Philip Kotler defined marketing as “understanding and meeting customer requirements”.
Over the past two decades due in great part to the Internet, the power of the customer has increased significantly. We can now search options and prices, share, and learn from experiences of others, interact with Brands, and get products and services delivered in a myriad of ways at far greater speeds.
Companies do not enable and empower but need to deal with empowered and enabled people. People who due to the power of technology have “God-like” power.
Combine this with the increased power of platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Snap, Tik-Tok, Disney, Walmart, Target, etc. which are business drivers and not just communication or marketing channels, requires a re-thinking of marketing.
In addition, the demographic shifts of rising multi-ethnicity, combined with the sharp divide in the mindset, media usage, social concerns and financial outlook among youth and a rapidly aging population, further roils the landscape.
The most forward-thinking companies have significantly expanded the role of the CMO to include experience design, customer service, growth initiatives and data strategy to reflect this new landscape.
They realize that we are in a Marketing Renaissance.
One that requires us to re-invent how we think and organize.
The Five Shifts: Audience, Brand, Content, Data and Enterprise.
Clearly the challenges and opportunities facing companies are complex. Here is framework, the ABCDE of Re-invented Marketing, that attempts to simplify without dumbing down the key issues that we all have to face.
Audience: Who we are marketing too, how we reach them, and their mindset has shifted greatly over the past decade.
a) 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 people if they looked 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 your teeth, clothes, dishes, butt, kids butt etc. Do you define yourself by dirt removal?
Or consider brands that fixate on wanting to have “relationship” with you. Very few people want to have a relationship with a brand. They want their headache to go away rather than enter a relationship with Tylenol.
It is key to think about people and not consumers.
b) From passive to interactive: A 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 Creators and there is an entire ecosystem of Influencer and Marketing.
In many cases they begin a “campaign” and marketers respond to what has been created!
c) From Segmentation to Re-aggregation: As media becomes almost completely 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 increasingly connected 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 re-aggregating single pieces of mince into a hamburger.
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.
a) 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 experiences are the brand.
b) From Great Words to Purposeful Behavior: Purpose matters more than ever especially in today’s 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.
c) 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.
We will soon understand that even more important than net promoter scores of customers are the net joy scores of employees.
Content: Content has always been a key to marketing. The three big differences are that there is much more of it, it is far faster and there are many new ways of making it.
a) 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.
b) Think response not just creation: Many campaigns are started by people. Memes or perspectives of about your brand can ricochet all over the world and you need to ensure that in today’s world of weaponized platforms you have a world class risk intelligence partner and a rapid action team to identify and manage detractors and other instigators.
c) People choose with their hearts and use numbers to justify what they do: Content that moves people is content that moves product.
Data: Data is key to future of marketing. It is like electricity. It illuminates. 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
a) 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 and lots of dead fish.
b) Real Time Access and not just Ownership: First party relationships with people who buy from you are key. Using only 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.
c) 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?
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 have to sculpt itself into a new form by building new muscles.
a) The Paranoid Die. The Schizophrenic Thrive: Andy Grove the late CEO of Intel said only the paranoid survive. In today’s 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 focused on delivering today and the other on building a new tomorrow where some of the best talents 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 today’s cash cows.
b) Culture is the result of what fear free, diverse people do when no one is watching: To navigate change companies need fear free cultures of diverse people and mindsets led by leaders who continuously learn, incentivize and train for change and worship no sacred cows.
c) Trust is speed: If a company wants to be high velocity it must be one built on trust. A company where intent is clear, decision making transparent and leaders are accountable is one where speed, innovation happens and “cover your ass deck writing” and meetings to prepare for meetings are minimized.
Marketing has never been as exciting and thrilling but just like a roller-coaster ride many of us might feel our stomachs churning, our hearts beating wildly, and our vision blurred.
Hopefully the ABCDE framework may help make the most of the thrills while minimizing the ills.
Photograph by Rishad Tobaccowala.
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Rishad Tobaccowala (@rishad) is the author of the bestselling “Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data” published by HarperCollins 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. Business and Strategy named it among the best business books of the year and the best book on Marketing in 2020. Rishad is also a speaker, teacher and advisor who helps people think, feel and see differently about how to grow their companies, their teams and themselves. More at https://rishadtobaccowala.com/