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Marketing is broken and what you can do about it

Author's avatar By Danyl Bosomworth 13 Jan, 2012
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5 ideas to start your brand revolution in 2012

We're still in the midst of 2012 predictions, they're everywhere at the moment, mostly describing what's already out there. I'm not a futurologist, and if I am honest, I prefer to plan for the less predictable since that's what usually happens.

One trend I do observe, is how much marketing is changing (again, and faster). This is leaving a chasm of opportunity for the right organisations to step up. It has serious implications though... are you and your brand the revolutionary, or destined to be the cast-off of someone else's revolution? We've built our Marketing Manifesto of some of the changes that we think will help you falling into the chasm, but here I expand on some of these ideas.

So what's wrong with marketing?

It's one word: management, or lack of it. I believe that digital marketing management today is caught in a very dangerous trap. It's an analysis paralysis of not very useful stuff. It feels safe (or easier) to blindly observe, it's even acceptable somehow.

Analysis of data is most often focussed on lame observations of tactics and counters. This includes Facebook fan counts, web visitors, page views, page exit rates and so on. What does this stuff really tell you about what to do next? Really, what does it? Isn't this old-school advertising and direct marketing thinking applied to the web.

Seth Godin has mentioned before how we cannot apply TV thinking to the web. Yet we are doing that. We're getting tighter and tighter on managing the wrong stuff, or at least getting distracted prioritising the wrong stuff. This is not marketing!

Creative, quality data mining, true data analysis is amazing, people majoring in maths working on predictive analytics have a big future in marketing! Yet observational querying of KPIs is not analysis, it is not creative and it is not going to drive new ideas.

Worse still, it risks marginalising the marketing function due to its increased irrelevance. The questions you ask of the data are what differentiates your potential. For everyday business, for most of us, there's a current reliance on measuring basic digital KPIs and just fine tuning, there's little big thinking or imagination as to how web and digital channels are best used to inspire and fascinate the right customers, to do something revolutionary. Ironically the marketing agencies can be the worst for lacking thinking in this area.

Calling Digital Marketers (and/or Marketing Managers responsible for digital)

The worse thing is, you guys know this, feel this, I know you do. How rewarding is it to get paid good money to do the types of work in digital channels that didn't work in press or broadcast media? It's crap, worse than crap.

The difference now is that you can observe web metrics (which is a different process to performing proper web analytics) - you have a few dials that tell you it's not working, that you've run out of fuel. Great, so what you gonna do about it?

Marketers - you deserve more than this! The rules of marketing have changed A LOT, society is changing, the role of the Internet has changed and is still changing, how people access the Internet (and why) is nothing like anything else - this means your job has changed.

You get to either be a part of this, or go get a different job. Feel guilty, feel frustrated, feel whatever …feel something… and go do something about it. Start your brand revolution.

5 ideas to start your brand revolution in 2012

I wanted to write down ideas as to what to do about this challenge, I'd love for you to feedback your thoughts into this:

1. Accept that your customer's expectations are created by their wider internet experience

Why do people leave your site, never to return? Because there's no friction and you're irrelevant. As marketers, we should no longer do the expected for our customers or worse still knowingly deliver a sub-par experience in a digital channel. Terrible PDF downloads that require my star sign, mobile number and mother's maiden name are not acceptable, they make no sense, this stuff should be on a web page. Slow-loading sites are a disgrace, how hard is it to get that stuff right nowadays, only to find vanilla flavoured content that doesn't speak to the customer anyway. A customer's alternative to your brand is genuinely a click away. You know this, mobile surfing is making this even more of a concern on every level, the diminished attention span of people 'on the move' just makes it all so much worse.

2. Marketers and marketing teams will need to seriously skill-up to meet the new marketing challenge

You (or your team members) can no longer be good at one thing, in a boxed role, unless you're screamingly outstanding at it. Copywriters need to be familiar with the basics of online publishing, managing a CMS, dabbling in HTML and even basic content marketing. The latter includes Facebook and inevitably interactions with the consumer/fan on your fan page.

Marketers also need to be able to question data, perform a reasonable level of analysis and pick out what matters - not dump data in tables and call it "analytics", that's basic reporting at best and can be easily automated. Getting the story from data matters, let alone being close to and understanding the customer, driving product feedback and innovation and have an eye for UI design. Digital marketing demands this of us all, a great leveller for big companies too bloated or distracted to cotton on.

You, marketing manager, at least need to be able to appreciate all of the above and be savvy at hiring such people.

3. A connected, mobile and fragmented society is opportunity for a serious brand

When is your brand going to take mobile and social media seriously enough? By 2014 more people will browse the web via a smartphone or tablet than on desktop PC's - you'll have heard this stuff before. You're bound to see this in your web analytics now.

The importance of mobile is appreciated, yet so few take it seriously enough. Even two of the big mobile telecoms business have awful sites for mobile, O2 and Vodaphone, the irony. Put to shame by Debenham's and House of Fraser, even sofa companies like SCS do a better job in mobile, and although many mobile websites are undifferentiated and a little dull, at least they're extremely usable - you'd hope so with all the TV advertising targeting people sat at home on sofas holding new tablets and smartphones.

The thing is you can't just have a great mobile site. The world is increasingly fragmented from a marketing perspective. You've got to get relevant to the 500 people in a particular channel who matter, not the 500,000 "audience" who read a particular press title. So how is it brands still make a pigs ear of this by treating social channels like some form of TV 2.0?

Here's an example - a cursory glance at adidas Running's Twitter feed (I'm attempting to get back into running, it's January!) and here's another brand unable to deliver on it's promise in the bio "Improving every athlete’s performance through innovation", the Twitter feed is full of multi-lingual posts about very little, certainly nothing much to do with performance and innovation in running, and it's not been updated since 25 November. This is a brand as well resourced as adidas with over running 379,000 fans.

4. Invest in the work of awesome content generation

One of the least discussed areas of digital marketing is around the "A" of Smart Insight's RACE framework. Act - connections and interactions with website users. The obsession with tactics (SEO, social media and email, for example) repeatedly outweighs the importance of what all three of those tactics especially require - fantastic content.

What is that's keeping marketers most often creating lame content anyway? I'd say it's laziness, maybe fear if I were to be kinder. The ability for digital marketers especially to turn marketing into some form of over-engineered science (it's not, it's about inspiring actual people) where common marketing sense looses out to processes such as "website optimisation". Of course that stuff matters, but it's only the icing in the cake, it's like a coach potato taking performance enhancing drugs. The cake itself is in creating superb content on web pages.

How do you sort this - and you have to as it's the most important bit - understand your customer. Not a little, a lot. Get close to them. If you're serious about social and search marketing anyway then you'll be able to bag a three-for-one benefit, since research around your customer, their use of search and social will help you define three, four or five personas that you need to inspire and fascinate. When you know the customer needs and motivations, you can easily figure out how to engage them.

5. Imagine new stuff, monitor, fail fast, improve and move forwards

If you can move on the first 4 points, you're in a place to re-imagine new ways to connect new content and ideas to a more specific audience, to start your brand revolution. Let's not over-complicate it. In digital this isn't anything like the pressure of a whole new TV campaign or change of packaging for an FMCG brand. In digital we can re-imagine and try stuff often in a day, we can test and control risk by showing that idea to maybe 1 or 2% of your web traffic and have a statistically valid test completed in days.

What is stopping marketers, a lack of imagination, a lack of motivation, too much fear? Maybe all. Either way you could surmise, as someone like Seth Godin does in that link earlier, that marketers are not re-imagining for a new connected, digital world, and instead maintain thinking of what used to work, in the old world. It's never been as easy to test and try new stuff as it is today, to get real-time feedback on controlled risk taking. Keep trying, dedicate budget to that and do more of what works.

What do you think, am I being harsh of marketers in 2012, what do you say?

Author's avatar

By Danyl Bosomworth

Dan helped to co-found Smart Insights in 2010 and acted as Marketing Director until leaving in November 2014 to focus on his other role as Managing Director of First 10 Digital. His experience spans brand development and digital marketing, with roles both agency and client side for nearly 20 years. Creative, passionate and focussed, his goal is on commercial success whilst increasing brand equity through effective integration and remembering that marketing is about real people. Dan's interests and recent experience span digital strategy, social media, and eCRM. You can learn more about Dan's background here Linked In.

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