The strategy for the marketing executive today is filled with unknowns. To both understand a brand’s audience and ultimately engage and deliver, modern marketing includes the skeletal components from decades past – much of the buyer behaviour models that we used in the 1960s, for example, still exist in some form today when it comes to the psychological aspects of perception, attitude formation, persuasion, information processing and decision-making.

But today, marketers are faced with customer behaviours that are more contradicting and complex – requiring more personalised tracking and targeting than ever before.

Inarguably, the most significant – and widely still miscalculated – component to shape modern marketing is the all-encompassing digital landscape. A vital part of modern marketing is both accepting and approaching all consumers as digitised; and while it’s tempting to think this means that social media touchpoints can be used simply and to major success, it takes much more analysis to understand how technology should be used to streamline customer journeys and personalise them through targeted, bespoke experiences.

The modern approach is a work-in-progress

The landscape for the modern marketer looking to engage with digitised customers is murky. There are more grey areas that come up with each new campaign and an increasingly fast and demanding e-commerce market that thrives on click-throughs, but therein lies the opportunities for more effective tracking and engagement.

A professor and researcher of marketing myself, I’ve studied the science of marketing in the decades since the introduction of the worldwide web. While the first wave of the internet changed very little, its marriage with mobile became the ultimate study of how technology is integrated into the daily life of the consumer, and what makes them tick in a digitised context.

It's been a journey for all of us in academia, and how we counsel brands to both understand and engage their direct audience has been both rewarding and challenging. We don’t always agree, but there are a few points that we’re confident about into 2017:

Collaboration starts with the C-Suite. It can’t be a trickle-down or silo’d matter, the c-suite must drive a truly integrated approach – this includes the CDO, CCO, CMO, CTO and their respective teams. Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to consumer engagement.

Touchpoints can and should be blended. There is a necessary tension between a “frictionless” and personal experience. In recent studies, both human and non-human combinations in customer journeys are desirable to customers, and understanding which customers have what preference is crucial to providing a balance that suits them.

Social media is not as simple anymore. Social media is changing brand interaction completely. It is no longer a simple medium for raising awareness and changing perception – it is now a channel of personalised persuasion.

Market research can be your friend, but be careful that it doesn’t become a customer’s enemy. Scaling market research data is the next big frontier: from collection to responsible, transparent use. But be careful – customers don’t always love that you can watch their every move, and it’s important to articulate what data you are collecting and how you plan to use it.

Marketers must see technology as an enabler, not the centre, of great marketing. In recent years, I believe that marketing as a professional discipline that to some extent lost its way because it has become obsessed with lots of “shiny new toys” in the form of new technologies and digital media channels. This has come at the expense of sound and purposeful marketing strategising and has made a lot of marketing programmes and campaigns less effective than they could be. Technology can enable a lot of modern marketing, from understanding your customers better to delivering services and experiences through digital channels that are truly novel. But marketing should not put technology at the centre of everything, which unfortunately has been happening. Instead, our purpose needs to focus on delivering superior value to key stakeholders, particularly customers. Technology can enable and help this, but let’s not lose sight of the fundamentals.


By Andrew Stephen, L’Oréal professor of marketing at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

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