It didn’t take long for some pretty smart marketing experts to deliver a one-two punch to grab my attention in the new year. The left hook came courtesy of Advertising Age’s
Bob Garfield and Doug Levy, in their fantastic article “Ignore the Human Element of Marketing at Your Own Peril,”
and then the right hook came from Thorin McGee of Target Marketing
, with his list of “The Big Qs of 2012.”
Both articles are must-reads, no matter what kind of marketing you do.
Garfield and Levy hit their theme hard: Type ‘I Love Apple’ into your favorite search engine, and the resulting search yields 3.27 million hits. Type ‘I love Exxon”: 4,730. Even ‘I love Satan’ generates almost 300,000 hits, they note. Their point is simple: millions of people will voluntarily engage with a brand—not a product or service—if they have the kind of brand experience that touches something deep and emotional in them.
McGee outlines the more specific challenges that marketers must overcome to generate that kind of passionate loyalty. His number one question for the new year: How do you communicate across channels? He writes: “A smartphone is not a tablet is not a computer, but the same messages are being consumed on all of them, often by the same person.” And his list didn’t even include other types of brand interactions: through call centers, sales representatives, online stores, social media, or direct mail.
It’s either the best or the worst time in history to be a marketer; take your pick. The tools at your disposal are faster, more sophisticated, and more powerful than anything you’ve ever known. That’s the good news. But your target audience is more fragmented, more distracted, more demanding, and more empowered than ever. And they’re aware of their power—just ask Bank of America or Verizon, who are only the most recent examples of the perils of angering the Twittersphere.
I’m an optimist by nature, so I’ll choose hope, excitement and anticipation for what the new world holds for marketers. There is something profound in the challenge of learning to build deep, conversational, and collaborative relationships. Turning customers into friends or partners is a fascinating task, one that involves listening even more than speaking, and that values what you give in the relationship at least as highly as what you receive.
Sure, there are technologies and tools that can turbocharge this transition, but the greatest tools of all will be the common sense, human empathy, and creative insight that individual marketers bring to the office every day. It’s a complicated world out there for consumers; the companies that will win will really get to know their customers intimately, and then collaborate with them to make life simpler, easier, more pleasant, less expensive, or all of these.
Read the pieces by Garfield & Levy and McGee. What are your thoughts on the new era in marketing?