Traditionally, it is the advertising agencies (or creative agencies) that come up with the core idea for a marketing campaign and then create a series of advertisements which address that idea across different media. All other agencies and their associated content then follow suit.
However, the very nature of the traditional advertising agency has changed over recent years due to digital and social media and indeed the impact of ad blockers. Increasingly these agencies are being pushed by their clients to provide excellence in new disciplines and to deliver more and more content in line with the core idea. That same ad agency now delivers social media promotions, viral videos, or blizzards of micro targeted online ads but at their heart these pieces of content are simply disguised as old ways of [transactional] thinking with new technology.
Marketers need to think more broader than the trusted campaign mindset
Despite new generations entering the workplace, the ‘TV advertising led’ approach is still deeply entrenched. Although, if truth be told we all secretly like an entertaining TV ad – Monty the Penguin anyone? The answer is simply down to mindset. Historically, it is very challenging to overcome mental models, especially when the top marketing directors have built their careers on TV ads, and their dominant agencies are invested in maintaining the status quo – especially when there are global retainers involved. Typically ownership of a brand’s marketing activity follows spend, and so when 50%+ of a marketing director’s budget is invested in TV and digital ads, then the traditional ad agency undoubtedly takes the lead, and so too does the dominant advertising ideology.
Efforts to displace the dominant TV advertising mindset require more than just a few articles challenging the status quo, like this one you’re reading. Action needs to be taken in the form of education. We need to take it back to the classrooms at the beginning of our marketing journey where students are brainwashed with concepts such as the marketing mix (4 P’s), in particular ‘Promotion’, used to reach the target audience to convince them to buy products.
Naturally in marketing we do need to promote, and that includes using TV ads as part of the arsenal to reach our target audience. Personally I don’t want to deny any student the opportunity of being exposed to Coca Cola’s advertising hall of fame and the romantic notions of the ad industry personified by Don Draper. But Don’s advertising mindset, like the way he liked to treat women in the workplace, belong in the 1960’s.
Marketing undoubtedly has moved rapidly away from the ‘consumer era’ where companies would say anything to make a sale and their only relationship with a customer was at the point of transaction, to the ‘relationship era’, where businesses looking for long term success need to create authentic customer relationships. Those relationships need to be based on trust, coupled with relevant and valuable communications, not just on a bit of entertainment every season.
Thinking like a publisher is nothing new, but an important consideration
The alternative could be adding yet another a P to the marketing mix in the form of ‘Publishing’. Having a publisher mindset is fast-becoming the best way to achieve growth objectives and establish your business within the marketplace. The aim as a publisher is, after all, to position your company as a go-to source of useful information (and stimulating entertainment), and be seen as a trusted source above all others. This was the exact mindset that built brands such as Michelin Tyres and John Deere as far back as the early 1900s. With Michelin, instead of sending the very few car drivers at the time a barrage of sales messages to buy more tyres, they created a driver’s companion in the form of a guide with relevant, useful content. The Michelin brothers could have very easily said “We just deal with tyres. This is just the way it is.” But they didn’t. What they did was took a step back and looked at it from the point of view of the customer. It’s not about tyres, it’s about the experience driving offers of which tyres form a vital part.
Clearly the concept isn’t new. Now though, marketers aren’t dealing with a lack of car drivers, they’re dealing a lack of time, attention, and potentially interest, on the part of the consumer. We can learn a lot from The Michelin Guide. It is a great example of seeing things from the customer’s perspective first and foremost, and saying “We can do something infinitely better than just sell our products to you. We can encourage customers to have an amazing experience.”
Is it any wonder ‘customer experience’ is now the marketing phrase du jour? The power resides squarely in the hands of consumers, so it makes sense to actually put customers needs at the centre of our communications planning and activity. Marketers need to think beyond ads to orchestrated value-creation touch points. Adopting a publishing mindset means focusing on the people that you want to target. In our opinion it is all about getting their attention with relevant and valuable content, turning the audience into customers, and then customers into advocates. When your purpose (the customer) is at the centre rather than just pure profit, both the tangible and the intangible product you create is more remarkable and evident to all making it far easier to attract like-minded people to try, buy, join and forever love your brand.