This question keeps coming up: in blogs, in tweets, in LinkedIn discussions, in so-called academic papers.
I guess the answer depends on what you think marketing is.
If you define marketing as a series of tasks, if you think marketing is merely the accretion of likes, connects, and follows, if you believe marketing is a function of pushing “content” out the door, then perhaps you are at risk of being replaced by mechanization.
But in my mind, marketing is the art of defining an organization’s products and/or services in such a way as to make their value clear to customers and prospects, thereby facilitating sales. It is the ability to tap into the underlying values and needs that make people want what you are offering. And then these messages are presented in a variety of media, and they are nuanced to seamlessly fit into each context.
If you agree that this is the essence of marketing, then the answer to the question is simple: Not in our lifetimes.
Mechanization is wonderful in so many ways. It relieves us of much of the drudgery of tedious, repetitive tasks. For example, it makes data mining more efficient, allowing us to dig out insights that we could never have found without the power of parallel processing. Mechanization makes collaboration easier. It makes organizing tweets and posts simple and less time-consuming. It makes it easier to respond to customers and queries. And the list goes on and on.
But one thing that mechanization cannot do is be creative.
It is rarely talked about, but creativity is what drives the best marketing. It’s what makes the best marketing programs stand out. It’s what gets your message and material above the noise of the marketplace. It’s what creates the interest and indefinable sense of trust that makes a prospect reach out to you.
Some day, perhaps, there will be an artificial intelligence that can do that. But until then, real marketers – those in touch with their marketplace and more concerned with reaching customers and prospects than simply having their messages pass them by, more concerned with being heard than being part of the herd, don’t need to worry about being replaced by mechanization.