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What Will Marketing Look Like in 20 Years?

By Matt Moorut | December 02, 2021 | 0 Comments

MarketingCustomer Acquisition and RetentionDigital Marketing Strategy and ExecutionMarketing Leadership and ManagementMarketing Leadership and StrategyMarketing OperationsMarketing Organization and TalentMarketing Technology and Emerging Trends

The days are getting shorter, the nights colder and Christmas may or may not be cancelled imminently. All of these things signal that it’s the time of year that Gartner releases its Marketing Predicts (paywall) research!

When we first started producing predictions, they were easier to forecast. The best example of why is the pandemic, which threw several trends off-course. Beyond that, marketers now have to deal with rising inflationary pressures, global supply-chain issues and a climate crisis.

And yet, our best and brightest analysts have come together again to produce several new predictions, looking forward as far as 2026.

Having seen the research that goes into them, I believe some may even come true, despite the aforementioned volatility.

Off-Track Predictions

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry – and so do predictions.

Despite the research that underpins our predictions, a few have gone wide of the mark. In those cases, it’s interesting to see why that was the case.

When we published our 2020 Predicts predictions (released in December 2019), we – like everyone else – failed to predict the pandemic. That impacted a few of the predictions that year. Go figure.

Looking further afield, we missed a couple of predictions related to usage of AI by marketers. Partly, this is due to struggles in operationalising broad usage of ML-based tools. As such, its use has largely been restricted to recommendation engines, basic propensity-modelling and simple dynamic-content. The pandemic caused a refocus on shorter-term optimisation projects, which also hampered appetite here.

We also got forecasts for the relationship between CIOs and CMOs slightly wrong. That was largely due to the pandemic too, which caused a rebalancing of the power (and budget) between the IT and marketing divisions.

My Predictions for Marketing in 20 Years

Given that even our very-well researched predictions can go off course, it’s ridiculous to think I can predict anything for 20 years time. As such, here are my entirely un-researched long-term punts:

Please note these are not Gartner predictions and are attributable to me alone.

  1. Since Gartner has overstated the usage of AI in previous predictions, I predict that in 20 years, 30% of marketing teams will ban the term “AI” from conversations. Conversely, vendors providing AI tools will replace their senior leadership teams with ML algorithms, causing 85% to fail within 6 months and the remaining 15% to become listed among the most valuable 100 firms globally.
  2. There will be 3 more pandemics, entirely separate from covid-19 in the next 20 years. Due to this, humanity will decide to live underground like in the film, 12 Monkeys. This will reduce the value of billboard advertising by 98% but dramatically increase sales in direct mail.
  3. In 2042, 50% of CIOs will report into marketing with the other 50% of firms having CMOs report into IT, as martech takes sole precedence in shareholders’ eyes.
  4. By 2042, “Chief Digital Officer” will become the de-facto term for Chief Executive Officer.
  5. Consumers’ increased focus on environmental issues will conflict with businesses’ improvements in marketing techniques, resulting in a 658% increase in ‘shame purchasing’ by 2042. This will cause 90% of brand advocacy campaigns to fail, since the majority of consumers will hide the fact they ever bought anything.
  6. Businesses operating today that are still operating in 20 years time will have gone through a cycle of in-housing then outsourcing (then in-housing again) 12 times on average.

One Prediction That Will Come True

Ultimately, there’s so much volatility that it’s impossible to tell exactly what form marketing will take in your organisation in 20 years.

That said, there are strategies and governance structures that marketing leaders can implement today that WILL be useful in 20 years’ time.

The best bet is to build governance structures for adaptability. Businesses must focus on the value they provide to society. Then, marketers will have to adjust the positioning and execution of messaging to maximise the resonance to different audiences. That will likely require tools that support marketers’ efforts to give audiences personalised information and CTAs.

Next Steps

If you want to, come and find me in 20 years and we can discuss why my predictions were right or wrong.

If not, there’s a much-better researched set of predictions listed in Predicts 2022: Marketing Builds New Connections (paywall), in which a key theme is the divergence of touchpoints between consumers and their audiences.

Beyond, I’d be keen to read your predictions for 20 years! Write your best ones in the comments below.

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