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Is 2013 Marketing Going Backwards?

Is 2013 Marketing Going Backwards?

July 29, 2013

Dear Brand Launcher,

Our company tries hard to stay ahead of the game in marketing. But it feels like the world is changing so fast that we are falling behind. We just can’t keep up with all the latest marketing technology and fads. It's keeping me up at night wondering how can we stay on top of marketing trends so we can include them in our strategic planning?

                                                                       -Sam M., Seattle

Dear Sleepless in Seattle Sam,

Today we are surrounded by so much that seems new and advanced. New technology - our smartphones seem much more high-tech than a 747. New ways of eating - is organic still in or is that passé? New forms of exercise  - I hear Bikram yoga and pilates are so outdated!

With magazines, the Internet, billboards and TV always quick to show us the latest trends, it’s no wonder that business owners are making themselves crazy to try and figure out the next marketing fad they should consider.

But before you tie yourself in knots to out-creative your competition, know this: at the heart of everything, at its strategic base, marketing has not changed.

In fact, often what seems new and current is really the same traditional principles being re-applied.

For society, the re-focus on tradition has been evident over the past two weeks with the Royal Birth. The media could not get enough of comparing the similarities between how Kate and Diana handled birth and post-birth publicity. 

And just this week, Adweek had a great article about the rebirth of rooftop gardens as a marketing gimmick. Apparently, in big cities like New York and Chicago, this is all the rage right now - bringing back the outdoor hi-rise lounges from the early 1900s. Designed as a marketing tool to draw traffic to hotel lounges for food and drinks, these rooftop social lounges have become so popular that  one of the trendiest—the McKittrick Hotel’s Gallow Green—sits atop a fictional hotel.” The marketing is so good that patrons riding the elevator straight to the roof do not realize or care that the building is just a warehouse and not a hotel!

Just as “history repeats itself,” marketing strategy does as well.

So when you are preparing your written marketing plan, do what has worked until now in every country, in every industry, and in every successful marketing strategy. That is to focus on the 3Ms:

  • Market (your targeted audience)
  • Message (your “zig” when everyone else is “zagging”)
  • Medium (the avenues you will use to deliver the message)

True, the media has changed today, with e-books, social networks, mobile advertising, and even vehicle wraps, where cars turn into moving billboards. But the traditional process is key to your marketing success. You can’t decide how to reach your target customers until you really know who your customers are and what you need to be saying to them. And if you do this right, you’ll find that the medium you need to reach your audience for your business is within your grasp.

A valuable tool that I like to use is the One Page Marketing Plan, which summarizes your strategic planning process into a single 8.5x11 page (contact us to sign up for one of our free webinars that teaches you how to use this).  While trends may change from quarter to quarter or from year to year, the core focus for your business -- the strategic thinking and the strategic process -- should not.

The auto industry and its marketing is a great example and very relevant when we explore changing audiences while still maintaining the traditional strategic process.

In the early days of SUV advertising, the commercials were all about driving through the Amazon or across rocky land, with a subliminal (or not so subliminal) message playing straight to the emotions of their male target audience: “You can do anything when you are behind the wheel of our SUV.”

Once the auto industry realized that, increasingly, the drivers (and buyers) of SUVs were women, the advertising strategy changed. Marketing to “soccer moms” had to be different than marketing to a macho, male audience. So new commercials began depicting invincible soccer moms driving carpool in their SUVs, with kids spilling out holding ballet shoes and sports equipment.

Today’s SUV audience wants to hear about energy efficiency as well as auto personalization (temperature control for each individual, separate DVD screens for each kid, etc.). And as research shows that people are driving their cars for longer, it means they are spending more on maintenance, repair and accessories.

The auto industry reviewed its numbers, determined its weak areas, and readjusted some of the components of its strategic marketing towards the audience it is trying to reach -- especially when it came to the accessories market.

The results? With a study showing that that 92% of consumers are willing to buy auto accessories, it has now turned into a $32 billion dollar market for the auto industry.

OK, so I showed you three distinct stages in SUV marketing. Whoa, major swings by the auto industry in marketing technique, right?

Wrong. As I said earlier, their strategic process hadn't changed and here’s why: The auto industry first focused on who was buying the vehicles and then on what their interests were. It stuck with the strategic process of yesterday as it looked towards the future.

You don’t need Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof singing his famous “Tradition” song to know that your business has to focus its marketing strategy in the same way.

So while you may not be able to get used to the changing fads in fashion (what are the kids wearing?!?!) and music (you call that music?!?!), stick with the proven formula for the strategic planning process -- and your business will stay strong regardless of marketing trends.

Taking you from where you are to where you want to go,

Jon