The New Rules Of Marketing: Introducing The Five Habits Of Adaptive Marketers

I recently interviewed a top marketing executive who summed up her journey to becoming a digital-era marketer by saying, “If you feel comfortable, you’re not transforming.” It might sound cliche, but today's most successful marketers are wholeheartedly embracing the "no pain, no gain" mentality.

Unfortunately, the story for most marketers goes more like "all pain, no gain." Over the past six months, I’ve listened to countless marketing executives explain that despite all of the heartache they are enduring, they don’t feel like they are making much progress. In fact, in a recent study by Accenture Interactive, only 4% of marketing leaders feel that they are very prepared to exploit digital marketing opportunities.

So, what’s the problem? In short, marketers are stuck in a world between the old rules and the new rules. To deal with the new rules of changing media, technology, and consumer behavior, many marketers delegate emerging marketing solutions to a handful of external partners or internal "experts." In doing so, they have enabled the rest of the organization to behave much like it did 10 years ago, clinging to the old rules. And until marketers reconcile their internal organizations, they will be fighting a long, painful battle to survive.

To Avoid Extinction, Marketers Must Replace The Bad Habits Of Traditional Marketing With The Habits Of Adaptive Marketing

After interviewing more than 20 of the most successful marketing executives and thought leaders from around the world, Forrester has learned what marketers must do in order to evolve as a species and avoid extinction. We call it Adaptive Marketing — “a flexible approach in which marketers respond quickly to their environment to align consumer and brand goals and maximize return on brand equity.”

To become adaptive marketers, it takes more than rearranging boxes on the org chart. Marketers must lead the organization with a renewed perspective. The biggest challenge is overcoming the five bad habits of traditional marketing: complacency, conformity, analysis paralysis, hands-off management, and silos of knowledge. In their place, marketers will practice the five habits of Adaptive Marketing in the diagram below.

What You Can Expect From This Report

In my report, “CMO Mandate: Adapt Or Perish: The Five Habits Of Highly Adaptive Marketers,” I provide much more detail about how CMOs and marketing leaders can lead their organizations in digital era, including:

  • More than 15 examples of Adaptive Marketing in action.
  • A self-diagnostic for marketing leaders to assess their organization’s adaptability.
  • Recommendations for how CMOs need to redefine their role in the C-suite.

Which of the five habits of Adaptive Marketing would you start with?

Which is the most challenging habit for you to institute?

Which of the five habits is most important for the next digital decade?


Great post


I LOVE this post. I'm going to spread it around to my network. Hope you're doing well.

Stay Positive,

If only

The concept in Christopher's entry is admirable. If only it were so easy. The psychology behind change means that if the management is rooted in tradition, there is a "sameness" pattern at work. To those people, "new" is dangerous. It's not a conscious decision, it's the result of a "meta program" configuration.

My guess is, the traditional management would have to launch a new team to deal with the Adaptive Marketing. And, HR would have to profile candidates to make sure each one could thrive in a fast-changing world.

I love that this entry inspired me to comment.

culture counts

If you are willing to not only accept change but to truely enthusiastically embrace it, start with yourself and your office environment. Change your appearance, change the art in the office and change your mind at least once a day. I hope this changes the expression on your face.

Absolutely correct. My

Absolutely correct. My experience has been that this only occurs when Executive Management drives this. Too often, still, this topic is pushed down to an unempowered level inside the company.

Empowering employees and managers likewise

Hi Chris,
My feeling is that most marketing executives and employees are thrilled by the new opportunities enabling them to interact with clients, peers, business partners and colleagues in a much more intimate and customized way than ever. As almost everyone has made some beneficial experiences yet - at least in her/his private life - everyone is able to contribute to this adaptive process. However, it needs some guarding rails for employees (e.g. how to behave in online communities in my role as an employee) and also personal engagement of managers to exploit the chances to the full. The outcome of such initiatives is rarely measurable directly. This makes it hard for marketeers to get funding or to get dedicated staff members allocated. So, my conclusion is that overcoming the "hands-off management" is key and I would start with this.
I´m eager to read more on this.

Face-to-Face Networking

Especially appreciated the way that you emphasized that the leader has display a personal interest-touch in his organization. I am a believer that the personal touch and face-to-face networking has to be taught to go along with the digital age. We do not want an era when problems are solved by computers..the human mind is still needed and we have to be able to communication with one another.