It seems that each decade — perhaps more frequently — there is a concerted effort by some to write the last chapter in the Book of Marketing; to quietly push “marketing past” out of the way in order to make room for “marketing future.”
Sometimes the impetus is the introduction of a new media channel — TV kills radio. Or a new technology — Internet kills print. Other times it’s just a narcissistic dance celebrating how much no one else knows about what it is we know, which culminates in an effort to write marketing’s epilogue.
Fortunately, there is plenty of room in the big tent we call marketing — room even for those with a proclivity to saw on the very poles that provide support.
In a recent Forbes.com article, “The end of the expert: Why no one in marketing knows what they’re doing,” Dorie Clark shares an interview with Clark Kokich, chairman of digital agency Razorfish and author of “Do or die: Surviving and thriving in a world where the old ways of marketing aren’t getting it done.”
The article and book titles should provide you with a subtle hint as to the subject and, for those paying attention, an example of an attempt to not only reposition “marketing past,” but to introduce a new alternative to the now ineffective ways of the past; i.e. advertising.
Kokich shares that when digital marketing hit the scene in the 1990s, it was about advertising to customers. He points out that new social and mobile tools have changed the focus of marketing.
Kokich says: “It’s less about advertising and more about creating an experience that transforms what it means to be a customer of a brand. And that change has really caused a lot of consternation in marketing because none of us were trained to do that.”
He adds, “What you need more than expertise is curiosity, someone who’s interested in what’s happening, loves change, and wants to develop ideas and drive change. If you are not one of those people, you’re going to hate what’s going on in marketing and you won’t be effective.”
There is no argument that social and mobile media provide companies with new ways to market their offerings and interact with their customers. It is, however, a giant leap to conclude that marketing as we know it has been forever changed.
Or that those with a marketing degree or experience rooted in the past are in some way now obsolete or unprepared to capitalise on the unique capabilities of social and mobile media in the marketing mix.
Some would argue that marketers have never known what they were doing — that there have never been “experts,” but only those with the curiosity, discretion, time, and budgets to “tinker.”
These pioneers would experiment in an ongoing effort to create and deliver products and services that providing value to customers and positive financial results for their company or client.
Kokich calls attention to two programmes — Nike’s “Write the Future” and Vail Resort’s “Epic Mix” — as models for marketing that focus on creating brand experiences. Both of these programmes are highly creative, well executed, and play to the strengths of social and mobile media capabilities.
But marketers have been creating brand experiences, using available resources, for hundreds of years.
Ovaltine used radio and direct mail in the 1930s to induce youngsters to save proof-of-purchase labels from Ovaltine jars. Children would then win prizes, such as “secret de-coder rings” to translate on-air messages that promoted product consumption.
Regardless of the channel — whether smoke signals on a hill, dots on a printed page, or pixels on a screen — marketing communications has always focused on building awareness, interest, understanding, and preference for products, services, and even cultural practices.
Marketing has always been — and will always be — about generating a response , whether a mail-in card, a click on a link, or activating your phone’s GPS services.
The ultimate goal, to borrow a phrase from “marketing past,” is to make the cash register ring. Even though cash registers have been replaced with payment portals, the goal of marketing has not changed.
Marketing is the action or business of promoting products and services — and yes, brand experiences.
Advertising, regardless of the audience delivery channel, and interactive marketing, regardless of the device, are part of the overall marketing mix. Marketing can be “new” and “first” — and even “cool” — but at the end of the day success is ultimately measured by the financial results achieved.
Social and mobile media are not the end of marketing, but rather the opening paragraphs of a new chapter in a book whose never-ending story I just can’t put down.