Back to Gartner for Marketers Blog

Six Digital Disruptions Rocking Marketers’ Worlds

By Jake Sorofman | April 25, 2014 | 4 Comments

Earlier this week, I delivered a free public webinar called “Digital CMOs, Digital Roles on the Rise as Marketing Transforms.” If you didn’t get a chance to see it, you can find the replay here.

In my wind up, I offered some of the white-knuckle realities that are more or less upending the marketing function and forcing many marketing leaders to fill crucial technology and organizational gaps on the path to going digital. I cited six game-changing shifts:

1. The funnel is blown to bits

That linear funnel metaphor which once approximated the express route from awareness to action is now a quaint vestige of another day. The funnel’s been blown to bits by the rise of the connected consumer and a decision journey that looks more like the flight of the bumblebee.

2. The customer is king

While it breaks my slightly word-obsessed heart to invoke such a tired cliché, the customer is, indeed, king. In a time of bountiful choice and when the information advantage marketers once enjoyed is obliterated by search and social, marketers must learn to yield to the customer.

3. The rise of big data

As my colleague Julie Hopkins likes to say, data has become the X-factor in modern marketing. It’s the secret weapon in the race to relevance in winning hearts, minds and wallets on the path to purchase. But data-driven techniques can cross that very fine line between relevant and intrusive—or even creepy—when they’re employed without sensitivity, care and discretion.

4. The rise of big content

Social and search marketing in particular are content-hungry disciplines that force marketers to think and act like publishers, producing exceptional content that earns audience engagement. But content marketing is a daily discipline that requires substantial investments that often pay back on a relatively long horizon. Marketers must find scalable and leveraged ways to source content in a way that sustains both brand engagement and the profit motive of any marketing investment.

5. The experience economy

Hyper-competition has eroded product and service advantages, forcing marketers to seek other ways to drive differentiation, preference and loyalty. The new battlefield? Customer experience. Marketers need to hide the seams between channels and experience, online and off.

6. The advocacy imperative

Consumers trust peers more than brands; that we all know. What marketing leaders now realize is that digital marketing done right enables word of mouth at scale. Tell a story and influence once. Teach your community to tell your stories? That can pay dividends for a lifetime.

What other disruptions do you see, today or looming on the horizon?

Comments are closed


  • Glad to see the advocacy imperative on your list.

    The oldest, and most effective marketing tactic of all time? Word of mouth. Studies confirm this (e.g., in a McKinsey study, 65% CEOs said word-of-mouth is their most effective marketing tool).

    Marketers were rarely, if ever, invited into these buyer-to-buyer conversations. That’s all changed given the social web. What is so interesting, is how buyers love to help their fellow buyers make a purchase decision, even when its a stranger.

    Marketers work hard to construct messages. Companies pay their agencies big bucks to craft messages. But …aren’t the most authentic messages those that come from customers?

  • Thanks for the comments, Richard. Yes, #6 is inspired by your passion on this topic. Wholly agree.

  • David Butler says:

    Nice list Jake. These could be the CMO’s 2014 strategic initiatives. Just insert “Company X” in the front of each.

    Another possible: “Self-service Engagement and Cloud Services”. The Continuous Adoption of Self-service, Cloud Apps and IT. Customers can now rent valuable application services and expect most products to deliver a Self-Service App/try/buy/delivery. The benefits are amazing. Therefore Marketing needs to incorporate self-serve engagement, tools, apps, and communities.

    More importantly The Products therefore need to work day one! The days when vendors could add the features in the 2nd or 3rd release are gone.

  • Hi Jake – great blog. I think the most innovative companies will mix and match the Six Digital Disruptions to increase value. For instance – think about “Big Content” merging with “Advocacy Imperative”…a scalable way to have brand ambassadors produce high quality, brand relevant, authorized content for use in digital marketing.