Marketing draws the death card
To be clear, Jamie Mackay here discusses the conceptual death of marketing as an abstraction, not us the magazine, Marketing. We’re here to stay.
It is deeply troubling that less than 17% of Australian marketers rank ‘building their brand’ as an important objective, according to the Deloitte 2018 report, ‘Building brands in the Digital Age’.
Furthermore, in a poll conducted by BMW Dentsu in 2017, the top three priorities of CMOs surveyed were:
a) Marketing Automation
b) In House Content Creation, and
c) Understanding New Technology.
Has marketing died or has it just lost sight of its prime purpose? Which is: to build meaningful and distinctive brands capable of generating sustained commercial value. And why does much of today’s marketing strategy focus on measuring the response to an endless torrent of offers and features in a constant state of ‘test and learn’?
Maybe we should ask the herds of in-house content people with varying or non-existent brand building credentials who churn out low cost, high velocity ‘content’ in response to channel blinkered briefs all in the so-called pursuit of customer experience design.
What is truly surprising is just how quickly genuine, transformative marketing strategy has become lost in a haze of strategic immediacy and disposable execution. We are all in the business of transformation – that includes both marketers and agency folk alike. Marketing arguably has a better range of options to transform a brand experience because it has many more touchpoints of brand truth than mere communication.
These brand transformations can be a realised externally – such as: ‘I feel good that shopping at Kmart is a badge that shows people that I am choosing to get more out of life. But they can also happen internally – ‘My shopping at Kmart makes me feel good about giving into my desires’.
In fact, the transformation of an internal experience can be the most potent addition to brand value. Maybe this is because an internal experience is less of a badge subject to public scrutiny and represents more of a behavioural proof to ourselves, or self-image. It is more powerful because it appeals to the higher sense of who we are and how we choose to navigate this world.
The ‘internal to external’ analogy can also be applied to marketers themselves. Are they over-focusing on their ‘internal’ constraints with the myopic micromanagement of the processes? It is tense because marketing is always expected to deliver with overtly taut budgets. So having too great a focus on the less controllable ‘external’ levers – that might make more enduring connections with customers – might look like a big risk.
Maybe marketing has not died. Maybe it is just the marketer’s loss of vision that makes them choose not to focus on creating genuinely unique brand experiences (UBXs). Because there has also been a blurring of the marketing and sales functions, marketing risks becoming sales without the salesmanship. Plenty of hustle, too much bustle and an inability to transforms brands into anything anyone cares about.
It is not surprising that so many marketers have lost their mojo. The budgets ain’t what they used to be, resources are spread thin and requirements are spread wide. This means the chance of the brand getting an edge is being held together by a microfilm of hope, tied with an overzealous string of objectives.
The marketers that are developing real organising ideas for their brands to deliver UBXs are the ‘transformational marketers’ who are leaving the ‘transactional marketers’ floundering in their outdated ways of working.
To most effectively build brands, CMOs and CEOs need to enrol their entire organisation in a journey that builds memorable and useful UBX. When BMW Dentsu was asked to create a stronger emotional connection with the Chadstone Fashion Capital, we literally did it with a transformational UBX. The Chadstone ‘Tailor Made Store’ became a place which was tailored to meet the needs of an individual. Every hanger, every shelf, every song, every experience was tailor made to an individual’s taste. This UBX re-energised the Chadstone brand creating a 600% increase in social media engagement, 30% increase in foot traffic and an 18% increase in total sales centre-wide.
It is poor business to reduce marketing to the management of transactional relationships. Proper marketing understands what bonds real humans to brands. Proper marketers understand that that must not be fed by a single thing they do. It must be fed by everything they do.
So, has marketing died? In tarot, the ‘Death Card’ is symbolic, not of things ending, but of a significant change in your future. It can symbolise rebirth and point toward some sort of dramatic change. One that has a new beginning and moves forward with a development of a new perspective on the world. So maybe marketing hasn’t died, it’s just drawn the Death Card.
Jamie Mackay is strategic partner and founder at BWM Dentsu
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Image credit: Vyacheslav Volkov