Three Elephants In The Marketing Room...

 Yes, it's a rhino...

Yes, it's a rhino...

Advertising.

Super Bowl notwithstanding, its power to create brands is waning in today's evermore transparent and connected world.

In its place, marketers and agencies are increasingly looking to customer experience, content marketing and personalization as key tools for building brands in the future.

However, while these elements undoubtedly hold much promise, marketers need to face up to some major issues.


There is only so much content humans can consume.
The logic of content marketing is compelling. In a world where customers need to be engaged, marketers should provide content that customers find useful, rather than simply promoting the brand. And with native advertising blurring the boundary between content and advertising, content marketing can feel like familiar territory - a softer form of advertising.

However, as Mark W Schaefer recently pointed out in his excellent post Content Shock, the volume of content produced will soon exceed our capacity to consume it, as more and more brands getting involved. It will then become harder and harder (and more and more expensive) to reach an audience. If marketers simply approach content marketing as advertising in another guise, they will be sorely disappointed.

It needs a different mindset. Marcus Sheridan (of River Pools and Spas fame) defines content marketing as "a business’ ability to be the most helpful and effective teachers in the world at what they do."  Rather than capturing audiences, it's a way of building relationships with customers and generating positive word of mouth.

Customer experience requires employee engagement.
In today's connected world, brands are increasingly defined by customer experience. With the volume and variety of interactions between customer and brand increasing, customers can sense how competent a brand is and what it really believes in. They read the body language. And with customers so easily able to share their experiences, their collective opinion can influence potential new customers, even before they've seen anything from the brand.

However, while elements of the experience can be designed and controlled, body language is driven by the behaviors of the brand, which come down to its employees and its culture. And study after study shows employee engagement is declining, and is lowest among those employees who directly interact with customers.

One response to this has been the rise of internal marketing, which assumes you can market your way to engagement. But again a different mindset is needed. Rather than marketing to them, marketers need to work with the business to build relationships with employees, and create a culture that lives and breathes the brand.

   ( 3 "C's" In A Boat: A Brand Imperative For A Digital Age… )

Access to data is a privilege to be earned.
Touted as the new oil, big data and advanced analytics offer the promise of personalized marketing. By collecting and analyzing all possible data to profile an individual customer, ads and offers can then be served up that are more relevant to them. Judging by the Omnicom/Publicis merger, some advertising agencies see their future as data companies.

However, customer data isn't a natural resource. It's generated by customers. Those customers are becoming increasingly equipped to manage with whom they share their data, and from whom they want to hear. And most couldn't care less if the vast majority of brands disappeared. 

Rather than a commodity, access to customer data will become a privilege to be earned. And again this requires a different mindset of building relationships with customers to earn their trust.

   ( 3 Steps Brands Need To Take Now To Build Customer Trust… )

Content marketing, customer experience and personalization are certainly important components in building brands in the future. But they are not just replacements for advertising by another name. In an evermore transparent and connected world, customers and employees turn out to be just people. Instead of marketing to them, marketers need to focus on building relationships with them.

Behind the elephants, this is the real rhinoceros in the marketing room...