Tell Me: What Will B2B Demand Generation Look Like in 20 Years?

future retro

Here are five thought-provoking predictions for what marketing will look like in 20 years.

Marketing changes so fast these days, even one-year predictions dates pretty quickly. But I was intrigued by the challenge to envision B2B marketing, especially in the demand generation arena, over the long haul.

The gauntlet was thrown down at an “all hands” meeting hosted by one of my clients for their marketing team and key agency partners. It was a take-home test, so we were able to reach out for ideas and distill our best educated guesses. Impressively, the final report featured 115 responses!

Here are the five I found most inspiring:

1)     Multi-threaded branding.

“The articulation of an organization’s brand to its customers and prospects is no longer delivered via a vision statement or tagline, but a series of individual thoughts that complement each other, as well as the mindset of the person receiving it….

“Hundreds of digital experiences spread across all online channels rather than one big site. The successful ones get ramped up and iterated on. The unsuccessful ones get pulled and replaced with a new experience. A campaign is never done, you just continue to iterate and evolve actually using what you learn in real time.”

2)     “Always-on” Mobile Devices.

“Yes, your phone will be listening! Rather than activating our devices when we want them, they’ll always been monitoring our environment and reacting accordingly. For example, rather than activating an application to identify a song playing in the background, you’ll have access to a list of every song that was playing in the background over the course of day, and where you were when it played.

“This will enable deep profiling—of conversations you’ve had, places you’ve been, sounds around you, locations you’ve visited. This deep profiling will enable extraordinary targeting.”

3)     Attention spans will be reduced by 75%.

Short Content. Quick Message. Done.

4)     Marketers become publishers.

“Marketers will compete directly with B2B publishers for audiences…individuals and companies are becoming more important information sources. A small number of forward-looking marketers will take advantage of this over the next two to three years, establishing viable media businesses that compete with traditional publishers within 5 years.”

5)     The equity of an organization will focus on “reputation” vs. “brand”.

“Reputation management will become a focal point of marketing.”

If some of these seem much closer to reality already (especially 4 and 5), consider this: Recently, a Forrester analyst predicted that marketing will change as much in the next 5 years as in the last 50. So if  this prediction comes to fruition—and I think it will—it will be an exciting next few years!

Think the pace of change in marketing is exaggerated? Got your own 20-year predictions? Please share them in the comments.

PS: Interestingly, a VP at Arista Records said the music industry would change more in 5 years than in the last 50—in 1999. No doubt it seemed like an overstatement at the time, but he’s surely regarded as a visionary now!

4 Responses to Tell Me: What Will B2B Demand Generation Look Like in 20 Years?

  1. Lauren, this question is a fun challenge.

    In the next 20 years, I think marketing overall will become (1) incredibly targeted (via data), (2) loud, in an attempt to break a non-stop marketing barrage and (3) integrated, completely blurring personal, publishing and advertising lines.

    In response, many B2B marketers will need to pick a different path. The “traditional outbound marketing” of 2030 (whatever that happens to be), particularly outbound marketing focused on a particular product or service, will be a much smaller portion of B2B marketing budgets than it is today. Instead, B2B marketers, wanting to be in the consideration from earliest stages, will strive to become a go-to source for the audience well before they are in any purchase cycle.

    Today’s practice of mapping content to the buying cycle will need a complete overhaul. Rather than mapping content to the buying cycle, marketers will continuously curate and publish content that meets the audiences needs, akin to publishers today (and in doing so, they will put many of today’s publishers out of business). Only 10% to 20% of content will actually be targeted to in-cycle potential buyers.

    In addition, in becoming a resource, marketers will produce tools and apps, not just for customers, but to get exposure and meet the needs of potential prospects long before they are even prospects.

    If marketing changes more in the next five years than in the past 50, 20 years is a long time! Its like envisioning marketing circa 2010 in the late 1600’s. But it’s fun to try to bend your mind around, thanks for putting the question out there!

    • Eric – Thanks for the great bit of wisdom and visionary thinking. I’ve got to give credit where credit is due…and thank Bill Rozier, VP of Marketing at Ciena, for the fun and mind bending challenge. Cheers, Lauren

  2. Bill Rozier says:


    I wonder what the “skill set” of successful marketers looks like 10 years from now? What would not be important in the marketing mix 10 a decade down the road?



    • Bill – you always ask provocative questions. I need to open a nice bottle of Oregon Pinot and write a post on that soon! I do think that content marketing will continue to reign supreme (as Eric noted – marketers are publishers) – so the skill set must align to that trend….
      More thinking on this soon.
      What are your thoughts?
      Cheers! Lauren

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