SO, WHAT ARE THE SWIM LANES OF MARKETING ANYWAY?

By: Justin Thomas-Copeland, President, RAPP NY

Marketing was once a career endeavor for freestylers and the free-spirited. Marketers felt, believed, sensed, and used intuition to build brands. But we’re now in an era of rapid evolution, as technology has empowered marketers to become more nuanced and specialized. We are now precision divers, honing narrow arenas of expertise.

Specific skill sets and roles are taking the place of broader traditional disciplines like PR, and brand marketing is evolving to embrace technology platforms and social media at the heart of brand-building. Competencies like advanced analytics, adtech, marketing automation, martech, and monetization have become discrete, narrow trajectories — a bit like swim lanes. 

Where has marketing’s new specificity come from?
The development of these so-called swim lanes has been enabled by changes in all kinds of areas of marketing practice:

  • Marketing technology and automation. Brands are now able to interact with audiences in real time and to adapt in tune with people’s need states.
  • Customer experience. The development of technology means that brands are ever closer to the experience of the customer, and customers are expecting more from these experiences.
  • Analytics and measurement. A new level of accountability is possible through testing and learning. The use of AI and machine learning can now drive smarter marketing solutions and can decrease the amount of human endeavor. Marketers are working in close collaboration with business and marketing KPIs and measuring constantly.
  • Content. Brands are developing holistic content strategies using multiple types of content. They’re able to engineer an interplay between types like “evergreen,” “always on,” and “campaign-driven.”
  • Commerce. Marketers now understand how and when marketing monetizes. They can manage messages across store, app, e-store, and social spaces with a commercial mindset — all while making the journey seem as one interconnected brand experience for the consumer.
  • Data and insight. Marketers are on an eternal quest for better insights into individual experiences and are using data learning to trigger emotional affinity and engagement.

All these channels of evolution combine to make the art of marketing more complex (and arguably more scientific) and drive more measurable business value than ever before. 

The new role of marketing
Specialization is having a big influence on how upper management engages with marketing. For example, almost 70 percent of CEOs interviewed are now entrusting revenue growth to CMOs. It’s these marketing specialists who should spearhead revenue building, leaders believe.

This is a massive change for marketing, which has always struggled to find space in C-suite conversations. Now, C-suite leaders are recognizing that they need to cultivate an obsession with their customers through marketing in order to stay relevant and in touch with customer’s expectations. C-suite members have realized that their boards need to have customer voices represented, so there’s increasing room for marketing to weave its messages into upper-level discussions.

By reducing the distance between marketing and monetization, technology has also given marketing teams increased commercial contribution and accountability. In this time of extreme disruption to business, marketing’s role is ever more important, and the C-suite knows it. 

We can know consumers in greater dimensions now. No longer pinned down to types, they can be known in all their contradictions, habits, inclinations — in short, in all their humanity.

The future of specialization and how to thrive in it
Over the next few years, specialisms will continue to evolve, and the gap between marketing, monetization, and business value will only get closer. 

To make use of these new swim lanes and get to know our customers better, marketers must in a sense “unlearn” the practices they picked up from a more traditional time. They’ll need to forget models that group customers into rigid groups and learn instead to think holistically and more “liquid,” mixing and merging tactics and skill sets to surround individuals with personalized experiences.

At RAPP NY, we’ve been using these swim lanes for decades, but now with increasing data sets available, we have the opportunity to explore them at scale. For one of our healthcare clients, that means building a next-practice CRM and experience design. For another client, it means transforming single-channel campaigns into an omnichannel strategy, each touchpoint primed to monetize. 

While the world of marketing will always be in flux, and these lanes are likely to evolve and evolve ad infinitum, businesses that can dive into them and take advantage of specialisms will be able to offer a more delightful and surprising customer experience.