Andrew Stephen, Marketing guru and Digital marketing expert speaks about the massive changes he has witnessed in marketing as a function post the digitalization era. 

Andrew Stephen, Marketing guru and Digital marketing expert speaks about the massive changes he has witnessed in marketing as a function post the digitalization era. 
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 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 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 also 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 data-driven approaches to marketing strategy and execution essential. 
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. 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. 
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. 
Ultimately, things are moving very fast. If you can’t keep up, you’re going to lose. This is the future of marketing. Fast-paced, 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! 
Author: Andrew Stephen