Expert talk – Joëlle Vanhamme: marketing in the era of digital transformation

Written on 11 June 2018.

In a digitalized world in which big data and social media have supplanted traditional tools, how can executives and entrepreneurs comprehend an increasingly complex marketing world? Joëlle Vanhamme, PhD, Professor of Marketing at EDHEC, shares her vision of a transformed discipline, and encourages us to question our knowledge and preconceived ideas.

How would you sum up the changes that have happened in the marketing field over the past decades, and the way it challenges companies?

Joëlle Vanhamme : One of the biggest challenges with marketing today is related to customer journey and touchpoint diversification: while most companies keep functioning in silos, consumers are constantly overriding them. The fact that brick and mortar store teams are often competing with their own brand’s e-shop, for example, is absurd! To go beyond silos, a change of approach is necessary, and it involves the creation of transverse marketing teams with a more global vision.

Silos are also problematic when it comes to performance indicators. For example, rather than focus on market shares or turnover as usual, I think it’s more relevant to think in terms of the intrinsic value of a customer, of its long-term profitability – so we can wonder how the company can serve the more profitable ones better. It requires a real cultural change.

"To fulfill the whole potential of marketing, creating transverse teams with a more global vision is key."

With the development of new technologies and big data, marketing is increasingly technical. How can executives and entrepreneurs, who are not necessarily marketing experts themselves, face this complexity?

Indeed, a new paradox has emerged: before, we lacked data, now we have too much! The whole challenge is to be able to find our way in it, to identify the information that is really relevant. It requires a specific expertise and the ability to use new and complex digital tools. The solution lies, once again, in going beyond silos: rather than wanting to do everything on one’s own, a marketer would benefit from the support of data scientists, who have more advanced computing skills.   

How does your Executive MBA “Marketing Management” course, dedicated to the fundamentals of Marketing, address these issues?

This course aims at encouraging participants to think (and act) out of the box, which includes the necessity to put themselves in the shoes of their customers a little more. I also insist on the strategic dimension of marketing, to go beyond a strictly operational vision: knowing where you want to go and why is absolutely key. Finally, participants learn that marketing is much more than just creative, and that it includes an important dimension of critical analysis. I guide them through many case studies: analyzing decisions (whether good or bad) made by businesses is a way for them to take a step back and learn to constantly question their own practices and reflexes.

"Analyzing decisions (whether good or bad) made by businesses is a way for participants to take a step back and learn to constantly question their own practices and reflexes."

EMBA participants come from different backgrounds and don’t have the same knowledge of marketing. What is your method to help them develop their skills?

We chose a blended learning format that mixes e-learning with in-class learning. A first e-learning phase (about 15 hours in autonomy) enables everyone to appropriate or re-appropriate the fundamentals at their own rhythm, depending on what they already know. When the in-class phase starts (for about 30 hours), everybody is at the same level, making it easy for participants to exchange ideas and express themselves.

Each of them finds what they need in this course: those who have already practiced marketing work more on the out of the box dimension and take a step back on what they know, while those who have never practiced get a chance to overcome their preconceptions and discover the full strategic potential of marketing.


To know more about the EDHEC Executive MBA (EMBA), don’t hesitate to contact us:



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