Marketing Technology | Human Skills Become Even More Valuable in 2020

Marketing Technology | Human Skills Become Even More Valuable in 2020

Historically, whenever a large, technological leap is taken it’s met with a degree of resistance, sometimes in a way that makes us laugh. The Wall Street Tech article, “Women And Children First: Technology And Moral Panic” shares that when trains were first introduced to the public there was a fear that women shouldn’t ride them since “uteruses would fly out of [their] bodies as they were accelerated to that speed.” They did not.

In that same article, Cultural Anthropologist Genevie Bell states that society often experiences fear “when particularly revelatory technological advances show up—specifically, ones which interfere with or alter our relationships with time, space, and each other.”

What Was Our Reaction to The Emergence of Marketing Technology?

If you are old enough, you’ll likely remember the book “Who Moved My Cheese?”. It’s a parable that taught readers they could only declare, “winner-winner cheese dinner” if they were willing to embrace change.

The book became a popular business “must-read” in the early 2000s, right around the same time that the internet could be found in most households. This new connectivity meant that organizations needed to quickly rethink the way they marketed their goods and services. The message “adapt or starve” resonated so much that a small book about overcoming the fear of change sold $28 million copies.

Ultimately, the era became a launching pad for the customer experience methodology and automated marketing technology we’re using today. It’s safe to say that once we got past the initial and very human response to the changes emerging technology was bringing, we cleared the way for further innovation.

Do We Fear the Next Iteration of Marketing Technology?

Automated marketing technology has allowed us to essentially outsource time-consuming, repetitive tasks such as scheduled social media postings and email launches. In 2020, we’re going to see this go a step further with more organizations incorporating AI decision making into their marketing platforms. 

For example, high-end skincare company Kate Sommerville built its eCommerce website with a platform that could offer unique product recommendations based on browsing and shopping patterns. The consumer’s online behavior assessment and the subsequently executed response was entirely automated.

As AI’s ability to predict and respond to human behavior increases, the potential to successfully interact with customers also rises. But as excited as we all are to level up our ROI, does the addition of AI decision making generate a creeping fear that human marketing positions will become redundant? 

Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian explained why there’s nothing to fear in the Stanford article “Our Misplaced Fear of Job-Stealing Robots”. “Automation doesn’t generally eliminate jobs. Automation generally eliminates dull, tedious, and repetitive tasks. If you remove all the tasks, you remove the job. But that’s rare.” Varian goes on to share that “In 1950, the U.S. Census Bureau listed 250 separate jobs. Since then, the only one to be completely eliminated is that of elevator operator”.

Emerging Technology Makes Human Skills More Valuable

The reality is that while marketing technology will not be replacing jobs, it is undeniably replacing some of the tasks that fall within them. Organizational roles will begin to shift as more space is created within them.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) does a great job explaining how we can expect to see marketing roles change in response to emerging technology in their article, “The Rise of AI Makes Emotional Intelligence More Important”. “Those that want to stay relevant in their professions will need to focus on skills and capabilities that artificial intelligence has trouble replicating — understanding, motivating, and interacting with human beings.” 

“It’s these human capabilities that will become more and more prized over the next decade. Skills like persuasion, social understanding, and empathy are going to become differentiators as artificial intelligence and machine learning take over our other tasks.”

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Growth Hacking is the intersection between Product, Marketing, Technology & Data

Honestly, What is Growth Hacking?? And What it isn’t!!

So there is this new kid on the block called “Growth Hacking”. You may have read an article about it or heard it mentioned somewhere, somewhen. Growth Hacking seems to be a divisive and emotive term.

I first learnt of the phrase in January 2013 when the Guardian posted a job listing called “Head of Growth Hacking”.  Having not heard of the term at that point I was intrigued to see what this job was. I thought it might be one of those random job titles you see now and again on the job boards. Two excerpts from the job spec really caught my attention.

“Its about the intersection between Marketing, Product, Technology, and Data” and “The Guardian is committed to a “digital-first” strategy and in order to support this, we are seeking a Head of Growth Hacking to manage a virtual, cross functional team focused on GNM’s growth hacking plan. This role is responsible for finding innovative ways to accelerate adoption, use, and retention to drive up audiences to the Guardian’s digital product portfolio”.

Growth Hacking is the intersection between Product, Marketing, Technology & Data

Fig 1. The 4 building blocks of Growth Hacking

“Hacking” is a very sensitive word in the UK for the last few years due to certain British press organisations being implicated in hacking prominent public figures’ phone lines and essentially eavesdropping on private conversations [Google “Leveson Inquiry” to read more]. So, for the Guardian, a major British press institution to be advertising for a job using the word “hacking” was fascinating. Secondly, I started out as a coder/programmer and had been working as a Digital Marketer and have a very varied skill set. I’d launched my own start up or two, worked for major corporates but always felt certain aspects of my skills were not being utilised especially when working for the blue chips.

Seeing the Guardian role led me to do more research on growth hacking and reading through the various definitions it was like a clarion call for me, a realisation that there was finally a clearer description for what I do! I was so stoked at this point in 2013 I immediately created a group on LinkedIn [ ] to connect with other growth hackers. Feel free to have a look and join if you want to join in.

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Fig 2. Growth Hacking trending topics; velocity of trend; May 1st 2014

From my personal perspective Growth Hacking is NOT:

  • some dodgy technique to hack into your phone and listen to your conversations
  • just about marketing, whether, digital or traditional

o   nor is it suited for fluffy, abstract awareness building campaigns
o   and certainly not ideal for improving Net Promoter Score
o   and definitely not only about inbound marketing / earned media; i.e. outbound marketing and bought media can accelerate conversion

  • only for start-ups – any size organisation with digital content, a mobile app, SAAS product or even a website can utilise growth hacking principles
  • about short quick win hacks
  • as edgy as it sounds. Its a structured, logical and transparent line of attack

For me Growth Hacking is:

  • a digital discipline. It encompasses a digital product, digital marketing, & Internet / Mobile technology stacks. As digital becomes more prevalent in the physical world, hacks for real world retail outlets will become more common.
  • about viral growth and acquisition of active users
  • about consumer lifecycle, journey, experience and insight. Cohort analysis for example is a must have tool in your growth hacking toolkit
  • primarily about the product, be it app, content, website or SAAS. Any digital product / proposition can be growth hacked. Imagine a digital widget that does “something”, people have downloaded the widget but they are not using it. Houston, we have a problem! Applying “hacks” to product features like removing or changing functionality or A/B testing product features [data], changing the IT stack e.g. Optimizely vs. Omniture Test & Target [technology] and modifying the message in the communications [marketing] for example,  will help determine why it’s being downloaded but not utilised and ultimately improve conversion. But it all MUST link back to the product. Great marketing or deep data analysis or the wrong technology will not fix a bad product.
  • about “lean” [not agile] methodologies and hacker mindsets, i.e. applying entrepreneurial and real time experiments and tests. I once waited 8 months for the IT department to install Doubleclick tracking tags. This is not lean, agile or real time. It should be seconds or minutes! A hacker mindset to me, means implementing multiple HELRs [hypothesis, experiment, learn, repeat] in short periods of time. HELRs can be for code, marketing, data etc but you need to be able to learn quickly and adapt your strategy even faster. Your technology stack plays a HUGE role in allowing for lean methodologies and HELRs to be practiced. The difference between an enterprise level CMS to an open source CMS in terms of flexibility for lean is a wide gulf in favour for open source.
  • about formulas, metrics, kpis, Excel [lots and lots of Excel], SQL & databases, viral factors and virality equations, scenario planning, needs analysis, and portfolio analysis. Basically, hardcore data analysis, data hacking and quantitative measurement of large data sets. Data is the pillar upon which product, marketing and technology are tweaked, refined and optimised.
  • being a coder as well as a marketer but more importantly a commercially minded business person. Due to my technical skills I’m always looking to either directly or indirectly implement features into content / products from the ground up that facilitate marketing efforts such as A/B multivariate testing and insight gathering. With focus on entrepreneurship and growth;

Growth Hacking is not mainstream; Yet. Not like social media was a few years ago or is now. But, its growing fast. I don’t know if it’s a fad, buzzword, trend or anything else. It is however a very suitable term to describe my skill set and I like calling myself a “Growth Hacker” J, it just sounds cool don’t you think? In the last month  [April 1st to May 1st 2014] tweets about growth hacking have doubled. But in comparison to social media it’s got a long way to go to reach critical mass.

growth hacking -tweets-per-day-apr-may-2014


social media-tweets-per-day-apr-may-2014