Recently I wrote a blog on Forbes discussing why The Future of Work in Marketing Should Involve Upskilling, Science and Algorithms.
With a marketing technology industry that grew by 40% between 2016 and 2017, marketing has become an increasingly tech savvy and data-driven function. In many ways, with the availability of data and multitude of technology platforms, marketing can look more like IT than its former self.
What does this mean for the future of marketing in business and what do marketing professionals need to be able to understand in order to be successful. On a global level, CMOs are considering these questions with increasingly few resources, combined with competition by disruptive and new world companies, not hindered by legacy approaches, tools and techniques of a traditional organisation.
I have spoken to a number of global marketing leaders over the last couple of years who have told me they have been focused on upskilling as a result. For example, Lubomira Rochet, the global Chief Digital Officer for L’Oréal, has made digital marketing upskilling a key part of the organisation’s digital transformation strategy. In the U.K., L’Oreal has run practical, skills-focused ‘academies’ for L’Oréal’s marketers to bring them up to speed on current best practices in everything from SEO to social media marketing to econometric models for understanding media mix performance. As a result, digital is at the core of its organisation and its culture, it was recognised in Adweek’s 2017 digital hot list as the year’s hottest digital marketer.
With skills being at the heart of the digital transformation, the Oxford Future of Marketing Initiative is a partnership between academia and industry that will create insights on what the emerging roles are in marketing, and which skills gaps need to be filled.
Personally, I believe three things are key to the future of the marketing:
1. Everyone needs to know something about marketing
In an era where increasingly the consumer experience is everything, versus price or product, marketing now has multiple touch points and therefore it needs a broader and cross-departmental level of understanding. If the job of a marketing professional is becoming increasingly complex, having an understanding of marketing in other functions can assist the overall organisation to be more customer- and market-focused, more agile and adaptive to change.
Therefore, companies should have a range of learning opportunities for their employees (and leaders) that combine in-house training programs with bigger-picture strategic thinking and leadership education through the executive education arms of leading business schools.
2. Marketers need to think like scientists
Technology should be seen as an enabler, however, marketers need to be careful not to not use tech for the sake of it. Marketers need to experiment with new technologies. An increasingly important marketing skillset involves proper, rigorous approaches to experimentation that are grounded in scientific method. An ability to craft thoughtful experiments and trials that will help marketers learn something valuable that can feed into subsequent decision making is required.
This necessitates an understanding of marketing analytics – many enterprises are struggling with the complexity of today’s big data and data science ecosystem, though they recognise the opportunity of emerging practices. As a result, the lack of skills remains one of the biggest data science challenges as the shortage of trained data scientists remains at the top of the list. Yet data insights should top the list when it comes to marketing skills of the future.
At the Saïd Business School at Oxford, we are working with Teradata, including Chief Data Scientist and Thing Big Analytics Director Yasmeen Ahmad, to bring more data science-related content into our programs. This is particularly the case on our flagship MBA program, where about 25% of our students this year opted into an intensive elective on marketing analytics. Our goal is to equip these future business leaders with a more advanced understanding of the tools and techniques used in customer and marketing analytics so that they can be more sophisticated and better informed users of advanced analytics in the workplace.
3. Prepare for a world in which we target both robots and people
Algorithms already dominate a lot of marketing work. Search engine marketers know this all too well, given that SEM and SEO largely involve optimising web content with respect to Google’s search algorithms. Social media marketers also know this, as the major platforms move to algorithm-based news feeds.
Traditionally, this has been the domain of specialists who understand how these algorithms work. Today algorithms tend to only to tell us what a consumer sees (or hears) when they Google search, go on Facebook, or ask Siri a question. Mainstream use of automated decision making, at least on the consumer/user side, is not here, but it will soon be.
As marketers, we need to understand these platforms, and to have expert understandings of, and abilities to market to, algorithms and AI that underpin all of the major technology platforms used by their customers.
This tech-savvy way of marketing will require new skills and new ways of thinking. But not getting ready for this now will be a mistake. The relationship between Saïd Business School and Teradata is a good example of business in partnership with academia to help address these issues.
Teradata and Saïd Business School, will host an exclusive, invitation-only event at University of Oxford which will examine the trends shaping Marketing on Friday 30th June 2017. Join a select group to hear the latest research from top Marketing academics on both sides of the Atlantic, learn from industry pioneers and discuss the biggest topics impacting Marketing by registering at:https://site.teradata.com/Microsite/Oxford/Agenda/.ashx.
Andrew Stephen heads up the Marketing Faculty at Oxford Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, and has a particular interest in the digital transformation of marketing. He has been at Oxford since 2015 and previously taught at the University of Pittsburgh, INSEAD, and Columbia Business School. Andrew earned his MPhil and PhD degrees in marketing from Columbia University, and completed undergraduate studies in engineering and business at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. As an academic and researcher, he looks to understand how organizations should (and should not) use technology for effective and efficient marketing. This is all the more important these days, given the now-central roles of digital platforms (particularly social media) in customers’ lives and, hence, companies’ marketing strategies. With this comes new challenges and questions for marketers, which Andrew’s work seeks to address.