Are the fundamentals of marketing being sidelined by technology?

There’s an incredible buzz around how technology can help marketers. Programmatic advertising, big data, marketing automation, chatbots, new algorithms, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality are at the forefront of much marketing news, often portrayed as being the next best thing.

Not surprising really, as Chris Daly, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing recently commented ‘Marketers are naturally skilled when it comes to embracing change and new technologies, and they have a natural thirst for creativity.’ But whilst digital technology is multiplying opportunities to target, reach out and engage with consumers, are the fundamental skills of the profession in danger of getting side-lined? Is there a danger that technological advancements are becoming a distraction from what matters - providing value for customers?

Take big data for instance. In a recent article on big data John Hegarty explored the views that ‘daring rather than data will save advertising’ and that ‘algorithms are killing creativity’. His point is well made ‘Big data can provide intelligence, gather information, identify buying patterns and determine certain outcomes. But what it cannot do is create an emotional bond with the consumer.” He goes on to point out that Steve Jobs or James Dyson did not build brilliant companies by waiting for a set of algorithms to tell them what to do!

The Drum recently asked Professor Alan Tapp of Bristol Social Marketing Centre and Maxwell Painter, CEO of Unrival if the dizzying array of technological tools now available to marketers are actually improving anything. They suggested that the quality of targeting and content hadn’t improved much over the last 20 years. Perhaps due to people finding segmentation time-consuming in today’s fast-paced world and the increasing proliferation and diversity of distribution channels. Overall, the view seemed to be that technology can provide extremely powerful marketing tools when used productively. Whilst new technology has absolutely revolutionised the way marketers do business, providing value for customers should still be the bedrock of marketing.

Used effectively there’s no doubt that marketing technology is key to reaching customers at scale with personalised targeted content and messages. Technology has a vital role to play in marketing so long as marketers focus on using it to add value to customers’ lives. It is encouraging that a recent study by the Chartered Institute of Marketing supported this - as Chris Daly commented “whilst marketers are starting to look at new technologies (like Chatbots and virtual reality), the fundamental skills of their profession in terms of delivering more personalised, targeted and influential campaigns, still sit at the core of marketers’ everyday life.”

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