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As new technologies change the face of work, so, too, are the skills marketing leaders and their teams will need in order to stay relevant both in the near and long term.
In the Asia Pacific region, artificial intelligence (AI) is going to be a biggie: A Cognizant study found that 82% of the 622 APAC-based business and IT executives that were surveyed cited artificial intelligence (AI) as the No. 1 influence on the future of work in the next five years.
“In 10 years, marketing will definitely be doing a lot with AI,” said Mitchell Mackey, marketing director at protective equipment maker Ansell. “It will be embedded in voice-activated commerce. We’ll be talking about tone of voice for brands on Alexa or Google Home or any of the other voice-activated tools out there.”
Several leading Chinese players, including Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, have already jumped into the race, according to Cognizant. Alibaba alone is planning to invest $US15 billion in research over three years to build seven labs in four countries focused on quantum computing and AI.
In addition to AI, Caroline De Kimpe, a career and leadership coach at New Horizon Coaching, said virtual reality and blockchain “will impact massively how marketers and creatives interact with their customers and consumers. Marketers and creative professionals will need to adapt to these new technologies in order to help the company they work for, or product they represent, stay relevant in a fast-changing and competitive market.”
Time To Upskill
More specifically, marketers will need to be able to work with tools that handle large data sets, such as AI and recommendation algorithms, accurately and with insight, said Dr. Travis Holland, a lecturer in communication and digital media at Charles Sturt University.
“Social media has had, and will continue to have, an extraordinary impact on the marketing and creative industries,” he told CMO.com. “But the underlying skill sets required to utilise social tools are shifting from content creation to analytics and audience curation.”
According to Mackey, specialists will be very much in demand, including those who can drive a marketing automation application, for example.
“We’re going to need certified people who really understand the social space,” Mackey told CMO.com. “We’ll increasingly need people who are very comfortable working at the intersection of technology using martech tools and who also understand business and commercial realities.”
He advised marketing professionals to embrace the analytics solutions their companies deploy, and not only understand how to use them, but also how to visualise and express insights arising from them in a way that senior management can relate to and build on.
“If your company or business is committed to a particular tech stack, you should take advantage of every opportunity to learn about it,” Mackey said. “Get yourself certified in the tools that you’re working with and continuously build up your knowledge.”
Additional Team Considerations
While technical upskilling is a must, marketing leaders also must focus on creating a culture of agility, De Kimpe said.
“Teams and companies need to be able to respond to market changes in order to keep their market share,” she told CMO.com. “To do this there needs to be a culture of creativity—a safe space for people to experiment and to make mistakes so that they can come up with new and innovative ideas.”
It’s important for business leaders to give people the opportunity to curate their own skill sets and knowledge in areas of interest and emerging trends, Holland added.
“This could mean finding ways to work with training providers or internal training strategies to offer upskilling in important areas or allowing staff to identify and pursue their own goals,” he said.
Of course, nurturing the human element—the real-life workers—should remain a big priority. While research by McKinsey revealed that emerging technologies could one day automate 45% of tasks that people are currently paid to perform, the hardest tasks to automate are those that involve managing and developing people (potential for automation only 9%) or that require decision-making, planning, and creative work (18% automation potential).
“Creatives and marketers look to tell human stories to human audiences,” Travis said. “While algorithms and AI might help find those audiences more efficiently, they can’t replace the essential aspects of crafting stories that break through the wall of noise and messages to really connect with audiences.”