Marketing is about more than money

Understanding the recent shifts in marketing and what they mean for your business

Best-selling author Seth Godin recently wrote an article about the shift in marketing and how it affects political campaigning in the USA. He points out that brands aren’t built the way they used to be:

“Consider this: In the 2016 election, the candidates for President will together spend more money on advertising than any single US brand. That’s never been true before – and it’s because marketers today know something that impatient, self-centred politicians don’t. Money isn’t enough,” writes Godin. “The brand of the future (the candidate of the future) is patient, consistent, connected, and trusted. The new brand is based on the truth that only comes from experiencing the product, not just yelling about it. Word of mouth is more important (by a factor of 20) than TV advertising, and the remarkability word of mouth demands comes from what we experience, not from spin or taglines or a campaign slogan.”

As someone who’s worked in marketing for more than two decades, I agree completely with the shift that Seth Godin is describing, but I think that many businesses are a bit behind the curve in recognising what it means for their marketing efforts. These are the things I think businesses need to be focusing on:

  1. Re-think the budget. Gone are the days where you could up your marketing spend and see an exponential return on investment. It’s no longer about who’s got the biggest budget, but who is able to connect best with the target audience. Instead of pouring money into ad hoc marketing efforts, spend time (and maybe redistribute some budget into) researching your target market and what makes your customers tick. Understand their “pain points” and then strategise about how you can solve their greatest problems. Let that guide your marketing strategy.
  2. Focus on customer experience. The definition of marketing is changing. It’s not about creating a hot campaign or having a celebrity endorsement anymore. Brand loyalty rests on the complete customer experience – are you adding value and going above and beyond? Are you agile enough to adapt to shifting customer needs? Improving your customer experience is the most effective marketing you can do today.
  3. Prove yourself trustworthy. Today, in a rapidly changing world wracked with uncertainties, customers stay with brands not because they are the cheapest or the best looking, but because they are trustworthy. They seek out authenticity, dependability and honesty. Your brand needs to deliver those qualities to have a hope of keeping customers loyal. This means apologising when you make a mistake, and proving to your target market again and again that you care – not just the money customers can deliver to you, but about the customers themselves.
  4. Remember: differentiation is everything. If your customers can’t tell exactly what sets you apart from competitors (and I’m not talking about your brand colours), you’re not distinctive, and that means you’re not going to be memorable. Brands that get forgotten get left behind. Focus on finding that “X factor” that distinguishes you from competitors and on creating ways to innovate. Don’t be scared to try something disruptive if it makes sense for your brand. But don’t disrupt just for the sake of it – remember that consistency is key in brand building, so every marketing activity needs to tie into your core brand values.

I think it’s important to close by saying that marketing never stands still. What makes sense this year may not work next year. The trick is to keep measuring and evaluating your efforts, and to constantly tune in to what your target market is looking for. As Seth Godin says, the key to success is being patient, consistent, connected, and trusted.

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