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The ABCDE of Marketing Re-Invented

Intelligence is the ability to simplify and not dumb down.

To create a way to share and think through complexity by getting down to core issues and ideas in modular ways that people can understand and build from.

Frames are helpful in not only getting the audience to understand but it is a great way to tell your story.

Think of frames as a spine you hang the bones of your ideas on.

Here is my frame for how marketing has changed and is changing that I use as a way to help guide people I advise. I call it the ABCDE model of the future of marketing.

Audience. Brand. Content. Data. Enterprise.

For each of these areas I believe there have been 3 key changes which explains both the birth of new firms, why some companies are crossing the chasm into the future and others are struggling. I call it the 5X3 Frame for the Future of Markeing. Few firms have all 15 areas covered but it is a great way to develop action plans and to make a case for change.

a. Audience: Who we are marketing too, how we find them and their mindset has shifted greatly over the past decade.

From Consumers to People with God Like Power: The biggest mistake companies make is they view things through the lens of their Brands and see us as Consumers. Very few people define themselves by the brand they consume. Even an incredible company like Procter and Gamble with dozens of billion dollar brands cannot understand me if they look at me only through the lens of their Brands ( they are too sophisticated to do that) because at the core all their Brands are about dirt removal. Dirt removal from my teeth, clothes, dishes, butt, kids butt etc. Do you define yourself by dirt removal? Or brands that want to have relationships with me . Very few people want to have a relationship with a brand. I want my headache to go away and not have a relationship with Tylenol. It is key to think about people and not consumers.

But even more key is to stop using words like enabling/empowering and other BS ( Yes Google, Apple and a few other companies empower consumers) but most Brands are grappling with highly empowered people who via use of Search, Social, E-Commerce and Mobile destroy any arbitrage of price, information, or place that a Brand though they had. If you were to describe what we can do with a mobile phone to someone 15 years ago they would say why that is “God-Like” power.

From passive to interactiveA decade and a half ago we thought of people we marketed to as an audience since they were primarily passive receivers. Today they create, share and interact and some of them are so impactful that we call them Influencers and there is an entire ecosystem of Influencer Marketing.

From Segmentation to Re-aggregation: As media becomes digital we need to understand that people come to digital media one at a time. There is no mass media that we segment by finding channels or magazines with high proportion of the people we are marketing too. The power of Google, Facebook and soon Over the top television is the ability of self service tools to buy and scale individual interactions one at a time. We no longer are going from a cow of a mass audience to a steak of a segmented audience. Rather we are are re-aggregating single pieces of mince into a hamburger.

b. Brands: Brands continue to be important but the way they are built is changing greatly. Today Experiences, Purpose and Employee Joy matter the most in building Brands. These changes explain the long term secular decline of advertising and communication but the renaissance and rise of marketing.

From Communication to Experiences: Jeff Bezos of Amazon said some companies spend 30 percent of resources on building a better product or experience and 70 percent telling people about it. Others spend 70 percent of their effort on product and service and 30 percent on telling people about it. Jeff said Amazon was the latter company.

In an era of empowered people connected to each other the focus should be on the experience. The brand is the experience and experience is the brand.

From Great Words to Purposeful Behavior: Purpose matters more than ever especially in todays time of social, financial and health challenges. Purpose is not some words left to wander on a lonely corporate website but the way a company or brand behaves.

Employees as Brand Advocates and Key to Purpose and Experience : If a company does not invest and treat its employees well it will be very challenged on both the experience front ( angry, tired and worried employees do not deliver great products or experiences) but also any purpose statement rings hollow if you cannot look after your own people.

c. Content: Content has always been a key to marketing. The three big differences is that there is much more of it, it is far faster and there are many new ways of making it.

Think Poetry and not just plumbing: Today in a world of granular targeting and algorithmic trading we can get the right interaction to the right person at the right time. But what are we paying as much attention to the interaction as getting it there. We must think of the poetry and not just the plumbing. T

Think response not just creation: Many campaigns are started by people. Meme’s or perspectives of about your brand can ricochet all over the world and you need to ensure that in todays world of weaponized platforms you have a world class risk intelligence partner and a rapid action team

Never Forget People choose with their hearts and use numbers to justify what they do: Content that moves is content that moves product.

d. Data: Data is key to future of marketing. It is like electricity. Without electricity one can not keep the lights on. Without strong data a company cannot compete. It is necessary. But it is not sufficient. Because just like few companies differentiate themselves by how they use electricity, very few companies will find a competitive edge in data. It will be a key ingredient and not the be all or end all of strategy. And very few companies will be able to live on their own data. The three areas to focus on data are

Quality versus Quantity: If 90 percent on data has been created in the last two years most companies “data lakes” are filled with muck/mud/ slime.

Real Time Access and not just Ownership: First party relationships with people who buy from you are key. Using platforms as the roadways to reach them will lead to high tolls or blockades. But first party data alone is not enough and how to access and partner with other firms both to build a better understanding and bridge to people but also to design better and more comprehensive products and solutions.

Meaning versus Math: Data is not information, knowledge or wisdom. Algorithms are bias embedded in code. How do you integrate, interpolate, interrogate data and involved diverse mindsets, interconnect to larger trends and add imagination to make meaning from math.

e. Enterprise: If a company is to deliver experiences in a world of people with god like power while steering itself with a purpose and looking after its stakeholders particularly its employees but also making sure it delivers tangible results today it will new to sculpt itself into a new form by building new muscles.

The Paranoid Die. The Schizophrenic Thrive: Andy Grove the late CEO of Intel said only the paranoid survive. In todays age where we need to connect and work together this leads to polarized and insular thinking which explains why Intel has become a shell of itself and is a shadow in the world of Taiwan Semi-Conductor, Nvidia, AMD and ARM (which Nvidia might buy).

Rather than Paranoia the right mindset is Schizophrenia. Companies should run two models. One focussed on delivering today and the other on building a new tomorrow where some of the best talent are given all the assets of the companies and none of the liabilities and asked to do whatever it takes to move into the future including eating and harming todays cash cows.

Culture is the result of what fear free diverse people do when no one is watchingTo navigate change companies need fear free cultures of diverse people and mindsets led by leaders who do the shit they claim others should do. Incentivize and train for change and worship no sacred cows.

Trust is speed: If a company wants to be high velocity it must be one built on trust. A company where information and decision making is transparent. Leaders are accountable and Cover your ass deck writing and meetings to prepare for meetings are minimized.

How does your company or your Client companies do in the ABCDE frame?

For more writing subscribe to Rishad’s completely free newsletter here…

Rishad Tobaccowala ( @rishad ) is the author of the bestselling “Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data” published by Harper Collins globally in January 2020. It has been described as an “operating manual” for managing people, teams and careers in the age we live in and The Economist Magazine called it perhaps the best recent book on Stakeholder Capitalism.Rishad is a sought after speaker and advisor who helps people think, feels and see differently about how to grow their companies, their teams and themselves. More at

Hopefully you will find this frame a useful one to add/subtract from and an instigator to thinking and doing.

3 comments on “The ABCDE of Marketing Re-Invented

  1. Nice! Much of that is like NLC’s Heart Principle! Glad to see more education on touching hearts rather than just concern for analytics. I would love to compare notes sometime!

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