Archive for May, 2015

Marketing 2020

DATE: May 28th, 2015

Hard to develop a 5-year plan when Google and Apple are changing our lives in increments of seconds… but Fast Company gathered several astute marketers and asked them what they thought. As I read the article, I thought about the many ways we need to be cognizant of change as we begin to market – but it’s a slippery slope.

Take web design.

Five years ago left side navigation, resistance to scrolling, glow in the dark click buttons were not only pervasive, but requested. Today navigation is subtle, embedded into the design. Navigating a site becomes an experience. Scrolling is everything because mobile devices are everywhere – the smart phone is anchored in our little fists. Click buttons are a part of the design and designed as a function that carries the brand and campaign.

How do we keep up?

Two core things:
1. Understand your goals. When you know where you’re going it’s much easier to choose the route, the equipment needed, supplies and clothing.
2. Understand the trends. Today is Google’s day. All day long tweet masters are shooting out innovations proposed by Google. Know what’s happening and use what makes sense.

When you understand where you’re going and the trends, you can focus, choosing the marketing strategies right for your company or non-profit (I prefer social-profit… so you’ll see that crop up). And you can stop chasing shiny objects that catch your eye in the distance.

I believe there are three core components to the future of marketing and communications:

1. Technology
2. Data
3. Brand

Technology is tough. I still find it hard to believe that people read books with paper pages. But I have been reading on a screen for years. You can laugh, but I read Stephen King’s Under the Dome on my Blackberry Torch (OK, now I’m laughing too). I should have known I could have just binge-watched it on TV. I won a Kobo e-Reader before it was wireless (2010 – but it seems longer!)

As you’re reading this you’re saying, “Hey, I still read paper books…. And print magazines too.” Yeah – and so do millions of people.

Trends in technology have to be adopted in sync with your audience. I was chatting with a print magazine this week. My mind was crazy popping with ideas of what they could do if they tossed print. The bi-monthly publication could publish every day. News could be news when it’s news. Videos could replace written interviews (a little edgy to record the interview instead of writing it up, but hey…). Social media and sharing could transform its reach.

But here’s the clincher… they don’t know if their reading audience reads on a screen, is interested in reading on a screen or even has a screen. Yeah, the board and many staff members are – but they really need to understand the audience.

You may find this hard to believe, but there are real people out there who own a smart phone and use it only to talk on the phone and text their children who don’t understand the theory of live conversation. Many of them have never used a QR code (phew…. ).

I would argue a web site is a critical tool for all companies in today’s economy. But our attitudes are changing about technology. Bells and whistles (fire shooting from the corner of our nav bar?) are a thing of the past – today our audiences want the web site to work without hesitation, be intuitive (read: think like I think) and contain the content I’m looking for.

Content is king.

Data is AMAZING. I still can’t figure out why Shopper’s Drug Mart sends me the identical eblast EVERY day (twice today). They know what I buy. The hay day of personalization is just beginning, but right now most companies are not really smart enough to use it well. It’s just so big.

Google and Facebook are data geniuses. But data is still a problem. First of all, the laws and perceptions about privacy are poorly articulated and misunderstood. We still don’t fully understand the play between “metadata” and personal data. Metadata identifies trends and allows us to identify shifting trends and collective behaviour.

Metadata also ushers in the age of the masses. There is an ironic interplay between metadata and true personalization. We are nowhere near understanding what that means. We do know that finite personalization in some cases backfires, as it scares the consumer. In other cases, companies shooting you coupons as you walk by the store is awesome!

Data also means a data base. Our experience is that data base expertise is essential in a data base that performs. You’ve all heard “garbage in garbage out” too many times for it to even be meaningful at this point. But you need to understand a few basic pieces.

A data base is not intuitive. Each cell needs to represent one piece of data. When you have set it up properly, understanding what information you are tracking and what comparisons you are doing – the data becomes a powerful tool in developing your annual marketing strategies. But if it’s inaccurate, undocumented and tries to do too much in one little cell – you’ll just give up. The data base does not analyze – the professional uses the data to draw out trends.

We are swimming in oceans of polluted data. That needs to change for data to truly be useful.

Brand is more than a name, an icon or a colour. Brand is an experience. Today’s savvy marketers understand that the core brand doesn’t change at the whim of the campaign strategist, writer or designer. BUT the core brand is positioned for audiences.

And understanding audience today is tricky. We are just catching the cusp of a really revolutionary thought: generation groups do not all have the same characteristics. We have fallen into a bit of a habit of putting Builders, Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials (and, and, and) into neat little boxes. We’re seeing 20 year olds with extremely traditional values and 80 years tapping away on their tablet looking for innovative ideas.

I honestly don’t really think that’s new but segmentation has made us lazy. We have shoved age groups into cultural groups, defining them by age not by performance, issue or interest. Brands need to shrug out of the idea that they are a “young” brand or an “old” brand.

Brand managers and marketers need to be savvy in applying the brand values to specific audiences – not to an age group. I think we will all be surprised at how diverse the interest groups actually are. You are going to need your data to understand your unique audience.

The biggest challenge I see is the growth of complexity as multiple channels, more sophisticated technology and multiple audiences emerge. We have been talking integration for decades. We still find it challenging to do. There are so many opportunities, but today’s marketers need to pick and choose. They need to identify their marketing goal before they even write their brief. They need to establish consistent outcomes to evaluate performance.

Inspired by Jeff Beer, Fast Company