There is a battle going on between brands and marketing technology companies. It is unseen and unspoken. It is a battle for understanding. As marketing changes the mix of art and science to include a lot more science, many marketers are struggling to understand how the science works. Yes, they understand in principle the idea of using big data for better targeting for instance, but lack the knowledge and capability to actually execute on this. They hear that artificial intelligence is transformative, but they can't see how to apply it to their brand and their plans.
Brands are reliant on marketing technology partners and agencies to help them understand and execute, except that these people speak a foreign language, at least not one that marketers understand.
'Suck it up and learn this stuff' the technologists argue. Understanding AI is going to be fundamental to being in any marketing role from now on. We marketers have no choice but to get our heads around machine learning, chatbots, neural networks, programmatic buying, ad exchanges, real time bidding, deterministic ID's, etc. If we are going to use the tools available today to reach today's connected individuals we have to learn how. The failure to learn how to use tools contributed to the demise of the Neanderthals after all.
And yet. The technology companies are also wrong. If I don't understand how a technology or platform works then that's their fault, not mine. It means they can't (or won't) explain it to me in terms that make sense to me. I may not have a choice about using digital tools, but I definitely have a choice about who I buy it from. And there are lots of technology companies out there, with their barely differentiated product and services. In all likelihood, I will choose the one I understand best, not necessarily the one that does the job best. There should be enough salutary lessons from history of the best technology losing to better communications for tech companies to get this.
I am no digital native and I have battled my way through understanding many of the tools of the digital age, because there is no substitute for 'doing' over just reading or talking about something. As an educator and advisor, there is no way I could stand in front of people and talk about the need for them to understand these tools without having gone through that learning curve myself.
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