In Mr. Melanson’s role as Aquent’s chief sales officer, he and his Enterprise Solutions team work with leading global companies to increase their capacity to execute marketing initiatives. Since joining Aquent, he has helped clients build their capabilities by leveraging Aquent’s services in consulting, outsourcing, staffing, technology and training. Joe has created customized solutions for content development, marketing analytics, creative execution, direct mail and other marketing challenges for a diverse group of clients, including HP, Target, AstraZeneca and Philips Design.
PERFORM: What trends do you see affecting marketers in the next five to 10 years?
MELANSON: There are really four key trends that we’re seeing in marketing that center around the theme of proliferation – audience segmentation, touch-point proliferation, product proliferation and globalization. With regard to audience segmentation, there’s been a significant increase in the number of segments marketing departments need to address. Fifteen or 20 years ago, you’d have an enterprise segment and a small business segment if you were B-to-B, and maybe segmentation by age if you were in the B-to-C space. Now we’re seeing microsegmentation and people addressing very, very small segments with tailored marketing messages.
With touch-point proliferation, technology has provided the means to go to market through channels such as new media, social media, viral marketing, creative utilization of events, PR, interactive media and the list goes on. Yesterday’s 30-second TV spot is still there, but it’s a smaller percentage of today’s marketing budget due to the growth in interactive, new online media and event marketing.
There has also been a massive influx in product proliferation – tailored products for specific market segments – in order to increase and leverage brand equity. The result of this effort is that we’re seeing profits increase as a result of having more than one product category.
Finally, we’re seeing businesses of all sizes and industries going global. With that comes the task of having to integrate versions of a product, tailored to specific geographies, requiring translation and additional marketing strategies. Despite the impact these trends are having on the complexity of the marketing industry, these deliverables are being executed at record speed. Where 20 years ago the marketing department might have had a very limited execution capability, today you have people within marketing departments who are focused on interactive, people focused on events and people focused on media. There’s a lot more specialization in what people are doing and in turn, more coordination costs because of that.
PERFORM: How must marketing departments change to adapt? Are companies reluctant to embrace this changing landscape, since you’re talking about more headcount and more money? Or are companies recognizing they need to go in that direction?
MELANSON: Companies are embracing these new media because it actually costs less money. So instead of spending millions of dollars on a media buy, they’re able to reach consumers in a much more effective, cost-per-impression way. The downside to shifting toward new media is we’re seeing companies struggling with the additional workload that hits their internal marketing department. Marketers are becoming burnt out from taking on huge volumes of work and long hours. As a result, we’re seeing an increase in turnover within marketing departments. It’s said that the average longevity of a CMO is 18 to 24 months, but we’re also seeing a lot more turnover in the junior and mid-level ranks as well.
PERFORM: Do you attribute that primarily to burnout? Or is there also such heavy demand placed on the marketing department, such as high expectations, that you think it’s a case of companies expecting too much too fast?
MELANSON: There’s a lot of pressure on the marketing department to execute all of these new media and new marketing opportunities. It’s an amazing transformation of marketing, a mass push to a much more individualized and effective communication tool. So while we’re seeing companies making a transition to these media, what we’re not seeing them do as much is adapting their internal organizations to be able to execute effectively and seamlessly without the effect of marketer burnout.
PERFORM: How do best-practice companies pull it off?
MELANSON: It’s not about giving all the projects to an agency of record. It’s also not just taking an ad hoc approach with a small team of people whose only goal is to execute. That may have worked in the past, but companies today have to take a more systematic approach to marketing. They need to be very project- and deliverable-oriented. They need to have a very clear planning process where they can determine what work is going to be done, which resources are going to be applied – both internally and externally – and they need to be able to execute their projects.
PERFORM: Does all this apply mostly to in-house corporate marketing departments or to big agencies also?
MELANSON: We are seeing these trends on both sides. The internal marketing folks are wrestling with the need to create a roster of different agencies now, rather than a single agency. There’s a trend to create internal capabilities as well, rather than relying entirely on external, and both need to figure out how to get best-of-breed and execute in a way that’s really seamless across all of the different brand expressions.
PERFORM: What are the critical success factors for marketing?
MELANSON: Execution! I think we’re moving away from a world where it was about the big insight and into a world where execution is critical. It’s not enough to have a great product at a great price that’s well-positioned against the competition; you need to also have the right marketing initiatives that support that product in the marketplace.
PERFORM: Do you think that part of this means moving away from the perception that marketing is a “soft” creative area, and approaching it as a science with more structure around it?
MELANSON: Yes. You need to have a brilliant idea around your brand positioning and your product, but the way you get it in front of all of those eyes is scientific and executional in nature. It’s about being efficient and effective, and making sure that you have the right people working on the right projects. By streamlining your processes you are able to have all of the supporting pieces in place to implement that idea.
PERFORM: How can hiring practices help marketers meet their biggest challenges?
MELANSON: It’s really about speed. One thing we’ve innovated at Aquent is how to get marketers into an organization quickly. We’re seeing clients with unfilled marketing roles for three months, six months and longer. It’s very difficult for a marketing department that’s already taxed to compensate for an unfilled position. It puts additional strain on an already overtaxed system.
PERFORM: It also sounds like each person has a designated area because marketing has become so specialized. So when you lose one person, that creates a big hole.
MELANSON: The orientation toward a more scientific planning process makes it easier to decide which projects require external resources. Companies are realizing that, by bringing in a contract marketer with specific skill sets, projects are executed more effectively.
One concern of bringing new talent in quickly is getting them up to speed. We have a program called Talent Bridge, where we place candidates in their specialty area within an organization for predetermined trial periods to make sure it’s a perfect fit for both them and the company. Being able to bring someone in for a specific, well-efined project is part of this new planning process that companies have had to implement to handle the increase in marketing work. We see a lot more satisfied matches between employees and employers when there’s been an opportunity to try before you make that permanent decision.
PERFORM: Any final thoughts on staffing today’s marketing entities?
MELANSON: There are huge changes going on in marketing that are adding a lot more pressure to marketing departments. There’s also greater diversification of the resources that marketing has at its disposal – more agencies, different types of agencies, specialized agencies, more initiatives done internally. There’s a critical need for planning and for having the right resources in place. At Aquent, we’re happy to help our clients do that.