People don’t realize the fact that we use marketing almost everyday. When we try and convince a child to eat his/her vegetables or negotiate the price of an item, we are trying to get the other person to do something differently. This persuasion is the core of marketing. However, marketing has a bad rap nowadays as people believe it to be false and something they cannot trust. Many people believe that marketing needs to be avoided as it can induce people to do something that they don’t necessarily want to do.
In this video, Rohit Bhargava – legendary advertising and PR executive and founder of Influential Marketing Group, talks about why marketers need to keep up with changing consumer behavior. According to him, the people and companies that have been able to reinvent their marketing campaigns are the ones that were able to survive and even thrive in the long run. He uses a few examples to demonstrate how innovative marketing helped these people or companies become immensely popular.
Inventor of the mail order system
The first example that Rohit uses is that of Aaron Montgomery Ward. Ward was a travelling salesman in the 19th century where monopolies controlled the supply and demand system in the farming industry. When farmers needed supplies, they had to approach these monopolies and buy products at higher prices. Ward wanted to eliminate the middleman and sell products to farmers directly. The problem he faced was that the farmers had no clue that Ward could sell them farming products directly at lower prices. To get the word out, he essentially invented the mail order system.
He used the postal service to send farmers a catalogue of products and information about his company and farmers could use the postal system to buy items from him. The mail order system was so popular and effective that the original company – Montgomery Ward and Company survived till the year 2000 – for more than 100 years – with the mail order system. Ward was able to reinvent the marketing process that guaranteed him long term success.
The Marketing Mirage is not effective anymore
All marketing professionals and students are aware of the marketing mirage that postulates that any successful marketing campaign has features, promotions and demographics. Basically, marketers needed to find the unique features of the product and promote them in their campaigns. Then they need to offer additional incentives like discounts or free products to get consumers interested to buy the original product. Marketers also have to find the target audience or demographics that need this product.
As Rohit rightly points out, this mirage creates very complex marketing teams and hierarchies in companies where there is usually no communication between the teams. This results in inconsistent campaigns, which is a major mistake nowadays. The mirage system and complex marketing teams worked great in the 60s when people were mass media consumers and marketers could go back and change their campaigns if they didn’t work.
However, modern-day consumers are more discerning and have full control. Consumers can create and publish their own marketing campaigns that everybody can see on the internet. Anyone can go on the Internet and write about your company and it doesn’t even have to be good content. Rohit says that marketers need to pay attention to this trend as it has created a system of virtual trust among consumers.
What is virtual trust?
As mentioned earlier, people have very little trust in grand marketing campaigns. Consumers are willing to trust complete strangers on the Internet and make important decisions based on their endorsements. It means that if numerous people have commented on a product in an online forum and personally vouched for the product, other consumers will believe these comments and make decisions based on these comments. The manufacturer of the product may have created excellent advertising campaigns for the product but consumers would rather believe user comments even when they have no way of verifying them.
Wikipedia is a great example of virtual trust. This online encyclopedia is a crowd-sourced resource of information where ordinary users write articles. Readers often trust Wikipedia articles more than they trust peer-reviewed journals. This goes to show that marketers need to rely more on user-generated content and encourage the development of user-generated content to grab consumers nowadays.
Traditional marketing stifles innovation
In the glory days of advertising, there was a set of rules that marketers and advertisers could follow to create successful campaigns. This set of rules does not work anymore. Marketers need to constantly innovate and come up with new ways to reach audiences. Unfortunately, according to Rohit many companies are still using the old marketing system that is stifling innovation. Company execs still want proof that a technique will work and are hesitant to give the green signal to new ideas.
Rohit uses the example of James Dyson to show that innovation is a must in marketing. James Dyson is a famous British inventor and billionaire who created the bag-less vacuum cleaner. This idea was rejected by all the major vacuum cleaner manufacturers, so he went on to create his own company. His products are highly designed and stylized that attracts consumers immediately. People may not care about why his products are better, but they do care about the design of his pieces. His products are conversation-starters and users can create stories around his product and share with their friends.
Marketing should be about storytelling
With many other examples, Rohit points out that innovative marketing techniques should be about storytelling. Consumers should be given social currency so that they can share stories about the products with others. This promotes user-generated content, which in turn attracts more new consumers. Only when consumers have an emotional connection will they want to create stories. Marketers should create emotionally immersive campaigns. Instead of just restating the facts and repeating what the features are, marketers should create campaigns that foster storytelling.