Life Finds a Way, So Does Marketing
The Marketing Industry is experiencing yet another extinction level event.
The first of these events that I experienced crept into view in 2000 and came crashing down on the marketing industry with the Twin Towers in 2001.
In mid-2002, I stepped out of San Francisco State University clutching my business degree, wide-eyed and full of ideas. Unfortunately, marketing departments were being gutted all around me. Marketing itself had to fight to be taken seriously or risk significant budget cuts. It was a “what have you done for me lately” time, but true marketing impact is notoriously difficult to track. I could hear axes dropping at many of my coveted San Francisco bay area employers.
The life roadmap I created for myself was drawn at a different time and under different circumstances. Was it time to go back to the drawing board, I don’t HAVE to be in marketing? Or time to flex my marketing muscle and work the brand of me? I chose the second option.
To quote one of my favorite movies (and books) of all time, Jurassic Park…
“If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh… well, there it is.”
Marketing is so integral to business that it can be seen as vital to the livelihood of a firm. So, “marketing” is “life” in business. Despite the economic downturn and the gutting of marketing departments, I knew that “marketing will not be contained.” The industry pressure would create some amazing diamonds.
It was time to crash through barriers if I wanted to establish myself in marketing at this time. I landed an internship with brand architect Mark Marinozzi, boutique market research firm PSL Marketing, and later connected with Gerron Vartan of Aegis Partners, Inc. This experience shaped my marketing philosophy so profoundly that I cannot imagine having entered the “real world” at a better time.
The type of marketing that flourished during the extinction level event? Market Research. Why? Because in times of volatility, business leaders crave information.
From this point forward I approached each task with a researcher’s eye.
Marketing = Research + Strategy
I learned that great marketing begins with strategy. DUH?! Yeah, but many businesses are eager to jump into some aspects of marketing, then ask why “it” didn’t work after several months of seemingly wasted effort.
Marketing is not an afterthought. It does not kick into gear when the product comes off the line or the new service is ready to be sold. Marketing is definitely not advertising or sales; these are aspects of marketing. “Marketing” covers all activities required to bring your product to market. In my mind, that IS business.
Therefore, Marketing = Research + Strategy. Here’s why.
- Marketing requires critical thinking.
- Who is/are our target audience(s)?
- Which markets are best for our products/services?
- What are our competitors doing?
- How can we bring something new or different to the market?
- What opportunities and threats do we see on the horizon?
Marketing’s New Extinction Level Event: The “Human Algorithm”
The emergence of search engines and social media channels pushed the “human algorithm” to the forefront and shifted the balance of power from marketer to consumer. We have always been told that consumers vote with their dollars, but did they really before the Internet?
How should a marketer respond to this threat? Simple: hang out in your target audience’s shoes for a minute. Novel idea, right?
Well… most marketers are basically vomiting on consumers online. “Look at me!” “Read this article about my product.” “We are the best.” “Here’s why you need to spend money with me.” “Sale this Friday!”
Ugh, so 20th century.
Marketers that “get it” know we have to be real people in order to connect with today’s consumer.
So here it is. The great divide or, as my colleague Sigrid calls it, the digital divide. Want to make it through this extinction level event? Embrace the consumer, be the consumer… online, offline, where ever. The people want authentic. Give the people what they want.
What’s the best way to give the people what they want? Research + Strategy
So step out from behind the curtain. Stand for something. Speak from your heart. Do your research.