Assistant Professor of Marketing Shares Her Fascination With Data-Driven Marketing

Number-driven data has always been fascinating to Hyoryung Nam, Ph.D., who joined the faculty at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management as an assistant professor of marketing in August 2020. 

“Data matters. Data is the basic building block of our everyday decisions,” she says. “Even if students don’t intend to work in analytics, as business students, they need to know how to make a decision based on data.”

Previously at the University of Washington, Bothell, Nam is sharing her fascination both in the classroom and through her research, which currently focuses on digital marketing strategy, specifically the information value of user-generated content, online promotion and crowd-powered innovation.

A native of South Korea, Nam earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and business at Korea University, followed by a master’s degree in management engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Later, she came to the U.S., where she earned a Ph.D. in marketing from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Despite joining the Whitman faculty in the midst of a global pandemic, she is successfully completing her first semester and plans to teach digital marketing analytics in the spring. Nam uses examples of advertisements found on Google, Facebook and YouTube to show students how firms target and influence customers using data in digital marketing campaigns. While most of her students have a general sense of the data mining that is involved in these platforms, they are often fascinated to see just how deep it goes.  

“We drive a car every day, but do we know how to build a car?” she asks. “Our students know how to use Google and Instagram, but do they know the details of what’s happening behind the screen? That’s the kind of information I’m bringing to them.”

According to Nam, “Knowingly or unknowingly, we are exposed to a large experiment when we visit websites, interact on social media platforms and purchase online. To be a wise consumer, we need to know what is happening with the information we share each time we use social media, as well as what data platforms like Google are using that data for.”

Many of Nam’s students intend to be entrepreneurs, but they often don’t realize that they might not have the luxury of hiring a digital marketing manager from the start, she explains, noting how important it is for students to develop a solid understanding of digital marketing and data-driven decision making. The good news is that students understand that the online marketplace is growing rapidly, and they are eager to learn more.

“We can’t do business without data these days,” Nam says. “Say you want to open an online store. You first need to build the traffic to your website because without traffic you having nothing. Let’s say you promote your website through advertising. The data tells you who clicked your ad, when they clicked it, how long they stayed at your website and whether they finally bought. Based on such information, you can revise your ad copy or increase your ad budget. The data tells you what is working better and whom to target.”

Another aspect of analytics that interests her is the cultural differences of social media on a global scale, particularly when it comes to privacy. According to Nam, in Asia, privacy concerns in Asia are lower. Those in Europe are the most concerned about their privacy, and the U.S. tends to fall somewhere in the middle. 

“Privacy is going to be the next major hurdle, as we continue to develop new technologies. Consumers are going to have to decide what level of privacy they are willing to give up for better customer service,” Nam adds. “For example, if you like the recommendations Netflix gives you, how can you say, ‘Don’t use my data!’?”

“I think the future will be about companies and consumers figuring out where the balance is between privacy concerns and the level of customization,” she says. “Students from the Whitman School need to be prepared to be a part of that conversation.”

Learn more about Whitman faculty members in the latest faculty profiles.