I would love to see marketers come together to build a more value driven approach to customer relationships and respect consumer data.
As part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business or career. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Rajkumar Venkatesan co-author of The AI Marketing Canvas.
Raj Venkatesan is the Ronald Trzcinski Professor of Business Administration in the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia. His writing has appeared in the Journal of Marketing and Harvard Business Review, among others, and he is the co-author of Marketing Analytics (2021).
Thank you for doing this! Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Joining Darden was life-changing. I really started understanding about marketing, learning about the practice of marketing, and worked on case studies with companies, did executive education, and all of that was fascinating and gave me a perspective into the changing world of marketing.
I wrote a book on marketing analytics based on my course in Darden, and this was a tools book. As I worked on that book, I realized that there is a need to talk about the marketing process, and the way technology, data, and algorithms are changing marketing.
I met Jim, my coauthor around that time and he was thinking about the same things also, in his position at Google. We eventually decided to write this book on AI in marketing together to really put together a perspective on how leaders can use AI in their marketing strategy.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I don’t really have one person or story. I try to learn from everyone I meet. I would like to highlight three groups of people. My research coauthors are a source of inspiration for me. They are smart people and deep thinkers. I learn about marketing everyday I work with them.
I love interacting with my students. They are full of ideas and are always aware of the latest trends in technology. They question the norm and this helps me unpack our long help assumptions in marketing.
Practicing managers and marketing leaders are great to interact and engage. I learn a lot about the opportunities and challenges down the horizon in marketing. I am always energized for the future of marketing when I talk to these leaders.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?
“The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.”
I think this quote from John Lasseter is very appropriate to understanding the evolution of marketing. Like art, marketing also has a symbiotic relationship with technology.
In the old days, one had mass marketing on the radio. Then when the new technology of TV came about, we saw the golden era of Television commercials, but we still had one ad for all the customers, then we had the advent of cable TV and we started segmentation, a brand perhaps had three ad versions for their different segments that aired in the appropriate cable channels.
With direct mail, we started the advent of one-to-one marketing and started to increase our customization, then we had digital marketing, and the rise of the internet we had more customization.
With AI now, we are at the stage where brands are personalizing their marketing to a segment of one. An effective strategy is to use AI to personalize each aspect of customer engagement; acquisition, retention, growth, and advocacy (or word of mouth).
Modern marketing is about using first-party consumer data and algorithms to personalize the firms’ marketing for acquisition, retention, growth and advocacy. The idea is to put the customer in the center and use AI to enhance the customer’s experience with the brand.
All through this evolution, though, the fundamentals of marketing hold true. Address customer needs, focus on benefits, not features, develop emotional connections, be authentic, etc.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
I tend to listen to sociology-related podcasts more than business, sorry! For general issues, I love the podcasts of Kara Swisher and Erza Klein. I also like to hear to Malcom Gladwell as he always questions the norms. For business podcasts, I listen to CNBC’s TechCheck, A16Z, Reed Hastings and HBR.
The books I like in business are: Range, Ride of a Lifetime, Codebreakers, Innovators, Noise, Invent and Wander, and Alibaba: The house that Jack Ma Built.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Outside of the effective use of AI and technology in marketing, I would like to see a more responsible approach to customer data. The issue of customer privacy is very important.
I would love to see marketers come together to build a more value-driven approach to customer relationships and respect consumer data. Another issue near to me is climate change.
I would like to see marketers using their knowledge about consumer behavior to drive the adoption of more sustainable products.
Thank you for sharing your story and so many valuable insights with us today!