Today’s marketing and analytics professionals find themselves at the centre of a technological revolution. With the continued rise of marketing technology, programmatic advertising, social media, e-commerce, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an entirely different profession to the one you once worked in. With all of these options, the question of being a generalist or a specialist seems obsolete. You can’t work in the industry today without knowing something about tech, but how much do you really need to know?
Jyoti Jain, Director of Advanced Analytics at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Asia Pacific says: “In my opinion, companies should start considering that they're in the space of technology for marketing and analytics. Johnson & Johnson is not a technology company but when it comes to analytics in today’s world, that’s where we need to think like a technology company.”
Jain believes technology provides a powerful medium and “unprecedented opportunities” in her role/ department/ functions which simply cannot be ignored. In order to achieve this, the business has created internal programs to educate everyone that touches the brand.
From a marketing perspective, a 2012 global report commissioned by Forrester and Oracle found that on a scale of maturity spanning from novice to modern, only 12% of marketers considered themselves ‘modern’ meaning most were still finding their way in the areas of customer segmentation, data strategy, measurement, attribution, and the ability to utilise real-time intelligence.
As Jain notes,: “It's not just about technology. In my team we are are also thinking about precision marketing and that's about reaching consumers in the moment that matters most to them.”
The evolution of the business is being driven by consumers and their adoption of technology. Jain says: “The analaytics function is transforming because consumers are transforming. You need to know how they're living, what technology is actually playing a role in their lives, and how they’re consuming and accessing information.”
It’s a sentiment Amit Shah, Senior Vice President for Marketing at 1-800-Flowers, echoes. Shah, who recently spoke at ADMA’s Global Forum, says: “The modalities of expression themselves are evolving. As we keep adopting it, technology constantly challenges us to really appreciate and be open to what the customers’ adoption curve is. On a selfish level, sure it creates opportunities for us, but what keeps us excited in this is more that, ‘Wow, our customers are really innovating on their expressions and it is our job to make sure we bring to bear all of our best resources to try to keep up.’ Frankly, sometimes it is about keeping up because the surest signals to me of a technology being an awesome technology are when it has an endogenously wider coefficient to it.”
Shah adds: “As customers evolved with their modalities of expression, we have continuously innovated against to make sure that within that chosen bracket of communication, we are still present to serve this need to express.”
Shah illustrates his point with the example of messaging apps. Now the most used category of apps in market with many consumers utilising services such as WhatsApp, businesses that want to keep up need to be there too.
This opportunity of messaging apps is one that led Sydney advertising agency The Works to launch a messenger-based social media company, On Message, earlier this year. The business specifically aims to help marketers trying to catch up in the space. On Message is doing this through the implementation of bots, chat and custom keyboards within messaging apps.
Still, the race to stay ahead of consumers and their uptake of technology is a difficult one with companies such as 1-800-Flowers at times jumping on platforms that quickly fizzled out. Case in point is Facebook Gifts which launched in 2012 before closing two years later.
Leaning into change
Within this change, some things remain the same. Jain says: “The mediums have changed. What we do even on the billboards of yesteryear has changed: they have become digital billboards. The mediums have changed but I don't think the fundamentals have changed.”
When you consider the classic “marketing funnel” was conceived in 1898, it’s difficult to believe that particular fundamental remains solid. As for the four P’s of marketing: Product, Price, Promotion and Place, the broad terminology from the 1960s has more of a chance to remain relevant in today’s hyper-connected marketplace, although the concept is going to have to work overtime to keep up with the mountains of data available within these four columns. What this invariably leads to is a question of ethics and just because we can, should we?
Marie Wallace, Analytics Strategist at IBM, says: “As we all become more data-driven companies, and our competitive differentiation becomes based on our ability to optimise the value of the data we're consuming, there’s going to be increasingly more pressure to push the envelope in terms of how much value we get out of the data, and that, I think, is a real ethical conundrum.”
“As data becomes increasingly a currency, which it truly is, it's going to be really really hard for people to draw the line,” adds Wallace.
Wallace gives the example of software, a product many people are reluctant to pay for as they can often find a way to get it for free. She says: “If they're not paying for your product with green dollars and they're paying with data dollars, then that data dollar has to be converted to green. That there becomes your revenue stream, so you can just imagine how this can generate a culture of, 'I have to generate as much green dollars as I can out of these data dollars because that's my revenue since I'm not getting real dollars’.”
A marketing future minus tech?
With the overwhelming presence of and reliance on technology, the question begs to be asked whether we’ll get to a point where we crave a more simple approach.
According to the experts, the short answer is no. They suggest we get used to this tech state as it isn’t going away anytime soon. Still, many warn against getting too comfortable with the technology we have now because it likely has a limited life span. In fact, Ben Edwards, Vice President at payments company PayPal who spoke recently at ADMA’s Global Forum, advises we hold onto our hats as this current state of transformation isn’t likely to end. He says: “It isn't like we're going to go through a period of transformation and then emerge from the other end with the solution. We're going to transform from a company that doesn't transform into a company that transforms continuously. That is the new state of being.”
IBM’s Wallace says the push to roll back usage of technology in marketing isn’t about to come from the consumer. She says: “The consumer really likes the fact that everything is personalised. My search results are personalised to me. My recommendations are what I might be interested in. Sometimes they get it wrong, but people like the idea that this is really relevant to who I am right now.”
This, of course, works nicely for businesses given the information overload consumers face today. Wallace adds: “The reality is knowing what to share and when to share it is fundamentally the only way we're going to communicate in the future if we want to get people’s attention. The spray gun spamming approach is dead and it is really back to the market of one.”
Beyond the ethical implications of a world ruled by technology, another danger Wallace sees is consumers handing control over to the technology. She says: “We're already, as an organism, deferring some of this stuff to the computer. A simple example is mathematics. Now we don't even bother trying to compute the simplest calculations. You just use your phone. You subconsciously don't even bother remembering things because it's quicker and easier to go and search for the answer than it is actually bothering to remember it.”
While tech may be here to stay, many believe the human touch is as well.
Jain says: “I don’t think human touch is going away at all. People want to actually spend time together.. Talking to friends and families, people were actually spending time with each other through this medium.”