The Year Ahead for Customer Engagement

Our CEO Chris Pearce was asked by Campaign Magazine about what's in store for relationship marketing in the next 12 months

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Those who enjoyed the BBC’s superb adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials will be pleased to know he’s just completed another book in the series, The Book of Dust Volume Two: The Secret Commonwealth

Extraordinarily, this fantasy saga has become a metaphor for the state of the customer relationship sector. Lyra (the heroine) and her daemon Pan (her soul in the form of an animal, for those not familiar) are at war with one another. Lyra has become obsessed with ruthless logic and a cynical disregard for mythology and storytelling. In turn, Pan despairs at her lack of curiosity and sense of adventure. Lyra wakes up one morning to find that Pan has left her, with the note: "Gone to look for your imagination." 

That’s how our category can feel sometimes. We are rightly obsessed with data-driven user journeys, and next best action logic. We revel in AI-driven "decisioning engines". And yet we’re also about helping to grow meaningful relationships between brands and consumers with highly creative experiences. 

For some, this trinity of data, technology and creativity can make for unhappy bedfellows. So how will this be resolved in 2020 and who will win the war for growth? There is one overarching imperative that will guide the success of my group, and three principles for the industry. We intend to embrace the genius of "and", and reject the tyranny of "or".  

In simple terms, the next few years will be about best-in-class specialists combining fluidly and collaboratively to deliver growth for our clients. 

Technology and creativity. Purpose and profit. Soul and logic. Scale and agility. You get the picture. But to truly succeed at this, these three principles will come to the fore: clarity, commitment, confidence. Here’s why: 


"In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power," thunders Yuval Harari in his 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. And he’s right. Our ability to cut through the noise, to simplify, to elicit meaning will be at a super-premium. 


Once we have that much-needed clarity, we have to be "all in" for our clients. Only absolute focus on successful client outcomes will cut it. 2020 will not be for the faint-hearted. 


Confidence is contagious and much-needed in this uncertain world. It’s time the customer relationship sector regained some swagger and found its lost imagination.


MRM is a leading customer relationship marketing agency. Through a strong foundation in strategy, data science, technology and creativity, we help transform businesses by helping brands grow meaningful relationships with people. We are part of the Interpublic Group and a top agency in the McCann Worldgroup network, with over 40 offices across North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.