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Data Insights Are Human Insights

Future Marketers Dive Into Data

Digital transformation is a top priority among leading companies. And with transformation comes new skills and expertise needed throughout the organization. For marketing, it means a deeper knowledge of digital and analytic tools and how they contribute to ROI and the overall customer experience.  

As a result, marketing training and curriculum is evolving to meet the needs of the modern marketer. Mike McGuirk, Executive-in-Residence and Graduate Program Director at Emerson College’s marketing communication department, recently sat down with us to discuss how analytics skills among new graduates may reshape the strategic role of marketing within the enterprise. The college is set to begin a master’s program in Digital Marketing and Data Analytics in the Fall.

Customer Strategist: As a practitioner and educator, what changes do you see in how data is being used by marketers? What kind of skills do marketers need as a result?

Mike McGuirk: Consumers in today’s environment are much more empowered. Their buying behaviors are evolving because they have greater access to many product research tools, and they certainly have more access to different interaction channels. From my perspective, customers expect to have interactions with brands that have greater immediacy and much greater personalization. In fact, digital consumers rely heavily on other consumers to help them make more informed buying decisions. It’s several of these changes that we’re seeing that are causing modern marketers to become more comfortable using customer data and customer feedback to inform their marketing strategies.

The modern marketer also needs to be comfortable analyzing marketing performance data. After executing campaigns, they need to know how to quickly measure and improve the effectiveness of these campaigns by performing different types of data analysis.
It’s really the idea of using consumer data and customer feedback to measure and improve programs, but also using the data to really inform programs and turn that data into insights, and insights into very targeted campaigns.

CS: How pervasive is data and analytics expertise among young marketers today?

MM: Emerson’s students are very interested in the creative aspects of marketing. Many aspire to be managers in their careers in the marketing communications area. However, many of those students are often intimidated by the idea of learning statistics and data analytics. It’s been very interesting to start at Emerson and work with those students and identify ways to get them more comfortable with these subjects. The truth is, they require a fundamental level understanding of analytics, because they’ll be using it throughout their careers to pinpoint who they should be targeting for campaigns and thinking about the best way to develop messages that are going to resonate with consumers. It’s been a rewarding experience. Students understand how important this is and they have become very eager to further develop their quantitative skills by taking research and analytic courses.

That’s a big reason why we’ve decided that we need to integrate analytics even further into the marketing communication curriculum that we have.

CS: What gaps exist in current marketing curriculum that may need to be addressed to meet the needs of the modern marketer?

MM: Today’s marketers need to understand the art and the science of marketing. In most cases, the science helps to inform the art, that is the analytics and the research help inform the marketing strategy, the creative strategy, and the execution of the marketing campaign. So while many graduate-level programs prepare students for what I would say is the strategic and the creative elements of marketing, most programs are still very light on the science. Many programs maybe have one or two courses on marketing research or research methods, but they haven’t fully integrated data analytics, which has become a critical component in marketing strategy development and the campaign planning and measurement processes.

CS: What are some challenges mixing the art and science so they create a balance?

MM: I believe that many businesses have responded to the marketplace changes by building insight-driven marketing departments that include individuals with very specialized roles. It is common now to have separate people or even teams perform the quantitative, creative, and management elements of marketing all separately. Although this may provide some productivity gains and some individuals may naturally gravitate toward one area over the other as they advance in their professional careers, it can also lead to teams not fully appreciating or even understanding what each is doing, and this can lead to sub-optimal outcomes.

That is why it is so important that graduate-level marketing programs be designed to develop student’s quantitative, creative, and management skills, so that graduates have a solid foundation in all of these critical aspects of data-driven marketing.

I think it’s almost a requirement if you’re going to rise into the management ranks of marketing departments, especially today’s insight-driven marketing departments, that you’re going to have to demonstrate a strong understanding of the art and the science of marketing.

CS: How is Emerson’s program designed to prepare students for the current challenges facing marketers?

MM: The program was inspired by all these changes. In Fall 2018, Emerson will launch a new Master of Arts degree and graduate certificates in Digital Marketing and Data Analytics (DMDA). These programs are specifically designed to develop all the skills that today’s modern marketers need to be successful, including skills in analytics, digital storytelling, and social and mobile marketing, just to name a few. The master’s program tightly integrates the digital marketing and analytics curriculum so that students understand how to perform analytics and how to apply the insights to meet many different types of marketing objectives and goals.

The program is different than business analytics graduate programs that are intended to provide a broad but more introductory understanding of analytic applications across the entire enterprise. Emerson’s DMDA program is much more focused and provides a deep understanding of how analytics are performed and applied in the field of marketing and other closely related business functions, such as public relations, sales, and customer experience management.

CS: How does the program prepare marketers to both work with data and apply the insights to the business?

MM: The advanced analytics skills that students will acquire is truly going to help them tap into the voice of the customer. These students will understand how to use tools such as web analytics and social media listening tools, and they’ll certainly have a very solid grounding in descriptive and predictive analytics to help them get to the heart of what the specific needs are of customers. It’s these new analytics skills that will allow marketers to be much more proactive and use the analytics insights to anticipate consumer needs and behaviors, leading to much more timely and targeted marketing initiatives.

This type of foundational understanding of the creative and the analytics side of marketing is going to make marketers more equipped to answer the question that a lot of C-suite executives are asking: ”Which marketing investments are generating the greatest return?” Marketers coming out of a program like this will be much more knowledgeable in the underlying principles of designing marketing experiments and performing multivariate campaign analytics so that they will be prepared to answer these questions and properly allocate marketing budgets to maximize ROI.

CS: What will a more data-driven marketing discipline mean for consumers?

MM: A big part of it will be a win for consumers. Marketers that are acquiring marketing analytics skills will do things differently that the consumer will see directly. Instead of consumers being inundated with irrelevant marketing communications and advertisements, customer-centric businesses utilizing advanced analytic techniques will be able to implement highly personalized marketing, sales, and customer support programs that result in a much better overall customer experience, like targeting consumers for products or services that match their needs at that very moment.

CS: What will the future of marketing look like as organizations become more data-driven?
MM: It’s going to be critical that even though analytics will play a big role in how marketing is going to evolve, it’s still going to be an area that can’t be dominated by artificial intelligence. The creative aspects of marketing can’t and shouldn’t be replaced by analytics and AI.

I think in the future we’re still going to see marketing departments with a very nice blend of individuals who are skilled in the science and the arts. But what I think we’ll see within marketing, as we’ve seen in other parts of the business, is analytics and AI will replace some of the more mundane, tactical things and free up those resources so that they can be even more innovative than they’ve been in the past, and focus on the things that need the human touch to connect to consumers.