Who moved my cheese? Where did traditional marketing disappear?

Marketing is going through a churn, perhaps akin to none other in its history. The fundamental rules of the game that one could swear by, seem to be challenged. And things could never remain the same again!

This is a two post series examining some of the changes and the challenges for marketing today.

There was an interesting cover story that the Harvard Business Review did in December, around the impact of Social Media. As a part of that feature, there was a particularly fascinating piece on “Branding in the Digital Age” by David Edelman.

Picking some thoughts from there, I have put together some thoughts in a presentation, Some of the key pointers in the presentation include:

1. The fact that the traditional model of a consumer purchase decision is not quite valid anymore. Earlier a consumer would put together an exhaustive list of options, then based on various inputs, figure his way down to a final choice. The typical funnel effect. But that was then. What a consumer is now doing, is best described in an elliptical curve.

Gathers names of a few brands that he recalls. On account of whatever inputs – be it advertising that he connected with, or referrals or whatever. That is the consideration point. From there begins the consumer’s evaluation journey. Read up blogs, see online content, talk to friends, etc. It is at this juncture that his choices may increase or decrease. He may drop some from his earlier list, he may add others. However all these changes are based on the inputs he is getting, usually from trusted sources.

From here comes the buy point. It is observed that today, a customer may walk into a store, still with an open mind, and final decision is taken at the point of sale.

The story does not end here, though. From this point onwards, begins the loyalty loop. The customer today wants to share his experience of using a product. Good or bad. And here is where he creates the impact for the next prospect.

So the shift from a funnel to an ellipse is the one major shift in marketing.

2. The crucial impact that the above change has, is in context of marketing budget allocations. When the customer was going though a funnel based decision process, the marketer had to ensure that his brand makes it to the awareness point of the buyer (the widest mouth of that funnel) and then, as the customer winds down the path of his decision making process, the brand is able to persuade the buyer to choose it. This may well happen by means of providing best push closer to the point of purchase. Maybe as discounts.

What that meant was the traditional marketing budgets went big time, into the awareness cycle – mass media advertising in a sense – and then into the purchase influence last leg. In terms of spends then, it was a large creative effort for creating the advertising, and then a variable media purchase budget. And planning or budgeting usually meant, only about playing with the media choices, and how much to leave for the sales offers.

Once we get into a different consumer purchase cycle, there may still be a need to be present at the awareness point and the buy point (and hence the spends there), but there needs to be adequate budgets kept for the two most critical touch points, where customer is most likely to be impacted by influence. This is while he is evaluating and when he in the loyalty loop. Usually, traditional marketers have not planned for these and have no budgets to allocate.

3. So what are these evaluate and loyalty loop stages? What is the media there? Unlike traditional marketing where you’d think TV or print or whatever, out here, we are looking at the various forms or owned and earned media for a brand. And how can a brand stay on top of that? Well, by monitoring what is going on there, providing inputs where necessary, and creating their own content as well, to put into those spaces.

The crucial impact where budgets are concerned is that, this is completely new space. Where brands were otherwise looking at creative costs and media purchase costs, this is non-productive expense, in that sense. Expense to monitor and manage the platforms where owned and earned media resides. Putting resources or getting outsourced help for the same. A brand has to start planning and budgeting for these.

4. There is also an evolution of the marketer’s role beyond the traditional work. Today, the brand produces tons of content for itself, far more than the 4-page brochure or the 10-page website that used to be the norm. With blogs, Facebook pages, presentations that are shared, tweets, YouTube videos, white papers, etc., the content produced is large. Add to that, product manuals, FAQs, registration forms, etc. and a brand becomes a serious content producer. If this content is allowed to happen in any which way, there is a risk that it will cause lot of negative response, which will spill over into Social Media space. And do harm to the brand. The marketer then, needs to assume control over such communications, and ensure that it is consistent with the brand’s positioning.

All these are the changes facing marketers and marketing teams, in this changing world.

It is a threat usually, but can also be an opportunity for many. An opportunity for those who can figure this change and adapt themselves, to a more significant role in the organization.

I will continue dwelling on the challenges for marketers in a follow up post.

Meanwhile, very keen to seek your views on these thoughts. Please do share comments.

Sanjay is bachelor of engineering from VJTI, Mumbai and a master of science from University of Southern California, USA. Sanjay has been a Director with the Alpha group of companies, In 1997, he co-founded Homeindia.com, one of the earliest e-commerce sites from India. After selling Homeindia.com in 2007, Sanjay was COO at at Compare Infobase Ltd., New Delhi. Returning back to entrepreneurship, Sanjay founded Social Wavelength in early 2009, and is now the Joint CEO. Social Wavelength manages the Social Media outreach for large number of Indian and International brands including Channel V, Star Movies, Havells, Idea Cellular, Su-Kam, HDFC Bank, Skyscape Inc, etc.

To connect with Sanjay on his personalised blog posts log on to http://sanjaymehta.me.

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