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Four Paradoxes of Digital-Era Marketing — And How to Solve Them


Today’s marketers need to resolve a number of apparent conflicts between business’ and customers’ needs in order to succeed, according to a new white paper

Ross School of Business Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing Marcus Collins and his coauthors including Philip Brabbs, managing director of the Business+Tech initiative, and B+T Scholars Cindy Hoang, MBA ’22, and Olivia Ross, MBA ’23 describe how marketing has changed in the digital age, and how it has not.

“Even as technology, tools, metrics, customer expectations and behavior, channels and platforms, and more have undergone a seemingly endless series of transformations, one constant persists: the marketer’s prime directive to strike the balance between short-term opportunity and long-term sustainable growth,“ the authors write. 

In the core of the white paper, the authors identify ​​four key paradoxes facing today’s marketers:

Performance vs. brand - Businesses feel pressure to achieve short-term financial gains, but smart, long-term brand-building strategies may not provide them.

Sales funnel vs. customer journey - Today’s customer experience in interacting with a brand can include many touch points that may not fit a predetermined or expected model.

Privacy vs. personalization - Consumers say they don’t like invasive marketing, yet increasingly expect personalized experiences.

Connection vs. conversion - Customers want brands to align with their values, but marketers ultimately need to focus on business goals.

For each of the four paradoxes, the authors of the white paper examine specific challenges facing today’s brands, discuss the issues in depth, and then suggest a number of specific, actionable steps to resolve the conflict. The white paper concludes with four core “imperatives” for success in today’s marketing landscape.

“Instead of playing a passive role in the constantly changing marketing landscape and relying on reaction instead of proactive preparation, marketers need to lead their businesses into the future and help shape what comes next by embracing these competing priorities and finding solutions to the next set of challenges,” the authors conclude.

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