With all the hyperbole, it’s hard to get a handle on the new marketing landscape. Has the Internet really changed all the rules? Do new forms of media represent an evolution or a revolution? Five years from now, will the marketer’s job be completely different from what it is now?
The answer may be “yes” to all the above. There’s no question that marketing has experienced extraordinary challenges in the last few years. Consumer resistance to marketing is at an all-time high, and opportunities to avoid commercial messages abound. DVRs allow TV viewers to zip past commercials. Spam filters help avoid unwanted e-mail messages. The national Do Not Call list decimated telemarketing. And the Internet and mobile technologies have siphoned an increasing percentage of readership and viewership away from traditional media. Digital technology is also changing the way people consume media, allowing them access when they want it.
The fundamental rules of marketing may not have changed: find a way to influence people’s opinions about your product or service. But the way marketers are doing this, such as reaching out to key influencers of online communities, is changing the way marketers think and operate.
“Using huge sums of cash to try to change a stranger into a customer is no longer economically viable,” says Seth Godin, author of All Marketers Are Liars. “You have to hand the megaphone to the people who agree with you.”
For example, Godin recently started an online networking site called Squidoo, where people can create pages about the topics that interest them. One such page is devoted to nothing but laptop bags. “That page is seen by thousands of purchasers every week, and it’s more influential than any retailer or online seller,” says Godin.
True, the traditional media certainly aren’t going away, at least not immediately. “We have a bunch of new tools, but they’re not going to replace everything else,” says Jack Trout, co-author of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. “Right now 95 percent of advertising dollars are still flowing into the traditional media.”
But the growth rates on the digital side suggest that is likely to change very quickly: Although most advertising dollars may be spent on traditional media now, that may not be the case five years from now.
But marketers need not wait for the revolution: It’s already under way. The Internet is already changing the way marketers think about their jobs, and it’s poised to change everything they do as well.
The Internet is categorically different from any previously existing media channel. It empowers consumers to research, shop and purchase goods and services with unprecedented speed and ease. Plus, the Internet has the potential to replace all traditional delivery systems for video, audio, music, data, etc. So that unlike previous times when a new medium came along only to supplement the existing mix, this time it’s different: The Internet will certainly impact all media. That might not happen for another five to 10 years, but once providers figure out the business models and delivery issues, anything goes.
Building the right model
One thing that hasn’t changed – but that needs to – is that marketing needs to permeate the entire organization. Successful marketing starts by creating something that customers will want to talk about, and ultimately buy. “Marketers have a really hard time coming to grips with the fact that they have to run the whole company,” says Godin. “Marketing used to equal advertising. The R&D guys would come up with something and then tell marketing, ‘Go and sell this.’”
Now, says Godin, everything the company does is marketing, from the way employees answer the phone to the way the company recycles old components. “So, the next time the product guys come to you with a mediocre product, you can refuse to sell it,” says Godin. “You only have to do that once or twice before the products get a lot better.”
Another big change is the way marketers communicate with customers. In the past, marketers were content to do all the talking. But that’s not effective anymore (if it ever was). If there’s anything the Internet has shown, it’s that consumers always had the last say in what your brand was about. It’s just much more obvious now thanks to blogs and online social networks. The Web amplifies the word-of-mouth effect.