Marketing is at a printing-press moment

I think we all know that brands could try harder. They often disappoint and we wish they’d get their act together to become more aware of what we think and get a grip on their role (and potential role) in our lives.

Havas’ recent study on meaningful brands supports this notion as they go beyond traditional value metrics to explore human wellbeing with brands. The report raises a number of issues, not least of which is that too many companies/brands are trying to change consumer behaviour through persuasion rather than get to the bottom of the confusion they face. The common approach of pushing people to change their behaviour is the wrong premise, in favour of better understanding and accessing people’s dilemmas and contradictions with brands.

This finds us in a position where most people, world wide, would not care if more than 73% of brands disappeared tomorrow, fuelled by a growing lack of trust, empathy and indifference.

It’s notable that despite the all-pervasive nature of digital, including social and mobile, the emphasis on marketing remains dedicated to reaching people in mass. This mass approach is a linear process following a tried-and-true formula for advertising built from consumer insights and crafted messages. It’s designed for the broadcast industrial machine including print, TV, radio, out-of-home etcetera, which, despite rumours of its demise, will be with us for some time.

The problem it poses however is that as an approach it is neither nimble nor flexible and isn’t built for rapid change nor does it adapt well beyond the dominant media it was designed for.

So why is it that brands are acting like it’s 2003 in 2013? We are at a printing-press moment in marketing, at the forefront of a culture shift, a stream economy where trillions of dollars are in play, globally. Every passing day we read about new uses of social media as it morphs from a technology trend, a few years ago, to becoming a powerful instrument of social change and a powerful marketing tool.

Fundamentally, social media can assist brands make the necessary shift from trying to change consumer behaviour (push thinking) to reshape the way companies engage their consumers and nurture their relationship to brands, products and services (pull thinking).

At its core social media is a catalyst for richer customer insights. It provides a broader view of the consumer and increases the ability for brands to see new patterns and opportunities.

The thing is, not all companies are equally ready to use social media. Very often there may be little agreement on relevant metrics and their relationship to business performance.

The main benefit for marketers, with social, lays in its ability to monetise the following three outputs which lead to a better understanding of the consumer relationship with the brand:

  • Aggregate communities of interest,
  • identify specific demographics/brand-graphics/user-graphics, and
  • enable precise segmentation and audience engagement.

This has to be a marketer’s dream. So why do you think we continue to see so much emphasis on the mass ‘spray-and-pray’ approach?

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Martyn Thomas
BY Martyn Thomas ON 5 July 2013
Martyn Thomas is the managing director of Melbourne based FRANk Media, a hybrid full service agency with social business strategy at the core. Martyns’ ethos is to consistently add value for clients and keep marketing teams abreast of the world outside their office.