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  • Writer's pictureFarhana Tabassum

A Look into Marketing’s Future

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

A 1:1 conversation with Roland Rust

PC: Alex Knight

Having a clear sense of what the future holds is not easy. However, there is some good news for marketers: you have an Oracle. In one of his recent articles entitled ‘The Future of Marketing’ (Volume 37, Issue 1, IJRM, March 2020), Roland Rust skillfully details what the next-generation marketing will be like and outlines the factors that will drive the upcoming marketing endeavors, especially technology. He serves as Distinguished University Professor and David Bruce Smith Chair in Marketing at Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.

An unexpected detour

In our interview, Rust shares some fun and behind-the-curtain facts about his article. It all started when EMAC invited him as its Distinguished Marketing Scholar awardee, to pen a single-authored paper for IJRM. While talking, the author fondly recalled an anecdote that happened in Belgium in 2015. En route to EMAC’s award ceremony for receiving the accolade of a distinguished educator in marketing, Rust lost his directions, went the wrong way, and hopped into a cab before finally arriving almost 10 minutes late. In fact, the article in the spotlight was an extended rebuild of his speech at that ceremony, which eventually was published in IJRM’s 2020 March issue.

“I almost missed the talk. Don't know what would have happened to the paper then!” - Roland Rust

A feeling economy is emerging

In Rust’s opinion, the future of AI is the feeling economy, a concept he promotes and co-owns with his wife, Professor Ming-Hui Huang from National Taiwan University. His research asserts that AI has chronologically evolved through three levels of intelligence, namely, mechanical, thinking, and feeling. While many mechanical tasks have already been taken over by AI, deep learning and neural networks have tremendously improved and automated thinking and analyzing tasks. With more and more thinking tasks being automated, humans are required to emphasize feeling tasks. As a result, some role-dislocations are expected, because not all who perform well on thinking do as well with feeling. Emotional intelligence and social skills are going to be valued more than anything in the next few decades. That said, perhaps women are likely to gain the upper hand in such a feeling economy, due to possessing (on average) a capability to empathize and feel more than their men counterparts. Moreover, the demand for STEM skills is projected to plummet over the upcoming years making continuing education crucial for upskilling people from thinking to feeling.

Art-tech collaboration

Aside from being an outstanding marketing researcher, Rust is also an avid musician and running coach. He misses not being able to spend as much time with his cherished Fender Stratocaster, though. Art meets technology in a new way as AI collaborates with humans, he thinks. Today, sophisticated machines take over and meticulously carry out technical tasks, such as sound mixing, synthesizing, editing, etc. while musicians pour their hearts into their creations. Just think about an Ellie Goulding track. Rings a bell, right?

It’s personalization at its finest

One concept that is of utmost importance to Professor Rust is customer centricity, which is still a long way off for marketers. Marketers do need to know well what helps and what hurts the customers. Fortunately, with the advance in technology, it is now possible to communicate with customers and collect information 24/7. We have never had an easier time storing, maintaining, and analyzing data. This unlocks the opportunity to embrace what Rust refers to as adaptive personalization, which is providing customers with entirely customized services or goods, developed using sharp insights from unique individual-level information. The holy grail in the context of customer centricity would be to implement adaptive personalization without compromising the privacy of customer data. A point to ponder for marketers indeed.

Want to know more about tomorrow’s marketing? Read the article here.


Meet The Author


Roland Rust

David Bruce Smith Chair in Marketing, Smith School of Business, University of Maryland

Professor Rust is a mathematician in his undergraduate training. He decided to make a strategic move with his career and explore a rather applied area of mathematics, which is probability and statistics.

Consequently, he found marketing to be a fairly open field to apply his skills. Uniquely qualified to see things from a big picture standpoint, Rust presents his reflections over many years on marketing in this paper, backed up by extrapolations from large government datasets. As he says, one of the things that always drives marketing and helps marketers work is technology. In this view-from-the-top piece of marketing, he aims to highlight the influence of the latest iteration of technology, that is Artificial Intelligence.


This article was written by

Farhana Tabassum

PhD Candidate in Marketing, BI Norwegian Business School

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