New technology and the wide range of tools available have radically changed the marketing landscape in recent years. As boundaries fall, between home and work life, online and offline, company and consumer, reaching and engaging an audience requires more than the latest toys – it needs new skills and attitudes from the marketers driving campaigns.
The inaugural Marketing Technology Virtual Summit, held on February 24th, examined the evolution of marketing. There were several key themes explored on the day, but principal amongst these was the importance of integration.
In the opening keynote, Forrit CEO Peter Proud looked back on his career at Microsoft and how marketing has evolved since then. In around 2006, he noted, marketing and IT were largely separate departments and poorly integrated. Now, digital marketing means that expertise needs to be shared between departments to ensure marketing strategies are delivered effectively.
Following Proud was Vivienne MacLaren, Head of Marketing at Ideagen and CIM Fellow. She warned that despite significant focus being placed on digital transformation, many organisations are still failing to properly utilise technology.
Crucially, she said, many smaller companies are leading the way in the use of digital channels compared to their less agile, larger peers. According to MacLaren, nearly half (49%) of FTSE 100 businesses are missing the chance to capitalise on their position.
Benjamin Bloom, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, examined the key strategic MarTech choices for companies in his talk. He too noted that an increased volume of in-house collaboration is crucial to overcome the challenges of digitisation.
The Human Touch
Before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, customers were developing new expectations and new desires. That means that new methods of customer engagement are necessary.
New marketing tools have enabled new connections between companies and their audiences, but while being connected means that customers are easier to access than ever before, this presents new challenges.
The number of channels available to marketers has increased, but the effectiveness of each one individually has declined. It is integration that is key – coordinated and consistent campaigns are needed to deliver results.
While technology is a powerful tool, it needs the right people to use it. That is why sharing knowledge inside a company and creating a coherent digital strategy are needed. As such, full integration between different departments helps share data and insights, creating a better customer experience.
Integration was a keen point in Toshiba Director & Brand Strategist Maegan Lujan’s talk. She noted how, just as marketing has developed, her own position has evolved. She discussed how the age of the hybrid has arrived, and is likely to remain after the pandemic has receded. Hybrid jobs, hybrid companies, hybrid workers, and hybrid customers will be the new norm. In this world, flexibility is key.
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Another key focus for her was keeping the customer at the core of marketing strategies. While there is a plethora of new technology available for marketers, there is no point using it just for the sake of using it – be where your customers are.
Integration can work both ways, however. While companies have unprecedented access to customers, so too do individuals have access to businesses. People can exert pressure on companies. As such, digital marketing strategies need to account for this two-way relationship with customers.
Hans Smans, Founder & Principal Consultant at the Smans Marketing Consultancy took a deeper look at how companies need to build customer experiences. He noted that integration is key to this – under older, one-way models, companies communicated with their customers through marketing channels, while the customer communicated with the support department when necessary.
Newer models not only have greater integration between departments, but with the customer, who needs to be at the centre of the company’s focus.
One of the most important factors to account for in modern marketing is authenticity. People have become very skilled at spotting inauthenticity in campaigns, with terms like wokewashing or greenwashing being used to call out companies for pretending to hold values at odds with their business models.
More Than Data
Nowhere is the importance of the union between marketers and technology more evident than the use of analytics and data in marketing. Whether this is to enhance analysis to better target campaigns or using personalising campaigns for each individual, AI is a powerful tool that is just starting to make its power known.
Valitor CMO Dr Christine Bailey was one of the day’s key proponents for increased data use, saying that organisations must depend on data from their digital channels to connect with their customers more than ever.
In one of the days eight breakout sessions, Senior Business Analytics Consultant at Storm ID John Hughes discussed the importance of ensuring data integrity. He looked at some of the threats posed to Google Analytics data.
He warned that many companies are leaving their data wide open, and that many hackers are adding false or misleading data to companies’ analytics. As such, this can skew the analysis of the data, resulting in misleading insights, potentially leading to missteps when creating campaigns.
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However, data is only as good as the insights gained from it. With huge amounts of data available, she noted, qualified and intelligent analysts are needed to create actionable insights from the data.
Dr Bailey added that a key method for this is find a purpose beyond the company, one that customers can relate to.
Good data is also the key to unlocking one of the most powerful and promising technologies currently available – artificial intelligence. CTO of Good-Loop Daniel Winterstein looked at some of the opportunities AI presents, but also some of the pitfalls. He included live demonstrations of AI-generated copy and text-to-speech programs.
However, he pointed out that while AI is a powerful tool, it has limitations. It cannot be deployed indiscriminately, but needs human intervention and oversight to ensure that it runs properly.
Furthermore, while he noted that AI can help create more personalised content, he warned that the sea of data and personalisation can end up eroding brand identity.
As such, AI is best used with intention as part of a company’s mission. It is the organisation’s job to inject their own identity and values into it to give it purpose. Ultimately, everything that is important about AI is what is put into it by the people using it.