Presented by Wits Business School

The evolving role of the marketer in the digital world

The role of marketing in an organisation and that of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) are changing rapidly. CMOs increasingly have total responsibility for revenue growth and customer experience management, and play a central role in the design and implementation of related digital strategies within an organisation.

“Marketing executives deserve a permanent seat at the boardroom table and should play a determining role in developing company strategy,” says Dr Yvonne Saini, programme director of the Master of Management in Strategic Marketing at Wits Business School (WBS).

She says marketers can add much more value to companies than developing campaigns to boost sales in the current financial year. Instead, they should develop strategies focused on the long-term positioning of companies and brands.

“Strategic marketing means thinking ahead about how a company will be viewed in the market over the long term and how it will survive by distinguishing itself from its competitors.”

This is especially true in the new digitised word work, where technological disruption has had a major impact on the advertising, marketing and communications industries.

Saini says although marketing has always been strategic in nature, marketers need to be even better at strategic planning to succeed in an environment now seemingly dominated social media and other digital channels. From influencers sharing selfies on Instagram to Facebook advertisements powered by algorithms, marketing professionals can choose from a more complex and diverse set of channels to reach consumers than ever before.

The MM in Strategic Marketing recognises the evolution of marketing both in terms of organisational strategy and the increasing diversity of digital platforms and other channels.

“We have to consider how marketers can use technology creatively to achieve their organisational objectives,” says Saini.

She also comments that being a relatively new field, digital marketing involves a lot of ‘trial and error’.  There is also the fact that there are still many South Africans who have no (or limited) access to the Internet.

“Strategic marketing management is especially challenging in emerging markets,” says Saini. “On the one hand, organisations need to understand how to develop and implement marketing strategies across digitalised customer interfaces.  On the other hand, the emerging consumer market, comprising 2.7 billion people around the world, requires a more traditional approach to marketing strategies.”

It is an exciting time for marketers and marketing organisations as it becomes increasingly important to understand how new data sources and marketing analytics to can help to make sense of the rapidly changing environment and consumer behaviour, not only of the millennials, but of the so-called Gen Z’s.

The Master’s in Strategic Marketing programme uses ‘real life’ marketing case studies to help students come up with practical solutions on how to strike a balance between traditional and digital marketing channels.  Extensive use is made of the school’s own collection of cases, many of which focus on highly topical marketing situations and dilemmas.

While marketing, according to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, is the “process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”, Saini points out that marketing managers need to go a step further.

“Marketing is not only about profit, and marketers should ask themselves whether they are contributing to uplifting and improving people’s lives. Data analysis allows marketers to know their customers much more intimately, but this means that they are also responsible for using these insights in an ethical way.”

Applications for the Master of Management in Strategic Marketing are open. Visit

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The evolving role of the marketer in the digital world