Adapted from thought-provokers delivered at “Brands, Blues & Change-Points”
For changing times, change our approach & change the world
The times they are certainly changing. We marketers need to take note of the changing world and respond appropriately if we are to remain effective in our marketing. We need to question and change our approach to marketing and communications and move ahead from our 20th century thinking to be in sync with the new technology-fuelled, connectivity-driven world which is changing consumers and their values, media & shopping habits and their lifestyles. We need to transcend our purely commercial thinking and adopt enlightened and responsible marketing approaches and seek to change the world to be a better and safer place for all.
We need to serve the consumer better and be alive to his long-term interests. Today’s consumer is wiser and more skeptical. He figures out whether you are ripping him off, harming him and his environment or serving him well and caringly. We need to do what it takes to protect his and our planet rather than let our manufacturing activities and marketing practices jeopardize it. We need to pick up our non-biodegradable packaging. We need to listen to and address his complaints. We need to give him products that give him value and look after his well-being. This is the real CSR that we marketers need to practice rather than the highly-publicized, guilt-erasing philanthropy that passes off for CSR with many companies today.
We need to be alive to the changing world, update ourselves and be accountable. We can respond through innovative and enlightened thinking in our marketing that will challenge our capabilities and give us real satisfaction, rewards and sustainability in return.
“Come hear this ye marketers wherever you roam
Your targets are no longer babes to be sold
On your ploys, they are not captives, they have all outgrown
Assumptions about them you’re making
So awake and take note of the change that’s come home
For the times they are a changing”
- Lyrics of Nimal’s parody of Bob Dylan’s classic
Change-Points present opportunities and challenges for marketers
Change is spreading fast, not just in the rest of Asia and the world, but right here in Sri Lanka. We are now connected. Globalized. We need to recognize and respond to the changes that are happening around us.
We have ageing populations that want not only to be served but also to stay ‘forever young’. We have young consumers who want to experience and sense, be knowledgeable and educated, be cool and enjoy fame even if it is through a reality show. We have rural consumers who want to overcome their poverty and enjoy the comforts and conveniences of the modern world. We have concerned consumers who want to eat wisely, stay healthy, pamper their bodies and soothe their minds. We have people who want to be connected, and can do so through the new digital technology and connectivity, but beyond that to have their human needs of belongingness, companionship and psychological well-being fulfilled. All of these present opportunities to the savvy, enlightened and innovative marketer.
Today, we live in a world where the consumer has a plethora of choices. Access to technology has made it possible for us to make parity products. Today, we have shrinking audiences and decreasing ROI on our media investments due to media proliferation and audience fragmentation. Today, we have an information overload and ad clutter on media resulting in bombarded consumers who switch off, can’t remember our messages or get confused about our brands. Today, we are more connected than ever before via telecom, the Internet, TV and travel – through sms, mobile phones, Blackberries, e-mail, blogs, chat rooms, webcam, video-conferencing, low-cost carriers, reality shows and the like. Today, consumers don’t wait for our TV, radio or press ads to learn about our brands; they access information that they want on-demand via Google and the Internet. Today, we have consumer-generated information via viral sms, e-mail, podcasts and blogs. Such information could affect our brands positively or negatively. Today anyone can market via the Internet; no distributors needed. Today, the credit card lets you buy your dreams anytime, anywhere in the world. These changes in marketing and media, driven by technology, present significant challenges that we marketers cannot ignore but must overcome and leverage to our benefit.
Understanding and responding to the changing consumer
She’s no moron, no moron, no moron, no mo
She’s not dumb, she’s not dumb, she’s not dum-diddy-dum
She’s your wife, she’s your life, she’s your wife, oh-ho
She’s your wife, she’s not dumb, get that chum
She’s got sense, common sense, to figure it out
Sees through things, reads so well between the lines
She don’t want you to want to spell it out
Knows you better, sees through things, knows your lines.
- From Nimal’s song based on David Ogilvy’s famous line
Do we truly understand today’s consumers? Are we connecting with them? Or are we treating them like naïve couch potatoes whom we can inject our brand message, brainwash and move to act to our command? Do we regard them as simpletons that need to be hit on the head and educated about our brand? Or have we realized that today’s consumer is rather different to the one we knew in the last century? Do we realize that they are more connected with each other, better informed, more empowered, more skeptical and getting smarter all the time? Do we realize that they are like us? If this is the case, we need to change our thinking on how we speak to consumers. Or shall we call them citizens – people with whom we want to build a relationship, who also live in the real world and are concerned about it.
Consumers are changing not only in their outlook and empowerment, demands and demographics but also in their lifestyles, values, media use, shopping habits and products that they buy. Today’s consumer has lots of choice and there’s no reason for him to be loyal to any brand unless we make him fall in love with ours. Today’s consumer is time-pressed and demands instant gratification, convenience and 24/7 access to services and information. Today’s consumer is information-overloaded and has become more selective in taking in information, and permission rather than intrusion is needed in talking to him. Today’s consumer is smarter and better informed through the new connectivity and on-demand information access. He uses the new connectivity and viral dissemination to spread positive news about brands he enjoys as well as negative views about ones that hurt him.
Old Marketing is dead… Let’s practise the new
Old Marketing is dead. Here are some obituaries: “Old-style marketing is dead” says ex-Coke CMO Sergio Zyman “the tried and true tactics of the old marketing simply aren’t working the way they used to…The same dollar spent on the old tactics doesn’t give the return it did five or ten years ago…Mass advertising has lost its ability to move the masses.” In 2005, marketing guru Philip Kotler concludes that “Marketing isn’t working today. New products are failing at a disastrous rate. Most advertising campaigns do not register anything distinctive in the customer’s mind. Most products come across as interchangeable commodities”. And Rex Briggs & Greg Stuart confirm in their brand new book What Sticks that “Marketing is failing: CEOs sense it; top marketers know it; and our research proves it…The problem is a rapidly changing marketing landscape that has made the old approaches and research tools obsolete. A new approach is clearly needed.”
Old Marketing is dead. CEOs and bean-counters are saying that they don’t see the results and the ROI of marketing campaigns. It isn’t that marketing and advertising aren’t valid anymore. They both are crucial in building businesses and creating value and wealth. But we need some new thinking, based on the changes we’re seeing…some new approaches to make it work.
Old Marketing is dead. But we still pretend it isn’t. We love our 4 P’s. The 4 P’s Mantra makes us Marketing Men…and Women. So we continue to teach it, preach it, practise it as if the world hasn’t changed. But if you think about it, it soon becomes clear that the 4Ps marketing was what you did in an era when supply was behind demand. Now it is all reversed and the consumer calls the shots.
So, it is time for us to practise the consumer-orientation that we have been professing for years. We need to start from the the consumer’s point-of-view. Lauterborn has given a new alternative to the 4Ps. The 4Cs.
In line with this new thinking, we need to recognize that new marketing is not about pushing products. It is about creating real and perceived Consumer Value through brands that deliver this. The vast choice that the consumer has today and the difficulty of making differentiated products that can withstand competitor catch-up requires us abandon our traditional product marketing approaches in favour of creating brands that the consumer will trust, connect, want to experience, fall in love with and make a part of their life.
Today, technology has made prices tumble and most things become affordable to a wider market. But we see that the consumer is not keen to buy all the stuff we are making; because, now he is looking at the Cost and consequences of consuming the products that we make, like the cost to his health from unhealthy foods. Cost-to-consumer and risk have become the new surrogates for price; so, the marketer’s challenge is to minimize the risks and costs of acquiring and consuming our products.
Convenience is distribution from the consumer’s point-of-view. Still in Sri Lanka you can win the battle by just showing up in the little mom-and-pop shop where the average Sri Lankan still shops – giving him round-the-corner convenience. The urban shopper, on the other hand, finds convenience in the self-service supermarket experience. Convenience is the name of the game, and marketers have to serve up other forms of convenience such as off-the-Net convenience, 24/7 convenience, home-delivery, mobile access, credit card & SMS payment and the like, just as some Sri Lankan marketers have started to do.
Old marketing was about ‘push promotion’ – pushing ads and messages. We still push our 30 second commercials, but increasingly the consumer is not listening. Nor do they recall the ads and brands they saw the night before. They are zapping, multi-tasking and inattentive. New marketing has to move from the push-promotion mode into a Communication and consumer- engagement mode. We now have to interact with the new information-seeking consumer and provide the information he seeks when and where he wants it together with our brand experience – on the ‘Net or through his other touch-points.
“…talking, eating, reading, and using the Internet while watching prime-time TV has increased from 67% in 1994 to 75%. “ Joseph Jaffe in “Life after the 30 second spot”
A lot of advertising doesn’t work because we haven’t learnt from our experience of what works and what doesn’t, and internalized our best practices. A lot of ads don’t work because we haven’t found out exactly why the consumer buys our brand. A lot of ads don’t work because we are saying irrelevant things and the consumer isn’t listening. A lot of ads don’t work because we still believe and persist in myths and practices that are questionable: like seeking to inject the consumer with our bombast or selling features-and-benefits instead of seeking to endear people to our brand.
In this day and age of consumer-generated communication and consumers seeking information on-demand, we need to start communicating differently. We should stop intruding and repeating and bombarding and annoying people. We need to sync our communications to be in step with the consumer. We need to figure out what information the consumer wants and what media and touch-points he accesses and give it to him when and where he wants it. We need to tell him some stories about our brands that he would repeat to others. We should begin talking to him one-on-one. But that would take a database that many of us still haven’t thought of putting together and using.
The bottom line is that marketing today must respond to markets that are fast changing fuelled by connectivity, technology and the power shift to the consumer. New marketing must acknowledge that the consumer is in control and that ‘push’ is out ‘pull’ is in. Marketing must strike a balance between short-term demands and long-term needs. Marketing must seek to create the future while delivering on today’s demands. Marketing must generate sales today while building brands, driving innovations and creating value and wealth.
“…in 2004, 47% of viewers switch channels when watching either because the program had ended or to skip commercials. This is up from 33% in 1994. “ -Joseph Jaffe in “Life after the 30 second spot”
Understanding what brands really are
What is a rose by any other name
Does it change its nature, does it stay the same
It is a lovemark just like a brand is
It stands for trust, and more,
It stands for love, and yes,
It is an everlasting promise.
- From “Brands & Roses”, Nimal’s love song about brands
New marketing is all about our new insights into brands. What they really are. What they mean to people. How they connect.
Brands are no longer just trademarks. “They’re Lovemarks” says Kevin Roberts “They inspire loyalty beyond reason”. Real love is when people will tattoo their favourite brand on themselves. Martin Lindstrom’s book Brand Sense highlights research about these – and Harley Davidson tops the list. “A great brand taps into emotions” says Scott Bedbury of Nike and Starbucks fame “emotions drive most, if not all, of our decisions. A brand reaches out with a powerful connecting experience. It’s an emotional connecting point that transcends the product.” “The brand is a contract between the consumer and the company. It’s a symbol and promise of a definable quality and experience that the brand guarantees the consumer” says Patrick Gournay CEO of The Body Shop “a great brand is more than just a great product. A great brand is something people want to be a part of and share in, in a way of expressing themselves. There has to be something about it that differentiates it, and makes it interesting, exciting and attractive to consumers. Such a brand also helps the consumer make choices, particularly in markets that are becoming increasingly crowded; it makes decisions easier for the consumer.” “A brand has to feel like a friend” says Starbucks Chairman & CEO Howard Schultz “people have more choices today than ever before. So, a brand must be a bridge of trust to the consumer.” “Brands are about people not products. Brands are about customers not companies” says former CIM CEO Peter Fisk in his new book Marketing Genius.
Brands, like Harley-Davidson for example, let you become somebody you like to be. Some brands, like TAG Heuer, show others what you kind of person you are. Other brands, like the Rockers brand that we at Bates Asia created for our client Hemas Marketing, let you belong. There are empowering brands, like Apple and Nike, that let you achieve your dreams. There are other brands that touch you through your senses. Kenzo for example is a very sensory, very aesthetic brand. There are many brands, like Omega, Rolex and others, that enable you to convey your style emulating their celebrity endorsers. Brands, like Starbucks, have become successful by providing a lifestyle that blends into yours. Brands can also engage us and our passions, like the activist brand, Greenpeace. While some brands can move you by appealing to your heart, others like Bates Asia seek to intrigue you and stimulate your mind through our thinking – our ideas, strategies and experiences like Brands, Blues & Change-Points! Then there are brands that are great at entertaining us – like Disney, for instance. Some brands can even prick our conscience and appeal to our good sense, like The Body Shop or Sri Lanka Apparel’s Garments without Guilt brand, that appeals to the buyers’ sense of ethics on the basis of Sri Lanka not having sweatshops and child labour in our garment factories. MAS Holdings’ Women Go Beyond brand is doing the same in promoting ethics and women’s empowerment together with their partners like Gap.
Looking at the future – as consumers get smarter, more demanding and more concerned about their well-being, brands will need to deliver higher capability, more convenience, greater aesthetics, more information, greater safety and good citizenship.
Changing the way we think about advertising
Ads, ads, ads – 30 second wonders
Ads, ads, ads – I’m swamped under
Ads, ads, ads
These bloody ads
Theyr’e bloody rude – no by-your-leave
They intrude – when I’m in my undies
When I’m not in the mood
To swallow these ads
Gimme back my movie
Gimme that remote
To zap those ads
Those bloody ads.
- From Nimal’s composition “Ads, ads, ads : a consumer’s lament”
There’s growing discomfort and uncertainty about advertising among CEOs and company financial people, particularly when advertising doesn’t show results. For many of them advertising investment is an act of faith. They wonder if it is a waste and if there isn’t a better way to get their sales. In fact, the question has been around for years. John Wannamaker said that 50% of his ad-spend is wasted but didn’t know which half. The new book What Sticks citing research with over 30 major US marketers and multinationals confirms this wastage and has calculated it to be 37%!
A lot of advertising goes waste because we are still blindly perpetuating past practices on use of media. We assiduously focus on our media planning and buying measures – GRPs, TARPs, frequency & reach etc. But, we have not spent enough time looking at how people qualitatively access and absorb or disregard media or what non-traditional media and touch-points they access.
How advertising is “consumed” has changed. The way it is read or unread, seen or unseen, perceived or unperceived, liked or rejected, believed or disbelieved, absorbed or bounced away, acted upon or not – has changed. Consumers have changed – they have been conditioned, and have grown in their sophistication and cynicism. So advertising has to take into account and adapt to the new realities – if it is to be seen, perceived, believed, absorbed, liked and acted upon.
Advertising in its manifestation of the ubiquitous 30 second commercial is essentially an unsolicited imposition on the viewer as he seeks to sit back and enjoy his favourite programme. It is intrudingly thrust upon him without permission. It is often repeated to the point of annoyance. Bombarded several times in a programme, sometimes even back to back! Hoping perhaps to brainwash the viewer but often with the result of turning him off! Most-times talking to him like a moron who should take in the features, benefits and uses of the product and act upon them. Often thrusting so many messages in 30 seconds and expecting him to absorb and remember these amdist the information overload and clutter that is the order of the day! Ads often insult the intelligence of the viewer and are also criticized for being untruthful, insensitive, politically incorrect or for their gender stereotyping and scare-mongering.
Ads that do not gel with consumers get zapped, bounce off their perceptual barriers, or could even create negative perceptions for the brand. So what should advertising be doing today? The roles of old have changed. Ads today need to move from informing, persuading and reminding to empowering, demonstrating and involving the consumer.
Understanding marcom tools and creating IMC programmes
IMC became a buzz-word in the 1990s. It was the next big thing. Marketing Gurus hailed it. “The old answers – to spend megabucks on mass advertising, roll out endless promotions, dispatch a battle-weary sales force – no longer work” stated Philip Kotler “a growing number of companies are turning to one promising new answer called integrated marketing communications.” “Integrated
Marketing Communications is the marketing concept of the 1990s” said Thomas Harris “it will be the marketing practice necessary for survival in the 21st century.” “Relationship marketing is the key to all future marketing efforts” said Regis McKenna. “IMC makes relationship marketing possible.”
Though we flash it around as if it were a part of our daily diet, IMC has remained a buzz-word. We have for the most part only paid lip-service to it. Marketers have been weighed down by inertia. They have not changed their thinking. Advertising remains the be-all and do-all for most marketers. They have hardly moved to learn about the other marcom tools or how useful they are. They have not made sufficient effort to understand the consumer’s decision-making process and touch-points and how they could use the right mix of marcom tools at these touch-points to create an IMC programme.
Obviously we have some issues in adoption. Marketers are still in advertising mode rather than IMC mode. Marketers are still in push mode. Marketers are still not thinking holistically. Marketers are not bringing it all together well enough. The breakup of agencies into separate media agencies and creative agencies has made matters worse. Marketers are trying to maximize the parts while failing badly in synergizing the whole.
“Companies do a poor job of integrating their marketing communications. They choose an ad agency for their advertising, a PR firm for their PR, a sales promotion firm for sales promotion etc. Not only may they end up using these promotional tools in the wrong proportions, but they may also fail to create and deliver a consistent message with the different tools” says Philip Kotler. Commenting on the conditions and processes that will drive IMC adoption Don E. Schultz says “Although IMC has been discussed over the past several years, few organizations are practising it… IMC will be adopted by organizations in industries where there is an excess of supply compared with demand…They will start initially with developing databases…From there, organizational planning will change from determining attitudes to identifying behaviours. That will provide new forms of market segmentation, which in turn will encourage the consideration of new types of media and message delivery systems that customers use…At this point, integration will become a well-accepted concept, and one that is easily and quickly adopted.”
We need to admit that consumers make sense of our brands from all the stimuli that they get and not just from advertising. We know that consumers no longer sit and wait for our advertising messages nor absorb these messages like a sponge. In fact, today’s consumer has information sources that he finds more reliable and more convenient that he can access when he wants to. For example, he may call a friend or some knowledgeable person to consult on an intended purchase. Research shows that word-of-mouth and referrals are more powerful than advertising. He also actively looks for information on the Internet and compares models, prices and features before he buys. He gets influenced by news stories he reads in the newspapers or hears on TV or radio. Negative reports may make him think twice about a brand. Positive reports may endear him more to it.
So if we are to do this IMC thing, we need to understand a few things about the consumer. How he behaves in choosing, using and consuming brands. How he seeks information and makes decisions. We need to spot the touch-points at which we could interact with him. We need to figure out what information he is seeking and respond and seek to influence at these touch-points. We need to figure out what type of communication or incentive works best at each decision and touch-point, to swing him to our brand. We need to use these touch-points to deliver and reinforce the brand experience. We also need to recognize that all consumers may not act in the same way, and that we may need to segment and do different things for different consumers.
So, IMC is not doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that in addition to our advertising. It’s about first understanding how our consumer acts, and then putting together our marcom tools in a dovetailed communication programme based on these insights. We need to understand these tools better and how they work with each other. It is only then we can use and orchestrate them to deliver the goods.
As IMC Guru Professor Don E. Schultz wrote in the September 2006 issue of the American Marketing Association News magazine “The role of integration in a pull marketplace is to help the organization better align its efforts to achieve something they have long avoided because of the 4 P’s approach: customer focus. The goal of integration today must be to help marketers understand that customers are in control. To recognize that the old-time hit-them-over-the-head reach and frequency models of outbound communication no longer work, no matter how much money is thrown into the media mix. To help organizations understand that…it is the brand experience delivered in a multitude of ways that is the only survival mode.”
December 2nd, 2006 by Nimal Gunewardena | No Comments »
1. Jaffe, Joseph “Life after the 30 second spot” (Adweek Books/John Wiley, 2005)
2. Cappo, Joe “The future of advertising” (Advertising Age/ McGraw Hill, 2003)
3. Austin, Mark & Aitchison, Jim “Is anybody out there?” (John Wiley, 2003)
4. Lindstrom, Martin “Brand Sense” (Kogan page, 2005)
5. Fisk, Peter “Marketing Genius” (Capstone, 2006)
6. Bedbury, Scott “A New Brand World” (Viking, 2002)
7. Zyman, Sergio “The end of marketing as we know it“ (Harper Collins, 1999)
8. Clifton, Rita & Maughan, Esther editors “The future of brands” (Interbrand/Macmillan 2000)
9. Roberts, Kevin “Lovemarks: the future beyond brands” (2004 Powerhouse)
10. Briggs, Rex & Stuart, Greg “What Sticks” (Kaplan, 2006)
11. Hill, Sam “60 trends in 60 minutes” (Brandweek/ John Wiley, 2002)
12. Ochoa, George & Corey, Melinda “The 100 best trends 2006” (Adams Media, 2006)
13. BatesAsia “The Book of Change” (BatesAsia, 2006)
14. American Marketing Association News journal (Sept. 2006)
15. Lauterborn, Bob “New marketing litany: four P’s passe, c-words takeover“ (Advertising Age 61,1990)