This is what marketing looks like 10 years after.
I wrote this piece originally on Oct 28, 2010 under the title of ‘Marketing is an absolutely boring bust’.
And the reality is that in 10 years, some things have definitely changed in terms of how marketing is practiced but equally, there are many things that remain unchanged that I expected and hoped would change.
Marketing has been victimized by momentum thinking, comfortable with traditional marketing practices and satisfied with applying new digital tools to old thinking.
This is my current view of marketing.
New product and service development
Marketing continues to provide what technology offers; the cool things technology can do via the features inherent in its platform.
There continues to be little new product innovation and invention driven by what people want and need; the focus remains on trying to match customer needs with current products and services available in the marketer’s kitbag.
People do not buy goods and services . They buy relations, stories and magic — Seth Godin
New product marketing — discovering people’s secrets, creating value packages and personal offers — hasn’t arrived to any significant degree yet; marketing existing products occupies 90% of what marketers today do.
The answer to the question “Where is the customer in all this?” remains a mystery. They should be the main input to the marketing process but they’re not.
AI tools are touted as the ‘magic’ solutions to improve the customer web experience.
Typical AI applications include:
— consumer behavior forecasting;
— product recommendations to individuals based on previous browsing or purchase behaviour;
— personalized advertising;
— marketing messaging;
— customer service via telephone or chatbot.
In addition to applications that involve behavioural algorithms such as these, it is important that AI technology development be channeled to provide input to the new product development process.
Gathering behaviour information on individual’s questions and purchases should be used to gain insights that feed product innovation and to create new personal holistic packaged offers for each of them.
Flogging products and services
The infatuation with pushing products at people continues to dominate mainstream marketing even though new web personalization tools are now available, all claiming to make web experiences more personal and relevant for visitors to entice them to buy.
This is, however, a disguised attempt to present the flogging agenda in a more acceptable light.
ME marketing has progressed very little as marketers are content to continue flogging existing products and worrying about conversion rates.
These new digital tools — which leverage previous browsing and purchase behaviour — are intended to increase the productivity of flogging products.
Further, tracking an individual’s browsing habits and feeding products back to them in subsequent browsing sessions (or sending them email offers) under the guise of personalization is misleading because it assumes I’m interested in what I’ve clicked on or previously bought, ergo it’s contributing to a more personal experience.
Curiosity shouldn’t be confused with interest. Pushing products on me based on my behaviour yesterday may produce some positive results but I find it intrusive and annoying. When my screen is literally pasted with ads based on what I’ve clicked on in the past and my rudimentary demographics, it’s anything but a pleasant experience; in most cases the experience is frustratingly irrelevant and takes away from the advertiser’s brand currency.
Under the guise of creating personal experiences for people, marketing has chosen the path of using technology to do a more efficient job at flogging products at them. And now, a person’s screen is barraged with numerous suppliers all trying to do the same thing. How can this enhance one’s overall experience? It can’t.
Price continues to be the prime element of the marketing marketing and selling proposition; it dominates the marketer’s reasoning as to what motivates someone to buy.
And the irony is that this price focus adds very little — if anything — to the strategic positioning of the organization; price is easily copied by the competition and therefore no competitive advantage is achieved.
The reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is that you haven’t given them anything else to care about —Seth Godin, marketing genius
And so you see a myriad of special pricing and promotions deals with giveaway incentives to attract new customers (and increasing acquisition costs in the process), discounted product and service bundles, and points-based loyalty programs on the marketing agenda.
Marketing has a long way to go to pivot from price to value; to market distinctive and unique value created by their products and services rather than the prices paid.
Market players continue to look alike for the most part with little differentiation among them even though the intensity of competition continues to grow.
The irony is overwhelming. This is exactly the opposite to what you would expect. When competition increases, you would expect the players to get more competent in terms of differentiating themselves from others. But this has not happened. In fact the opposite is true; competitive differences are declining and sameness is proliferating.
The same old platitudes that pervaded the media a decade or more ago continue to live on:
“We provide the best network:
We have the beat people;
We exceed customer expectations;
We create memorable experiences;
Our goal is to delight you.”
In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible — Seth Godin
Marketers today seem to be willing to let the innovators of the digital toolset do their thing, but they are unwilling (or incapable) of defining a new relevant marketing context (based on striving for uniqueness and remarkability) to make these tools relevant.
Relevance today via based on carving out an edge that is pure and unique, not vague and bland.
Where the hell is marketing leadership?
Google “Why is benchmarking so important” and this is some of what you get:
Benchmarking helps organizations overcome complacency. They continuously strive to improve their performance standards in order to stay relevant in the market. ... Benchmarking helps organizations to identify the areas where the gap between their standard and that of the industry is the largest.
Ok, so the objective is to improve, to get better, to incrementally move forward and to get closer to the ‘best’; striving to copy them.
Hmmm… I’m not sure that being the same as someone else is the marketer’s end game.
Surely you want to be unique and remarkable with the ability to capture their imagination and forever gratitude. Right? Of course, because it’s the only way to guarantee a sustainable position in the marketplace and stay healthy.
Benchmarking is the antithesis to achieving a long term strategic advantage, and unfortunately it’s still alive and well. I’m witnessing more of it than 10 years ago.
Organizations tag best in class copying as innovation more today which implies that the rate of true marketing innovation is on the decline.
There has been literally no progress in using benchmarking as a baseline tool to create distinction and separation from the competitive herd.be different from.
Truly disappointing that marketing is still stuck in the benchmarking rut.
The priority for marketers continues to figure out how to incrementally improve, rather than take bold action to be different and stand out from other players.
Increment rather than invent; change rather than create continue to be the marketer’s priorities.
WOW! power to separate market participants still takes a back seat to product augmentation based on what others do and what new technological capabilities are currently available.
With every marketing organization doing this, it’s little wonder that no single organization stands out.
A main component of the incremental marketing mindset remains the need to ‘round-the-corners’ on products that are introduced; small compromises made by the marketer to try and make a product appeal to a wider audience.
Unfortunately, taking the edge off a product in an effort to try and satisfy more people reduces any uniqueness it may have had and increases its blandness.
5 priorities for the next decade
Yes, marketing has definitely made some improvements in the past decade but there are specific areas that marketers need to keep working on as we look forward to 2031.
▪️ Set the objective of being different as the context for all marketing activity;
If it’s not different then don’t do it.
▪️ Create the ONLY statement as the way to express your distinctiveness in the marketplace and define your competitive advantage;
▪️ Refocus AI to help identify insights in people and organizations; use the intelligence gained to create personalized packaged solutions;
▪️ Shape web personalization tools to do more than just increasing the effectiveness in pushing products;
▪️ Add customer learning as a critical marketing value and core competency.
(Hopefully) see you back here in 2031 for another report…