The world has changed; the economy has changed; and your customers have changed. That means your marketing tactics must also change. The marketing and advertising you did in the past will not achieve comparable results today, says Will Ketchum, principal, partner and chief strategist of Burdette Ketchum, a full-service marketing and creative services company located in Jacksonville, Fla.
Ketchum spoke at a recent meeting of the Executive Advantage (www.theexecadvantage.com), a professional- and business-development group for Jacksonville-area CEOs that provides a forum for growth through coordinated discussion and exposure to expert speakers.
The four P’s of marketing—price, placement, product, and promotion—are still important, said Ketchum, but how you market, place, and promote your products and services has changed with the phenomenal growth of the Internet. Previously, marketing was done through mass communications. Now, to succeed as a marketer, you need to mass customize, he said.
Mass communication—traditional advertising—focused on sending messages to a mass of people for the primary purpose of creating awareness, the first part of the traditional marketing funnel— awareness, consideration, preference, action, usage. The way those messages were sent evolved as technology evolved—from sending messages in newsletters, putting up signs, using town criers, sponsoring radio programs, and doing what is recognized today as advertising in print, radio, and television. But the focus was always the same: create awareness.
In the early days of advertising, awareness was created through repetition, Ketchum told his audience. “The idea was ‘If I blasted the word enough, you’d do what I told you.’ In the 1950s, they used repetition and demonstration, and pneumonic devices. The theory back then was that if you ran the spot long enough and spent enough, the message wasn’t too important. [Advertising] didn’t have a lot of subtlety or creativity.”
Advertising went through a creative revolution in the 1960s, he said. “[Advertisers] realized that as the airwaves got fuller, they had to stand out and be more provocative … You began to see irony, emotion, humor, wit. Advertising got a lot sharper.”
By the 1980s, advertising became entertainment-driven; commercials became almost movie-like, and by the 2000s, “some spots didn’t say the first thing about the product,” he said. “Those types of spots are going to be less pervasive in the future. Few have the resources [today] to pull that off, nor are there enough people watching TV to make sense for a marketer. That’s where mass communication peaked, from a marketing standpoint.”
Enter the digital age
The advent of the digital age changed advertising, said Ketchum. “Brands went from being part of the culture to being the culture. Think about the pace and lifestyle of the Internet age: People live at Starbucks, carry around iPods and laptops, use online properties like Google and Amazon … we live the brands, not just purchase them. … Technology changed us. Tivo allows us to skip commercials; RSS feeds allow us to strip Web sites to the bare core; we can block e-mail; and YouTube gives people a way to look at things differently.”
Technology challenged the old marketing paradigm, he said. “Any marketing professor would tell you the old marketing funnel starts with awareness. In the old funnel, message is king. Everything is about message and awareness. Those are museum pieces now,” said Ketchum.
In the new marketing model, it is still important to create awareness, said Ketchum. But in contrast to the old model in which the message was king, now content is king. That is because once consumers become aware of a product, they want and crave content to make their buying decision. If they don’t find it on your Web site, they will get it somewhere—from consumer reviews, recommendations, blogs. “Anyone who encounters the brand has the opportunity to talk about it,” said Ketchum. “Think about what the Internet does when one consumer has an unfavorable blog review about your product. On the flip side, the new, engaged-consumer also has the potential to become the positive evangelist for your product or service.”
Next step: engagement
Not only do consumers want content, they want customized content. The demand from consumers is to “make it my way.” “That leads up to where we are today, the age of engagement,” said Ketchum. “The mandate for all of us as business centers and marketers is to engage customers, not just seek their awareness, but to engage them. …The way you are going to convert customers is through engagement … not just talking to but conversing with customers.”
The new age of engagement calls for content-rich tactics, he explained, stressing engagement and mass customization must happen online through:
Detailed product descriptions,
Special media networks,
Collaborative communities, and
“It’s all about adding as much content as you can to the decision-making process, because that’s how consumers want to work today,” emphasized Ketchum.
How to do it
Ketchum left his audience with three take-away tips concerning mass customization:
1. Re-examine your Web presence. Look for its potential to engage. Sites have to be a resource to facilitate a conversation or a demonstration, he said. “If you can’t do this right away, that’s OK, but your site needs to be moving to maximize engagement in a certain context.”
2. Consider viral promotion. Viral marketing taps into the power of social networking, a recent novelty of the Internet. The five top social networking sites today, said Ketchum, are MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Each of these offers a unique opportunity. For example:
MySpace. Create a community around a brand;
Facebook. Develop a profile page and network for a brand, product launches, events, and press releases;
Twitter. Send out immediate short news releases and event updates;
LinkedIn. Gain insights on customers and collaborate on projects;
YouTube. Post videos to give sneak previews of new products.
Other forms of viral marketing including e-mail campaigns and text messaging.
The key to effective use of these social media and viral marketing is to use it with purpose, emphasized Ketchum. “Be strategic about your use of YouTube media. Have a point. Don’t just throw a video out there. Remember: strategy first, tactics follow. … We are seeing a lot of unprofessional marketers just throwing stuff out there so they are not getting as much as they could if there were to tie it to a larger promotion or idea.”
3. Create offline touch points. If you are service-minded or a retail company, you have the opportunity to create engagement through contests, programs, loyalty program offers. “Look for ways to engage people beyond the initial purchasing intent,” urged Ketchum.
Ketchum left his audience with three final thoughts:
Make sure your brand does what it promises. Don’t pursue an engagement-driven marketing unless you have 100% confidence in your brand. Weak products will be exposed.
Always have an online call to action. Use traditional media, especially to help create awareness and drive people to your Web site. But always, offer an opportunity for engagement that lives beyond the message and the offer.
Give consumers more than messages. They want more than awareness. Give them rich, customized content, said Ketchum. “Create opportunities to engage the customer on their terms. There are going to find this information with or without you, so you’ve got to do your work to give them the information.”