If We Focus Too Much On Tech We Lose Sight Of Marketing’s Fundamental Role: Oxford Professor

If We Focus Too Much On Tech We Lose Sight Of Marketing’s Fundamental Role: Oxford Professor

The future of marketing is undeniably heavy on technology, but that doesn’t mean marketers should lost sight of the bigger picture, says L’Oréal Professor of Marketing, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford Andrew Stephen.

Hannah Edensor
Posted by Hannah Edensor

Speaking to B&T, the Oxford marketing expert claimed “the trends we’ve seen with technology in marketing aren’t what we need to focus on”, admitting his fear that the industry could suffer if it puts all its eggs in the technology basket.

“For a successful future of marketing, marketers need to consider how they can use technology in smart ways to enable them to generate superior value for their businesses, customers, employees, and also society more broadly,” Stephen said.

“Marketing has to be, and will continue to be, a data-driven, analytics-focused, and technology-enabled discipline, and that’s fine, but if we focus on the technology too much we lose sight of the fundamental role of marketing — to deliver growth and value to business and its stakeholders.

“So I think the future of marketing is going to swing back towards what value marketing can create, as opposed to marketers getting obsessed with all the shiny new toys with respect to technology.”

“Marketers need to think about offering solutions to consumers that carry some meaningful value. So they should target those consumers for whom a “problem” could actually be “solved” and where the consumer would see meaning in that value exchange.

“That sounds really fluffy, but it is important. We need to help people live better lives, solve problems, and get on with things that are important to them. So if you make a widget that does something, then target people for whom that function will actually be useful.

“Targeting can be so sophisticated now, given the deluge of customer data that marketers can now use when segmenting and targeting. Hopefully we have moved beyond targeting on the basis of, what I call, the basic demographics – age, gender, etc.”

Stephen said when it comes to old versus new media and marketing tools, neither one was better than the other. Instead, it should be about combining the best suite of assets for clients.

“Those who try to say that one format – traditional vs. social media for example – is necessarily always better than the other is completely missing the point. Rather, the media landscape in which marketers operate has expanded over the years as new digital channels have emerged and gained prominence.

“That doesn’t mean that the new formats are better than, or more effective than, the traditional formats. It simply means that the landscape is more complex and has more “touchpoints”. I think we need to see all media channels, all consumer touchpoints are parts of a complex system that can potentially be made to work together, jointly, in concert with each other.

“Then it is not about whether TV is better or worse than Facebook, for example. Rather, it is a question of what happens when you combine, say, TV and Facebook ads, or outdoor and mobile ads, or whatever other complex combinations one can think of.

“Are the media “systems” that marketers choose for their media mixes, which include old and new channels, better than what they used to do? That’s the question to ask. This is too important to distill into something so simple as saying that media type A is better than media type B. Marketers need to stop the oversimplification.”

Stephens also asserted that a lot of marketing technology failed to hit the nail on the head, leaving the fundamental problems unresolved.

“I think a lot of the applications of technology in marketing, particularly for advertising and consumer-facing engagement purposes, miss the mark. That’s because real problems aren’t being solved.

“Marketers need to see new technologies as potential solutions to problems, but not jump in just for the sake of it. Instead, new technologies themselves are problems for marketers to solve – how could this be used, would it create value for someone, what would that be?

“In the present marketing world, I think the biggest mistake is to succumb to the “shiny new toy problem” with respect to technology. This means technology first, consumers second and that’s the wrong way around.”