Is Marketing at an Inflection Point?
5 mins read

Is Marketing at an Inflection Point?

Are we now facing a time that dramatically changes marketing’s role in both business and society?

According to The Internationalist‘s recent Insights Survey68% of respondents agreed that Yes– Marketing is at an Inflection Point. One savvy respondent offered a comment that sets the tone for many CMOs: “Yes, we are at an inflection point, but marketing has two directional shifts to make. The first is internal: learn to communicate the IMPACT of marketing on business’ bottom line. The second is external: become truly customer-centric and market-based on insights– rather than simply pushing product.”

Marketing leaders are now tasked with expanded responsibilities of extraordinary complexity and greater accountability. In addition to the current emphasis on corporate purpose, sustainable solutions, and shifting opinions regarding ESG standards, today’s marketers must champion consumer trust, provide unparalleled brand experiences, lead data strategy, rally employees throughout the globe, continually demonstrate significant return on investment… and accomplish it all faster. Add to that, general business concerns about the exponential acceleration of technology, as well as both the future of work and the workforce of the future

Contemporary Issues Intensify Marketing’s Top Challenges

When marketers were asked to identify the biggest changes or challenges they’re experiencing, more than half (56%) admitted that Marketers are often too ‘in the weeds’ to act strategically. One commenter elaborated: “Too often marketing is thought of as what is really just marcomms and not enough on the main focus of pricing, distribution, availability, and product development.”
While nearly one-third (31%) characterized the “urgency of transformation” as one of the biggest challenges to marketing leaders, two other concerns each resonated with 25% of those surveyed: Marketing is now more about optics and what can or cannot be said.Mass marketing is becoming more difficult with increased social polarization.

Interestingly, these two related concerns were expressed by respondents throughout the world, and not just in North America where there has been more public backlash about associating brands with progressive constructs. Clearly, marketers are increasingly worried about the appropriateness of every message and the effects of each brand action.
Other issues cited by respondents regarding current challenges include:“The integration of the MarTech stack and making the right investments in new technologies to increase marketing effectiveness while ensuring further interoperability with sales ops technologies.””Getting everyone in the organisation to focus on the real demographic changes happening across societies such as ageing populations and see that as the opportunity.””Performance vs Brand building media.”

Economic Considerations Are Still a Priority– Ahead of Tech Issues 
When asked to rank specific marketing priorities, rather than overall challenges, ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS placed as the top-rated concern among respondents– taking the #1 spot in 40% of all answers. Participants agreed that both revenue growth and cost reductions continue to be priorities.
Better understanding shifting consumer values and behavior and Putting Human Experience at the center of how brands connect emotionally, even in a digital world ranked higher in importance than Keeping up with technologies that matter most now, especially knowledge of Web3 and AI.
This was a surprise given the attention Generative AI has been receiving throughout the summer; however, marketers have long been dealing with the evolution of technology.

One comment emphasized this: “So much new technology, a tightening economy, lots of data, and driving strategies effectively while navigating AI and other marketing influences make for multiple priorities– as well as less resources and many unknowns. The marketing discipline is simply changing to be more data heavy and tech-enabled.”

Others were more skeptical, as one respondent noted, “Marketing has existed for hundreds of years, and in reality, little has changed. Tactics yes. Mediums a little. Yet understanding people has always been the focus of marketing and will continue to remain the core focus.”
A Consensus on Furthering Marketing Ideals

The survey also asked marketers, If you could focus beyond day-to-day urgencies, what big issues would you ideally like to tackle? (Respondents could select multiple options.)An overwhelming number– 75%— agreed that they would like to be a champion for marketing, so it moves beyond communications to drive innovative business solutions with the C-Suite.Sixty-eight percent said they wanted to use both data and human insight to build out a long-term strategy.Other answers focused on delving more deeply into effectiveness, getting purpose right, and exploring more sustainable business models.
The Internationalist conducted this survey, “Is Marketing at an Inflection Point” during June and July 2023, as part of our Internationalist INSIGHTS Series, among marketers worldwide to explore how the continual evolution of marketing is affecting how today’s CMOs and their teams are understanding priorities, tackling obstacles, and resetting goals. To keep the survey short and relevant, responses close when completed submissions from 50 top marketers are received and all regions of the world are represented. These results help to shape The Internationalist‘s content, think tanks and initiatives around marketers’ core concerns.