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What marketing gurus need to know for 2017

There's no doubt that 2016 was a turbulent year: Brexit, Trump's election and the Italian "no" vote have thrown politics – and business – into uncertainty.

This feeling is likely to contribute to a global slowdown in advertising spend next year, with media owners' net ad sales growing by 3.6 percent compared with 5.7 percent in 2016, according to projections from MAGNA. North America and Western Europe will be most notably affected, while brands will increasingly spend their marketing dollars on search and social media, MAGNA forecasts.

At the same time, a plethora of new ways for brands to communicate is likely to develop. This year has seen Instagram launch Stories, its Snapchat-like feature, while Facebook has opened up Messenger to brands so they can communicate directly with customers via chatbots.

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Soon, it is expected to let ads into its video streaming feature Facebook Live, while sister brand Instagram is likely to incorporate "social selling" into users' feeds. And this is just scratching the surface of the new technology out there for marketers to play with.

So what does all this mean for CMOs trying to steer their brands through the turbulence? CNBC.com spoke to a range of experts to glean what marketers need to know over the next 12 months.


The 'post-digital' CMO

While "post-truth" became Oxford Dictionaries' "Word of the Year" in 2016, relating to the idea that facts are less influential at shaping public opinion than emotion or personal belief, consulting firm Forrester Research has predicted that "post-digital" will be the key attribute for marketers in 2017.

This means that CMOs will be making their brands more human and helpful in the face of less loyal consumers, 40 per cent of whom have a "high willingness and ability to shift spend," according to Forrester's "2017 Predictions: Dynamics that will shape the future in the age of the customer" report.


The gender balance

By 2028, women will have the decision-making power of more than 75 percent of discretionary household spending, according to a report insurance group AXA compiled with Accenture. This is something CMOs need to consider in 2017, said AXA's global marketing and digital officer Amelie Oudea-Castera.

"The ambition we set ourselves is to become the most trusted insurer for women: we want to stand out as the insurer of reference," she told CNBC's Marketing Media Money by phone. The company has already created products to reach women, such as Mujer Unica in Mexico, aimed at the growing numbers of middle class women with incomes over $35,000 a year.

For Lucie Greene, director of innovation at agency JWT, brands must be wary of stereotyping. "As consumers, women are too often placed in boxes like "mom" or "wife". Not only do these boxes not speak to women's experience, they also leave out certain consumer groups entirely."


Data dealing

People are starting to realize that their information is gold to brands, with a global study by analytics company Aimia out this month stating that 41 percent of people regard their data as "highly valuable," up from 31 percent in 2014. This trend has caught the attention of entrepreneurs and brands alike: Tim Berners-Lee is working on a new project called Solid, which aims to give consumers more control and the "freedom to choose where their data resides."

Meanwhile, new app citizenme lets people exchange their information for cash, and U.K. start-up People.io is working with tech incubator Wayra in Germany to "dynamically license their data and attention to brands," in exchange for products and subscriptions. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of people in Aimia's research said they wanted more control over their data.

Dominic Field, partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group in London, talks about data "lakes" as the next big information trend. In an ideal world, the CMO would be able to "pour" all a company's relevant data into a "lake" to "target the right people at the right time," he told Marketing Media Money by phone. However, Field describes most businesses as currently having a series of small ponds or puddles.

Technology tipping point

Will 2017 be the year that branded chat bots go mainstream? Bank of America, beauty brand Sephora and Pizza Hut all used them this year and marketing research company Warc reports that 55 percent of CMOs think Artificial Intelligence will have a greater impact on marketing and communications than social media overall. Lenovo CMO David Roman believes that there will be a place for AI for consumers, but also between machines.

"On the one hand, AI makes the interaction between the person and the device infinitely more interesting: the device not only knows you, it knows the context in which you are doing things, it's picking up information and accumulating it and as it knows more about you, it can be more useful," he told Marketing Media Money by phone.

"Another part of AI is accelerating even faster, which is machine to machine, this is radically transforming manufacturing, supply chains, the way a whole lot of things work."

But Roman warns that privacy and security must be a concern for brands, while Guillaume Roques, EMEA CMO at Salesforce told Marketing Media Money via email that marketers must not be "dazzled by the novelty and instead focus on the specific business outcomes AI can deliver."


Structural shifts

Lenovo's Roman sees an evolution towards a business that is organized around consumer groups rather than products.

"We change all the time. The move [is] from thinking about ourselves in terms of our products and what they do, to really thinking about ourselves in terms of our users, and what they do with our products," he said.

This means that marketing plans, budgets and campaigns will be organized around users rather than products. To this end, Lenovo has created the role of "super business manager," people who focus on what the tech-buying public wants, and who work with business managers who are product experts.

The role of the CMO will continue to evolve, said Andrew Davidson, EMEIA head of marketing for Fujitsu's business application solutions. "Marketing has been disrupted by digital for 10 years: CMOs now have to be jack of all trades more than ever, they have to be chief transformation officers, they have to be chief digital officers and they need the best access to technology to make sure they are talking to customers in the right way," he told Marketing Media Money via phone.


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