On the customer journey… will algorithms really dominate marketing? | M&M Global

On the customer journey… will algorithms really dominate marketing?

Luise Hübbe, Geometry Global’s EMEA CDO, responds to a blog by J. Walker Smith arguing that the traditional McKinsey customer journey model is now irrelevant.


I was intrigued but J. Walker Smith’s views on how algorithms will soon dominate the future of marketing. It’s certainly a growing trend that is changing the marketing landscape as we know it, but in my view it won’t necessarily lead to the elimination of human choice and the death of journey marketing.

As a psychology graduate I am convinced of this by two fundamental and interrelated truths: human nature and its innate need for creativity. For these reasons alone, I don’t believe that consumers will entrust their personal decisions to technology. People want to be seduced, entertained, surprised and, most importantly, understood by brands. Algorithms alone can’t achieve this, and that’s where we need a story that captures our attention.

So, rather than threatening the future of brand marketing, what can algorithms do for us? In short, they have the ability to empower brands in the area of mass production to communicate in a personal, contextual and therefore relevant way. The brands that get this right will be the brands of the future: look at Ocado and their ability to sell their technological know-how and software well beyond the grocery sector.

There is no doubt that algorithms as we know them today will (and need to) evolve to become smarter and more targeted. We have all seen examples of uninspirational ‘robo-generated’ ads that churn out products that we researched (and sometimes even bought) weeks ago, or the ads that reveal more about our personal search history than we are altogether comfortable with.

Data needs creativity

In this new marketing world, data cannot be effective without creativity. Equally, to fully realise the potential of creative programmatic, algorithms are crucial.

Take, for example, a father of two who is looking to buy a new car. Car manufacturers will target ads with the insight that he will need enough space for his family, but it’s the creative mind using programmatic that understands this dad is just as interested in the design and technical features, and that he wants to see this car in action.

Ultimately it’s an emotional purchase and no algorithm can persuade this dad to purchase a car whose brand doesn’t match his self-perception.

“By adopting this customer-centric approach we will have to test, learn and optimise”

When it comes to what we call journey marketing, there will certainly be epic changes to come. Programmatic buying and data capturing already allow brands to link and sequence content to pivotal moments within the journey.

By adopting this customer-centric approach we will have to test, learn and optimise. This will result with an approach that sequences content meaningfully, resembling an individual brand-guided purchase story. The victim will, in fact, be the single big campaign message.

So programmatic, sensors and algorithms don’t signal the death of creativity and brand-consumer communication. Instead it’s a reorganisation of how the creative industry works as these elements fuse art and science to provide smart solutions that connect and convert.

We as agencies need to redefine our processes and collaborate with future-focused clients who will embrace that change. After all, the future belongs to the brave that dare to do something different rather than surrender in the face of “the almighty algorithms”.

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