Are Marketers Going The Way of the Dodo? (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Do marketers still have a job in this day and age? What happens when everybody becomes a marketer?
With WhatsApp, blogs, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, everybody – from the CEO down to the company driver – can be accessible online, 24 by 7, 365 days a week.
For a start, everybody can get tonnes of detailed information about virtually any company’s products or services online or offline. These include product descriptions, 3rd party reviews, customer reviews, forums, or other related forms of information.
These inputs often come from 3rd party individuals with no selfish vested interests – unlike that salesperson or marketer who hopes to get a fat bonus.
We can also engage directly with our customers, hearing directly from our customers what they like and dislike about our brand.
Are Marketers Like Dodo Birds?
Is there still a place for the specialist marketer or publicist in any organisation? After all (gulp), who would want to hear more puff from the spin doctor anymore?
Are we fated to die like the Dodo bird above?
Well, I strongly believe that there is a future for marketers. What we need to do is reinvent our role – from one that is traditionally more marketing communications oriented (ie branding, advertising, PR, direct marketing, roadshows, online marketing) to one that is more customer centric.
Here are some of my ideas on how marketing could possibly evolve in the future:
From Reach to Reputation
Marketers of the future will need to be credible spokespersons for your company’s brand, spreading goodwill and extending its influence beyond that television commercial or print ad. This means that you need to be knowledgeable about what your product or service does, and aware of how it compares to competitive offerings.
Ignorance is no longer bliss in an open, transparent and digitally networked world.
In the age of environmental disasters, financial meltdowns and mass retrenchments, marketers and publicists will need to don the cloak of conscience.
We have to play a positive role in strengthening the credibility and reputation of our organisations and their products/ services.
Marketers will have to also act as barometers of public trust and be proactive in coming up with contingency measures to address crises in consumer confidence, should that fateful day arrive. We should find ways to add value to our communities, and help to improve trust, transparency and likability through our actions.
From Discounted Sales to Delightful Sensations
One of the chief tools of the marketer is the “Last Minute Deal!” Or better yet, the ubiquitous “20% off”.
Promotions help to trigger gut responses in consumers and get them to buy, Buy, BUY! However, they could cultivate discount hunting behaviour amongst your customers, leading to a gradual reduction in your product profitability.
To circumvent this, marketers should switch to a holistic experiential approach in offering one’s wares.
Appeal to the emotion of your customers with sensory and aesthetic triggers – sight, sound, taste, smell, touch. Find ways to utilise the rich multi-media channels available – whether online or offline – to strike a chord with your customers.
Beyond this, seek to engage them emotionally and intellectually by crafting vivid and memorable stories that enchant, engage and enrich their lives.
From Advertising to Advocacy
Instead of being purveyors of propaganda, marketers will also need to live the brand through their behaviours.
In an information cluttered world, it will be increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd of “me-too” advertisers, each claiming to be better than the rest.
Marketers will have to be evangelists who assist in triggering positive word-of-mouth through our own respective networks whether online or offline. We need to seed movements and shape our brands to become causes than our followers believe in.
Just splashing an advertisement on mainstream or online channels isn’t enough anymore to convince anybody anymore.
From Channels to Communities
One of the most significant shifts in marketing would be the shift in focus from media to men.
In other words, who you are and what you do may be more important than what your ad or press release says.
As influencers, marketers like you will need to focus on forging relationships and building networks of believers. You’ll need to learn the basic skills of organising a crowd, connecting with and contacting your customers in a direct and intimate fashion.
By doing so, you can develop ways and means to forge a longer-term link to every shopper.
Find ways to meet your customers and get them to share their experiences in using your product or service. Look for opportunities to foster that friendship beyond the cash till. With social media, this becomes as easy as just setting up a blog, Facebook Page, or Instagram account and encouraging your customers to visit it and connect with you online.
From Products and Services to Problems and Solutions
Finally, marketers will have to shift their orientation from one of features and benefits to holistic solutions.
Address the real pain and real concerns of your customers, rather than just focus on the state-of-the-art functions available on your product.
For example, banks can offer real money saving tips to their customers during a recession rather than just what percentage returns they can expect.
Similarly, if you are selling laundry detergent, why not teach your customers the most effective way to keep their clothes looking new instead of just how powerful your wonder liquid is.