The world’s changed, but has your marketing?

Posted 10 April 2015.

​By Justin Mowday, CEO DDB New Zealand and CAANZ Executive Board member

We spend more time on our phones than watching TV, happily bank and buy online, and haven’t owned a printed map book in years. We keep up with the news via Twitter, talk to friends via Snapchat and teach our parents how to use Facebook. We want instant gratification and response.

People today care more about businesses doing good, caring for the environment and each other. People crave authenticity and expect truth and transparency, and now have the control instead of the companies.
These types of comments, often seen in the media, are backed up by many credible stats and facts yet marketing communications today remain largely unchanged.

Most companies still rely on a marketing communication model which has been in existence since Egyptian times; a one way message at someone. The one way message has been improved, complicated, simplified and even revolutionised by the famous Madison Avenue creative Bill Bernbach in the 1950’s, but it’s fundamentally the same.

Why? Because it still works. A great piece of communication can powerfully engage mass audiences, creating an image and feeling for a brand so powerful that people become pre-disposed towards it, and even prepared to take action because of it. What’s more we know how to do it. Marketers and their agencies have a way of working and a precedent for the costs, risks and the potential results. However, the truth is the one way message is not working as well as it used to.

Firstly the mass media needed to carry the message is experiencing a drop in audience. Look at your own behaviour and that of your kids and you’ll see a stark change in media consumption right under your nose (meanwhile research shows we’re now checking our phones 150 times per day! ).

Secondly we’ve developed innate filtering mechanisms to help us ignore one way messaging. Years of being bombarded every day have trained us to allow only the most stunning, useful and highly relevant messages in. ID Magasin, now part of TNS Research, found that on average we are exposed to 3,500 marketing messages per day, 99% of which has little or no impact.

Thirdly marketing communication has discredited itself over previous decades by focussing too much on the sizzle and not enough on the sausage. Over-claims, salacious headlines and advertising that’s better than the actual product have created cynicism rather than the openness with which people responded 50 years ago.

Fourthly people have been empowered to control what they see and hear. Mass media, niche media, digital or social media, on or off at the touch of a button.

Lastly people want something more than just a message directed at them. If we truly have something original and relevant, people don’t just want to hear about it, they want to be part of it. They want to play with it, participate, pass it on, maybe even add to it. This is the area that offers the most potential for a new way of communicating.

Imagine the impact you can have on someone that participates with your brand versus someone that just sees your message. A simple click, a share, or signing a form, perhaps taking a photo with their camera or sending in a video. Whatever it is the fact that an individual has been compelled enough to take action, over and above ‘receiving’ a message, has to be more likely to drive the behaviour we desire.

The good news is that a small number of brands are doing far more than just dabbling with a Facebook page or Twitter account; they are more fundamentally changing their approach to marketing communication. Steinlager’s Deep Dive, Tui’s Catch a Million, SKY TV’s Game of Thrones work is all to be applauded. The more surprising news is that many other brands haven’t changed, continuing to over-rely on the one way message.

Perhaps that’s because the new way is not easy? Traditional media and social interaction colliding; multiple platforms coordinated to provide two-way messaging at exactly the right times; PR; on-the-street activation; live responses and always-on monitoring. But as marketers in a world that has rapidly changed, it’s our responsibility to get in the game.

This is not about ditching traditional media, it’s about embracing a new way to engage with people alongside it. A proper, committed and planned communications approach that leverages new technology, new consumer behaviour, and a new willingness from people to be involved with brands they respect and love.

Every marketer should be changing their approach, at a minimum experimenting in a concerted manner (not a toe-dip!). We are all striving to achieve better results, often from the same or less budget, and there is a new, proven way to do it.