead to transformational performance in service of a brand.
2. The digital world still has a human factor. Although humans may be removed from many manufacturing businesses, the performance of service led businesses will continue to be determined by the quality of people and the way that they interact. Taking this into account, it’s not enough for marketers to be data and technology literate, they also need to be anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists in order to motivate and inspire the people in their organisation.
3. Diversity of thought is a source of competitive advantage. So it is the role of the marketing leader to encourage diversity of thought and to actively seek out the views of those who think very differently. Within this there is an untapped aspect of diversity that marketers should be curious about – Neurodiversity refers to people with conditions such as Autism, Aspergers, Dyscalculia, and Dyslexia all of which bring different perspectives and talents
4. The process of strategy setting has fundamentally changed. In a world that is changing so fast it is impossible to know “what” you will need to do in 3-5 years in order to succeed. Hence the “how” has come to the fore. Specifically to build the capability and adaptability to be responsive to whatever the future “what” is.
Evans said that creativity still has a huge role to play in marketing, which is why his organisation devotes some of its budget to experimentation. In so doing there is a cunning ploy which is to measure to death what is measurable in order to establish commercial credibility for themselves and the marketing function. This establishes legitimacy to have a license to operate in areas that are not as easy to measure.
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