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KFC Malaysia’s marketer on the marriage of art and science in marketing

People often say the best time to be in marketing is in the present. With the speed of innovation and volume of emerging technologies, and the variety of ways to engage with consumers, more can now be done than ever before. But truth be told, it is also an intimidating time. With the rapid advancement in AI, programmatic, big data, martech and adtech, marketing is in perpetual motion.

There is constant pressure to learn a whole new language and embrace the reality of “evolve” or die. Perpetual motion is going to be a constant in the future. Nobody knows for sure what technology will look like in the next five years, making it more critical for us to be agile and quick in our own evolution. The future will be determined by how fast and how well we are able to adopt and make use of the by-product of the available tools, platforms and resources. The starting point is the interest and appetite to invest the time in understanding what tech can do; followed by the will to experiment with the unfamiliar. The aggregation of trial and errors will write our future, and overpower the madness of measures, mediums, technology and behaviours today.

Like it or not, marketing is fast becoming a scientific discipline, with data at its core. The saying that “half the money spent on marketing is wasted, the trouble is knowing which half”, will eventually be debunked as marketing is becoming increasingly attributable. Technology has made it possible to collect and organise marketing data, allowing us to make better decisions in creating meaningful experiences with our customers, and at the right time. We need to build marketing muscles for both a creative and analytical mind. What was largely based on observations, gut-feel and beliefs are now substantive and qualified.

With the access to data and technology today, we must remember that all the investments made will not be useful without creativity. We may have all the complex data points and systems to organise and automate to serve ads, but at the end of the day, it depends on how fast we are on the uptake to make the right decisions and find creative and interesting ways to be relevant.

For this, we fundamentally require the mainstay marketing skills of creativity, gut instinct and critical thinking. In this new world order, these skills are more important than ever to truly unlock the value technology presents. No matter how the world changes, the role of marketing remains intact: we exist to sell. Victory will go to marketers able to work in tandem with technology and apply innovative solutions to great effect.

While technology is a relentless driving force, our reason for being is still to build brands that matter and mean something to consumers. People buy into experiences and emotions and
customer decisions are a result of how they feel about brands rather than a more deliberate, linear and rational mental process. The reality is consumers don’t really care if a brand ceases to exist, let alone look out for campaigns from brands. There are many options in the market that can fill the same needs. Brands need to offer real experiences that people care about and emotional connections that add value to their lives, or all the data and technology in the world will not move the needle.

The future of marketing needs to be rooted in consumers – what their future looks like and what matters to them. That is why more brands worldwide are beginning to behave more like publishers. Keeping a pulse on what matters to people and creating content that makes the brand a part of pop culture. It’s about being a clear purpose-driven brand that is in-step with the consumer of the day. Unless we have the emotional core, the creativity to inspire and the tenacity and guts to experiment and act, we will not do justice to all the data and technology at our disposal. This is fundamental to marketing yesterday, today and will remain true into the future.

The writer is Angelina Villanueva, chief marketing officer, KFC Malaysia, QSR Stores. The article first appeared in A+M’s The Futurist print edition.