Marketing Transformation Driven by New Tools, New Behaviors, Says Graduate

Renee Borkowski
Today's marketers face a "paradox of choice," said Renee Borkowski C'90.

Razorfish VP speaks at North Park University Breakfast Series

CHICAGO (May 24, 2013) — There has been an incredible transformation in marketing practices in the past 15 years, much of it driven by dramatic shifts in how consumers use digital devices and experiences to fulfill their information and entertainment needs. The result is that there are many players in the marketing landscape today, creating a "paradox of choice" for many marketers.

"Deciding where to pay attention, where to spend, and how and where to stay connected with consumers is increasingly complex," said Renee (Johnson) Borkowski, Chicago, group vice president of strategic marketing for Razorfish, a global digital agency. Borkowski, a 1990 North Park graduate in physics and marketing, spoke to an audience of about 80 people at this spring's Breakfast Series event in Chicago, sponsored by the University and the School of Business and Nonprofit Management. Her topic was "Marketing Transformation in the Post-Digital Era." Borkowski, a member of the University's board of trustees, brings 20 years of experience working with top-name brands.

Agencies today are challenged to cover all bases—search engine optimization, web and customer analytics, email marketing, marketing automation, social media, social marketing and multi-channel marketing management—along with many traditional forms of communication. With the growth in marketing, channels, and agencies working in the field, "we as marketers are at the intersection of decision-making, of managing our budgets, of figuring out what is going to get us the most for our money in the midst of a very confusing landscape," Borkowski said.

What has changed for marketers? Borkowski suggested several possibilities:

  • Planning is now a continuous and cyclical process. Insights are required to inform annual, quarterly, and daily decision cycles.
  • Digital marketing is experiential. As evidence, she pointed to changes in retail marketing, where shopping is mobile-enabled or occurs in "virtual" stores. More consumers are using multiple devices at home at the same time, including televisions, tablets, and smartphones.
  • Marketing is happening in real-time more than ever. Social media demands quick, short-term, relevant messaging, but must be done responsibly. "The volume and velocity of social online behaviors requires that break-through brands adopt a real-time mindset, and establish 'always-on' teams," she said.
  • New skills and vocations are emerging in marketing. There are growing needs for "data scientists" and "chief marketing technologists."

For nonprofits and mission-driven organizations with smaller budgets, Borkowski suggested an emphasis on social media-fueled experiences, coupled with highly targeted search capabilities to help organizations set themselves apart from others. Digital storytelling can also be more powerful by inviting members and followers to capture video with smartphones and making video blogs highlighting service projects, she said.

Despite the need for real-time marketing, decision-making and communication must be considered carefully and align with business and brand objectives, Borkowski said. "Organizations that take their cues solely from their audiences or cultural happenings without a true brand purpose end up diluting or damaging their brands," she added.

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