Randy Hlavac

Lecturer: Digital, Social, Mobile Marketing at Northwestern Medill IMC & CEO at Marketing Synergy Inc.

Randy Hlavac is an expert in helping companies design, develop, and integrate social marketing programs into their market mix. He is the Director of the OmniChannel Initiative, a partnership with IBM to explore how business will be conducted in the new digital marketplace. They are leading a multi-college effort to build the Library of the Future using Machine-Learning [AI] systems. His book, Social IMC – Social Strategies with Bottom-line ROI, is used by business leaders and colleges worldwide to develop the best social strategies to build their high value markets. Hlavac also created a Social Media Marketing specialization with Coursera.

The Four Revolutions Which Transformed Marketing

Can you describe the first three revolutions of marketing?

Mass Marketing. Most of the tracking used to be indirect in that we would run an ad on a TV show and then if a week later, or few days later, we saw a sales blip happen, we would assume the advertising caused the blip.

The second revolution came as we moved to Direct Marketing. We began to collect meaningful data we could use for marketing. When I first started, we got census tapes at the zip code level and we thought: “Wow, census data at the zip. What could be better than that?,” but then we began to evolve into marketing databases and collecting individual level data.

In the Integrated Marketing revolution, we began to ask, “how do we put everything together to build an omni-channel view, or transmedia communications view, of our markets?” and “how can we best build a relationship with those markets?” We had both data and analytics firepower, as well as the creative sophistication, to really tailor messages and relationships to people. The Integrated Marketing revolution went all the way through to the initial explosion of social and mobile and to the current movement towards more real-time systems.

What can be considered as the fourth revolution of marketing?

Marketing Automation. We are now at the point where there are technologies that will allow us to move faster than a human can move in building a relationship or taking advantage of an opportunity afforded by social. In the third marketing revolution, we essentially programmed machines to do things and had them give us algorithms and tools to help us market. In the fourth revolution, the machines will begin to do that for themselves.

What are some examples of the fourth revolution in business and marketing practices?

One example is programmatic marketing. Someone is doing a search on machine learning systems. One system says “here’s who they are” and the other says “here’s some advertising content we can put together.” They go through two high-speed negotiations, figure out the best message, tailor it to you, and it put into your search engine results in three-tenths of a second. Another example would be robo-investors. You can talk to a machine and tell it your investment goals and it will ask you relevant questions and come back with a recommended investment portfolio. The next one would be artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems. We see them in businesses helping to take over some of the more mundane customer service functions but also beginning to do much more sophisticated analysis of our databases, of relationships, and even to aid us in doing one-to-one marketing on social.

How fast are professionals adapting to technology?

I had the opportunity to speak last October at the World of Watson and one of the speakers there was Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times columnist who covers changes in technology, the environment, and society). One of the things he talked about is that there was a major foundational shift that started in 2007. At that point, technology was in a “hockey stick” acceleration to the point where, if you look at it over time, our ability as humans to use technology raises at a very steady pace. However, the “hockey stick” acceleration of technology reaches a point where it is now leading our ability to adapt to new technologies. We’re adapting as fast as we can, but there’s a huge amount of technology ahead of us and we need to learn what these new technologies can give us and figure out how we can put them into our organization.

Credit: Thomas Friedman

How are new technology-driven systems affecting social media and how people interact with it?

We are now moving toward real-time engagement. IBM talks about how we are shifting from DAR (Data at Rest, analyzing people’s past behaviors) to DIM (Data in Motion, real-time technology allowing us to identify crises before they happen). This helps us get a deep understanding of what’s happening throughout the social pyramid. It allows us to really get deep into what people are talking about, what communities they’re forming, and what they’re concerned with. One of the hottest things in social media for businesses is having a war room. War rooms are great places where analysts can sit with content curators and watch real time activity and engage with people in the moment.

Is there going to be a fifth revolution?

It’s here right now and is called the Referral Economy. If you think about some of the newest technologies out there, like Amazon Echo and Google Home which give us the ability to talk to a box that remembers what we said and answers, these kinds of technologies can help us in our lives. I think the fifth revolution is a point where the machines step in between the business and consumer. One of the other examples I use is a system called Viv. It integrates all your smartphone apps and answers any questions you have. The amazing part is that it does that in a fraction of a second; what it’s doing is writing the code as it goes to answer whatever questions you have.

What I really think is key for the future is networking and keeping up with thought leaders and thinking about the new technologies regarding how they’re going to, or how they could, impact marketing as we rely more and more on machines. That has the potential to decouple us from the customers and prospects we want to develop relationships with, which could lead to some interesting situations as we move forward. Technology is not going to stop. It is just going to keep going. We need to learn how to best use it.

Interview by Alexandra González Santiago, Medill IMC Class Of 2017

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