This January we reflected on some of the work we have been doing lately and how clients are evolving. While marketing has become so much more complex, mainly due to the many trends we have posted about here, we also see the net effect as working to make 2016 a “sweet” year for the industry. You can help make this the Year of the Superhero Marketer by keeping these points in mind:
DISRUPTION GOES MAINSTREAM. Our last post dealt with this topic and was one of our most popular. It reminded us that back in the day (Mad Men era) and even up to a few years ago, clients were not up for rocking the boat in any way. This was especially true in large corporations, where playing it safe meant you kept your job. The ethics of the newer generations (Millennials +), mobile workforce, and the power of social media have changed the fear of creativity and innovation. Heck, it’s ALL disruptive now, with the new popularity of digital detox camps being proof of that (“Leave your cell: bring your bottle”). Today, the Big Boys want to show how nimble and with-it they are, and many of their employees are secretly hoping to be fired so they can launch a start-up.
SMARTER CLIENTS. Some of the old-timers decry that marketing was a lot more fun when clients weren’t so in-the-know. We disagree, as it’s more enjoyable to play tennis with someone who plays better or at least at the same level as you. A client who is already up on strategic and media tactics that work is one you can take to a whole new level without stomach-churning stops & starts. Turning your client into a thought partner is what it’s about today.
INFLUENCING vs. PUSHING. We have bloggers to thank for helping raise the consumer message bar. You can’t just dump rubbish on these folks. These arbiters of good (or bad) taste help keep marketers on course by immediately exposing phony pitches, tepid tones and other marketing sins. Influencing may take longer, but once is sticks, it lasts.
MAKE METRICS MATTER. Perhaps nothing brings more fear to a marketer’s heart than measuring and evaluating programs. We’ve frequently posted about the importance of metrics, but it wasn’t always easy to measure success in traditional advertising. Former boss David Ogilvy was just one of the ad gurus credited with saying: “Half the money spent on advertising is wasted. We just don’t know which half”. Again, digital media to the rescue, with myriad ways to check, in real time who reads your stuff, who likes it, who buys it. If you’re a weak marketer, this allows you to change a campaign’s direction before disaster strikes. Think about that benefit alone: you get to keep the client!
This week, the National Retail Federation Foundation announced 25 individuals selected for honors, “representing power players, disruptors, givers, influencers and dreamers who are changing the face of retail – many doing so behind the scenes.” (You can read about them on the link below this post)
For now we want to focus on one descriptor listed above: DISRUPTORS. More than the others listed, this says what marketers should be all about. Let the players manipulate, the givers hug, the dreamers doodle, and the influencers network, but if marketers are not shaking things up they are not worth their salt.
You know you were born to be a Disruptor when as a kid your parents received notes from the teacher, reporting: “An eternal chatterbox”, or “Fidgets and flirts non-stop”, or better: “Has an answer to everything, sometimes the right one.” In short, a pain-in-the-ass student.
Now that we are all grown up, the NRF calls us: “True originals who rock the boat with ideas so crazy, they just might work. These are the people who make you rethink what you thought you knew…opening you up to new worlds never imagined.”
Wow, take a look, Mom! Aren’t you glad I didn’t drink the KoolAid??
There’s another word — its polar opposite — we use for a lot of companies : ENTRENCHERS. The image is of soldiers in (wet!) dugouts, poised with guns pointing, awaiting orders to jump out into a scenario that might mean certain death.
It’s not just big companies that are guilty of Entrenchment. Small family companies are often the worst , living in their comfortable world, digging in, believing all should be done the way it has been done for decades. Until, one day…
Today we know that Disruptors and Entrenchers are a “match.com” (to quote a respected strategic planner colleague). They are meant to learn from each other and work together to slaughter those sacred cows (see our post re this) that threaten to kill any business that does not innovate and differentiate.
We give special thanks to the NRF for letting us come out of the classroom closet and take a (shy) bow!
Last December 31 we posted our 2010 Trend Predictions: an exercise in marketing crystal-balling that may yet backfire. So, let’s look at what we may have called…or missed.
We’ve reprinted a brief excerpt of our predictions (in italics) and color-coded them as follows: Green for “You GO, girl!”, Redfor “Thine name is mud!” and Yellow for “Am (still) curious…?” plus, we added our thoughts for 2011 (You can still read the original 12/31/09 post here). Here we go:
DEATH OF MASS MEDIA The advertising industry has been predicting the end of mass media since the late 80s… Yet, like Cher, it has orchestrated comebacks in varying guises…cont…
Yep, we called the surge of social media, but there was much more we didn’t, like the advent of mobile marketing apps. Marketers are still spending on traditional media (print, broadcast, billboard etc). but the difference is it’s now typically paired with a social media campaign designed to work like the tide to lift the entire flotilla.
DEATH OF MEGA-AGENCIES. Pursuant to the trend above, some marketers are choosing to forgo “Mad Men” monoliths and build their own Dream Team…
Truth is, we don’t have an exact metric on how many big agencies went out of business in 2010, if any (and we haven’t heard of any). However, the trend is, like with most businesses today: the big get bigger, and the small either stay cute and boutiqueish, or they die. However, we have seen several large agencies go from being media-commission dependent to charging clients for time/expenses. As it should be, although prompted less by altruism than by the sheer fact that mass media is dead (see above). We have never liked the media-commission-as income practice because it trulycan be a conflict with the best interests of the client. (Spend more so we make more!) It also appears that with a more challenging marketplace, clients are truly seeking out agency expertise…as it also should be.
TIGHTER SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIES. On 11/19 we talked about Twitter’s possible monetization. There is no such thing as a free lunch: not for long, that is. By charging to promote and/or to view, social media may soon be, well, less socialist…
We thought Twitter would monetize by now and we were wrong. To their credit, they have managed to remain a free service and survive the ups & downs of a start-up. In fact, they’re almost mainstream media now. (Even we’re on it now, see right column!) The number of businesses now using it — even B2Bs — has exploded. This week we read Facebook was infused with investor capital so it could continue to remain a private company. If that’s not confidence in the medium…
THE EDLP MENTALITY.We see retail chains increasingly adopting everyday-low-price strategies (EDLP) instead of the hi/lo of yore. This, coupled with personnel cutbacks, are making pundits predict the death of creative promotions and customer service.
Based on our many posts about lousy customer service, we’d say we called this one, although even WalMart has gone soft on its “price roll-back” strategy, filled its aisles back up, and appears to be going for a kindler/gentler approach.
THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE.This old adage has recently been recast by Comcast’s purchase of NBC. Controlling content was the goal here. While networks have lost their supremacy (and their death bell tolls), they still offer something valuable the hardware giants want: creativity.
(Ref Twitter, above) We were also spot-on about this. Yet this past season we saw some exemplary cable offerings, proving that networks have less hold on the creative process. Gems like HBO’s Prohibition-era mini-series, Boardwalk Empire (definitely not to be confused with Jersey Shore) and the continuing high-level Mad Men are only two among several programs that have pushed the creative edge of the pay-TV envelope. With new cable offerings on the table as of 1/1/11 (i.e. Oprah’s OWN channel) we predict the networks will turn into the home of campy reality shows and not much else. They question is: how many Dancing With The Stars or American Idol wanna-bes can they churn out?
EVERYMAN AN EXPERT. The consumer became king long ago. Now, as emperor of an increasingly-expanding domain he (she!) can, with a product review, blog, or Tweet, build or destroy in one single post.
We got the green on this one as well. We see this trend continuing and, with Foursquare and other mobile marketing services full-frontal, truly large tribes of people are being followed wherever they go and asked for their opinions, but mostly for their money. Scary, big-brother-type thought, but here we are….
SEARCH FOR SUITABLE SUSTAINABILITY ANGLE. We addressed this in more detail on 12/18/09 so will make this brief: marketers who claim this platform need to carve their own positioning on this issue to avoid “me-too-ness” .
Yeah, we called this one, sorta… but the truth is it’s still looking a bid faddish out there with this topic. We think it’ll take a while for the buzz to die down a bit about this and social responsibility, and only those companies with truly unique angles and a real program to tout will remain.
FRUGAL FASHIONISTAS. The Great Recession has spawned consumers who actually boast about being on food stamps. Today, more than 741,000 websites expound on the topic of a frugal lifestyle.
Yes, it seemed like this in the early months of 2010, but there is a bit of reversal now. Luxury is back in, evidenced by purveyors like Tiffany and others posting 7% sales increases since 09. All told, even with Snowmageddon on the east coast, the 2010 Holiday season posted the best numbers since 2006. We may cry wolf (and unemployment) but there is definitely an “I’m treating myself because I deserve it” mentality out there. Maybe it’s just plain un-American to sacrifice and suffer too much…
DEEPER COCOONING. The Great Recession has re-popularized the practice. The result, according to AC Nielsen, has been that more than 4,000 restaurants closed in 09. The average guest check also plunged more than eight percent.
While “staycations” may have been the norm in 09, we saw less cocooning in 2010 and predict that folks will get out more this year and spend more on restaurants (but they won’t be high-end like in the past). After all, they’ve just launched new cruise ships big enough to house 8000 passengers! These guys must know something we don’t… On the other hand, as far as home is concerned, well, we’re staying put. We can’t sell it so can’t upgrade to swankier digs…so we’re going back to Home Depot for that new faucet…
SIMPLER, KINDER, GENTLER. Along with the frugal, stay-at-home trend comes the desire for what is truly real. Marketers who provide homespun flavor enveloped in warm & fuzzy messages will appeal to consumers seeking comfort instead of crazy.
We’re really not sure about this one. It felt like 2010 was a year of unusual violence and upheaval around the world. But maybe that was just in the movies… What’s your thought??
HEALTHIER EATING BY YOUTH. Pending the passage of the controversial health-care bill, Americans are showing increasing concern with nutrition and the legacy of obese children.
Yes, by golly, we GOT it! The just-barely-squeaked-by food law was signed this week, but was eclipsed in overall impact by the First Lady’s earlier, boldly- executed Salad in Schools program. Along with the removal of candy and soft drink machines from many educational institutions and even government cafeterias, perhaps the tipping point toward the good has finally occured here.
Well, about half predicted correctly ain’t half bad, right?