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Transcript
Marketing’s post-digital age
Andrew Stephen
plays a role in all facets of marketing. Whether you’re selling
dresses to teenagers, knitting supplies to grandmothers, or jet
engines to aircraft manufacturers, there’s technology involved.
… the idea that only some customers are
‘tech-savvy’ is now laughable
Marketing is dead; long live marketing!
As a marketing academic I’ve witnessed over recent years a massive
change in what marketing is and how marketers approach this
important strategic function. Yes, many of the fundamentals still
matter – such as identifying customer segments and carefully
targeting the desirable, valuable ones. However, we are now at
the point where marketing is primarily a technology-enabled and
data-driven discipline. ‘Digital marketing’ is not something that
sits on its own, in a silo. Everything we do in marketing is now
digital to a certain degree, if not entirely so. We are at the point
where ‘digital marketing’ is just ‘marketing’. And that means a
lot of fresh challenges, as well as opportunities, for marketers.
We are now in what I call a ‘post-digital’ age. Gone are the days
of separating ‘online’ and ‘offline’ marketing. For example, smart
retailers have abandoned antiquated ideas about separating their
bricks-and-mortar stores and their ecommerce businesses. Now
they talk about themselves in an integrated, ‘omnichannel’ manner.
Why? Because this reflects reality – there’s no such thing as a
purely ‘online’ customer or a purely ‘offline’ one. Similarly, the days
of thinking of ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ media are starting to fade
into a distant memory. And the idea that only some customers
are ‘tech-savvy’ is now laughable – all customers are technology
enabled, connected, and, increasingly, ‘always on’. The new
reality of marketing in this post-digital age is that technology
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The technology driving marketing in the post-digital age is
sometimes obvious, but other times not. We all are familiar with
two big technologies that have shaped a lot of the transformation
of marketing: smart, connected mobile devices (such as the
iPhone), and social media (such as Facebook). These technologies
are platforms that have enabled all of us – as individuals – to be
always on, constantly connected. Some of the other technologies
might be less obvious but are no less important. At the heart
of this is data – lots of it. Huge amounts of data are captured
on what customers do (thanks in large part to mobile devices
and social media) and this is helping marketers better define
their customer segments and more precisely target individuals
with, ideally, relevant information and products. The ‘Internet of
Things’ is also producing massive streams of data that can inform
decisions – from data coming from our personal smart devices on
our wrists and in our homes, to data coming from big industrial
machinery in factories. This technology not only provides new ways
for customers to seek and share information, and opens up new
ways for marketers to engage customers; but also makes datadriven approaches to marketing strategy and execution essential.
The ‘Internet of Things’ is … producing
massive streams of data that can inform
decisions – from data coming from our
personal smart devices on our wrists and in
our homes, to data coming from big industrial
machinery in factories
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What does all this mean? It means that we have a lot of
complexity to face. This is, of course, challenging. It is all the
more challenging because the technology landscape is constantly
changing, thus making it hard to keep up with it. And while
technology has been a big part of marketing for some time
now (remember that old ‘digital marketing’ thing?), the pace
of technological advancement and consumer adoption of new
technologies has never been as rapid as it is right now.
So what can marketers do? How can marketers smartly and
effectively turn these challenges into new opportunities and
winning strategies? These questions led us at Oxford Saïd to
develop the Oxford Strategic Marketing Programme
www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/programmes/execed/osmp. This is a new
open executive education programme, which will run for
the first time from 13 to 17 June 2016, that aims to help
managers and executives make sense of this post-digital age of
marketing. The goal is to offer a fresh perspective on strategic
marketing that will change the way participants think about
their current challenges and the responses they might make.
In advance of this new programme, I thought I’d list some
of the key opportunities and challenges, and give some
examples of what we will cover in the programme.
Exciting (and difficult) opportunities
Marketers can connect directly with customers and target
them with greater precision. Digital communications channels,
particularly social media, allow for richer and deeper engagement
with customers. Marketers can get better feedback in real
time, have conversations, and build stronger relationships with
customers. One of the case studies we’ll use in the Oxford
Strategic Marketing Programme features the Las Vegas-based
alt-rock band Imagine Dragons. We tell the story of how this band
developed into the international, arena-packing superstars that
they now are by focusing heavily on fan engagement – and how
they used technology and, particularly, social media to do this.
Digital communications channels, particularly
social media, allow for richer and deeper
engagement with customers. Marketers
can get better feedback in real time,
have conversations, and build stronger
relationships with customers.
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Communications can be personalised, as can services, products,
and overall customer experiences. Another case study we use
looks at the impact of Disney’s MyMagic+ platform, featuring
an RFID-enabled wristband together with a website and mobile
app, currently in place at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Disney
invested US$1 billion in building a platform that combines
digital channels, social media, mobile apps, and Internet of
Things wearable connected devices to help them improve –
and personalise – the guest experience in their Orlando parks.
They cut waiting times by 30% and increased park capacity.
And this is just the beginning, it seems, for now they will
combine technology and real-world experiences to deliver the
magical Disney World experience they are renowned for.
Thanks to the amount of data created digitally, and increasingly
sophisticated analytical techniques, you are able to know more
about your customers than ever before. We see how this is
being used in a wide variety of ways. On the Oxford Strategic
Marketing Programme we’ll hear about data from one of the
world’s pioneers in customer/shopper data – dunnhumby. We’ll
also look at how real-time data from social media is being used
by airlines such as Delta Air Lines and KLM to deliver enhanced
customer service and support experiences to travellers in a
manner that is both efficient (lower cost) and effective (higher
satisfaction) than alternatives such as call centres. And of
course we will think about revolutionary approaches to digital
advertising and media buying: programmatic ad buying.
Tough challenges
The majority of companies are not set up to operate in this new
age of marketing. And many of the conventional approaches to
marketing just don’t work anymore. For example, in an Oxford Saïd
study, we looked at nine brands (ranging from some of the world’s
best-known brands to smaller local brands) and what they do with
their Facebook marketing, or ‘content’ (i.e., brand posts)<www.
sbs.ox.ac.uk/school/news/consumer-brands-advised-mind-theirmanners-facebook>. Conventional wisdom would suggest that
Facebook, like many other social media platforms, is another place
for brands to advertise themselves. And it is. However, it comes
with one big caveat – don’t make your content feel like advertising.
We found that posts that had all the hallmarks of advertising, such
as being persuasive and having a very clear, polished message,
actually backfired in terms of generating engagement in the
form of likes, comments, shares, and click-throughs to brands’
websites. Instead, branded content that felt more ‘social’ – more
consistent with the tone of Facebook – performed better.
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Jumping on a technology bandwagon is
tempting, but without a strong marketing
purpose it is often a waste of time.
Jumping on a technology bandwagon is tempting, but without a strong
marketing purpose it is often a waste of time. But how do marketers
figure out if and when they should trial a new marketing technology or
digital channel? A good example of this challenge lies in the constant
push for brands to try new social media platforms. Currently, Snapchat
is all the rage for brands. But should you really have a Snapchat
strategy? At some point maybe you should, but how do you decide
when to jump in? In the teaching and consulting work I do this comes
up all the time (just replace Snapchat for whatever other platform is
the current flavour of the month). It is an important challenge and
not as easily addressed as one might think. Doing something for the
sake of it is rarely a good idea, but sometimes testing the waters
to learn and develop transferable knowledge can be worth it.
Asking people to chime in on a public conversation means that
you are resigning control, and things can blow up in your face.
How do you manage this? Or, better still, prevent negative
consequences? There’s always a good (and typically amusing)
example for this. A recent one is when the UK Natural Environment
Research Council launched a social media campaign inviting people
to suggest names for their new research ship. Seems pretty safe,
no? Well, someone jokingly suggested Boaty McBoatface, which
ended up topping the poll, although the name has now been
consigned to a ROV on the vessel. Another example – probably
my favourite – is a few years old now. McDonald’s ran a campaign
on Twitter inviting people to tell stories of their happy times at
McDonald’s using the hashtag #McDStories. One can easily imagine
the kinds of things that people wrote, certainly not the happy,
family-friendly anecdotes McDonald’s would have hoped for.
Asking people to chime in on a public
conversation means that you are resigning
control, and things can blow up in your face.
organisation’s marketing into the post-digital age. We are only
just beginning to see the importance of other new approaches,
such as influencer marketing – using vloggers, bloggers, and
other content creators or intermediaries on social media to
create buzz around a product or brand. Major global brands
are shifting from conventional advertising and media-based
approaches towards using influencers extensively. But how
should this be done? And is it necessarily the right thing to do?
Ultimately, things are moving very fast. If you can’t keep up,
you’re going to lose. This is the future of marketing. Fastpaced, data-driven, technology-enabled, customer-centric
marketing is here to stay. Winning marketing strategies in the
future will be about how to navigate this complex and constantly
shifting landscape, and visionary leadership will become ever
more important. These are exciting – but uncertain – times.
Marketing (as we know it) is dead… Long live marketing!
Andrew Stephen is L’Oréal Professor
of Marketing at Saïd Business School.
His research answers questions such
as how should companies use social
media as part of their marketing
strategies, how does using social media
psychologically impact consumers,
how do online networks impact
profitability in ecommerce markets,
how can companies encourage and
optimise word of mouth between
customers, how can crowdsourcing
product ideas from customers be
improved, and what types of products
are best suited to mobile advertising.
These are just a few examples of interesting opportunities and
challenges in marketing’s post-digital era. Everything involves
technology and the challenges begin with the always on,
constantly connected customer. It is an exciting time, but one
that requires careful thought and dedicated time and effort,
laying the foundation for a successful transformation of your
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