2018 Marketing Predictions From The C-Suite

Toward the end of every year, I ask CEOs, CMOs, authors, executive recruiters, and other experts from a variety of industries and backgrounds to weigh in on what will be hot for marketers in the upcoming year. From cybersecurity to AI to social media to impact in the boardroom, this year’s predictions do not disappoint.


2018 Will Be The Year Of AI: Actual Intelligence, Not Artificial Intelligence (yet). Mike Marcellin, Chief Marketing Officer, Juniper Networks
A Salesforce survey reported that Artificial Intelligence use among marketers will grow more than 50 percent in the next two years. While AI holds promise for marketing, I think we’re a few years away from AI having material impact on marketing outcomes. In 2018, we’ll see Actual Intelligence – enabled by analytics and automation – take the place of guesswork and allow marketers to be more targeted and quickly pivot as they identify tactics that move the needle.

CMOs Will Become The Center Of Enterprise Influencer Marketing Campaigns. Josh Steimle, Founder, MWI
57% of CMOs have been in the role less than 3 years. It’s the lowest average tenure in the entire C-suite. When Forbes released its report, The World’s 50 Most Influential CMOs 2017, a quick analysis showed that these CMOs had average tenures 61% longer than their peers. For this and other reasons, I predict CMOs will take a much more public stance in 2018, invest in their personal brands, and leverage their personal brands to promote their companies.

CMOs Will Finally Earn Their Place In The Boardroom. Greg Welch, Partner, Spencer Stuart
As consumers become more empowered to influence brand reputations, corporate boards will recognize the need to add CMOs to their ranks. Tomorrow’s boards will bring along the next generation of digitally savvy omnichannel marketing pros to help shape an organization’s strategic direction. The number of active CMOs on boards to date has been minimal, but that is about to change – and it will be a perfect forum for marketers to prove their value.

Traditional Marketing Campaigns Will Die As Marketers Move To Modular MarketingScott Levine, SVP Marketing Strategy, KERN, An Omnicom Agency
Rather than building nearly identical campaigns, marketers will move to a central “living” framework for Modular Marketing, replacing themes, offers and messages within the framework. As marketing technology traverses the adoption curve, the evolution of Modular Marketing will continue, enabling organizations to optimize contact plans or broad awareness directives with replaceable modular themes, offers, messages, and technologically shiny new objects such as AI, AR & VR.

Through the Internet of Things, CMOs Will Have Greater Impact Than Ever On Product Success And Client Satisfaction With The Brand. Deon Newman, CMO, IBM Watson Internet of Things
The Internet of Things will give CMOs more impact on product success and client brand satisfaction. For the first time in 100 years in product manufacturing, marketers will gain direct access to customers and how they are using connected products. Teams will begin leveraging these insights to not only price, package, position and build products based on their preferences, but to introduce additional solutions and services delivered via the connection that add to their experience.

Employees Will Be The New Influencers. Margaret Molloy, Global CMO, Siegel+Gale
In an era when your people are your brand, marketing leaders will finally recognize that an engaged workforce is critical. Our research shows companies who invest in simplifying their workplace benefit from greater employee trust, advocacy, innovation and retention. Simple workplaces communicate clearly and clarify how employees’ roles impact customer relationships to drive business results. In their quest to build brand champions at every level, savvy leaders will foster clear internal communication, where transparency is fundamental.

 2018 Will FINALLY Be The Year That CMOs Maximize The Potential Of Social Media. Tim Collins, Principal, Grisdale Advisors
Despite the fact that many CMOs are leading their company’s digital transformation, CMOs–and the C-Suite in general–have historically lagged in their social media adoption. But that is changing.  66% say they use social media to drive business and build their digital brand.  40% who already use social media professionally expect to use it more in 2018, and 62% of those who don’t, want to.

Move Over, Millennials: 2018 Will Be The Year Of Gen Z For Marketers. Sara Spivey, CMO, Bazaarvoice
Gen Z consumers are coming of age and they command $44 billion in buying power. In 2018, marketers will need to pivot their “marketing to millennials” mindsets to reach this younger audience. Generation Z is value-oriented, inclusive and socially conscious. Rather than marketing to “all about me” consumers, companies need to adapt to Gen Z’s “all about us” mentality and reflect that in their business practices and brand messaging to earn their attention and loyalty.

Marketers Will Focus On Transitioning From Marketing Specialists To Generalists Who Can Lead. Caren Fleit, Managing Director, Korn Ferry
Digital technology, including the surge of AI and focus on data, content, social and mobile, has increased the need for entry-to-mid level functional specialists in marketing.  This has created a shortage of talent with the broad experiences / capabilities to for leaders in the function. In 2018, CMOs will look deeper into their teams to assess for talent with leadership potential, to start earlier on development and succession programs and create a solid leadership pipeline.

Communication Data Will Provide Enterprise-Wide Insights. Heather Whaling, Founder & CEO, Geben Communication
While brands are finally getting better about using business data to shape communication strategies, the reverse has been a missed opportunity thus far. Now that communication departments are savvier about data and analytics, we’ll see heads of strategy, operations, R&D and other departments beyond marketing communications begin to leverage communication data to drive business decisions.

The Best Marketers Will Realize That “Branding” Is Dead And It’s All About Community Activation And Relationship Building. David Minifie, CXO & Executive Vice President, Centene Corporation
As a CMO, I wanted to elevate from Advertising (like personal injury lawyers) to Brand Building (like Harley Davidson).  As a CXO, however, my perspective has changed.  I want to take Transactions (like glancing at the newspaper sports scores), turn them into Engagements (like reading Sports Illustrated) and then elevate them into Relationships (like being a Cardinals fan in St. Louis).  Manufacturers that focus on branding and not relationships…beware!

MarTech Vendors Will Start Heavily Competing Based On Security Capabilities. Holly Rollo, CMO & SVP, RSA Security
Marketing is on the front lines of risk when it comes to cyberattacks. That’s because the biggest application marketing uses—the website—is a prime target. 75% of IT leaders surveyed believe vulnerabilities from marketing infrastructure will be the source of a breach. Deeper regulations like GDPR have organizations focusing on the digital front door where personal data enters and flows. Clever MarTech firms will seize this opportunity to differentiate.

Companies Will Voice Social And Environmental Issues. Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP
Coming out of 2017, marketers should be asking themselves, ‘should our brand have a voice on economic, social and environmental issues?’ While conventional wisdom argues silence, we saw brands stepping into conversations with varying degrees of success. Today’s consumers and workforce favor businesses whose values align with their own, which is inspiring leading brands to find that voice and purpose. In 2018, companies will emphasize their purpose; those who do so authentically will be rewarded.

VR Will Become Our New Reality. Mike Lamb, President, MediaMath
Today, we go from our desktop to our smartphone, but in the future, we will inhabit an ambient computing environment. Whether it’s AR, VR or smart glasses, we’re going to be surrounded, physically and metaphysically, by our computed world. Brands will need to have conversations with their customers in those contexts. Tech like VR may seem futuristic in 2017, but it will become just another medium that will serve as a vehicle for advertising messages.

AI Will Move From A Buzzword To A Reality. Arun Pattabhiraman, CMO, InMobi
In 2018, we’ll see more CMOs understand that artificial intelligence (AI) can be used far beyond automation and optimization. Marketers on a larger scale will start paying more attention to the consumer advertisement interaction. AI can determine which images a user sees and which ones they respond to positively – and which ones they simply ignore. With advancements in deep learning, AI has the power to help marketers not only understand contextual data, but also images.

2018 Will Mark The Beginning Of The End For Today’s Phone-Addicted Society As Technology Begins To Move Beyond The Screens We Carry With Us. Aaron Shapiro, CEO and Founder, Huge
The new crop of smart tech (Alexa, Series 3 Apple Watch) will create a major headache for marketers, as they’ll need to fundamentally rethink how they interact with consumers that will rely less on mobile and more on voice and audio prompts.

Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler


This article was written by Kimberly A. Whitler from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Kimberly Whitler
Follow Me

Kimberly Whitler

Assistant Professor at Darden School of Business
I am a former CMO who has worked both in the U.S. and overseas for a variety of companies, such as P&G, PetSmart, and David’s Bridal. After nearly 20 years in industry, I am currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, conducting research that addresses contemporary CMO challenges.
Kimberly Whitler
Follow Me

Latest posts by Kimberly Whitler