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The Future of Marketing with Zapier’s CMO: Demand Creation Over Demand Capture

AI's influence on internet search has reshuffled marketing tactics. Zapier's CMO offers predictions on what's to happen in 2024 and how to prepare.

Published on Jan 31, 2024

If you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware that the marketing playing field has been slowly but surely resetting in recent years. That reset button was pushed particularly hard in the last 12 months with the injection of generative AI into the heart of internet search (Google’s Search Generative Experience) and social media posts getting more prominence than ever before (Google Perspectives.)

The tried-and-true SEO and organic traffic acquisition tactics that worked well for years have been flipped. And for the first time in a long time, many seasoned marketers are wondering: “What do I do now?”

A shot of Zapier CMO Kieran Flanagan with glasses head turned to the right. He wears a headset, seemingly speaking before a crowd
Kieran Flanagan

Kieran Flanagan, CMO at Zapier and former senior VP of marketing at HubSpot, is one such marketing pro. He spent some time ruminating over this question and he has two major suggestions for his colleagues. The first is to focus on more demand creation over demand capture. Tip two: dust off your marketing 101 skills to refocus on the fundamentals like branding and generating hype. Think less about the “science” behind the numbers and more about being a creative powerhouse like Don Draper (just way less toxic as a person.) 

Marketers can reinvest in the science of marketing more with time as Google SGE is understood a little better, Flanagan said. He also offers a prediction on what a 2.0 version of Google Ads might look like within SGE and how companies could take advantage of paid ads within it. 

Check out Flanagan’s full musings below.

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How has marketing shifted in recent years?

Marketing is both demand creation and demand capture. How do we create demand for our products? How do we also capture existing demand for our product? 

Over the last 15 or so years, everyone's become accustomed to marketing being able to capture the existing demand. Prior to that, marketing was always seen as a cost center. Demand capture was awesome because it helped marketers get a seat at the revenue table. We had analytical models to help us clearly articulate the return on our work. “Here's the amount of money that I'm spending on this, here's the amount of demand I've acquired, and here’s what it's worth.” This is regardless of whether it’s search, paid, or whatever it may be. 

This was the golden era of demand capture and we were lucky to be in it. 

But now, we need to swing back to demand creation: social media content, YouTube videos, podcasts, and sources like that.

What does shifting back to demand creation look like in practice?

The demand capture era is under pressure right now from things like cookies, AI, and even the changes that Apple and Google made to their email systems that make it harder to trust email metrics. So swinging back to demand creation is necessary. If you speak to a lot of marketers, there is a group who perform marketing through scientific demand capture — even me. I built my career around demand capture and I'm really cognizant of that. So I've tried to swing much more heavily into demand creation over the years. 

That means relearning some of the fundamentals of marketing: positioning, branding, creating awareness. A lot of marketers need to relearn the fundamentals. 

All of this gets back to having incredible positioning. One of my heroes is the founder of Red Bull. People may not know this but Red Bull has had the same strapline since 1987: “Red Bull gives you wings.” It took one of the co-founders, who was working with an agency, a year and a half and 50+ campaigns to decide on that strapline. And they've used it ever since.

We likely need to go back to when positioning won and dominated markets. That’s why we have shows about (M)ad men because they were the market creators. 

We will also need to lean into things that are harder to measure, like influencer marketing and collaborating with creators. I think that over time, creators will become a much bigger part of nearly all markets. There are maybe some B2B markets where creators will never be a big thing because they're just too boring. But overall, creators could dominate a lot of marketing because they are just better at creating content. And a lot of platforms are much more motivated to elevate creators over brands. 

Can marketers influence AI in search?

If you talk to any AI engineers, they are not even sure why AI chose something in search. It’s different than knowing the really important parameters that go into showing up on a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and focusing on those. AI is not the same. It learns, it’s creative, it decides to give you an answer, and it's hard to know how to ever influence that. 

Even though I say all of that, marketers are pretty smart and we may eventually figure out how to turn the right dials to get more exposure in AI search. But even if we do, that AI search appearance gets you a different type of result. It gets you exposure because the user, more frequently than not, will not have to click on your result to get what they want. Maybe your brand is mentioned in that result, but they probably rarely click over to the publisher's website itself. It still gets you brand exposure, it’s just unmeasurable. So even if we do figure that out, it's still going into demand creation versus demand capture because you don't get the click on the link.

Because of that, we're going to see an increase in marketers making other paid channels outside of paid search work better for us, like social media, to try to drive direct conversions. If search gets cannibalized, it's going to reduce both organic and paid traffic. But I think eventually AI is going to be better for both.

What are your predictions on how AI-infused searches might evolve?

I'm pretty bullish on Google creating a 2.0 version of Ads, even if clicks get cannibalized. Over time, Google could make a better AI search experience where people are still using search but they're not clicking through the publishers. Google can still use those search interactions with AI to figure out an ad model where brands pay for exposure within that AI conversation. 

They're trying that now. I don't think the ads are very good. They're going to have to figure out a better UX experience. 

If they do figure out a second version of Ads that is deeply integrated into AI, they can still have ways for brands to pay for ads within a conversational experience and get those paid clicks through to the publisher site. Users would be encouraged to click on things that are deeply integrated into that conversation but they’re actually surfaced through a paid publisher. If that is the case, organic clicks will go way down since most people don't need to click through to the publisher.

What’s also likely: I suspect that entire transactions will be done through AI. You can buy something or sign up for something as a lead, all through AI. But you will have to pay as a brand to integrate into the experience. You will have to pay for that transaction to happen in AI. 

80% of all searches on Google are under-monetized or not monetized at all. So AI actually might help Google monetize all of those searches in a much better way.

Sign up for our upcoming webinar — The Paradigm Shift in SEO: How Marketers Can Prepare — to learn even more!

Meet The Author:

Alton Zenon III

Alton Zenon III

Jasper Content Marketing Manager
All Things AI
Marketing Strategy

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