Villing & Company

Back To The Future: Reminders from the Next Generation of Marketers

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a class of senior level marketing students. My former professor periodically invites me to visit her class to discuss what it’s like to work in the marketing and advertising field. The students asked quite a few questions and were great to interact with. One of the best aspects of talking with soon-to-be grads is the chance to hear about current curriculum and how they view the marketing world from their perspective. It can be argued that keeping a connection with students is a great way to keep your finger on one of the pulse points of the future of marketing and advertising - our future colleagues.

One cannot discuss today’s advertising environment without including the importance of digital and mobile. This is frequently addressed in marketing circles and is a hot blog topic (including several recent Villing Views by my colleagues). University programs have adapted and put a deserved emphasis on preparing students for this new reality. Graduates entering the work force today consider digital elements a given and don’t need to overcome any existing mindsets or learn new functionality. Therefore, I expected the Q&A time during my class visit to gravitate towards new technology and its applications. Surprisingly, the majority of questions and comments I received were about key marketing fundamentals.

A few of the most insightful questions I received were about strategic planning, differences between B2B and B2C communications, and campaign measurement and evaluation. I won’t digress to detail the ensuing conversations, but I share these specific question topics to illustrate why I was impressed with the students. I also saw this as an opportunity to remind myself to never lose sight of the basics. If students whose education took place amidst the surge in digital advertising have the presence of mind to step back and consider the fundamentals first, then all experienced marketers had better be able to do the same. While digital and mobile opportunities are only going to increase and the importance of staying ahead of the curve cannot be overstated, we need to be conscious of the difference between utilizing a technology because it’s available and incorporating it as part of a communication plan that supports a defined strategy.

The first example of this that comes to mind is the use of QR codes. Recently, these have been getting a lot of attention with varying opinions. Some articles express the view that QR codes are nothing more than a gimmick while others note innovative applications. I’ll readily admit that I’m not an expert on QR codes and my experience with them is limited, but I do agree with critics that the rampant placement of codes everywhere from billboards to t-shirts seems random rather than strategic. I would find it hard to believe that many of these QR code uses were thoroughly thought out beyond the fact that the technology was available. That being the case, the criticism they have received is warranted.

So my class visit was a rewarding experience on several levels. Beyond the enjoyment of revisiting the collegiate environment for a moment, I received the benefit of a reminder to keep an eye on the fundamentals at all times. Should this go without saying? Maybe so. But I think it’s important enough to say anyway.

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