When you add one thing on top of the other, the fundamentals start to get blurry. Marketing doesn’t have to be that complicated.
In the fight for eyeballs, Facebook points and everyone’s’ attention, are people starting to lose the basics? Are we just looking at a way to differentiate what we do by giving a name to hang something onto? Or, are barriers to entry absolute zero that we can claim anything we want to be?
Marketers have a drive to make the world seem more complex than it is. From influencer marketing, account based marketing, content marketing, outbound/inbound marketing, social media marketing, we have all added different nuances for what is creating something that people are willing to share with others and to make them buy.
Credit Where It’s Due
I am giving full credit to Geraint Holliman who was the May guest for the You Are The Media Lunch Club. The topic was centred on storytelling, but how people mess things up. It becomes a word that businesses take for granted. They shoehorn, by any means necessary, a narrative that comes back to self centred appreciation, rather than an articulate and interesting narrative that is centred on what a company believes in.
I asked Geraint, “do marketers ruin everything?” he replied, “We marketers have picked it up, shaken it, abused it and ruined it and moved on to the next big thing before we’ve truly worked out what it was we had in the first place.”
“Why is that? There are probably too many reasons but let me give you just two: a lack of accepted definitions and zero barriers to entry.”
“Unlike virtually every other profession we have NO ACCEPTED definitions. Try asking five marketing colleagues to define ‘brand.’ If we can’t even agree a common definition of, possibly, THE most valuable marketing asset that we have then it’s no wonder everyone laughs at us.”
“Secondly, since we’re always seeking to justify our positions and be relevant we are like magpies constantly picking up the latest shiny bauble in an attempt to deflect attention away from our struggles with accountability.”
“And so, because we don’t have the confidence or the standards, the barriers to entry to the Marketing ‘profession’ are so low virtually any numpty can call themselves a ‘Marketer’. If you want to be a Lawyer, Accountant or Surveyor then be prepared for five or more years of studying on top of your day job – and only THEN can you start at the bottom of the ladder. But you want to be a marketer? Come right on in, even if you are drooling and can’t tie your own shoe laces.”
“It’s no wonder we ruin everything.”
Marketers Mess Things Up
Lets just strip everything right back, before we pick up on an approach, let me define what I believe the role of marketing meant yesterday as well as what it means tomorrow.
Marketing effectively makes and creates a market for your products and services. In order to do this, you build an audience who are interested. Once they are interested and trust you, then they are ready to commit for you to monetise (in multiple ways). We all have the ability to build audiences who are prepared to buy. That to me is what marketing represents.
It is down to you to maintain, build, or break that relationship. The asset starts and ends with the audience that you build and how frequently you reach out to them. No, being part of #dorset(or any other county)hour does not count.
A lot comes down to believing that we can find the shortest routes possible for the quickest return. Want to build trust quicker within a target audience, throw money at the problem and get someone to sing your praises as a walking 48 sheet poster and slap a big dollop of ‘influencer marketing’ diatribe over it, where the paste is still sticky.
The Attention Game
Building attention, used to come in the shape of allocating budget within a specific medium for a specific amount of time. Today, the focus is on trust and the ability to build stronger relationships via the audience you can have a direct relationship with.
From chatting to Faris Yakob in a Talking Content Marketing interview he highlighted where the new form of attention lies. “Brands like to see massive spikes, not slow and steady builds over years, but that’s often where the value lies in an audience first approach, especially in business to business communication, where becoming a trusted resource takes significant time and investment, but may pay back with huge contracts in years to come.”
But still, marketers make things confusing. Rather than looking at the value to be garnered from building a dialogue, we have believed that interruption based marketing will win. More of it (frequency), more of the time (repetition), has been an approach that we still see today from within our timelines to what we see in the world around us.
See, marketers mess things up.
The Academic Perspective
I spent some time with Chris Miles, Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Communications from Bournemouth University. Whilst we see new definitions and industry specialisms, things have always been the same. Marketers are just making things looks a lot more complex.
Chris commented, “So many of the shiny new marketing toys that we have seen sweeping the profession over the last twenty years are in fact just re-hashes of old theories and tactics.”
“Both viral marketing and influencer marketing are just instantiations of the work of Katz and Lazarsfeld in the 1950s on what they called the two-step flow model of communication which looked at how influencers in the workplace and in social spaces functioned as opinion formers for the larger communities around them. That work became a central influence on the overhaul of US electioneering strategy in the 1960s as the importance of grassroots organisers and influencers became harnessed by the parties.”
“Similarly, the idea of brand service as the core site of value creation, is something that has been a part of marketing thinking since the start of the twentieth century (most notably seen in the work of Arthur Sheldon who ran an incredibly successful correspondence school for marketers and sales people). Basically, if you can think of a bright idea from contemporary marketing you can be sure that it has been done before and usually a lot more simply.”
“One of the ways that we make these ideas seem revolutionary or unique is by making them more complicated than their originals – a complicated tool or strategy appears impressive, we think there must have been a lot of thought put into that! Wrap everything up in some nice impactful metaphors and Bob’s your shiny new marketing tool!”
It is acknowledged that the marketing dynamic has changed, in the words of KFC’s global CMO, ‘marketing has fundamentally changed from marketing to publishing, and the pace and turnaround is so much faster.”
In a recent survey by UK based market intelligence firm Creativebrief, 50 agency CEOs and 50 brand CMOs were questioned about the changing role of agencies. 68% of agency respondents and 72% of brands believe that ‘agency structures, processes and pace of delivery’ are not developing at the same pace as a brand’s needs.
One thing that is consistent today is speed and access to a marketplace. It is time to slow things down and recognise the goals of a company and the pain points and issues of the audience. The answer is not putting something out there faster than ever, without having an understanding for what a company believes in and the responsibility it has.
See, marketers mess things up.
Marketers confuse by thinking that they know it all and put themselves on a higher pedestal, because they can. If someone can add ‘social media expert’ on their LinkedIn profile, who is going to stop them? There is an art in doing, rather than just telling others how to behave.
If there is a way to show, rather than constantly dictate a way to behave, at least have a way to demonstrate how the world works, what’s broken and the ways to fix it. In the words of Seth Godin, ‘innovation is often the act of taking something that worked over there and using it over here.’
Message To Motivate Action (Getting To The Positive End)
Ian said, “Let me kick off with a quote. ‘You’ll make something *new* when you’re new. You’ll make something *also* when your mind is filled with other people’s ideas’. Think about that for a second (or two). It was shared by Jason Fried a few weeks ago and it summed up far better how I felt about this particular subject than I could myself.”
“The practice of marketing has become so contrived with other people’s ideas (101 ways to build a kick-ass business just like Steve Jobs did) that we’re adding layer upon layer of message that simply does not resonate with those that it’s written for. Our paying customers. It makes us barely recognisable in a field where our competitors, alongside us, pursue this erroneous holy grail of ‘the best practice’.”
“Do stuff that feels right. You’ll know when it’s right because you’ll have this sense of ‘this is right’. It takes time. It takes hard work. It takes a lot of editing and testing. But you get there. Eventually. That hard work pays off. The fundamentals of marketing are pretty simple. Messages that motivate action. The practice of marketing should be too. Writing and distributing those messages to your people.”
Lets Round Up
The reason marketers mess things up, is that the tools in front of us are in abundance and the ability to curate and distribute can be done at a speed we didn’t have a generation ago. What this means is that it becomes easier to lose sight of our audience and their hopes, dreams, frustrations and fist bumps, when we chase a channel and a tactic.
We don’t have to become fixated by the latest tool to use or platform to reside within, what is important are the relationships we can build within the marketplaces we create and the revenue driven from it.
Whilst marketers mess things up, I’ll let Chris Miles have the final word, “No matter what theory you have, no matter what metaphor you’re riffing around, marketing communication is going to come down to the same basic idea – build engaging stories that illustrate the value of your brand to consumers.”
Things don’t have to be complicated when you know your audience and take care of the relationships that can drive revenue. It is better to be an audience builder rather than someone who turns everything else into stone.