Marketing is one of those industries that’s just always in flux. The latest “best practice,” or methodology, that you believe sooo deeply in and tell all your clients about, just won't be relevant a few years down the road. The lynchpin here is that you were right at the time and that is what people look to you for! But times change, especially when talking about consumer preferences and where they are spending their time in the digital world. It seems like there are new avenues to take every month of every year.
The good news is we are starting to see a bit of normalcy descend on digital marketing, for the first time, ever. That normalcy doesn't come in the way of a singular tactic or platform, but rather as a tried and true methodology, a mindset, if you will. Honesty, transparency, and value - not concepts typically synonymous with marketing.
In marketing, like in many areas of business, there used to be a formula that guaranteed success in the marketplace. Come up with your brand platform, make some TV commercials and tell your target audience that you are here to service their needs. BOOM. You're done. As long as you could actually service the brand promise… you were on your way to being a player in your market.
Nowadays, it’s not so easy. A simple Google search will tell a savvy consumer (basically everyone) the good the bad and the ugly about your company, your product, and your customer service. Never in the history of customer service have consumers had such a loud and important voice. You want to be heard? Just engage in a public conversation with a brand via social media, throw in a hashtag and you will get an answer immediately... the more angry (or happy) you are, the quicker the response. Every single customer now has a voice and the very real potential to cause harm to your brand. All it takes is one angry rant that goes viral and resonates with people.
Consumers' expectations have also changed dramatically over the last decade. I recently bought an Xbox for my kids. A few days later there was a better deal at another retailer. So, I marched back into the store and asked that they price match the deal - and right there, on the spot, they did. Your grandmother's favorite department store did not have such problems. Back in the day they might initiate a return if you had a receipt and brought the item back within a pre-determined window outlined in small print somewhere. Imagine the backlash on social media if a store treated consumers that way today? Further, the average consumer can stand in your store, search for that same product on your shelf right on their phone, and see 5 alternatives for purchasing, some with better pricing than you. If they see a deal that resonates better with them, they click “buy” and the transaction is done, with some other vendor, while they are standing in your store (Marketers have dubbed this consumer behavior "Showrooming"). It's a tough world out there and at times it can really feel like kill or be killed. How do you compete on something other than price? How can you make sure yours is the product that makes them click "buy"?
If they see a deal that resonates better with them, they click “buy” and the transaction is done, with some other vendor, while they are standing in your store (Marketers have dubbed this consumer behavior "Showrooming").
So, what is it that's not working? Most anything that falls under "that's how we've always done it." For instance, disrupting peoples days or lives with your message, withholding information, deceit, cold calling, spamming, repetition and even emotional manipulation. Modern marketing is a lot more transparent than the days of old and consumers are the most educated we have ever seen.
So where am I going with this? Could there possibly be a silver lining? YES! And it’s the most refreshing thing to happen to marketing since it’s inception. We get to be honest. We get to educate. We get to provide value. And it's amazing.
With unlimited information, quite literally, at everyone's fingertips, it was time for a change. The average Joe has more information in his pocket than was available to a Harvard professor just 20 years ago. Think about it. Just 20 years ago, you needed access to a great library to be able to pursue any topic you might have been interested in. You had to physically go to a location, try and gain access, and then spend time toiling with the Dewey decimal system to arrive at a few resources that MIGHT help you better understand whatever it was that you wanted to know. But that's the kicker; you won't know until you’ve read all these resources… at which point you might need to start over! As a brand, the only real methods to reach a consumer were mail, print, radio, and TV.
- 100 years ago the outlook was even bleaker, the local newspaper was your best option.
- 200 years? Handwritten messages are sent across the sea by sailboat.
- 500 years? You're stuck with books, but if you're the average (wo)man, they are books you can’t access because you can't read…
- 1,000 years? Scrolls. No kidding, scrolls.
- 3,000 years? Smoke signals.
- 10,000 years? Cave drawings. We were drawing on walls.
- 200,000 years? Nothing.
Seriously, nothing. Let that sink in for a minute. In the 30 million years between the T-Rex and a human, there were 0 methods of communicating aside from good old-fashioned real time face to face. It took us about a 40,000 years just to write something down and pass it on to another generation.
It took almost 400 years to move from the printing press to the Radio – yet only 27 years to go from radio to broadcast TV.
In the last 100 years, we've gone from hammering ink onto paper to "Googling" any information in the world on the supercomputer in your pocket!! It’s crazy!!!
So what does all this mean? Well, that’s a way bigger question for a much smarter person… but what it means for marketers, I can weigh in on.
These amazing advancements in tech, connectivity and awareness have given rise to a hyper-educated consumer. Gone are the days when a flashy ad shifted the mind of your audience, who just happened to be in front of the TV, watching 1 of 3 channels between 5 and 7 PM. No, today, we are all connected all the time and have the ability to filter ads almost completely. The ads we haven’t figured out how to filter (damn advertisers!) we have learned how to ignore. What the hell? How are we supposed to sell stuff?
One word: Value. The way to a consumer's heart in the modern age is through honesty, transparency and the delivery of value. How do you deliver value? Well, first and foremost whatever it is that you do - do it really well. BUT, quality products/services aside, how do you help the uninitiated understand the value you bring? You create content and you show them. Valuable, honest content that helps to educate the populace on the ills you make better, on the wrongs you make right and the pains you make go away. This isn’t a one time gig, you need to be creating quality content continuously and making sure the right people can find it as they go about their busy lives. This means figuring out the right platforms for your brand and the value you can deliver coupled with the proper amplification channels so your target audience can come across your value where they are and in the form in which they want to be communicated.
Historically, companies — from toothpaste brands to airlines — built themselves up using a certain combination of wits, paid advertising, and product placement. But the Mad Men days are long gone and there is a whole new playbook.
THE OLD TOOLSET:
THE MODERN TOOLSET:
The marketing industry has always been about disruption, imagine the door to door salesman vs. the amazing visuals of TV! Poor guy. Well, disruption is here again and there’s a more efficient and relevant way to communicate. Want to build a longer-term strategy based on tangible success? Anchor your marketing with value. Where do you start? Right here!