How is Marketing’s Role Expanding, and What Disruptive Forces is it Facing?

October 20, 2015

ANA-Disruptive-Forces-Affecting-Marketing-Oct2015Client-side marketers are taking a bigger role in shaping business strategy and influencing product innovation and new business models, reports the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in a new study conducted in association with McKinsey & Co. and GfK. These changes are occurring amidst an environment in which marketers are challenged by the pace of new technology and the complexity and fragmentation of marketing, per the report.

The “2015 ANA Marketing Disruption II Survey Research Report” asked marketers to rate various disruptive forces in terms of their impact on respondents’ marketing organization in the next 1-3 years. Topping the list, as it did in last year’s report, was the pace of new technology, cited as being significantly or somewhat disruptive by 84% of respondents. Close behind, 83% pointed to the complexity and fragmentation of marketing, and 82% to consumer expectations for personalized and relevant experiences.

Compared to last year’s results, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of marketers who view the following as disruptive forces:

  • Threats from existing competitors who are more agile/nimble (75% this year viewing as disruptive);
  • The Internet of Things (65%);
  • Direct or indirect competitive threats from innovative start-ups (56%); and
  • 3D printing (16%).

One of the few forces to take a step back this year, though, is the need to produce relevant content for brands. Producing engaging content is still a top challenge for content marketers, but as content marketing further matures, perhaps it is being seen less as a disruptive force. Interestingly, however, content appears to be a bigger force among smaller companies: 79% of companies with less than $1 billion in gross revenue see it as disruptive to their marketing organization, a significantly greater share than the 70% of companies with at least $1 billion in gross revenues.

The report details an expansion of marketing’s role, perhaps in response to the growing competitive threats that marketers are increasingly citing this year. When asked to what extent they agree with a variety of statements about how marketing’s role is expanding at their organization, marketers were most likely to strongly or somewhat agree with the following:

  • Collecting insights that provide the business with a competitive advantage (87%);
  • Helping shape business strategy (also 87%, and up significantly from last year);
  • Understanding/helping maneuver through the competitive landscape (83%); and
  • Driving CRM and loyalty (82%, and up significantly from last year).


These results are supported by research released earlier this year by Korn Ferry, in which senior marketers envisioned marketing in the next 3-5 years as more likely to be shaping the company’s strategy and more likely to be expected to build relationships, loyalty and advocacy among customers.

Beyond strategy and loyalty, a significantly greater share of respondents to the ANA study this year agreed that marketing’s role is expanding to deliver above-market growth (76%), influence product innovation to respond to customer needs (75%), and influence development of new business models (70%).

Interestingly, though, recent results from Duke University’s CMO Survey [pdf] suggest that while marketing leadership is growing or steady in market entry strategy, stock market performance, and customer relationship management, it’s weakening for innovation and new products.

Perhaps that’s because marketers are focusing their resources more on the customer than on the product, per the ANA report. Indeed, respondents noted that they’re driving more value or growth by focusing their resources on the customer experience than on the product. And so while it’s important to change the organizational culture in response to marketing disruption, the need for a culture change is greater among product-focused organizations and among those whose leadership is not focused on customer journey KPIs, the report shows.

About the Data: The results are based on an online survey conducted by the ANA in July/August 2015. In total, 384 client-side marketers are represented in the survey, including ANA members and prospects, members of the ANA Marketer’s Edge research community, the American Marketing Association, McKinsey, Demand Metrics, and Spencer Stuart.

Some 45% of respondents primarily work in B2B marketing, 36% in B2C and 19% both. About 1 in 8 (13%) are CMOs, while close to 1 in 3 are at the VP or director level.

When compared to 2014 data, 2015 data was weighted to the 2014 Marketing Disruption Study profile on job title, B2B/B2C and company revenue.

Disruption is defined in the survey as “the profound changes in the business landscape that are forcing marketing organizations to undergo significant transformations rather than incremental changes.”

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