Look At Any Kind Of Disruption As An Opportunity

Senior Lecturer of Marketing Jonathan R. Copulsky digs deeper into challenges, crises and disruptions faced by marketers.

Reading Time: 4 min 


  • “One of the challenges that marketers have faced over the last two years and will continue to face is the set of crises, disruptions and how to pivot quickly to cut losses,” says Jonathan R. Copulsky, Senior Lecturer of Marketing at Northwestern University. In this interview, Copulsky says every company needs to be continuously looking at its marketing technology stack to see where there are opportunities to consolidate, as he talks about the challenges faced by marketers, and their teams and offers some solutions.

    Excerpts from the interview:

    What challenges will impact the marketing industry in the next five years?

    The biggest challenge affecting marketing is recovering from some of the impacts of Covid-19. The urgent requirement of all marketers is to change their relationship with customers, which was impersonal, and use tools that we had not heard of before or used. As we go forward, we continue to have the same set of challenges that we had before Covid-19. We have to do a better job of personalising our communication with customers by providing them with more responsive customer journeys and do this in the context of increasing regulations of how we use customer data.

    What are the biggest operational challenges marketing teams face today?

    Marketers face challenges in organising marketing technology stacks and figuring out the right set of tools that they should be employing in conjunction with customer data. How do we ensure we have accurate customer data compiled with regulations and laws, customer data integrated across different devices, particularly in this world in which third-party data, including coming from cookies, is no longer going to be allowed. The data challenge is one of the biggest challenges facing marketers from an operational perspective over the next 25 years.

    What kind of planning can help brands prepare for a crisis?

    One of the challenges that marketers have faced over the last two years and will continue to face is the set of crises and disruptions. Some colleagues and I put together a book called The Transformation Myth, published by MIT Press in 2021.

    The book’s focus was to understand what organisations, including marketers, can do to prepare themselves for these ongoing disruptions. And what we saw was that the companies that were successful in managing/navigating the way through a pandemic tended to have four characteristics which we think are equally impeccable for other types of disruptions. Those characteristics focus on being nimble, scalable, and good at forming partnerships with other organisations that allow them to be agile and scalable and then stably manage this.

    So these four characteristics are what we call nimbleness, scalability, relationships with third parties, and that sense ability. And what we watch with organisations that are growing, whether they are way through disruptions of pandemic and organisations that had a shrink, managed to do this in a nimble fashion and much stronger and better.

    We even ask people who have read the book to look at any kind of disruption as an opportunity to continue to reinvent yourself, using some of the tools that technology provides. Companies that tended to do fairly well around the crisis tended to use great technology, particularly cloud technology.

    How can brands consolidate their martech stack? What should they focus on?

    To use marketing technology effectively, make sure you have a great website, make sure you have email, social, SMS tools, campaign management tools, project management tools, and so forth.

    There’s a massive consolidation among some of the leading global vendors like Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, and companies like HubSpot. Consolidation will continue, but that means that every company needs to be continuously looking at its marketing technology stack to see where there are opportunities to consolidate to swap mutuals in, swap all tools and advertisers.

    What’s ahead for marketing technologies is that we’ve seen the growth of Customer Data Platform (CDP), which will continuously be more important. It ties back to managing, acquiring, and securing customer data.

    The campaign management tools will continue to be important. The things that can be refined are recommender systems to help customers navigate the complexity of choice.

    What can brands expect from the Metaverse, and how can they prepare for it?

    We watched as Facebook changed its name to Meta in the past year. It hasn’t yet stuck for some of them, but it’s integrative of working in Metaverse. I am a little sceptical because we are yet to see B2C applications that are really wonderful to use cases, business cases, or better accounts to drive it. But having said that, we’ve seen in B2B, in applications that have nothing to do with marketing, is the growth of virtual and augmented reality tools, and it will come from B2C.

    I would suggest marketers to experiment, learn, track others’ abilities, look for best practices, understand if there’s an opportunity to develop a pilot, execute the pilot at a small scale, do what is learned from that pilot, and then continue to create more learning powers, which at the appropriate time, will allow you to scale. Create a set of options for yourself.

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