4A’s Member Op-Ed: The Future of Marketing Is Less Advertising

Let’s remind ourselves that three of the top four biggest influences on consumers’ buying decisions are all word-of-mouth-derived: Friends and family, recommendations from within one’s social media circle, and online reviews by other people. Given this, brands fighting the daily share battle have a much better weapon that will generate positive word-of-mouth and ultimately sales: Great customer experience.

It’s been shown that brands that get CX right outperform their competition through big gains in stock price. This is why within 4 years, more marketers will interact directly with their customers through technology and personalization than interact indirectly with them through media and advertising.

Unfortunately, we’ve got a ways to go. While 90% of marketers agree that personalizing the customer experience is critical to their success, nearly 80% of consumers stated that the average brand doesn’t understand them as an individual. This is what’s called the “experience gap”—and a much greater focus on narrowing this gap is how brands will win the daily share battle.

How? Here are some starting points:

Mike Proulx, EVP Digital Strategy & Tech Innovation, Hill Holliday
Mike Proulx, EVP Digital Strategy & Tech Innovation, Hill Holliday
  1. Brands: As technology takes center stage in marketing, CMOs must break down the barriers they’ve traditionally had with CIOs and play the role of CX champion and integrator. This means caring equally about delighting customers at every brand touch point—not just those in media and advertising. Doing this requires planning marketing budgets differently to create value in each interaction versus sheer tonnage of ad impressions. “Another department handles our website” can no longer be an excuse not to enhance a customer experience.
  1. Agencies: There is no more powerful marketing tool than the customer journey—and modern lead agencies must own it in order to express big creative platforms as the right kinds of delightful brand interactions at each point along the journey. Today’s definition of “creative” should hone in on that which is purpose-built, contextual, and personalized. Agencies need to abandon legacy ways of working and invest and lean in to their experience design talent more than ever before as the stewards of CX.
  1. Publishers: Customers want greater control over their media experiences as well as peace of mind with how they’re being targeted. Publishers should stop debating about what makes a better ad and think about how to make better user experiences—change the game, challenge the status quo, and level the battlefield in favor of consumers. Things like YouTube TrueView, Facebook Canvas, and Shapchat geofilters & lenses are just the very beginning of paid branded experiences that empower users.
  1. Consumers: It’s consumer behavior that’s forcing the hands of brands, agencies, and publishers to rethink advertising. On the marketing battleground, consumers are fighting to seize greater control of their user experience. They must continue to skip content that’s not relevant, block ads that are invasive, bounce off poor click-through destinations, and abandon useless apps. Change will never happen if most consumers tolerate bad experiences.


Mike Proulx is EVP, Director of Digital Strategy & Tech Innovation at Hill Holliday


Submitted by Mike Proulx, Hill Holliday