Unpeeling the marketing onion: we must simplify to deliver growth

Unpeeling the marketing onion: we must simplify to deliver growth

Advertisers still don’t have the right operating model for the shifting landscape.


It might seem like there isn’t a great deal connecting the marketing industry to an onion. Except both have layers that must be unpicked to understand their core and today’s marketing ecosystem is increasingly layered and complex.

Changing privacy regulations, digital transformation, shifting customer demographics, legacy infrastructure, and rising costs are all layers putting marketers under pressure. And the trick to successfully maneuvering through the ever-changing industry landscape? Working out how to unpeel the layers of that marketing onion. A problem the marketing industry has been trying to get to grips with for decades.

As far back as 2003, 92% of marketers believed marketing had become too complicated thanks to the changing complexity of consumers’ lives. That has only intensified in the two decades since. Two recessions, a pandemic, the advent of smartphones, social media, and the ecommerce revolution has seen consumer behavior change dramatically, bringing yet another layer of intricacy to the industry, our work, and our roles.

Despite all that change, brands today still don’t have the right operating model for the shifting landscape. In June, L’Oréal’s CMO Lex Bradshaw-Zanger shared that he feels marketing needs demystifying to help young talent grow in their roles. Today’s marketing directors are overwhelmed as they try to deliver growth and reach the right consumers with the right brand products at the right time.

It’s no wonder that 63% of marketers feel they are under extreme pressure to deliver revenue growth.

In order to keep ahead of these changes, you need to identify the different layers blocking your path to success – by removing the overarching complexities and allowing you to focus on one aspect at a time.

The outer layers: complexities of the consumer

Understanding consumer challenges is the first step in refining your marketing strategy. It has become tougher than ever to understand consumer behavior and their purchase journeys – especially with so many impacted by the current cost of living crisis.

First, look at how you receive your consumer data, the depth of the data you’re receiving and the insights you can gain from it. It’s no longer possible to rely on legacy data for consumer insights, instead you must keep a constant eye on the fluctuation in consumer purchase patterns and the external events that influence them.

Adapt your data approach by introducing new technologies, such as augmented reality tools,  which can provide you with new granular first-party data streams, as well as offering a more interactive experience for the consumer.

94% of Gen Z are frequently using multiple screens, meaning brands have to stand out and guarantee a seamless approach to media to grab the attention of increasingly distracted users.

The rising cost of living also means the buying journey will become longer, as customers spend more time conducting product comparison to ensure their money is spent wisely. Marketers must bolster efforts to regenerate demand, with more UGC and touchpoints such as reviews, or tagged social feeds, to increase the likelihood of conversion.

The inner layers: complexities in the industry

One of the biggest changes to hit the marketing industry over the past couple of years is the digital-first approach, which has increased consumer expectations. With increased digital interactions, every day billions of people face several ‘moments that matter’, shaping their decisions. Marketers must take action to win these moments which in turn create ‘signals’ both contextual, such as their location or the device they’re using, and intent-driven, i.e. what they want. Using both of these signals together will allow your marketing team to reach out to your consumers with highly targeted content that is more likely to convert.

With a surge in ecommerce and online transactions, there is also a growing expectation for more personalized customer experiences. A McKinsey study shows that 71% of consumers now expect personalization in their interactions with businesses, and 76% are frustrated if they don’t receive it. For the first time real personalization is truly possible, opening the door to incredible new opportunities for customer engagement. But it will need to be dealt with intelligently to ensure personal level data is well used and personalization is performed effectively.

Marketers must also ensure they are prepared for the changes to privacy regulations, removal of cookies, and the sunsetting of Universal Analytics. Data compliance issues can have devastating consequences, with regulators allowing just 14 days to turn around any non-compliance, forcing a shutdown of your entire online presence if this isn’t achieved. This will not only place a renewed reliance on first-party data and data sharing, but will also require more focused advertising strategies to get the right message across to your target audience and impact the way in which we measure success.

The core: complexities of the marketing team

Unsurprisingly, at the core of the marketing onion is the marketing team. Complex campaigns and teams require integration to allow for skills, resources, savings, and big ideas to be shared. If creative teams are separate, then their knowledge, insights, and talents are kept separate as well.

One way to address this is to remove data silos between departments. The removal of third-party cookies will require companies to delve deeper into existing first-party data and to use a variety of external signals to identify those moments that matter. By organizing your data into a single source it will make it easier for your team to access the information they need, and help them identify trends, patterns, and changes in consumer behavior.

Your team must also unify its approach with other teams – particularly IT and sales – to develop collaboration among key players, ultimately driving your growth.

Embracing the whole onion

Marketing as an industry is developing rapidly and, as such, it’s important for marketers to remain resilient, keep on top of changing developments and adapt their strategies to suit.

Breaking down the complexity of marketing and peeling back one layer at a time can help to identify focus areas in order to build a response. Stay curious, but don’t hop on every bandwagon. Use your experience, gut feelings and self-confidence, not to mention the right, trustworthy partners, to make the right decisions.

This, alongside the unification of different teams within your organization, can provide clarity – helping to achieve goals and deliver standout growth to your organization in a changing world.

Lars Lehne is global CEO of Incubeta.

Strategy Leaders: The Media Leader‘s weekly bulletin with thought leadership, news and analysis dedicated to excellence in commercial media strategy.
Sign up for free to ensure you stay up to date every Thursday.

Media Jobs