Digital Is Changing Marketing And Changing Business

 In Marketing Strategy

Future of marketingLast fall I attended an “unconference” in Greece  called Stream that was hosted by some truly inspired folks at WPP. It was one of the most amazing professional experiences of my career.

As I mention in my recap, the best part of the trip was the diversity of the points of view. The conference  format and the people that attended made me think in new ways about bigger issues than I would have ever imagined.

And so as we continue our Future of Marketing interview series, I asked the man responsible for putting on the Stream event, Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital, to get his views on the challenges facing our industry and the impact of digital across the entire business.

Mark can be found on Twitter (@Readmark) or to get in touch with the Stream Team (@WPPStream).

Tell me about yourself?

Mark Read on future of marketingI’m Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital.  My job is to help to accelerate WPP’s transition to the digital age.

There’s a lot to do. Digital today is around one-third of our $17 billion of revenue, so we’re not doing badly, but our goal is that it should be at least 40% and soon 50% of our business.  In time, the distinction between what’s digital and what’s not digital will fade but we’re not there yet.  How do we plan to get to 50%?

Above all, we have to be trusted guides for our clients in making the same transition we’re making.   We have to find and motivate the best digital talent, people who can inspire clients and help them use all the new channels to reach their customers.  And we need to work closely with our technology partners such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft who are really media owners.  We also have to find companies at the other end of the spectrum, the smaller start-ups who are changing our industry — the Facebooks and Google of tomorrow.  We bring these partners together every year through Stream our digital unconference, where they (not us) set the agenda and work with our people and our clients to understand how marketing is changing.

Finally, I work with the leaders of the digital agencies and technology companies inside WPP Digital, including 24/7 Media, Acceleration, Blue State Digital,, POSSIBLE, Rockfish and Salmon to help them build their businesses and connect with client and the rest of WPP.

What is the biggest challenge for marketers?

I’d say the biggest challenge for marketers as they tackle the digital transition is getting the right balance between execution and prioritization — the two are inextricably linked.

To me, digital is an execution challenge.  Doing well means getting the basics right.  There’s not necessarily anything particularly complicated about any one element of execution but pulling this off at the scale that marketers require and seeing it through to results is much more complex.

Then there’s the prioritization problem.  There’s always something new coming along.  For instance, three years ago it was Twitter.  Now it is Pinterest.  Should one dive in head first to learn what is going on or is it better to wait until the medium is proved before spending time?  And if you spread your efforts too thinly will you see an impact in your marketing?  That’s the great advantage of TV, guaranteed cut through if you spend enough money.

What is your prediction on the future of marketing?

Let me answer it another way.  It’s clear that digital is changing marketing, but we also see that digital is changing business.  That’s a big opportunity for marketers who get this right.

Now it’s your turn: Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

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Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is the CEO of Marketing Insider Group, former Head of Strategy at NewsCred, and the former VP of Global Content Marketing at SAP. Michael is also the co-author of The Content Formula, a contributor to leading publications like The Economist, Inc Magazine, The Guardian, and Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to the Marketing Insider.
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Showing 7 comments
  • John Proaño

    The Future of Marketing in my opinion is all about Mobile. Our customers, employees, business partners, etc… Are all becoming more Mobile. This is a well recognized trend, however most companies have yet to find a way to build an enterprise that thinks Mobile first. When this happens the business value will be tremendous, just ask the founders of Instagram how valuable that philosophy was for them 🙂

    • Michael Brenner

      Great point John. I agree we have to think mobile first in everything we do.

  • Gazalla Gaya

    Mark makes some valid points I’ve often wondered about spreading yourself too thin and whether you will see an impact on your marketing. What do you think?

    I also think that the future of marketing is all about how mobile optimized you are. Recent Pew studies show that by 2013 mobile is going to overtake laptops and other devices.

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Gazalla,

      I think it’s really just about learning what works and doing more of that and less of what is ineffective. Sounds simple but so hard to do. And regarding mobile, my SAP site is now (already) more than 50% mobile. So mobile-optimized (responsive) design was an important priority for us last year. Now, we’re trying to make it faster loading and more visual as well to account for the time-starved mobile web browser.

  • Daniel Seiderer

    I completely agree that, for marketing purposes, it’s important to get the balance between execution and prioritisation right. But even more importantly, I think organisations need to understand that the digital transition isn’t just a matter for their marketing function. Some great comments on how organisations must change from the outside as well as from the inside for a successful digital transition can be found here:

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Daniel, you are absolutely right. This is not just a marketing issue but one that faces the whole business.

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