To my astonishment, this tweet, which quotes my opening remarks, was the most retweeted/liked/shared of Forrester’s Consumer Marketing 2018:

I was astonished because we released a ton of data and research at the event, nearly all of which garnered many tweets, conversations, and mentions, so the idea that the opening remarks resonated so strongly was initially surprising. But the point I was trying to make, and what I think so many marketers I spoke with last week responded to, was the notion that over that last few years marketing has become about more stuff — more partners, more data, more technology, more touchpoints, etc., etc., etc. — and it’s time to stop the insanity.

Our guest speakers addressed this notion head-on. Jenny Storms, CMO of NBC Sports Group, talked about how sports marketing must become more about emotional storytelling than just competition and team allegiance. Heidi Browning, CMO of the NHL, said that hockey’s audience is radically changing and what used to work over the league’s 100-year history isn’t going to work with new fans. And Mamie Peers of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas talked about how, for her brand, the traditional hospitality marketing playbook wasn’t going to cut it.

But what I took away from these presentations wasn’t just the fact of the changes; it was that each brand used the changing nature of its consumers as an opportunity to curate how it thinks about marketing. It’s not about adding new strategy and tactics on top of the old ones to take advantage of everything they could do. It’s about determining what each brand must do to achieve their goals, and letting go of old notions and practices that aren’t getting them closer to success.

The audience asked Jenny Storms about how she defined the six segments she used to market the Olympics. Demographics played a role, but a far smaller one than you might expect. Her team found that behaviors, values, and attitudes defined audience cohorts much better than demographics, so while it could’ve taken a traditional approach, or used every data point it had gathered, it chose to focus only on the data that mattered.


Heidi Browning talked about how she’s creating a data strategy from the ground up for the NHL, which means she doesn’t have to deal with extraneous data and technology in the first place. She can start with a clean slate, choosing just those pieces that fit with the strategy and adding new elements as a need arises, rather than starting with every possibility and waiting for something to pop.


This idea of deciding on the right things to do rather than just the new things you could do will be an important guiding principle going forward as your trek toward customer obsession is complicated by what analysts James McQuivey and Gina Fleming call the consumer tech stack. As people gravitate more and more toward personal technology that makes their lives richer and easier, the bar for brands who want to interact with them will naturally rise. This means even more choices for how and where to engage your consumers, increasingly through difficult-to-execute two-way dialogues that engender strong emotions and therefore deep loyalty. But more possibilities mean more opportunities for waste — and who’s got time or budget for waste? Based on the attendance at our deep-dive sessions around modern email marketing, Amazon as a search and ad tech partner, and GDPR, it’s fair to say that we’ve all got our hands full.

But at the same time, there was a palpable enthusiasm for the practice of marketing this year that was starkly absent at this event in 2017 when so many issues in politics and business had thrown everyone for a loop. It was heartening to see everyone once again embracing their roles as change agents and it gives me confidence that marketers are taking their rightful place as leaders of customer obsession transformation for their firms.