AMA’s big 7 #MarketingProblems (plus one of my own)

problem-solutionThe marketing business has some big problems, according to the American Marketing Association.

The AMA laid out what it sees as the seven biggest marketing problems in its April 2016 edition of Marketing News.

These are the things that keep marketers up at night. Whether we choose to confront them or ignore them, they loom large in our work.

At least that’s the AMA’s take. What do you think about these big seven?

  1. Effectively targeting high value sources of growth. The AMA calls this “the one foundational issue” confronting all marketers. In the corporate world, it may have to do with looking at new markets or demographics for products and services. In higher education, it may pertain to anything from new degree programs or program delivery methods to starting a new young alumni program. Whether in the corporate or higher ed work, identifying the right market for your product or service is a big and continual challenge.
  2. The role of marketing in the firm and the C-suite. “What does a ‘world-class’ marketing organization look like?” asks the AMA, and what role does the chief marketing officer play? This is a big question in higher ed, and in an earlier blog post, I pointed out the “significant management challenges” campus CMOs face in a largely decentralized marketing organization, which is the norm on most college campuses.
  3. The digital transformation of the modern corporation. No argument here that this is a biggie. The rapid pace of change in the digital landscape, and the struggles big organizations have to keep pace, will continue to be problematic for marketers of all stripes. But embracing the digital transformation — from delivery of messaging, products and services to analyzing the effectiveness and ROI of our efforts — will be crucial to future success.
  4. Generating and using insight to shape marketing practice. Related to the digital transformation question is the “role of big data” question. How much time should we devote to analytics? “An argument could be made that while our data and knowledge are rapidly growing, our actual insight is not,” reports the AMA.
  5. Dealing with an omni-channel world. “Omni-channel” is the buzz phrase used to describe “the advance of social media, mobile media, always-on communications, the Internet of Things and multi-channel markets.” How do traditional marketing theories and approaches mesh with this new world? How do we re-tool to address the challenges omni-channel marketing brings to our organizations?
  6. Competing in dynamic, global markets. Globalization is nothing new to higher education. Yet in the U.S. and other countries in the so-called developed world, much of our focus has been on serving a world of international students who have looked to us as the best source for a quality education. But as with other sectors, the ground is shifting beneath us. While U.S. and British institutions dominate the top tier of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the list may look quite different 20, 10 or even 5 years from now. “In many industries, the new and nimbler competition may be from firms based in second-world or even emerging economies,” the AMA warns.”What are the implications of dealing with such non-traditional competitors?” It’s a question we should be asking in higher education.
  7. Balancing incremental and radical innovation. “Disruption” has been a topic of discussion in higher education for quite some time now. As a challenge for marketers who wish to stay competitive must find that balance between disruptive and incremental approaches. As the AMA puts it, organizations must balance between the present day and the future. “How does one balance this dual, or ambidextrous, orientation? How do we fuel necessary innovation in the present, while investing in disruptive technologies, business models, partnerships, and customer experiences that set the course for the future?”

Those are the AMA’s Big 7 #MarketingProblems. Now, here’s my biggest fret:

8. Dis-integration. During much of my 25-year career in higher education, I’v heard a lot of talk about creating integrated marketing strategies. I’ve talked a lot about integrated marketing myself. But we in higher ed have never really succeeded at full integration. These days, forces that facilitate dis-integration seem more powerful than ever, and they’re tugging at the frayed strings that hold our brand identities together. We’ve tried to centralize the marketing functions. We’ve created hub-and-spoke approaches designed to help bring consistency of message, tone, voice and visuals to our highly decentralized organizations while giving campus units more autonomy. Still, as last year’s state of higher ed marketing report pointed out, campus chief marketing officers expend quite a bit of time and energy attempting to wrangle those rogue departments or individuals that insist on their own off-brand logos, messaging, etc. The rise of social media and the digital transformation (item 3, above) further empowers units outside of centralized or coordinated marketing offices — from business schools to intramural sports teams — to further dis-integrate, further fragment and further dilute an institution’s brand identity. The issue of dis-integration is likely to continue. The question is, How much time should a CMO spend wrangling? That’s a question that keeps me up some nights.

So, there you have the AMA’s big seven marketing maladies, and my eighth. Which of these, if any, keep you awake at night? Or which marketing problems aren’t on the list but should be? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or tweet at me (@andrewcareaga) using the #MarketingProblems hashtag.

Image via Pixabay.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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