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How can marketers prioritise authenticity and value to align their traditional marketing strategies to effective marketplace actor engagement in today’s contemporary digital world? (Advert Reference: RDF22/BL/MOS/HARDCAS)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Dr Kimberley Hardcastle  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The social media advertising business model, which many of the world’s biggest companies currently use, has been created on the attention economy. The attention economy in this context refers to the carefully planned and technically sophisticated process of grabbing consumers attention and monetizing it to meet the needs of the advertiser (Fallis, 2009; Ryan, Schaul, Butner, & Swarthout, 2020). As a result of the attention economy, marketing practitioners have treated consumer attention as a scarce resource used to aggregate data and manipulate marketing activity to boost customer engagement and increase sales potential. This has been extremely effective for increasing customer engagement and keeping consumers on social media sites. Digital agility at times has been as important to consumer brands as traditional capabilities like brand-building, new product development, and distribution (Harvard Business Review, 2017). Recent technological advances are reshaping how and where consumers make choices about products and services. Emerging technology is undoubtedly changing the way in which consumers discover goods, especially when consumers are not too sure what they are looking for (Xue, Parker, & Hart, 2020). Nevertheless, there have been claims that the emergence and reliance on such technology by marketing practitioners has resulted in both positive and negative impacts on individuals and society, with many claiming such advertising models have led to divisive information and polarisation. In addition to this, others (McLean, Osei-Frimpong, & Barhorst, 2021) have claimed that blindly investing in such technology without understanding customers’ willingness to accept the use of emerging AI devices for example, may lead to waste of resources and/or even loss of customers.

Researchable question and objectives

Therefore, this project aims to specifically explore how marketers are using various emerging technologies in their business models and marketing design, manufacturing and the communication process to be authentic and add value to consumers’ lives. The study aims to address this by identifying what are the right marketing strategies for achieving transparency safely and securely, and what trade-offs do marketers face in designing and executing these models. The literature will draw from marketing, consumer behaviour science and the digital consumption fields, exploring concepts such as social media marketing, behavioural strategies and customer journeys, attention economy vs. ethical use of consumer data to devise marketing strategies, interactions with marketplace actors such as consumers, retailers, competitors, suppliers, governing bodies, digital platform companies etc.. Potential methods could include a pragmatic approach using both qualitative and quantitative approaches, ranging in methods such as participant observation, interviews, netnography, surveys, sentiment analysis and some data mining/scraping techniques. However, this is subject to change depending on the candidate and development of the project i.e., in potentially narrowing the focus to specific marketplace actors.

Significance of this research

The study aims to:

  1. Contribute to understanding how marketers can adopt a more ethical approach to business models and technology design which underpins and automates the marketing communication strategies that targets the consumer.
  2. Enhance understanding of ethical digital marketing business models and how this impacts marketers’ interactions with other marketplace actors such as consumers, retailers, suppliers, competitors etc.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF22/BL/MOS/HARDCAS) ) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community

Funding Notes

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2021/22 full-time study this is £15,609 per year) and full tuition fees. UK and international (including EU) candidates may apply.
Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,365 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.
Please also read the full funding notes which include advice for international and part-time applicants.
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