Is Marketing Dead? May It Rust In Peace
I recently read a post by Bill Lee, ”Marketing is Dead“, on the Harvard Business Review blog talking about the death of traditional marketing. Of course, even at this early stage you’re probably muttering ‘Well duh! Digital is where it’s at.’ I disagree with you though. Marketing strategy through PR and advertising as we know it is dying regardless of whether it’s online or off.
Is it time for marketers to hang up their boots? Absolutely not. I’m a marketer myself and while some may be worried by the statements in the first paragraph I view it as a fantastic challenge. Now we are going to have to work harder to justify a marketing spend and ultimately show real impact on the bottom line. Currently we tend to veer down one of two paths:
a) do we work harder to come up with more unique and impactful promotional messages and channels?
b) do we strip it right back and put that money into more tangible approaches such as special offers?
Back to the Marketing of the Swinging 60s
There is a third approach – and it comes full circle from the swingin’ 60s.
In the 60s marketing trends revolved around product quality. There was an assumption that if the product quality was high enough people would consume. Unlike today it did not revolve around ramming it down people’s throats harder than the competition or involve the art of convincing people they have a need for something they would never normally purchase.
Product quality meant invaluable positive word-of-mouth and a greater chance of a repeat purchase if applicable.
This is what product marketers today need to work on. In order to focus on this approach you have lose a few basic beliefs:
- People are not stupid. If your tagline boasts about being the best they won’t believe it. People need proof. They believe you are the best if they actually think your product is the best.
- By rubbishing some of your current strategies you are not cannibalising your role – your securing it for the future and making it easier to prove your worth.
- By not putting big money into above-the-line people will not automatically think you’ve disappeared off the face of the planet or that the competition has taken you out.
- Take responsibility and forget the old adage that the marketer brings the customer to the table and the sales team closes it. Marketers must be accountable for the whole process as should sales. Your 7 p’s has to align with the product and the quality must justify a repeat purchase.
So what do we do?
I’m not totally rubbishing traditional and above-the-line marketing, but increasingly it is done for the sake of it. I call a lot of this stuff ‘vanity marketing’ i.e. splurging huge amounts of cash on impressive looking collateral that has little impact on the bottom line.
Quality must rule. Develop a great product that people need; help them find it and facilitate C2C marketing. That’s the way!
I currently have to take a look at my marketing strategies and here’s some points that I’ll be taking into consideration.
My Marketing Strategy
How do I track my ROI to a greater extent going forward e.g. if you do a campaign to try and switch cash customers to DD by incentivising, will I track the immediate switch plus the fall-off of the switchers at the period of the second payment i.e. the long term ROI.
An immediate impact does not mean ‘JOB DONE!’. Perhaps incentivising is damaging anyway? If I have a quality product why try so hard?
#2. How can I facilitate word-of-mouth?
Product placement with celebrities may have an impact with high-end couture. In reality, give some free products to influential people in the community that won’t be accused of just being paid for it. Use people who engage with you on social networks. Look at the power of Trip Advisor in restaurant selection. Get them talking about your product and more importantly take their advice on improvements. They are actual customers and other customers will take their lead.
Will I buy a Prius because Brad Pitt says I should? God no. Will I buy a petrol sucking BMW because my brother tells me it has great performance? Most definitely.
Have you tried out your current digital and traditional messaging? Prove to yourself it works if you disagree with me e.g. is the purpose a press campaign to generate inbound calls to a centre? Put one advertisement in a tabloid, one in a broadsheet and one in an email – now put three different numbers on the ads and see which channel generates the most calls. No, it doesn’t end there…
Sit with sales. What feedback are you getting from inbound calls? Perhaps some of them found it misleading or irrelevant e.g. in telecoms, price is king. Did your messaging help outbound calls i.e. were people like ‘Ah yea I seen that somewhere today.’ This applies to all walks of advertising. Do the value-add returns make it worthwhile?
I work in telecoms and technology targeted at an agri audience. Very few of our customers are digital natives, but many are still saturated with marketing messages. I’ve found that using customers to help me write genuine advertorials and stories work better. Coming back to point 2, a set-up photo shoot or trying to convince a journalist to cover a press release telling people they need to purchase my product with a quote from a ‘suit’ is not a worthy approach.
#4. Align yourself with all processes and people in the business
For example, if you are a product marketing manager with B2B2C type digi products, you have to think about it from zero to hero. You have to think about what the client wants for their customer; then you have to align with their current digital strategy, but in such a way that their customers are going to find it and use it.
You are responsible for the quality; making sure that the product is found and facilitating the natural process of word-of-mouse. As I stated earlier: ‘Quality must rule. Develop a great product that people need; help them find it and facilitate C2C marketing.’
So much of our time as marketers is wasted running from deadline to deadline. We need to take a step back and we need to look at the product itself. Honestly, in your heart of hearts, what do you think of the product? Have you really listened to your target audience’s view? Have you facilitated consumer-to-consumer marketing? SEM and social media has made ‘Word-of-mouse’ an almighty force. Even in the offline world you can still facilitate it.
The paradigm of the marketing role hasn’t changed for many marketers, but it has for the consumer. Are you wasting buckets of money on keeping a message out there that no listens too for a product no one wants?
I don’t know about you, but I think we can learn a lot from the marketers of the 60s and I’m beginning to believe that as marketers we need to close our mouths and open our ears.
What’s your view? Are you focusing too much on channel and message rather than the offering itself? How has your strategy changed to reflect the almighty power of peer-to-peer?