Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A Decade+ of Futurist Insights: The Internet's Impact on The Future of Marketing in 4 Points

(Formerly titled:  "Ad Industry Titan Sounds the Death Knell for Print, Radio, TV & His Own ATL/Push Ad Agencies...  And No One Notices!"  PLEASE NOTE: this post was written in 2011 and speaks to my predictions of a future for the marketing industry that STILL has not quite arrived.)
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
Upton Sinclair (from: I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked, 1933)
Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP CEO
Though it went largely unnoticed (amazingly), one of the world's biggest advertising agency tycoons, Sir Martin Sorrell, the man behind WPP, announced the  end of print as a profitable advertising-supported medium and, by extrapolation, virtually all 'above the line' media (ATL).  Now if the global ad agency networks primary role for the past 100 years was to churn out creative content for ATL, then one can only wonder what Sorrell's pronouncement really means for the mid-term future of global networks.  In a one page interview titled "Save the Media!" that ran in Newsweek on April 11, 2011 written by Joanne Lipman, Sorrell said the only salvation for the print medium was government subsidies (read: 'charity'), but the subsidized media examples he cited were radio and television in Britain and Australia.

4 Paragraphs & 4 Bullets on Marketing's Near-Term Future:

The ad agency business thrived for almost a century, first on a national scale, the on a global scale through the 80's and 90's, yet with the advent of the Internet it is now facing the distinct possibility of collapse, especially if the ATL media networks it is dependent upon for commissions dry up.  The premise behind the global ad agency's role in the world was near-absolute control of both the message and the medium.  While that made sense as long as Marshall McLuhan's insight: "The Medium is the Message", held true, once that basic tenet got turned on its head, any businesses who's primary 'reason for being' was based upon it would appear to have a very tenuous future indeed.  Today's 'emerging media' landscape has reversed McLuhan's insight:


It has become essential for marketers to shape a message that can be managed (no longer controlled!) across an unknown number of media.  At best their brand messages are being enthusiastically 'pulled' across these new media by consumers, at worst attempts are being made to 'push' the brand message into social conversations.  Early adopters and people still experimenting with something intriguing and new are VERY open to marketing experiments within emerging media -- however after these new media become a truly integral part of their lives, their tolerance for ads being injected into their social space evaporates.  The first adults who began using Facebook are gradually losing interest in it (not coming back as often) as the 'shiny and new' glow wears off (though Zuckerberg may yet come up with a way to make it more relevant for daily usage/visits).

New technology has made the status quo 'push marketing' model of the past repugnant, if not simply irrelevant, and this news is as difficult for the ad agency titans of today to assimilate and address as it was for the railway barons of the early 20th century when trucking/highways became the new shipping pipeline.  Now certainly WPP is still making gazillions of dollars and isn't going to see their profits evaporate any time soon, but many disparate things are intricately connected in business world -- Sorrell cannot dismiss the problems ATL is facing as irrelevant to the future health of WPP.  Let's keep in mind what his current strategy is: focus efforts on rushing the dying business model into the developing world before related businesses there follow the declines the 'first world' is suffering from. 

The future of marketing is not all that complicated or mysterious, nor is it going away.  Humans have revered status as evidenced by wearing 'brands' since our very social big-brains evolved.

It's in our DNA, brands elevate our status and make us look good!
Marketing itself will merely evolve to:
  1. Focus first and foremost not on the image or message the brand marketer 'pushes' through ATL, but through the experience of the brand consumers get engaged with first hand via experiential efforts (see bullet-point list near the end of this post). 
  2. Revolve NOT around 'manufactured problems' (P&G's "little pieces of toilet tissue stuck to children's bottoms"), but real benefits that consumers appreciate ("The Swiffer Duster").
  3. Embrace fully addressable advertising.  No, not location-based services (LBS) that serve up coupons to your mobile phone, but advertorials fed to me only for products and services I am actually interested in, that I alone choose how often I want to watch or share. 
  4. Restrict the use of 'social media' exclusively for PR purposes: for listening to how well the brand's marketing efforts are working, engaging dis-satisfied customers in solution-finding conversations, and for offering happy customers coupons/discounts/trial flavours, contest mechanics and advertorial content that can be shared, not pushing brand messages (not ever!).
The End

Here's the Blah, Blah, Blah, "Full Treatise" Part if you have time on your hands..

Before you accuse me of getting carried away (and Sorrell has been known to 'stir the pot' in the past), let's put on our thinking caps for a moment and absorb both what he said and who he is.  Then

Monday, 5 September 2011

Marketers FINALLY Starting to Understand "Social Media": It's 'Pull', NOT 'Push'

Credit: Gary Larson, The Far Side
For many years I've been arguing that, outside of being a NEW medium, and therefore interesting and exciting, that what is now being called "social media" has INCREDIBLE value as a tool for marketers, but only as a 'nearly real time' medium for:
  1. Listening: allowing marketers to monitor how effective their real marketing efforts are in order to guide next steps.
  2. Communicating directly (2-ways) with consumers to address issues quickly and with carefully constructed replies (PR).
  3. Generating positive PR like we used to do with press releases.
  4. Offering access to advertorials and participation in a brand's contests and causes.
Of course the rest of the marketing world is busy trying to do what they've done best since the first 'snake oil salesmen' emerged: force marketing messages into the mix to push more sales.  Over time, however, the cleverest firms have started to sort out the real value of new ways to communicate with their customers and to leverage new technology: check out this article (link).

Here are my 'answers' to some remarkably un-insightful 'questions' on Quora from a couple of fine examples of the world's lemmings:
Do advertisers recognize the strength of social media as an advertising tool in the Middle East? If yes, do they prefer it over traditional advertising?

Give me a break! Social Media are a totally unproven 'advertising tool'! Zero truly proven ROI, even via the most sophisticated metrics tools today. "Social Marketing" does not exist, it is a PR channel, not a marketing channel, as time will demonstrate.

That is not to suggest that it isn't going to morph into something that is useful for marketing purposes, but right now most of the efforts being made in the 'social sphere' are 'push' related, not 'pull marketing' (with some notable exceptions). While early adopters/innovators will put up with a lot of ham-fisted 'push' tactics in the early days of any new medium (see: "Second Life"), over time as the masses adopt the medium they will demand 'push' marketing be removed, just as today's government-imposed 'Do Not Call Lists' for telemarketing illustrates.

People will talk about brands in any social millieu only because they want to. We can use social media to MONITOR their conversations, but not to thrust our brand messages into. Experiential Marketing, used in combination with LBS couponing, contests and video ads played to us because we asked to see them once ('fully addressable advertising'), will be where marketing spending shifts as 'Social Marketing' dies its rightful death.

Social Media took the air out of Experiential Media's sails, what is the next buzz-worthy Media concept to deflate Social?

You are actually asking two questions by making an assumption: Social Media has killed Experiential Marketing? While social media definitely "took the wind out of experiential

Saturday, 3 September 2011

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