The tools of Marketing have changed, not just a bit, but totally, since the century clock ticked over.
The scary thing is that it seems to me that we have seen nothing yet. It is becoming more unpredictable than riding a wild bull every day!
While the tools have changed, and will continue to do so, the foundations remain intact. The successful marketer in the rest of the 21st century must reconcile the complexity and technology of the tools, with the simple and unchanged foundations of marketing success.
Following are the nine macro forces I see that businesses, and their marketing leaders should be considering:
The power of information.
Technology has put the power of information into the hands of the consumer, wherever they are. The tools that have achieved this, social platforms, mobile, the ubiquity of the net, have interacted to destroy all the rules of marketing beyond the basic principals. We used to say information is power, and that remains true, it is just that the power is now in different hands, and they are not afraid to use it.
Building a brand is not what it used to be. C19 marketing relied on scale, large ad dollars placed by large companies who could scale distribution, supported by the scale of capital intensive manufacturing. The brand powerhouses of the C19 are in trouble as options pop up everywhere, supported by direct to interested consumer marketing.
However, all is not lost, access direct to consumers has enabled a whole new group of brands to emerge based on the direct digital access.
Advertising in crisis.
Advertising as an industry is in real trouble. This is not the divide between the analogue TV, radio and magazine Vs the Gooface digital advertising duopoly, but the opportunity that consumers have to remove advertising from their environment by a combination of ad blockers and subscription based streaming services. The communication challenge will become harder as consumers avoid more and more advertising to minimise the disruption, in the process, removing the opportunity for advertising serendipity.
Bureaucracies no longer work.
The pace of change has been so fast that the siloed and bureaucratic organisation and management structures of the past no longer move quickly enough to respond in real time to the requirements of the market place. The businesses that succeed into the future will be those that enable the decision making to be decentralised in meaningful ways such that those in direct contact with the market and customers have the power to make often substantial decisions, This is a really challenging prospect to everything that has been true about organisations for the last 150 years. I see it as an external extension of the Lean manufacturing notion of Takt time, but instead of companies using the rhythms of demand to drive their operational responses, they need to reverse it to be able to be in advance of the market Takt time, to understand and respond to the drivers of demand, to remain competitive.
The locus of power has moved from those doing the selling to those doing the buying. No longer do sellers have the information needed to make a purchase decision that they can dole out to potential customers in any way that best suits their sales strategies. Now, in most cases, a seller does not know of a buyers interest in a market until their decision is made, or almost made. In these circumstances, getting on customers radar early is essential as a means to be on the short list, which offers the opportunity to at least have a conversation.
Brands are no longer the authorities they once were, that role has been taken by individuals who have managed to build a profile, usually digitally, that attracts attention and offers credibility. There are however some exceptions, and these exceptions are mostly brands that have emerged in the C21
The journey of a buyer is a minefield. Back in the old days, last century, it was pretty simple, there were few choices realistically available, mostly serviced from the local area, and the sellers had the power. Now there are a huge range of choices, and often confronted by the range consumers either filter out all but the very few, or decide not to decide, becoming hypnotised by the array of choice, with all the competing claims. Therefore, the first battle is the one for attention. In this situation, you would think that brands have a real role to play, but largely, that hole remains to be filled, which will be I believe the challenge for the 21st century marketer.
Big data oxymoron.
The oxymoron of big data is coming. We have all this data sourced from an array of places, and cobbled together by algorithms to give us insights and detail never dreamed of just a few years ago. However, big data is all really about going to the level of the individual, so it is in some ways, small data. Market segmentation is moving from broad demographic descriptors that had little to do with actual behaviour, to a segment of one. The implications of this are profound, in that customers can choose to do business not just on an ‘algorithmic’ basis, but on a personal one as well.
Marketing is data driven: with a twist.
Marketing used to be all about people, emotion, supposition, instinct, and experience, mixed with often lethal doses of bullshit. Suddenly all the imformation we marketers had ever dreamed of turned up on our desks as data, and we dove in trying to become data nerds, a role entirely unsuited to most, so the new shiny thing, the tools, became the obsession, rather than the insights that the tools could deliver. The pendulum swung too far, and it is still swinging, but in my assessment, the pace of the swing is slowing, and slowly the realisation will again emerge that people really do matter, and you cannot learn that from data, you have to go out to where the people are, and actually talk to them, face to face, one to one, to get a grasp of the humanity behind all the data.,
Marketers in the C-Suite.
Marketers have never been held in high esteem by the ‘C-Suite’ as the Americans love to call it. To a significant extend to my mind this is for two reasons: first, marketers have not often been the smartest people in the room, as measured by the normal things that are all about the optimisation and continuation of the status quo, they have been flaky. Second, they are the future tellers, talking and speculating about what might happen, and then having a number of bets on the table depending on the variables that show up, so holding marketers to a data driven world has been hard. By contrast, the other functions in the c-suite are all about what has happened, the past, so it is relatively easier to produce hard facts and data to describe it. This difference makes the marketers look by contrast they are having each way bets, and perhaps do not know what they are doing, and neither is healthy. This has to change, and I believe the change is starting, as what has happened is an increasingly bad indicator of what will happen, and it is the informed, creative but analytically capable flakey ones who can demonstrate value are usually best placed to place the bets on the future.
There are several items above that will generate discussion, which I look forward to hearing.
Image credit: Tom Driggers via Flikr