Marketing’s All About Change, Connections, and Engagement in 2015

2015 is all about change. And those who don’t change and grow will simply be left behind.

“A growth mind-set is something intentional,” said Ed Gilligan, president at 165-year-old finance brand American Express during LinkedIn’s FinanceConnect New York at Time Warner Center. “It’s a decision made by choice.” Speaking to a room full of senior marketers for several marquee finance companies, Gilligan stressed that growth and reach in the digital age means building relationships, amplifying your reach, and taking risks with your marketing messages. “So it’s important to create an environment where people feel like they can take a risk,” he said. “You only fail when you don’t try.”

In fact, he insists that marketers should be thriving on innovation and change. Gone is the direct marketing of the past in which companies “simply drop messages that aren’t relevant,” he said. Instead, customers, especially millennials, expect intelligent marketing that knows who they are and change with each decision.

And frankly, young adults have forever-evolving expectations—so marketers need to keep up. “We’re constantly learning how customers want to shop and pay for things. Our goal is to not be tied to a piece of plastic—a black or a platinum card,” Gilligan said. “We’ve navigated that phase. We’re focusing on the customer. Now we’re learning and providing services through wearables and consumer phones; we’re meeting customers where they are.”

Gilligan said that by meeting customers in their individual journeys, marketers can appeal to consumers at every age and find new ways to surprise and delight: “So, it’s not just about planning for today but for the business in five and 10 years from now.”

He encouraged marketers to be great listeners and always to have open conversations with customers—no matter the feedback.

“Brands can live or die based on customer conversations,” Gilligan said on a final note. “It used to be people had no way to tell a brand about their values. Now social allows for that feedback. So just relate to them on their terms, not ours.”

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