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Marketing executives should drive strategy, not sales

Wits Business School master’s programme equips marketing leaders for the digital age.

Marketing executives deserve a permanent seat at the boardroom table and should play a determining role in developing company strategy.

Dr Yvonne Saini, programme director of the Master of Management in Strategic Marketing at Wits Business School (WBS), 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.”

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 by the internet and social media. 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 WBS Master in Strategic Marketing programme is designed to equip current and aspiring chief marketing officers (CMOs) to think strategically on how to manage these tools effectively.

Diversity, dynamics and connectedness

The programme recognises that to be successful, CMOs must be able to develop and implement marketing strategies across high levels of diversity, dynamics and connectedness.

“It becomes a question of how marketers can use technology creatively to achieve their objectives,” says Saini. “The challenge they face is that digital marketing still involves a lot of trial and error and experimentation. The field is still so new that no one can be a true expert at it yet.”

She says there are still many misconceptions about social media and digital marketing, and how to utilise these tools to reach certain target audiences.

“We can’t say that everyone has gone digital. There are still many people in South Africa who have no or limited access to the internet.

“There is also a misconception that everyone is on Facebook and Twitter – but you may find that some people use Facebook only to communicate with family and friends and still want to use other channels to get information about or interact with businesses.”

The programme also takes into account that strategic marketing management can be especially challenging in emerging markets.

On one hand, organisations operating in the more developed metropolitan and urban areas must understand how to develop and implement marketing strategies across increasingly digitalised customer interfaces. On the other hand, however, the unparalleled transition of an emerging consumer market comprising 2.7 billion people around the world requires a more traditional approach to marketing strategies.

Getting the balance right

Saini says the programme makes use of real marketing situations and case studies to help students come up with practical solutions on how to strike a balance between traditional and digital marketing channels. Half of the programme consists of course work and the other half requires students to complete a research dissertation. “The course work includes modules in digital marketing, branding, customer relationship management, applied consumer behaviour, integrated marketing communication, and strategic marketing. The dissertation allows students to pursue their own area of interest and contribute to the current marketing knowledge and debate.”

Saini says another key trend within the marketing field is its increasing focus on consumer behaviour, with CMOs increasingly being given total responsibility for revenue growth and customer experience management within their organisations. “Marketers are analysing consumer behaviour to gain better insights into their wants and needs. The core concept that underpins marketing is still the same: marketing is about meeting customers’ needs and building long-term relationships with them. However, the ways we go about doing this have changed.”

She points out that as data analysis allows marketers to know their customers much more intimately, they are responsible for using these insights in an ethical way. “Marketing is about producing goods and services that add value to people’s lives. Marketers should ask themselves whether they are contributing to uplifting and improving people’s lives.”

Who is it for?

The Wits Business School Master of Management in the field of Strategic Marketing (MMSM) is for postgraduate students who want to pursue a career in marketing, as well as practicing marketers who want to advance their careers armed with the knowledge they need to confidently take on substantial projects using the latest marketing science and thinking. Some of the MMSM alumni are working for renowned companies like Coca-Cola and Shell to name a few.

Brought to you by Wits Business School (WBS).

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