“Any company that cannot imagine the future won’t be around to enjoy it.”
– Gary Hamel & C.K. Prahalad
As humans, we tend to embrace linear change. Our minds are hard-wired to expect one day to be pretty much the same as the next, hoping for some modest growth and improvement along the way. We take comfort in our daily routines. Except every so often, non-linear change breaks the spell, and we wake up to a world that is nothing like the day before. Brand launch teams, as well as their marketing agencies, are entering such a time of unprecedented change. Business models are being disrupted, customer experiences are being transformed, and trusted marketing approaches are suddenly found to be wanting. As launch teams attempt to embrace these changes, agencies are also reinventing themselves in order to deliver value in a digital marketing environment marked by an increased focus on automation, measurement, and performance.
Five trends in particular are driving this non-linear confluence of brand launch and agency combustion:
1). Service as Software
As a growing range of consumer services become available “on demand” – whether it be taxis via Uber, home services via TaskRabbit, or everything from groceries to TVs via Amazon – many “traditional” agency services are also in the process of being reinvented, reimagined, and generally pulled through the looking glass. This new set of “agency services on demand” are characterized by services such as Userfarm, which provides crowd-sourced video production – drastically increasing creative options while potentially reducing the cost of producing marketing videos– or 99 Designs, which quickly and cost-effectively provides dozens of design alternatives from a global pool of design talent.
This marketing technology roadmap from ChiefMarTec.com points to the range of marketing functions and services that are being “eaten” by software, with the number of firms entering the space doubling over the last year!
As more services are mediated via software, the service-driven agency business model is coming under pressure – with brand teams realizing they can either demand lower prices and/or bypass many agency services altogether.
Much like automated investment platforms such as WealthFront are poised to replace high-priced financial advisors, marketing automation platforms and programmatic media buying are examples of how roles which once were agency staples, complete with dedicated teams of specialists, are now threatened to be replaced by software algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI). Adobe has emerged as a leader in this new automation ecosystem with Adobe Marketing Cloud which enables dynamic experiences, programmatic buying, and real-time optimization.
For Launch Teams: Powerful marketing platforms and service offerings are now available to fuel accelerated launches characterized by targeted reach, agile content, and detailed metrics. Look for agency partners with a demonstrated grasp of this new ecosystem.
For Agencies: This type of disruption levels the playing field for small agencies and potentially opens the door to new service offerings. Build competencies in the leading marketing and advertising automation platforms to drive strategy and ideation for your clients. Explore opportunities to leverage the on-demand economy in content creation and adaptation to accelerate delivery, reduce delivery risk, and drive economic performance.
2). Scalable – Flexible
The most powerful outcome of “agency on demand” services is that brand teams now have access to new levels of scalability and flexibility. Similar to how the clinical trials process has come to be routinely outsourced to CROs, the new model of life science marketing points to a scalable future in which Contract Commercial Organizations (CCOs) handle some or all of the marketing functions for a company, streamlining the effort and time involved with hiring, managing, and executing what is an increasingly automated and technologically driven marketing environment.
For Launch Teams: Great flexibility around staffing decisions and the ability to hire end-to-end service providers allows the brand to stay focused on key strategies and metrics. Accessibility to a broader set of modern expertise can accelerate go-to-market activities and expansion of global reach.
For Agencies: Leaner teams, quicker turnarounds, and distributed staffing provide for new production processes and business models – allowing agencies to deliver best-in-class service offerings. Establish a plug-and-play model that aligns capabilities and partnerships to serve activities ranging from market development to marketing and sales.
3). B2B Driven By B2C
With close to 60% of US consumers now shopping online, and annual online sales growing at 14% year-over-year, it’s no exaggeration to say that e-commerce has radically transformed consumer expectations in a wide range of industries. Employees working and selling in a B2B environment are increasingly bringing their B2C expectations with them into the workplace. In other words, if we can order an item on Amazon with just one click, why should it be so difficult to do business in a B2B transaction? The healthcare ecosystem has long been sheltered from the influence of B2C user-experience due to opaque pricing, complicated delivery methods, and layers of insurance paperwork. However, the poor B2B user experience within life sciences is giving way to an increasingly sophisticated set of expectations and platforms.
For Launch Teams: With payers and providers playing an increasingly crucial role in launch success, a strong B2B presence is fast becoming a strategic imperative. Consider use of infographics and interactive animations to shorten cognitive pathways of complex information through visual storytelling and haptic learning techniques.
For Agencies: Opportunities are arising to expand UX, creative, and technical skill sets into enterprise level and B2B solutions that marry traditional technology IT services with engaging UX and brand storytelling. Also, keep in mind that all this design work is wasted if regulatory is not on board. Be prepared to consult and guide regulatory and compliance stakeholders so that they become comfortable with new approaches and experiences.
4). Measurement… no really!
Marketing technology guru Scott Brinker notes that, “If code is the engine that powers the digital world, then data is both its fuel and its exhaust.” After years of paying lip service to measurement and metrics, brand teams as well as their agencies are entering into a new environment in which measurement is not an afterthought at the end of a campaign, but instead is the core driver of the entire campaign – driving marketing automation, real-time customer insights, and powerful big-data algorithms in ways that were simply not possible a few years ago.
Along with the growing centrality of measurement and data comes a growing recognition that staffing needs for marketing must be seriously upgraded, with an increasing need for sophisticated data analysts as well as strong working knowledge of data by team leaders. Not only will marketing staff need to be comfortable with all varieties of data, both big and small, but they will need to be armed with marketing insight platforms that give them the ability to track marketing activity in a unified view.
For Launch Teams: The ability to design, execute, and optimize a precision marketing campaign, fueled by metrics, has become absolutely critical to success.
For Agencies: A “growth hacker” mindset needs to permeate the culture, closely aligning success metrics with driving rapid and sustainable launch trajectories. While reporting is fundamental, greater skill in data discovery, event correlation, and interpretation are critical to delivering true actionable insight.
5). Innovation and Digital Dynamics
Several forward-looking pharma companies are aggressively staffing innovation labs in order to keep pace with the rapidly evolving digital landscape. Mylan’s Hackathon enlists an open community of students and professionals to develop solutions that address real-world challenges over the course of a weekend with participants well fed and winners rewarded. GSK’s Open Innovation Forum acts as an always-on “Shark Tank” where anyone can share his or her concept for the next big consumer health breakthrough via a portal. From “code sessions” to “maker sessions” to crowd-sourced innovation, the goal is to evolve services and keep skills up to date and nimble in terms of applied innovation and problem solving. These kinds of approaches are also valuable in defining a culture of innovation to attract investors and talent to fund and deliver on next-generation services and products.
Agencies are also facing similar challenges as their own employees need to keep abreast of the latest trends, technologies, and platforms. On the horizon, the integration of Internet of Things, Ambient Objects, and Wearable Devices promises to take marketing technology to altogether new levels. Establishing collaboratories that replicate real-world environments can serve as proving grounds for team ideation as well as client workshops and usability testing.
For Launch Teams: Now is the time to prepare for a commercial and customer environment filled with even more digital innovations. This holds especially true for brands that are looking to launch in the next 12to 18 months.
For Agencies: This anticipatory marketing tech stance is critical for launch success and needs to be fostered in and among the brand and agency team members so that when the launch materials and channels go live, everything is closely aligned to the latest technology and customer preferences.
Launching brands, together with their agencies, are co-creating the future of marketing as they come to terms with the five powerful forces transforming marketing and driving launch innovation: service as software, scalable platforms, B2B disruption, measurement that matters, and a state of constant innovation. Successful launch engagements will be marked by a spirit of collaboration, curiosity, digital knowledge, and customer engagement. Most importantly, it will take a shared imagination between launch teams and their agencies in order to successfully launch in the midst of this exciting and dynamic new digital marketplace.