I’m a marketer. In marketing, our mission, if you like, is to instill desire.
You may see a product you like, but don’t necessarily need. Marketing’s job is to instill enough desire around that product to make you need, or want, it.
While there are several facets to marketing – including the afore-mentioned desire, as well as awareness and promotion – the ultimate goal of any marketing strategy is to increase growth of a brand.
Primarily, this growth is in lead generation and in sales. But it can also be:
- Customer acquisition;
- Customer value;
- Customer loyalty;
- Share of voice;
- Competitive advantage;
- Brand perception.
At its simplest, marketing is the hub that holds much of sales, service, PR and more together. And while that’s part of marketing’s biggest strength, it’s also increasingly becoming its biggest weakness.
The Future of Marketing?
Because marketing’s role is to instill desire, often it sounds like too many marketers are loving the sound of their own voices, and the niche area that they concentrate on becomes the next big thing to save businesses.
Take a look around the social web, and see what’s being said on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs, just as a starting point. You might find topics such as these being discussed:
- Why content marketing is the future of marketing;
- It’s time for something bigger than social media marketing;
- Social influence marketing is about to change your business;
- Mobile marketing is the most powerful media ever invented.
And on, and on, and on. There are literally thousands of different takes on the four highlighted above, but they all share the same use of hyperbole where common sense is needed instead.
And that’s the biggest issue with a lot of marketing today – everything is “the next big thing”, and brands need to engage or die, or similarly worded sensationalism.
The truth of the matter, as it’s always been, is that nothing is really the future of anything – it’s simply the evolution of the current.
Marketing is Knowledge
Although his expertise was based in advertising, David Ogilvy nailed it when it comes to successful marketing:
Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.
Good marketers have always used research to base their strategies on.
When I gained my marketing degree way back in the day, it took me four years to attain. During that four years, we were taught everything about the importance of research – the data we needed, the filtering it required, the insights it gave us, and the implementation that would lead to.
That research allowed us, as marketers, to understand our consumers, or those that the brands we worked with were looking to target, from existing customers to potential ones.
It enabled us to create targeted campaigns and content long before content marketing was even a buzzword, and track these campaigns and see what worked and what didn’t.
Simply put, knowledge truly was, and remains, power. Except today, it’s not.
Why You Need the Legwork
Today, marketers have an abundance of ready-made solutions at their fingertips that bypass the need for knowledge.
Instead of doing the legwork that real marketing involves, you have a host of solutions offering quick fixes and results:
- Social influence platforms that promote follower size over relevance to the end user/audience;
- Content marketing platforms that spit out content in classic spray-and-hope promotional tactics;
- Invasive software that allows mass direct messaging or mobile texts to unsuspecting, non-targeted consumers;
- Social media “marketing” automation that blasts messages out regardless of goal, platform, relevance of content and more.
And the sad part is, people and brands are buying into this.
Some marketers saw an opportunity to instill the desire we spoke about at the beginning of this post and run with it in a new way. Instead of the desire to buy a product or service, now the desire is, “Don’t be the company that dies because you’re not on Platform X!”
Even though Platform X may have been the most ineffective platform for the brand to be on, because there was little research carried out as to whether that was the right move for the brand, based on what their goals and long-term objectives were.
Think of the Customer First
The ironic thing at play here is that the marketers who think this is beneficial, because it makes their jobs easier and brings in easy money, are the ones that are closing the doors on not only their future success but marketing in general.
With the amount of data available to marketers today, there has never been a better time to be a research-led marketer.
- Big data offers us the insights on purchase life cycles and consumer behaviour that we could only have dreamt of when I started my career;
- Consumers are helping us shape increasingly targeted solutions that meet their needs, leading to warmer purchase intentions;
- Metrics and debrief data show us immediately where a marketing message is failing, and how we can fix it;
- Emotions around a message can be identified, measured and shape future interactions, promotions and sales.
We have the opportunity to positively impact both the customer’s life and the brand’s success with these tools and data-points we have access to.
Instead, we push the strength of marketing – research, strategy, implementation – aside, and offer diluted versions that have little chance of providing the same level of solutions.
Worse yet, we remove the desire factor and replace it with the push, push, push factor of irrelevant content and marketing that, while impressions may tell us we’re successful, the real story is how much has been invested and how little that’s yielded.
That’s not marketing – that’s taking the easy path of fluff metrics and making them sound worthwhile. It nixes real marketing that meets the needs of the customer; the kind of marketing that increases the brand’s bottom line while improving the top line because resources haven’t been wasted on non-effective tactics.
And that’s unforgivable for any real marketer.
The sad thing is, this lazy marketing isn’t just harming an industry – it’s harming other facets of that industry.
When Marketing is Bad, Everyone Suffers
While marketing is primarily around the art of promotion and desire, its footprint touches many more areas of a brand that can mean a major impact if lazy marketing is left unchecked.
- Future products and innovation suffer, since the brand is unwilling to put more resources into something the customer would welcome with open arms, because real data and insights weren’t forthcoming;
- Customer service bears the brunt of consumer anger at poor products that don’t live up to the marketing hype;
- The brand takes a hit, reputation-wise;
- Competitors are handed sales on a plate as they react to your poor efforts and attract any potential customers you may have swayed.
These are just the basics.
Internally, the damage can be even worse, as marketing teams are fired, morale takes a hit, budgets are cut and stagnation replaces drive and future plans, with brands playing it safe and sticking with what they know, even if all that does is prolong their eventual failure.
While that might seem a drastic scenario, I’ve seen it happen before and will no doubt see it happen again, if we continue to promote this kind of “marketing” and customer experience.
But it doesn’t need to be this way.
Marketing should be hard work. It should see brands demand more. It should see marketers deliver more. It should see consumers benefit overall.
Anything else isn’t really marketing – don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise.