Marketing in an era of online/social media and offline ‘IRL’ (In Real Life) commerce has become extraordinarily complicated. So much so that one Chief Marketing Officer, Josh Golden (of marketing strategy and management services firm Quad), has identified several unfortunate trends that can render it less effective.
Writing in Forbes, he points to the widespread fallacy of treating online and IRL marketing as unconnected realms when they are deeply intertwined in most people’s lives. And he sees the tendency toward marketing “disaggregation” – splitting it up into different specialisms like strategy, creative, media, and production, each catered for by different firms – as an expensive and inefficient error of judgment (most modern companies want integrated aggregated marketing services from the same provider).
All of which is to convey an obvious truth: to deliver genuine value, contemporary marketing has to keep up with the dizzying pace of technological innovation and digital media, plus its interconnections with the infinitely intricate “Real Life” world of high streets and hospitals, automobiles and adventure holidays, healthy diets and hotel bookings.
The fact is that contemporary large-scale corporations with an international footprint and big organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, rely on effective marketing to reach far-flung customers and clients to prosper and survive. All of which require specialized knowledge and expertise covering a multiplicity of marketing channels and fields of intervention.
Here’s a quick guide to the key areas of marketing today – and the expertise needed to preside over them effectively.
The key areas of marketing
Marketing experts are in demand in a multitude of human endeavors. And that means they’re required to bring to the table an in-depth understanding of tried-and-tested methods and established theories for effective marketing: knowledge they must be able to deploy across a profusion of different kinds of organizations, whether those entities are manufacturing plants, service providers, government bodies or nonprofit agencies.
Marketing professionals sometimes narrow down on a specialism as they progress through their careers, but for top-level (and exceptionally well-remunerated) marketing roles, a thorough grounding in the core fundamentals of marketing is essential. These include knowledge of marketing strategies and planning, market segmentation, consumer behavior, branding, product and service development, and international marketing.
For these reasons, increasing numbers of marketing professionals aspiring to be at the top of their game seek advanced degrees like the Master of Business Administration (MBA). The reasons are multiple, including the desire to deepen one’s knowledge. But a leading driver propelling this advanced study is the quest to “stand out from the crowd” with proven, credentialed documentation of their advanced level of skill and learning.
Thankfully, it’s now more possible than ever for those with existing family obligations and employment duties to advance their learning in this field via specialized MBAs taught entirely online. An online MBA in Marketing is recognized by the overwhelming majority of employers as an authentic advanced credential, especially since the programs are offered by well-established campus universities of high repute, such as the course offered by Ohio’s Walsh University.
Here are the main areas of expertise that marketing experts of this caliber bring to the table.
Market research methodologies
This area of marketing aims to help a business or organization discern and define market opportunities for various products or services – essentially, what people buy and why they do so. The next step is communicating those findings to potential consumers in engaging and informative ways.
This kind of research includes the following:
- Tracking ads (online, in print, billboards, etc.)
- Testing brand names
- Conducting and interpreting customer satisfaction surveys
- ‘Coolhunting’ – researching the emerging consumer interests of the “youth market,” especially concerning fashion, design, and technology trends
- Analyzing the results of ‘mystery shopping’ (engaging a ‘secret shopper’ to act as a real customer for a business to assess the customer experience in-person, over the phone, or online).
- Analyzing price elasticity (measuring the impact of changes in price and supply availability on consumer demand)
- Research into viral marketing (the extent to which novel, engaging, and entertaining marketing content is spontaneously shared by viewers on social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube)
This is the art of creating the most effectively designed and engagingly-composed content for marketing messages. A message is of little use if it fails to “get across” to the consumers it’s aimed at. Marketers working in this area often have close associations with PR and advertising industry colleagues. Once confined to print media, marketing communication has expanded to the digital media world, which today has become the prominent channel companies use to promote their messages. Marketing communications can include audio and/or visual ads, the design, and artwork on packaging, poster/billboard messages, and leaflets.
This refers to techniques for conceptualizing products and then getting them to markets. Encompassing market research (as described above), advertising and sales, it also considers the production of the commodity or service, the available methods of distribution, and sales. In addition, once “up and running,” brand management monitors trends and consumer feedback to ensure customer needs are met.
These are methods of targeting the right people with the relevant products/services – that is, the people most likely to respond positively because the messaging is accurately homing in on a consumer preference or need. In other words, the content has a greater degree of personalization. The most common methods deployed in this form of marketing include email newsletters, smartphone messaging, and even older methods like catalog distribution and leafletting.
One aim of direct marketing is to elicit an action response from the receiver of the message – answers which, of course, are much easier to monitor on digital media than older print media.
The fact that countless millions of people use the internet daily means that the trail of data they leave behind during their “surfing” activities is vast. Database marketing aims to collect this data to target messages to consumers who have already shown an interest in the theme. So, for example, if you’ve visited an online clothing retailer and placed a new jacket in your virtual shopping cart, even if you subsequently don’t proceed to purchase it, you’re likely to see an ad for that very jacket appear on your social media feed the next day. On looking at your email, you ‘magically’ discover that the jacket is now available at a “sale” (reduced) price. You’ve just had one of the many, many experiences of database marketing.
Like social media marketing, this form of meeting harnesses the power of a strong consumer presence on social media platforms. Influencer marketers work with these consumers to effectively ‘train’ them into becoming ambassadors or “influencers” for their products or service. This field has demonstrably resulted in positive effects: new consumers are substantially more likely to become interested in a product or service if a social media personality they already follow and trust recommends it. This kind of endorsement lends the product “social proof.” Marketers carefully research potential influencers to exclude any who may prove unsuitable for the brand’s reputation. Those approached will be offered skilled coaching from marketers in developing the brand’s preferred messaging content and style.
A form of “experiential” marketing, event marketing seeks to use unique events (like a pop-up shop, a trade show, a ceremony, a product release, a celebration, or a sponsored 5K run) to engage interest in a product or a service. Perhaps counterintuitively, given the substantially greater cost and time implications of staging a marketing event of this kind, it’s proven extraordinarily effective. The likely explanation is that the digital world has become the preferred medium for marketing and advertising and, as a result, is now frankly saturated with the stuff! But when people meet face-to-face at an event that brims with fun and friendly conversation, marketing takes on a whole new dimension of engagement and product consumption, standing out from the digital competition like a lighthouse in a storm.
Most professional marketers who have not yet gained advanced degree credentials and have opted to work in advertising agencies tend to be account managers. However, those with training in graphic design may also be found working on the technical design of a campaign. Account managers usually, however, work closely with clients of the ad agency to specify objectives and communicate any emerging problems or design issues. Satisfied clients are likely to become repeat-business clients.
The world of marketing becomes increasingly diversified and nuanced the higher up the professional hierarchy one can climb. Advanced professional degrees like the MBA with a specialism in marketing can significantly help secure a top-tier marketing role – one that comes with a top-tier salary attached.
But few would dispute that it’s an endlessly engaging and inspiring profession, combining hard-headed data analytics with creative flair and communicative finesse. And for that, marketing managers can command enviable salaries: according to Glassdoor, in 2022, these talented senior professionals can expect to command an average annual salary in the US of $110k.