Evolution of Marketing and the Challenge to Marketing Organisations and Leaders (part 1 of 3)

Is it any wonder that Business and Marketing leaders find it difficult to keep up with the changing world in which they operate?

Here are TCF’s CEO Neil Woodcock notes on the A-Z of changes in customer engagement technologies in the last 20 years or so, and how marketing departments and their leaders need to adapt.  This is blog 1 of 3 in the series.

The evolution of the application of customer technologies

Stage 1:  1995-2003; Sales and CRM

  • a) Most organisations use clunky client/server CRM to mostly support Sales – Oracle/Siebel
  • b) Database marketing platforms and techniques used for classic direct marketing campaigns
  • c) dot.com boom begins
  • d) Cloud emerges and ecommerce begins in earnest (Amazon 1996)
  • e) Clunky CRM replicated in the cloud for sales people, not yet via mobile phone, sometimes via laptop (Salesforce.com 1999)

Stage 2:  2003-9 Cloud based Sales to Service

  • f) Online and cloud-based services mature – integrating marketing and service with sales based CRM with a much better user experience
  • g) Birth of Social media (online communities from 2000; LinkedIn 2002; Myspace 2003; Facebook 2004; YouTube 2005; Twitter 2006; Foursquare 2009)
  • h) Smartphone starting to emerge (1st iPhone 2007) introducing Apps, messaging and other mobile services
  • i) 3G networks emerging; Wi-Fi becoming common place enabling data access anywhere

Stage 3:  2010-14 Advent of big data and big marketing platforms; disintermediation

  • j) ‘Big data’ as a concept becomes mainstream
  • k) Customer Cookies, device ids enable capture of digital footprints connecting the online world with CRM 1st party data.
  • l) Marketing automation platforms developed to take advantage of this ; Exact target, Oracle, Eloqua, Hubspot, Marketo.  Often used in addition to CRM systems.
  • m) Data Management Platforms (e.g. Oracle’s BlueKai) emerge as huge datasets of 3rd party digital behaviour (later to be challenged by data protection concerns).
  • n) Financial systems integrated with sales, service and marketing in the cloud. CRM built into ERP systems
  • o) Data visualisation and decision processes mature and begin to impact Management decision making processes
  • p) Technology enables both disintermediation and the sharing economy which strongly emerge to challenge existing business models; Booking.com and Airbnb (accommodation), Snapgoods (anything), Uber (taxi), TaskRabbit (domestic help), Liquid (bike sharing) etc.
  • q) 4G and Wi-Fi becoming ubiquitous

Stage 4:  2015-20 – Customer engagement platforms

  • r) Integrated platforms ingesting all available 1/2/3rd party data enabling low latency (near or at real time) decision making to drive ‘contextual’ trigger communications
  • s) Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Natural Language Processing emerge to enable more automated sales, marketing and service in these platforms and online via Chatbots and early ‘virtual customer service assistants’.
  • t) Smart home devices (e.g. Alexa, NEST) become more common place and increasingly used in customer engagement and commerce
  • u) Facebook and Google ‘walled gardens’ dominate digital advertising
  • v) GDPR (2018) puts huge emphasis on data privacy and the use of 3rd party data in particular

Stage 5:  2019 – onwards

  • w) AI, ML and NLP begin to mature and are applied widely
  • x) Algorithm based customer engagement increasingly sophisticated to drive near real time contextual marketing
  • y) Virtual and augmented reality experiences are transforming gaming, entertainment generally, shopping and the high street
  • z) 5G networks enabling fast streaming everywhere

Where we are now:

In the last century it was all about mass marketing with some segmentation usually of high value customers.  In the 21st century it is more about balancing ‘reach’ advertising with highly segmented micro targeting, with tailored content, delivered in context, at scale, through automation which requires a deep understanding of both customer attitude /behaviours and technology.

Marketers used to have strong relationships with media orgs, now the strong relationships are with data and tech organisations.  Today is far more about ‘knowledge communities’ than it is about sales people on the front line.  Insight teams, data centres, knowledge workers, social media influencers, targeting in context (where customer is), agile working and decision making are at the heart of customer centric organisations.


Big changes have only settled in the last couple of years.  From multiple technology foundations, there is an emerging stability.  No really different new ideas, just significant evolutions of existing (e.g. AI, smartphone, CEPs).  As consultants, we see this because we are beginning to repeat what clients need rather than show them the shiny new penny.


So how do high performing marketing teams need to adapt (blog 2/3 in this series) and how do leaders need to lead (blog 3/3 in the series) to ensure they are relevant in today’s world?