Get with the times

Marketing has changed, fundamentally.   Integrated approaches to marketing are where it’s at.   Brands need to evolve their strategies to keep up.   And are they?   No, not as they should.   Come on, get with the times!

Brands are still hesitant to embrace integrated marketing.   Why?

  • Anything new is seen as scary
  • There is a perception that inegrated marketing and digital are expensive
  • Digital is changing and evolving every day and keeping up can be time-consuming and demands knowledge and expertise

Taken together, these elements scare brands off from ebracing integrated marketing.

Successful brands embrace change, take risks, make use of data, and integrate digital into all they do . . . but always by placing the customer experience first.   Oh, and it isn’t always expensive (though it’s not free either – as one client seemed to think it was).

I’m going to revisit first principles to identify the top five mistakes brands make, and should seek to avoid.

Being too business-centric: this is a common habit of many brands including some which inhabit the digital space.

It manifests itself by merely paying lip-service to being customer-centric, but actually being focused on making money over the short term.   This short-sightedness sacrifices relationship building with customers to drive sustained revenues over the longer term.  It might create the illusion of shareholder value in the short-term, but usually at a cost to sustaining future revenues for the brand, reducing it to a one-hit wonder or a next best thing addict . . . not good for customer loyalty.

Customers aren’t stupid.   Customers can spot an exploitative, business-centric, brand from a mile away, it turns them off.

When you think about your customer, you are actually thinking about your business . . . it really is that simple  

Making customers happy is going to make them come back over and over again.   I’m a marketer so I would say that to justify my budget/fees.   Yes, but I’m a customer first and I want brands to treat me with respect and provide me with easy (for me) and beneficial (for me) interactions and experiences – it is all about me when I’m a customer.

We’ve always done it this way: get with the times people!   Brands need to be responsive to market changes, otherwise they’ll be left behind.   Flexibility is a must in business.   In marketing terms this is no different.

Companies that are set in their ways, which stifle their staff teams, are overly hierarchical, or which despise or ignore inegrated marketing and the feedback loop that creates to develop and refine products are the ones that don’t innovate, and which ultimately die.

  • Kodak was too set in its ways.   The company was so heavily involved in analog print technology it failed to embrace digital, which was one of the main factors leading to its demise
  • HMV, once a behemoth of the Bitish High Street, is facing a bleak future, why?   Because it’s retail model and the music industry were in thrall to each other and failed to spot the emergence of digital, and when it became inescapable, studiously ignored it instead . . . with possibly fatal consequences . . .

Playing it safe: safe is boring and boring is never memorable.   Companies that play it safe never get too far and are rarely associated with anything that matters.   Brands need to be testing new platforms and channels, they should take risks.   A fear of failure stops brands from taking risks.   A fear of being ridiculed and getting bad press is also a factor on holding back experimentation.   But failing can be a good thing.

If you dont fail, you don’t learn

Brands should fail fast and learn from their mistakes.   Bad press is better than no press.   Red Bull will always be remembered for the Stratos spectacle because they worked with an expert (Felix Baumgartner) and mitigated the risk of associating their brand with a daredevil feat by planning and making every contingency imaginable.

Some might argue that John Lewis is a typical example of a brand playing it safe.   Really?   Look again.

From it’s foundation, John Lewis has always been a radical business.

  • It is built on a principle of collective ownership
  • John Lewis’ staff retention rates are the envy of the retail industry

John Lewis’s staff’s expertise is one of the pleasures of shopping there.   You go in to buy a baking tray and come away with not only what you wanted but a recipe (tried, tested and experienced by the staff member who served you) and a raft of sensible advice on how to maintain the product you just bought – and for no extra cost.

  • John Lewis was one of the first retailers to embrace digital

The business allied the data it obtained from digital sales to improve and adapt the online and offline experience, pioneering in-store collection, user recommendations and cross-selling.

Ignoring the data: ignore data at your peril.

Smart marketers are using data to inform marketing, products and services.   Brands which ignore data aren’t delivering the best possible experience to users.

Consumers will hands-down pick the brand that’s making a positive to be relevant, over the one that’s not.   See my comments on John Lewis above.   In addition, look at the case of United Airlines below.

In the period from 2008 to 2010 United Airlines seemed to be ignoring what it’s customers said about it on social media platforms.

Customer complaints and compliments on social media produce data.   This data can be used to improve the customer experience . . .

Did United Airlines do that?   No, it ignored everythng it’s customers were saying.

Eventually, one outraged customer created the critical United Breaks Guitars video which has had more than 12 million views to date.

United Airlines’ bad press didn’t arise from experimentation, it arose from totally ignoring the data from a social media experiment.   A lack of integration in their marketing department was the cause.

Marketing silos: marketing efforts should be integrated in order to work.   Digital marketing, like all marketing efforts, needs to be a part of everything the brand does.   We’ve seen the example of United Airlines already . . . and then there are the successful examples which have defied expectatio s like John Lewis and Red Bull.

Integrated marketing matters

Brands that don’t understand this, will fail.

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