Saturday, June 04, 2005

Transcending Old World Marketing
Where is it all Headed?

Can we agree that marketing must change?

P&G’s chief exec, A. F. Lafley, thought so when he said, “We need to reinvent the way we market to consumers. We need a new model. It does not exist. No one else has one yet.” Laffley’s marketing director, Jim Stengel, sees the same thing when he tells an ANA audience that “Marketing is broken.” This from the most successful marketing firm in the world, and certainly one that would prefer to stay with the old world order of things.

First our strategy. Then the media. Then the medial

Again, in my last post here, Laffley pointed to the strategy for change: it's the customer. Give here what she wants.

Then the media ... how we talk with them. The media are in a mess.

It doesn’t help when CBS and the New York Times shoot themselves in the foot, and it doesn’t help when big advertisers try to muscle control over the editorial of news media. The world of Big Mass Media has been tailspinning for quite a long time. Demographics are working against them. Media proliferation is working against them. The Internet – along with blogs, the newest extension of the WWW – this is working against them. Culture is working against them.

The facts confirm the notion. Newspaper circulation has been declining 0.5% to 1.0% annually since the mid-1980s. Cable now has more viewers than the networks. iPods and iTunes are revolutionizing how we consume music.

As marketers, we are well aware of the shift.

The immediate implication is on how we select media to deliver our marketing messages.

Media directors at agencies, big and small, have been experimenting with all sorts of new permutations of media. Cable TV, online contextual advertising, satellite radio, XM radio, podcasting. All are more personalized media carrying content that niches find more relevant to their needs than the half-hour sit-coms and reality shows or an afternoon cuddled up with the New York Times. No wonder we have media directors experimenting with advertising in movie theaters and a resurgence of direct mail – the only medium that has grown while the big media are shrinking (see my post at MarcomBlog).

The secondary implication is being realized more slowly, and being addressed successfully even more slowly.

This is the message content that we deliver as marketers.

No longer can these messages stroke on and on about how wonderful our products are. Marketers who stick to this old song will fade away into history along with the mass media they have lived on for so long.

The messages today must be ever more relevant to the customer. This goes beyond the simple flipping of content from “features” to “benefits.” Today, our marketing programs must be more helpful to customers. We must fit into individual lives with a relevance that surpasses anything we’ve ever done before. We must earn their trust before we can sell to them. This shift is transcendent. Product brochures don’t cut it in a time when customers have all the power, and where they want to know what you will do for them – in addition to selling them something they need.

Essential is a better understanding of customer profiles and the kinds of things that targeted customers find interesting and useful. When we start marketing initiatives now, we look back at the “topic tree” – a quantitatively scaled tree system of content that individual customers find most interesting when they traverse the website. Building from this base of knowledge, we can create content that will be more in tune with what the customer wants, and we can lead the customer, step-by-step, along their buying path to get our offerings in the considered set, and then eventually to convince them we are the best company with which to partner.

This is a whole different way of marketing. I think it is different enough to call it transcendental.

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