Winning digital marketing strategies are driven by innovative marketing leaders who tirelessly seek new ways to connect with their markets using the latest digital tools, from artificial intelligence (AI) to machine learning and more. The AI Marketing certificate from the Darden School Foundation is designed to provide managers with a framework for developing their marketing strategies to deliver dynamic and personalized customer experiences.
We recently asked Rajkumar Venkatesan, the Ronald Trzcinski Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, about his experience teaching the AI Marketing Certificate program on Coursera.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got to UVA?
I completed my Bachelors in Computer Engineering in 1997 in India. At the time, I was taking courses in this new thing called neural networks in my senior year, and I was doing a project in my senior year on genetic algorithms, which are now part of the AI toolbox. When I came to the United States to do a PhD in marketing, my PhD student told me that technology and computers would play a big role in marketing and asked me if I would be interested in pursuing a PhD. I didn’t think much of it at the time and just said yes. I took courses in economics, marketing, consumer behavior, etc. and found it really fascinating. So I stayed and finished my Ph.D. I then taught Marketing Research at the University of Connecticut and then Marketing Analytics at the University of Virginia since 2006 and Digital Marketing since 2015. Charlottesville, VA is now home and our two sons were born here in Charlottesville.
Why did you want to get involved in online education and why is the AI Marketing Certificate suitable for online education?
Online learning has a huge reach. I can spread the message globally in my research, teaching and learning when it comes to marketing AI. The AI Marketing online course and program gives participants the flexibility to learn at their own pace in a structured and engaging environment. Both the program participants and I can learn from industries around the world.
The AI Marketing Certificate program is suitable for online learning because AI has huge potential and growth in many industries around the world. Moreover, a platform that connects people with different experiences is the right medium for the AI Marketing Certificate program.
Why is AI marketing such an important topic?
“Art challenges technology and technology inspires art.”
I think this quote from Jon Lasseter is very appropriate for understanding the evolution of marketing. Like art, marketing has a symbiotic relationship with technology. In the old days, one had mass marketing in radio. When the new technology of television came along, we saw a golden era of television advertising, but we still had one ad for all customers. Then we had the advent of cable and we started segmenting because the brand had maybe 3 or 4 versions of the ad for their different segments that they aired on their respective cable channels. With direct mail, we started the advent of one-to-one marketing and began to increase the level of customization.
Then we had digital marketing and the rise of the internet provided more customization. With AI, we are at a stage where brands are personalizing their marketing to the segment of one. Throughout this evolution, however, the fundamentals of marketing apply – address customer needs, focus on benefits vs. traits, develop an emotional connection, be authentic, and more.
What excites you most about the courses in this certificate program?
What excites me most about this certificate program is that it focuses on the application of skills and the courses of the program are guided by the AI Marketing Canvas framework and the two aspects connect and build on each other. What also excites me is that the course projects in the certificate program are a mix of applied exercises and simulations that give participants the opportunity to practice and apply their skills. Ultimately, participants can use and apply all course projects as a framework and blueprint for developing AI capabilities within their own organization.
How might students apply these courses to their professional goals or professional life?
This course does not focus on coding and developing AI algorithms, but focuses on the effective use of existing AI algorithms for personalized marketing. In these courses, participants can use the structure, framework and leadership of course projects within their own organization to develop AI capabilities.
For participants who may be interested in a career in AI marketing, this program will provide an understanding and framework of AI and its main applications in AI marketing. Together, the projects and assignments in this program enable a deeper and richer understanding of the potential of artificial intelligence in the organizations in which participants want to work.
What is one tip for people new to the program?
Participants should come prepared to interact and engage with the course and peers within the program. This will allow participants to shape and develop unique perspectives and learn from the experiences of others within the program. Ultimately, participants should come with a curious mindset to learn and contribute to meaningful discussions and interactions in the program.