Connecting Columbia Universitys David Rogers on Digital Marketing

David Rogers is a globally recognized leader on digital strategy and brands, known for his pioneering model of customer networks. Based at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, he is the faculty director of the school's Executive Education programs on Digital Marketing Strategy.

He is also the founder and host of the Center on Global Brand Leadership's BRITE conference, which brings together leaders from media and business to discuss the ways innovation and technology are transforming the ways we build great brands.

His recent research has focused on in-store mobile shoppers, digital marketing ROI and big data. He is the author of three books on brands and digital strategy, most recently, The Network Is Your Customer: 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age. His next book will focus on how businesses adapt and survive in an era of constant digital disruption.

Teaching, Speaking and Making Music

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So let's see what he has to say…

Sobel: Tell a bit about yourself. You teach at Columbia Business School, but you’re also an author and globetrotting speaker on digital strategy and marketing. Where do you see the field going?

Rogers: Well, I think we are shifting away from “digital marketing” as something we had to define and acquire basic skills to something more strategic.  For a few years, most companies were grappling with the technology basics, such as “How can I leverage a Facebook brand page?” or “How do I build an app my customers will care about?” By now, many companies are thinking much more strategically.  They recognize the digital revolution is not just a bunch of new “channels” for messages to be managed by your media planner. It really requires a fundamentally new way of thinking about your customer strategy.  And this applies to any business, no matter the size or category. My last book introduced the paradigm of “customer networks” and provided a strategic planning framework for creating value with and for customers in the digital age.

Sobel: What about your teaching. Do your students get it?

Rogers: Well, my teaching these days is all with executives.  I run three-day and five-day programs for global executives on Columbia’s campus in New York City and travel to companies, wherever they are, to hold on-site sessions. I see maturation in the field and a rapid globalization of best practices. A couple years ago, I found I was talking mostly to leading edge American companies. Overseas, the same ideas were seen a bit like science fiction.  Now, everyone gets it.  The top companies in Latin America, Asia and Africa are on the same digital platforms as Nike and Procter & Gamble today. They are all focused on using data, telling stories and measuring how digital experiences create value for both the customer and the firm.

Sobel: Speaking of top companies, tell me about what you’re doing with BRITE these days?

Rogers: Sure. BRITE is a conference I started at Columbia, focused on brands, innovation and technology.

Now in its 7th year, BRITE ’14 — which will be held March 3 and 4 on the Columbia Business School campus in New York — will bring together more than 500 leaders and entrepreneurs from marketing, technology and media.  This year, we’ll be focused on topics like monetizing social media, native advertising, brand voice across digital and traditional channels, the future of marketing measurement and the changing role of the CMO.  We'll have CEOs, CMOs and top executives speaking from brands likeBloomberg, Warby Parker, Facebook, HP, IBM, Disney, BuzzFeed, The New York Times, Kate Spade New York and American Express.

Sobel: So what’s next on the horizon for David Rogers?

Rogers: I’m starting a new research project at Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership, with my colleague Matt Quint.  My latest studies at the Center were on big data, marketing ROI and the consumer’s mobile experience inside retail stores.  This next research project will focus on the emerging world of the Internet of Things.  From wearable computing to the connected home, intelligent medicines, self-driving cars, tweeting aircraft and smart power grids – the Internet of Things is already here, and we are just beginning to understand how it will transform the digital world for consumers and businesses alike.

Meanwhile, I’ve begun work on my next book, which will focus on the challenge of continuous innovation and why some businesses are able to adapt and survive in an era of constant disruptive change.

Sobel: And you’re a jazz musician, too?  What’s up with that?

Rogers: Ah, that’s another tale. Yes, I have a new CD just out, Carry On, by my band, Imaginary Homeland.  No connection at all to any of the above.  But I love making music!