It’s time, once again, for me to clean out my notebook. Today’s column is a short collection of the things that I hear people saying, either in meetings or presentations or just as a part of daily life. I’m certainly not picking on anyone here, and I’m the first to admit that I have said some stupid things in my career (number one being, upon hearing about Google in the early days, “Why on Earth do we need another search engine when we already have Google?”). But there are certain things that people say that, in my opinion, are just not moving us forward.
And this column is, after all, just my opinion. You didn’t think this was news, did you?
So, we now present the Clearing Out the Notebook: Sh*t Marketers Say Edition. I hope you enjoy it.
No. 1: We have to make sure we have a separate social and mobile strategy. Actually, you could substitute practically any word for “social” or “mobile” in that sentence. It’s extremely clear to me (and, I imagine, you) that media has changed dramatically. Social means that we consume content in the context of our connections. Mobile means we are in touch with data and information constantly, and always able to interact. But these are simply channels by which people engage and communicate with each other and brands. The presence of social and mobile hasn’t created any new desires in people (other than the desire to get a new phone). Rather, they are just ways that people engage in their wants and needs. Answering wants and needs is what we do as marketers. No one needs a separate social and/or mobile strategy. They need a strategy for creating value and meaning with people, and an understanding of what channels will help them achieve those goals. You can have a plan for everything under the sun: social, mobile, and skywriting. But please only have one strategy.
No. 2: Old media is dead! The latest iteration of the old media is dead meme seems to be the counting up of what you could have gotten online if only you didn’t blow your whole ad budget on a Super Bowl spot. Listen: if people are willing to buy it, it is alive, and the only reason that people buy things is if they believe there is value in the purchase. It’s possible that the value they see is solely in being able to tell the other CEOs at the country club that you have an ad in the Super Bowl. Whatever. More likely the value has to do with the fact that big brands need to look big. We like seeing Coke in a small banner, but only because we know it puts ads in Times Square. There can be a good reason for a lot of tactics, and broadcast media still has many uses.
You’re making a huge mistake if you think that’s the only channel that you need to use to connect with your customers.
No. 3: Let’s do something buzz-worthy. Do I even need to put this one in here? Don’t do anything buzz-worthy. Just do something good. The whole thing about “buzz-worthy” is that it means you don’t have to spend any money getting your message distributed. That’s not fair. Why do you expect people to do something for free that you are used to paying for? Pay great creative people to make you beautiful things that speak to your consumers in a meaningful way and pay for them to see it on the sites, in the magazines, and during the TV shows that they love so that those sites, magazines, and TV shows can stay in business and on the air. Don’t break the contract. If the consumer wants to forward on your message, that is awesome. But don’t plan for that.
No. 4: It’s just like that other thing, only for our category. I know that a lot of advertising is borrowing from other categories (and sometimes directly from other ads). The only problem comes if you’re simply taking an idea that has already been proven to be effective in the real world and putting your name in. The tough one about this is that you can be pretty successful just taking other people’s work. But it’s a bit like the tragedy of the commons, which (Wikipedia says) “is the depletion of a shared resource by individuals, acting independently.” So imagine that a great idea is a resource that we all have access to. If we all use it too much, that idea quickly becomes stale and worthless. The consumer audience burns out on it. We have to all agree to share it and (more importantly) add to it with our own new ideas.
No. 5: We need to make sure we know what people want before we make it. Are you ready? Don’t let data make you gutless. We are awash in data like never before and it’s great. We are better at understanding consumer mindsets and we can do it at a far more rapid pace than ever before. The gap between something happening, our learning about it, and our ability to take actions is closing down to near-nothing. It’s like the “marketing singularity.” And, since things tend to go in cycles (like fashions and trends), we are even becoming able to anticipate what is going to pop next.
But we can’t close the system down. We have to be careful to take in data, but always be feeding it into our brains to spark new concepts. Data will tell us a ton about what people are into, but we have to be ready to give them something new, because they never, ever ask for anything new. They tell us that they want things to be simpler or faster or cheaper. But they never tell us, especially not in aggregate, what will make their heart beat faster. Seek that inside your brain, not in the data.
OK. That’s all I’ve collected in my field notes. Now that the notebook is empty, I can start filling it back up again!
What? image on home page via Shutterstock.