What you can expect from marketing of the future

May 14, 2018

The 5 most important trends of the future

Social media and online marketing are a thing of the past. Today, marketing is all about big data, native ads and smart content. But what's next? Permanently questioning your business models and constantly reinventing yourself has become part of the daily business in marketing. Hardly any other field is subject to such radical change. So, what will tomorrow's marketing managers have to bring to the job in order to be able to achieve long-term success against this complex backdrop?

In the following, Prof. Barbara Stöttinger, professor of international marketing and dean of the WU Executive Academy, analyzes the 5 most important trends for the coming years and explains what basic skills will continue to be indispensable for marketing professionals.

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Marketing is subject to radical change. Marketing manager should identify current and future trends to be successful. Photo © CC0 Licence

This ad campaign is causing a sensation in Italy—and beyond: It tells motorists to let someone else drive if they have had something to drink. “Otherwise, we will drive you.” The advertisement by an undertaker from Rome may be highly unusual for the industry—but it has, without any doubt whatsoever, attracted the desired attention: The company’s brand recognition has soared, and its ads are making the rounds on social media. This goes to show that in the age of Facebook, artificial intelligence and augmented reality having good ideas continues to be a sine qua non.

Attracting attention at all costs

Marketing campaigns do not necessarily have to resort to unusual means in order to reach their target groups. However, the deluge of information coming at consumers and businesses makes it increasingly difficult to stand out. Hence, marketing experts wonder what the future will hold and what tools will become more important in the coming years. It is no secret that digitalization turns familiar approaches upside down. So, what will tomorrow's marketing look like?

Picture of Prof. Barbara Stöttinger

“Marketing has always been a fast-moving business; change was happening quickly, and you had to keep your finger on the pulse—now, it has even become significantly more dynamic as a result of digitalization and other technological developments,” says Prof. Barbara Stöttinger, dean of the WU Executive Academy.

It is against this backdrop that she sets out to show, based on the following five assumptions about the future of marketing, that while big data, social media and highly sophisticated analysis tools open up new opportunities when it comes to achieving marketing success, basic skills such as understanding the target group and building long-lasting relationships will continue to be indispensable in this context:

1. Listen and understand

As a result of the marketing revolution caused by social media, potential new and existing customers expect businesses to listen to what they have to say rather than just blow the marketing horn. If you want to build long-lasting customer relationships, you not only have to be understood, but you also need to understand. Engaging in dialogue is the key to success in this context. For many businesses, this is by no means a matter of course, so a conscious and sustained effort must be made to foster dialogue.

Picture of the New York Times Square
It is not enough to just blow the marketing horn - dialogue is the magical word. Photo © CC0 Licence

2. Strong brands foster customer retention

Loyal customers who actively strengthen the brand—that is the ultimate goal of any marketing professional, and one that may be easier to achieve in future. What was once one-way communication has become two-way interaction, providing not only valuable feedback for future marketing activities but also an opportunity to make satisfied customers who feel understood even more loyal. In future, it will be even more important to turn these customers into brand ambassadors who proactively engage in dialogue with others so as to convince them of the brand's merits. “Self-confident brands allow such dialogue to take place and actively support their brand ambassadors by shining the spotlight on them in the context of communication activities,” says Prof. Stöttinger.

3. Data and analyses will become even more accurate

In the world of marketing, too, artificial intelligence and big data are topics of key interest. That said, marketing experts need to ask themselves: What is the purpose of collecting data, and what are the collected data used for? Collecting and analyzing data must not be an end in itself but a means to an end. That is: Say goodbye to traditional marketing and hello to relationship marketing, which is mindful of the target group's needs and desires. “While the collected data provide a good basis for building long-lasting customer relationships, they are no panacea,” explains Prof. Stöttinger.

symbolic portrayal of being connected
AI and big data are topics of key interest, but you need to know how to use it. Photo © CC0 Licence

4. Marketing has to be personalized but unobtrusive

Modern technologies have made personalized marketing much easier. But there is a fine line between data-based marketing, which makes it possible to develop campaigns tailored to specific target groups, and obtrusive marketing that people find irritating and annoying. It is not only because of more stringent data protection requirements that marketing experts will have to be even more careful to ensure that they harness the potential of personalization without annoying the intended target group.

5. Good content is, and will continue to be, a sine qua non

Exciting stories, news and real value—good content is a sine qua non when it comes to marketing, and that won't change. In fact, it will become even more important, given that you can no longer enthuse people unless you offer them content that is tailor-made and valuable in the very best sense of the word.

Portrait Barbara Stöttinger

Dr. Barbara Stöttinger

  • Dean of the WU Executive Academy

Now, more than ever, you need to produce high-quality content that is unique so as to ensure that your marketing campaign will stand out in the deluge of information coming at us these days.


While modern technologies open up many opportunities, people and their individual needs and desires will continue to be at the heart of marketing.

These 5 trends and much more are part of the Professional MBA Marketing & Sales. Get more information about the program here.

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