Opinion

Marketers need to stay marketers, not technologists

In this guest columnantony_gowthorp-5340, Ant Gowthorp urges marketers to keep their focus – despite the tech demands placed on them.

In the battle between humans and technology, there have been some casualties. We’ve seen privacy eroded, solitude eliminated and information set free amidst a rising tide of progress.

While proving a force for good in our lives, technology has also elevated our expectations around effectiveness and productivity. By making everything much quicker and easier, it’s made us feel like we have to ‘do it all’.

Marketers in particular have been left with a collective empty feeling, our professional confidence dented by a pace of change seemingly too rapid to match.

In recent years, as technology grew more sophisticated, marketing professionals with 20 years’ experience became convinced they had to moonlight as technologists to stay relevant.

As someone who specialises in creativity and technology, I can confidently say this simply isn’t true. In fact, the flexibility technology delivers means the opposite is true.

Now more than ever, marketers need to stay marketers.

The trouble with technology is that it’s nothing like basket weaving. There’s no end-point at which you can say ‘I know how to weave baskets now. I’m a pro.’ We’re in an unprecedented era of technological progress.

New materials and advancing computer science are extending our technological capability into the realm of true science fiction, and even professional technologists are having a hard time keeping up.

Machine learning, AI, robotics, VR, mobile wallets – these systems are going to change the world sooner rather than later, combining to form a spider’s web of channels, touchpoints and data sets.

In the confusion, you can’t blame marketers for feeling like technology is more master than slave.

But rather than trying to understand and harness everything at the tech buffet, this increasing complexity calls for a division of labour between marketing and technology disciplines.

Marketers need to understand that their skills sets around brand and customer are more important than their ability to wireframe an app. That is someone else’s job.

Smart marketers start with the problem that needs solving and work with trusted partners to collaboratively come up with the most elegant solution.

If technology has an effective role to play in the strategy, so be it. Technology is fed by the creativity, insight and intuition of marketers.

It can be used to solve problems, but it has no mind to solve them itself. Above all, technology should bend to the solution, not the other way around.

The great thing about technological progress is that it’s brought increased diversity and vibrancy to how brands connect with people. As channels proliferate, media agnostic marketers have myriad more avenues for reaching people with effective, tailored communication.

Creativity and customer insight are still central to achieving marketing success, and hardware alone cannot replace that. Technology is the tool by which the idea is executed – it’s not the idea itself – that still comes from the mind of the marketer who understands their customer and their brand.

Ant Gowthorp is a managing director at Imagination

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