How Oxford’s social scientists are informing the digital transformation of marketing for global companies

Global leaders including Facebook and L’Oreal have turned to social scientists at the University of Oxford to understand how to tackle their next big digital marketing challenges

The Oxford Future of Marketing Initiative (FOMI) at Saïd Business School aims to address the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for marketing in our technologically complex world, with topics such as big data, future skills for marketing professionals, and what happens beyond AI and automation, at the forefront of their research.

Launched in 2016, FOMI is a unique approach which brings together the brightest academic minds with high-level industry partners representing major brands, agencies, and technology companies. The collaboration allows the initiative to focus on research that is both scientifically rigorous and fully informed by the big challenges faced by industry.

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Working with such a network of industry leaders helps to facilitate pathways for real impact on practice. It also helps to inform programmes at the School, ensuring that education at Oxford Saïd is cutting edge when it comes to digital transformation, marketing, advertising and the use of data science in business.

Professor Andrew Stephen, Director of FOMI, remarks: 'It’s a big part of Saïd Business School’s mission to engage effectively with industry, although we wouldn’t be doing this if it didn’t lead to high quality research.

'We have a broad and eclectic mix of organisations and brands, but what we realised is that they were saying the same things and experiencing the same challenges. They had a lot of unanswered questions that research had the potential to answer. We needed one single place to bring them together.

'It enables the companies to take stock and look at the bigger picture. It also means they aren’t ‘marking their own homework’. Partnering with us adds credibility and quality to their research and development.' 

A shared culture:

Teradata was one of FOMI’s founding corporate partners. Its mission is to help companies leverage 100% of their data to uncover real-time intelligence at scale.

Mary Gros, Director of Business Relations at Teradata said: 'We love the FOMI spirit and culture. We share a passion to help companies grow. We thrive on new ideas. When we learn from each other, we multiply our value.

'Teradata works with many of the largest companies in the world. It is important to have partners like FOMI that bring fresh perspectives.

'We were excited about the FOMI vision when we joined. It only gets more extraordinary. FOMI keeps us grounded in relevant research today and with an eye on the future.' 

Teradata also hosts its own events at University of Oxford in partnership with FOMI to showcase the initiative’s leading research, and to invite customer participation.

‘A respectful and respectable group’

Nucleus Marketing Solutions is another founding member of the initiative. The fast-growing start-up brings together digital marketing and objective, regional journalism. Being able to tap into research around the ethical use of data, the dark web, and consumer behaviour have been key highlights for the company, as well as being part of the dialogue between leading brands and academics.

Seth Rogin, CEO of Nucleus Marketing Solutions, said: 'The FOMI experience has been more than I ever expected. The research is just one part of the benefit - it’s also about the interaction between brands. It’s a respectful and respectable group.

'The only way to understand our business is through learning. Leadership of thought always comes from University of Oxford, but with FOMI there is a strong dialogue between industry and academia.' 

Framework for business engagement

FOMI is set up through a development framework. Members of FOMI meet at least twice a year at Saïd Business School, and benefit from one-to-one sessions and individual research projects between academics and industry partners.

Donations from partners are put towards funding a range of activities, including an annual symposium and an annual conference to showcase the research undertaken in response to the questions posed by the initiative.

The list of members is growing, with more global, digital marketing brands joining throughout the year. Twitter is the latest industry partner to join the initiative. The new partnership will enable FOMI to continue exploring key questions around the effectiveness of social media marketing, and to address the power of Twitter as a platform for connecting consumers and brands.

Rachel Kirwan, Head of Development at University of Oxford Social Science Division supported with the set-up of FOMI.

She said: 'Formation of the initiative was driven by the fact that Andrew wanted his research to be industry relevant. By working with a network of organisations, we were able to identify common challenges and trends. It’s very entrepreneurial and ensures his research is truly informed by industry.'

Research Themes

  • Future customers: How tech is driving consumer behaviour – from voice search to artificial intelligence
  • Future marketers and business growth models
  • What is marketing’s role in society? Future role of marketing, meaningfulness, and purpose
  • Measurement and assessing the impact of marketing in an expanding multi-channel world
  • Future roles of creativity and innovation in marketing

Current Partners

  • Allianz Insurance plc
  • Facebook
  • General Assembly
  • Institute for Real Growth
  • Kantar Group
  • L’Oréal
  • Mobile Marketing Association
  • Teradata
  • Twitter

Find out more

To find out how to develop a business partnership with Oxford's social scientists, contact the Head of Research, Impact & Engagement: