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The Future of Marketing – An Investigation into Disruption and Innovation

The future of marketing, looking out as far as 2050, is envisioned in this thesis. According to a world-renowned futurist, one theory is the end of marketing as we know it. Another describes the discipline as entirely controlled by artificial intelligence, without the need for direct human interaction, while others foresee a healthy balance between humans and machines. The future of employment will therefore have a significant impact on marketing practice, as automation and machine learning may sharply reduce the need for ‘human marketers’. Despite existing research into the future, the future of marketing is largely overlooked by researchers. Exponential technological advancements are on the horizon, giving rise to the concept of the Singularity. The future is complex, perhaps chaotic, and futures studies are increasingly used in academia, business, and government as a means of coping with uncertainty. Marketing is the practice of identifying the needs of consumers, creating and communicating value, engaging with the right audience, and ultimately, increasing sales and profitability. While these goals are likely to endure, the means at which these are achieved are constantly evolving. This is of interest to those in business, especially due to the marketing potential of current innovations, for example Big Data, machine learning, augmented reality, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, and more. This thesis asks, to what extent will these concepts impact the future of marketing? Further, how will the discipline evolve over the next thirty years, and what are the implications for marketing professionals today? This discovery-oriented thesis utilises qualitative research methods, including personal interviews and comparative analysis, in a grounded theory approach. These proved applicable as new in-depth information was gained beyond what is known to the researcher, and the discussions were broad – but bounded – using moderately scheduled interviews. Twelve business leaders and senior practitioners from different industries were interviewed, and three future scenarios were developed. The results were then compared with recent papers and articles produced by research organisations, think tanks, and well-known online publications. Three future scenarios are presented in this thesis: Possible, Probable, and Preferable. The Possible scenario embraces exponential innovation and the concept of the Singularity, i.e. a state at which artificial intelligence drives innovation. Our lives will be comprehensively tracked, and sophisticated prediction engines will map out our experiences to come. Employment in this scenario is a particularly contentious issue – while new job types will naturally arise in the coming years, they are unlikely to balance job losses. Shifting to a post-work society may be a factor, driven by the need to develop solutions that avoid an economic catastrophe. In the Probable scenario, current issues were given more weight, in the sense that inefficiencies and bureaucracy hinder the trajectory of innovation, thus delaying progress. In the Preferable scenario, the need for long-term planning was emphasised, especially with regards to larger societal and environmental issues. In this case, automation has less of an impact; it is carefully managed and supplements human work. The future of marketing can be described as intensely personal. Marketing systems will have access to consumers’ demographic information, behaviour, affinities, and physical location at any given time. Machine learning will optimise targeting and delivery, and smart devices link our physical selves to our digital entities, providing marketers with invaluable data. This study will argue that marketing is therefore one of the most valuable applications of artificial intelligence, and that the pace of change largely depends on the factors discussed in each of the scenarios and in the discussion chapters.
Type of thesis
McDowall, J. S. (2018). The Future of Marketing – An Investigation into Disruption and Innovation (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11709
The University of Waikato
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