We're in danger of creating an internet of wallpaper

Brands need to learn from the likes of Ikea, which is responding to changes in the ways we choose to live our lives.

I love working in marketing and feel incredibly lucky that I found a career I genuinely enjoy. There are so many aspects to what we do – being creative, understanding people and how society is changing, using technology to increase our sophistication and driving the hard numbers to make sure we’re a sound investment. There are many interesting people I get to meet who influence what I do and how I think about my job. It’s forever changing.

In my mind, marketing is an art form, a balancing of a number of ingredients, not to get "the sale" but to take people on a journey that lands them at your doorstep and makes them want to be a part of your brand.

It’s about matching a "need" someone wants to fulfil with something you can offer. It is all about the customer – if there’s one thing I could change about marketing, it’s to get our industry to remember that.

As marketers, we’ve got so many tools at our fingertips that mean we can follow our potential punters around the internet, analysing their online behaviour and making assumptions about who they are and what they want.

We can automatically serve ads, personalise our creative, recognise where somebody is, what the weather’s like where you are etc. We can chase from the very top of the marketing funnel down to the bottom with multi-variant messages and nudges. We’re a clever bunch.

I think, though, that we’re in danger of losing the art form, getting lost in what we can do, rather than what we should do. We’re in danger of teaching consumers to switch off from the ads and messages we serve them because we bombard them, the ads are not timely or are just downright inappropriate.

If we’re not careful, our sophisticated tech-fuelled marketing machine is pasting an internet of wallpaper that people are learning to ignore.

From a business perspective, the combination of digital adoption and technology is making marketing more accountable – on the one hand helping us quantify the value we create, but on the other driving a more hard-nosed short-term ROI culture within the brands we serve.

I think we can get lost in the tech and forget the longer-term, deeper emotional connections marketing should be creating.

Many purchases we make aren’t in-the-moment decisions; there’s a journey we go on that ends with a purchase.

Marketing at its best understands the complexities of human decision-making and aids that decision-making process. It remembers that humans are complex beings, that brand equity builds over time and that the best brands create value for their customers – they play a specific role in their life.

One brand I think does this well is Ikea. It could just flog us flat-pack furniture, but instead it makes efforts to understand how we make decisions and how society is changing. It’s using technology to help you see how furniture fits in your home with its augmented-reality Ikea Place app, recognising a critical part of the decision-making process. It understands people increasingly don’t want a throwaway society and is adapting itself accordingly. It invests in marketing that's building a brand for the long term.

The role of marketing is of course to attract people to a product or brand, to get people to buy – but it should also create a connection, a reason to buy that aligns with what the customer wants. It should help customers make a decision, make them feel good about that decision and create an emotional bond that makes the customer come back for more.

Marketing is far more than just a sales machine, increasingly driven by technology. Marketers need to make sure they remember there’s a complex human being (a customer) they’re trying to win over.

Lisa Wood is sales and marketing director at Great Rail Journeys and a member of Campaign's Power 100. She was previously chief marketing officer at Atom Bank

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