The Fourth Industrial Revolution's influence on marketing communications: perspectives of practitioners in Gauteng, South Africa.
Sussmann, Nomonde Patience.
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This research focuses on how prepared marketing communications practitioners are for the influence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), with emphasis on the challenges they face and how they attempt to address them. Such issues have received scant attention in research thus far, particularly in South Africa. The study included 10 practitioners drawn from both advertising agencies and client companies, and attempted to answer the following questions: How prepared are practitioners in the marketing communications discipline for the influence of the 4IR? How does the 4IR influence their marketing communications? How have practitioners addressed challenges of the 4IR? It is postulated that in the context of the 4IR (Schwab 2017), marketing communications is impacted by the 4IR through theories of digital communication (Guizzo 2003), innovation diffusion (Daraza 2016) and polymedia (Madianou & Miller 2012). The study adopted an exploratory qualitative approach and where semi-structured in-depth interviews were used to collect data. Data was analysed using thematic content analysis. Four themes were identified in the data, which are: general understanding of the 4IR; advantages of the 4IR; disadvantages of the 4IR; and strategies to address challenges of the 4IR. Overall, findings show that the 4IR was seen as beneficial if it assists marketing communications practitioners to understand the consumer better and provide improved and quicker solutions. Although practitioners felt that jobs might not be severely affected by the 4IR and machines taking over (due to the importance of the human and creative elements in marketing communications), there was agreement that change is a constant, and that recent technologies require marketers to be a step ahead of the curve. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown an additional challenge for marketers, demonstrating that the future is uncertain and that brands and agencies that have future-proofed themselves for success are likely to survive whatever changes are thrown at them. Some of the recommendations from the study include adapting to the changes, devising clear-cut strategies and maintaining an always-on attitude to cope with the 4IR. Recommendations for future research include understanding the perspectives of practitioners in other provinces.