Same As It Never Was.

As seen in November 2009  AD NEWS

As I view the early part of my career at BBDO from a distance, it’s clear to me that the business world and the communications industry has changed so dramatically that what I learned at BBDO in the ’80s has little relevance to marketing in the upcoming decade.

How has the business changed? Here’s an easy example: I understood early in my career that the road to account management stardom at BBDO was to sell big idea, big budget TV campaigns to big clients. It was all about “the work.” I was blessed to manage larger accounts—Polaroid, GE, etc. that could afford $1MM+ TV spots (pause: that’s $1MM production cost and they all had to be filmed in LA or abroad, of course). Brands were built on TV and at that time there was no better agency in delivering big ideas, executed at the highest level, than BBDO. The marketing world I grew up in at BBDO was based on one-way communication of delivering “:30 and :60 films” to wide demographic audiences on programs with ratings of 15 or more on prime network TV. And it worked—then. Even at Earle Palmer Brown in the early ’90s, communication was still largelyone-way. Consumer marketing still consisted primarily of delivering one-way “telling & selling” messages on behalf of strongly positioned brands in mass media.

And even as recently as ten years ago when I spent the entire summer of 1999 traveling across the country with my family, I did not bring a laptop, I sent and received no emails, and made 10 cell calls for entire trip . Yet today, I’ve received 15 emails, 20 tweets, and a barrage of messages in the hour it that it has taken to write this article. Guess things have changed a bit.

As I view marketing in the next decade, it’s not rocket science to proclaim with certainty that the concept of one-way communication in traditional media, while not dead, is not, and will not be, as critical a part of marketing communications as it had been in the past. That’s a difficult reality for traditional media to face. It’s why traditional media are hurting, and will continue to hurt even when the recession ends. The economic tsunami of late 2008 & 2009 has merely exacerbated the underlying issues facing traditional media, issues which existed in early 2008 before the economy fell off the table. Traditional one-way marketing, where the advertiser talks and expects their target to listen, so effective in the ’80s and earlier, is far less effective in today’s world.

So what should a marketer be doing right now to position themselves better for the changing world? There are many things, but start with these four:

1. Step back and rethink how you approach your marketing. I recently heard someone say “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” So true and more relevant right now than ever. Now is the time to question everything in your marketing efforts. Even if you don’t make massive changes, you’ll be better off for the analysis.

2. Create a dialogue with your target—There are still a few marketers who think this “social media stuff” is just about finding what happened to your high school girl/boy friend. Hope that’s not you. If it is, you are in the minority now. 80% of marketers now have a social media program. But do you have a well thought through strategy, or are you just playing?

3. Listen—“Seek First to Understand” (thanks Covey). Social media is about listening, giving, helping and not about one-way selling. In particular listen for negatives about your brand—accept them as reality (or at least as a real perception), and go about changing them.

4. Think about how traditional and non-traditional media can be seamlessly married into a truly integrated marketing effort. A smart marketer needs to orchestrate the totality of their marketing efforts with a master plan driving their program. As any smart marketer now knows, it isn’t about “pushing” your message to your target and expecting the sheep to follow. The sheep are now in control. Bah!

The ’70s and ’80s are long gone, except on classic rock stations, though I do yearn for listening to Wang Chung in heavy rotation. Be sure you’re not wedded to “classic” marketing in a changing world.

More Strumings

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