In 2019, Marketing Could Learn a Lot From the Punk Era


From data quality to machine learning – Marketo EMEA president Jamie Anderson shares his 2019 predictions for the marketing industry.

Jamie Anderson, Marketo EMEA president

Making predictions about the future while looking over your shoulder at the past could seem a bit counter intuitive, but it proves that an idea can simply take a long time to be realised.

In 2009, notable PR magician and all-round marketing good guy, Richard Laermer, wrote a book called ‘Punk Marketing.’ It centred around this idea that consumers were making an effort to regain control from big corporations, changing everything. He wasn’t wrong, of course, because that’s precisely what’s happening now. In a world where big data is mishandled and consumer trust still abused on a daily basis, it’s been a long time coming.

This revolution of sorts will impact all brands in 2019, and will be driven largely by with cultural nuances and signals that will impact the way marketers operate.

• Talking about a revolution – punk marketing

Ten years on, is now the time for a new kind of punk marketing? Laermer’s book concentrated on helping marketers make the most of the revolution, but the punk marketing I’m envisaging is less of a strategy and more of a response to a movement. Generation Z’s dissatisfaction with, and disinterest in, the mainstream’s gloss and optimism is a prime example.

The relentless ‘awesome’ that has ruled social media and dominated the message of marketing for most of this decade is at odds with the way Gen Z thinks and acts. My daughter is a prime example. She uses Snapchat, exclusively, to express an acerbic and often dark humour that just isn’t reflected in the way many brands communicate. She and her friends aren’t interested in looking at yet another post of a beach holiday that looks like every other post of a beach holiday.

A new wave of marketing is forming: in a mix of realism, simplicity and opinion. Realism is striking and memorable. Reality expressed through simplicity inspired and created many great cultural movements; punk, grime, rock ‘n roll, Impressionism. This will be a defining feature of the new era of punk marketing. So what does all this look like? In 2019, it’s going to be necessary to give people something to remember you by.

• The case for authenticity

Especially when it comes to representing a brand’s purpose. Everyone knows that most brands and companies exist to make money, rather than more altruistic reasons. There is nothing wrong with this, and in my new world it’s time for brands to be honest about it. Because once that’s out of the way you can get on with developing an opinion that marks you out, finding something to stand for that gives people a reason to believe in you, without it being undermined by the unspoken reality of shareholders and dividend payments.

Authenticity is a much-overused word these days. For Gen Z, it means more than the right kind of models wearing the right kind of clothes. It means having beliefs and acting on them. It means honesty in the way you talk and what you say. It means representing things as they actually are, free from the interference of slow motion and filters. And it doesn’t just mean making some pretty films that make it look like you do all of these things. Purpose-driven marketing will require this authenticity in the new year.

• Focus on data quality

2019 will see a focus on quality of data fed into machines, in order to help them learn and be effective. In 2018 everyone was obsessed with machine learning and AI. But some key things held it back: insufficient data structures, minimal applications, and general confusion. The reality is people still don’t understand AI. And tech vendors have seized on that confusion and hype, selling in a pipe dream.

2019 is set to be the year that companies align their data structures to accelerate machine learning capabilities.

• The Chief Disruptive Officer

Those responsible for making these adjustments in the new year aren’t part of the sales team or even product and engineering teams; it’s usually marketing that needs to remain at the heart of disruption. More often than not, marketing is repressed by individuals who don’t want to change. But, 2019 will be the year of actual change, not just talking about the possibilities. The future belongs to the bold, not the meek. The truth is marketers cannot be suppressed, they need to open their minds, seize that creativity, the thing that drove them in the first place, stand for something.

Much is going to change in the marketing industry in 2019. Some key lessons were learned last year that will point us in the right direction. Reality, simplicity and opinion was at the heart of punk and, if marketers are going to succeed into the next decade, it’s going to have to be at the heart of what we do, using authenticity, disruption and data to support. Let’s just not take too long this time.

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