Technocratization of digital marketing

Digital marketing is in a flux. It has always been. And in this flux the traditional marketing is often perceived as unsophisticated and lack-lustre as compared to its digital counterpart. In traditional marketing it was the business people and creative minds that drove marketing decision. Today, as digital marketing landscape evolves the role play has shifted to data scientists, analysts, software developers, data miners and growth hackers. Today it is no longer sufficient to be a business person to drive your career as a marketer. This technocratization of digital marketing has been not come as a surprise.

Let’s look at the figure below.


Elements of digital marketing


Digital marketing is influenced by a plethora of different components more important of which, as listed in the figure above are content, communication, design and technology, statistics and an underlying business strategy. Four out of the six elements listed above, excluding technology and statistics, have always been core to any marketing initiative – traditional or digital. However, it is the remaining two that has caused the scales to tip in the favor of the evolution of marketing as a data-driven science.

Think of it as a see-saw scale with art and science balancing the scale in the horizontal plane. Earlier, marketing was driven by the creatives and business strategies and it was the reason that the scales tipped in the favor of art derived from a blend of long standing business experience and the power of creative communications.

However, in the digital era as the ability to capture and synthesize data across various touch points improved, marketing has slowly but surely tipped in the favor of being a data-driven science rather than an art form. In fact the contemporary art of digital marketing is dictated by science. Even creativity is data-driven these days and functions without the boundaries set by analysts and restrictions imposed by the software.

Let’s delve in a bit deeper in each of these six elements and see how each of them has evolved in the wake of technological innovations bringing about the technocratization of the marketing field in toto.

Let’s start with content. Content was the king and is the king. I should also add that content must be the king. But what drives the content today? What skills are required to be a successful content professional?

In the early days it was enough to have a flair for words mixed with some creative instincts. But as the technology infiltrated the media in which content is presented these days, these two traits are taken for granted and in addition it serves best if one also possesses some basic coding skills so as to be proficient with minor editing on the content management systems that drives content these days.  Think of WordPress, Drupal, HTML and CSS. Some JS could be a major plus!

Another important thing to note is that in the earlier days it was the brief from the product or business team that led the copywriters to create compelling copy for the advertisements.  However, copywriters in the technocratized world are no longer guided by their artistic inspirations and rather have to function well within the boundaries established by the software they work with. For example, a limit of 25 characters for the headlines and 35 characters for description in Google AdWords.

Let’s take a look at how market research and analysis has evolved. In digital marketing it is the data analysts and software that determine the validity of marketing campaigns. The marketing data is served by powerful analytics software ranging from the capabilities of free ones like Google Analytics to incredibly powerful ones like SAS. It is such data that provides the brief to the marketers and as such it is important to be well versed with these analytics software solutions today. A basic understanding of SQL and statistical languages such as R and SAS is absolutely essential to drive your career as a marketing analyst in the technocratized marketing profession today.

Design has been affected significantly as well. Design is no longer a spontaneous burst of creative inspiration. Rather design in digital marketing is characterized by pre-planned creatives driven by the data derived from multivariate testing and available ad inventory specifications. Designers today have to take into consideration the Quality Score and other such ranking factors into consideration before designing the creatives. It is the guidelines established by the ad server and medium that establishes the boundaries of a designer. As such being familiar with the guidelines set by Ad servers and IAB are absolutely essential for any digital marketer today.

Oh yes, and I am not even considering the user experience and interaction design elements of it in the discussion. These fields function at the intersection of technology and design, and are the absolutely critical for enhanced user experience, engagement and conversions. Advanced knowledge of coding and web development in addition to the creative aspects in absolutely essential for interaction designers. Although as a marketer you don’t have to be a master of it, it serves you well to have a basic understanding of user experience, interface design processes and the concept of usability.

Media planning and buying is no longer the same as well. As we move towards programmatic buying and real-time bidding (RTB) the role of media planners will be reduced to replicating pre-fixed configurations and outputs as dictated by the ad exchanges and demand side platforms. Knowledge of DoubleClick, AdRoll and other such DSPs, exchanges and servers is a basic requirement.

Coming to business strategy? I had written this post questioning the necessity of digital strategy some time back.

I had quoted then,

Digital strategist is not one who defines company strategies, but one who effectively defines methods and processes to execute the given strategy on selected digital platforms.

However, aligning with my point of view as mentioned then, and in the context of the this post, it would be only fair to say that digital strategy is the only strategy that businesses should now be concerned about, as the entire strategic landscape is gradually digitized. We don’t need digital strategist as such, but strategists who are well versed with the digital landscape.

Nov 18, 2014