Is technology forcing marketing off-course?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Professor Alan Tapp and Maxwell Painter.

The Drum Network meets Professor Alan Tapp of Bristol Social Marketing Centre and Maxwell Painter, CEO of Unrival, to discuss whether the dizzying array of technological tools now available to marketers are actually improving anything…

Do you feel the quality of content and targeting is better or worse today than it was 20 years ago?

Alan Tapp (AT): In regards to targeting, I feel that segmentation used to be far more predominant in the 80s and 90s than it is today. This was back when direct marketers, charities and mail order companies were very good at targeting by using segmentation to try and improve their response rate and to differentiate their offers. So if anything, it’s probably got worse.

However, that said, marketers are in a much more powerful position now within their companies than they were back then. Contemporary marketers also have the advantage of a range of new technologies that allow direct contact with consumers in real-time.

Maxwell Painter (MP): I understand that people find segmentation time-consuming in today’s fast-paced world, but marketers still recognise that segmentation is a fundamental aspect of marketing planning strategies. It’s a key element of our offering at Unrival.

I agree that new technologies have enabled marketers to contact target individuals directly and quickly, however, as there are now so many channel options for content distribution, it can be hard to know which is best for your target audience.

There are a few ways to get around this - at Unrival we create bespoke relationship maps and decision maker profiles to help define the client’s audience, their interests, pains, priorities, and motivations, and the channels that they’re most active. Why waste effort and budget on a great social campaign that only reaches 2% of your target audience?

Do you feel that the technological advances that we have today have helped or hindered marketers, particularly in the quality of content and targeting?

AT: There are a range of problems that come with advances in technology. The first is that tools and platforms that were once the ‘next big thing’ soon become old hat. For example, today the use of email as an outbound marketing tool of emailing is fairly knackered – it has been so overused that people now perceive most marketing emails to be spam, especially when the consumer is directed to take an action because of the negative associations with scammers and identify fraud.

Another problem is the learning curve associated with each new platform. For example, the use of social media as an outbound tool to directly contact consumers has proved problematic, due to people historically being averse to being ‘intruded upon’ in their personal lives. Direct marketing has never been very popular on social channels.

The reverse of this is in the use of inbound marketing, where the growth and evolution of ecommerce has truly changed the world as consumers can now browse and use Google to make decisions based on what they believe is their own judgement.

MP: I can understand how mass targeted e-marketing may be perceived negatively due to security risks and spam, but I also believe that if it is personalised and appeals to target individuals’ key business interests and/or concerns, it can, and is, an extremely powerful marketing tool when used productively.

Marketers also need to remember to consider the power of influencers in the decision-making process. Individual consumers are very rarely completely autonomous in their decision making. When they use Google, or browse the internet and websites, it is because they want to see what others are saying about a product or service that they are interested in to ensure that they are making the right buying decision.

What do you think the future holds for the marketing industry in regards to improving targeted marketing?

AT: New technology has absolutely revolutionised the way marketers do business. Real-time marketing is just about upon us, so that you walk around and your mobile beeps when you’re shopping, and that store has detected that you’re there and so they send you an offer to your phone. This technology has been around for a while, but due to expense and to ensure successful implementation, marketers have only recently been able to incorporate it into their marketing strategy.

Beyond the use of new technologies, providing value for customers is the bedrock of marketing. That hasn’t changed and is unlikely to ever change.

MP: I believe the future of targeted marketing lies with the use of marketing automation platforms which are key to reaching customers at scale with personalised targeted content and messages.

Unrival is a member of The Drum Network. If you take your agency’s growth seriously then investment in The Drum Network could be your next move. Find out more about the benefits of membership here.

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