Tyler VaughnThe field of marketing has changed rapidly as we begin to enter the new millennia. Gone are the days where creative ad campaigns and eye-catching promotions will suffice for companies to get ahead of the competition and ultimately win the hearts of their consumers. Today’s marketer must be equally proficient in analytical capabilities as they are in creative/strategic thinking. Excelling in today’s marketing environment means being willing to understand the consumer through a cultural yet nuanced lens. Consumers want choices yet yearn for their brands to connect with them in a way that goes deeper than pure functionality. In this article, I will be laying out three of the biggest qualities a marketer today must have to succeed in the coming decade: storytelling, curiosity, and humility.

Advertising and marketing have historically been reliant on the whims and objectives of creative geniuses of ad men and eloquence of creative agencies. Today, we see more and more consumers tuning out the clever ad they may hear on TV or on the radio. We have more distractions today than ever before, with the average person reading approximately a few thousand words a day. So how do marketing departments penetrate through all of the noise and gain not only the would-be consumer’s glance, but their eye? The answer is in effective storytelling. Marketers today need to understand what their brand means on a cultural level. What are the occasions that revolve around not only the product itself but its category for consumers? From there, they need to be able to use both quantitative and qualitative tools to uncover the underlying pattern across different consumer segments and craft the message that will most resonate with their distinct buyers. According to the Fogg Behavior Model, created and developed by renowned social scientist, BJ Fogg, the three elements that must be present for behavior to occur are motivation, ability, and prompt. Effective marketers must ensure that the stories they tell about their good or service tap into the unmet need of the consumer, provide low physical or psychological barriers for them to act, and effectively grab their attention.

One of the earliest lessons we learn in life is the value in being a good listener. The Greek philosopher, Epictetus famously said “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” While it is true that effective marketers should be well-attuned in the art of listening, it is not enough to succeed in 2020 and beyond. Marketers need to have an insatiable curiosity, both pertaining to their consumer and beyond. Everyday people all around the world make a vote for what kind of person they are and what kind of world they wish to see through the products and services they buy. How society gathers information and the context with which it is understood is never static, and so neither should be the potential marketer. The smart marketer will look beyond mere demographic labels such as “millennials vs Gen Z”, and seek to understand how beliefs, behaviors, and values have changed over time. This requires more than just vigorous textbook study. Indeed, it requires a level of immersion in the phenomenon of culture within your consumer’s sphere of reference. For instance, if you are marketing financial services software, it is not enough to simply ask your consumers what their opinion is of your product. You have to go the extra layer deep and seek out what the are the actions and habitual behaviors that revolve around the product you are marketing? What are sources of tension or unmet tangible and/or intangible needs for the consumer? Only a truly curious and open-minded insights or marketing practitioner is capable of this level of commitment towards understanding consumer behavior.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, today’s marketer must have a sense of humility in their craft. In an industry that has become vast in its applicable skillset and outlets for creativity, it is always important to realize that the journey of learning has no end. There will always be someone who can program a marketing mix model, come up with an in-depth cultural insight, design a compelling presentation, or think of a new product that will surely breakthrough the category better than you. Since marketers are often strategic consultants at their core, it is easy to become inward-looking and reliant on ego as their career progresses. What must be remembered is that this field is as much art as it is science. The most robust regression model or deep-seeded insight may pale in comparison to the simple yet sticky catchphrase in an ad campaign like Bud Light’s “Dilly dilly!” The marketer of the future must be one who is always willing to both stay hungry and test their own assumptions at every juncture.

We are entering an incredible age in the world of marketing. New innovations in the areas of technology, medicine, services, and consumer packaged goods call for even more opportunities for smart and empathetic individuals to craft the right messages, discover the optimal outlets, and tap into the unmet needs of consumers worldwide. With the skills outlined above, as well as many others not mentioned here, the marketer of 2020 is well-equipped to handle these dynamic challenges and be champions for their brand or organization.