Four years ago I was invited to discuss the future of Marketing in 60 seconds for an initiative called The Brand Leaders. As I thought about it, I wrote this article that I now share with you because it seems to apply more than ever. Please note this isn’t some attempt at futurology, these are just my thoughts.
When asked to think about the future of Marketing, the word that almost instantly came to my mind was technology and all its ramifications: social media, smartphones, tablets, Big data and convergence, just to name a few. It wasn’t long ago that we were targeting whole market segments, but today technology allows us to pinpoint our target audience to the extent where we almost plan our strategies to segments of one. It’s customization taken to the extreme (no news here!).
However, we are an extremely egotistic society going through an economic crisis that has caused a shift in personal values. People want to stand out from the pack but, at the same time, they feel the need to be part of something. Something bigger than themselves.
The crisis ends up working as a filter; it is literally the survival of the fittest. In this social landscape, brands have to become relevant to people’s lives, or they will eventually fail. At the same time, big companies need to become agile and decrease their response time to new market challenges. In other words, speed up the decision process (a logical consequence of the technological world).
Marketing professionals need to be more flexible.
How? Well, for starters, cut the bullshit. If I have to hear one more radio commercial about how a bank’s personalized services make their clients feel special, I think I’m gonna puke.
Trust your instincts. Get more in touch with your human side (I have been purposely writing people instead of customers). In the midst of all kinds of trends, technologies, techniques and new theories that pop up every month, the marketer may feel a bit lost. Keep it simple. Gut feeling. Back to basics.
People will focus less and less on having things and more on being something, on living. They will probably buy fewer products but look for more experiences and events that will allow them to make memories and forge emotional bonds.
I think tribal strategies will have a good outcome because tribes facilitate the expression of individuality while including people in a group that shares the same values, references and lifestyle.
For example (and I don’t want to make the mistake of generalizing my personal experience), I can’t separate my lifestyle and some of my buying behavior from the Hip Hop culture. Being a part of this culture means flying to Paris just for a Wu Tang Clan concert. And doing it alone without hesitation because as the Dilated Peoples (another rap group) say, “I got worldwide family all over the earth”. I knew I would be in the middle of hundreds of people whom I had never met before but share the same purpose. Therefore, a brand that understands that the Hip Hop culture is a reference matrix for myself and thousands like me, and conquers that territory, it stays rooted in the tribe’s identity.
Finally, it should be a part of every brand strategy to reward its most loyal customers and make them brand advocates: active promotion (and selling!) agents. But, please: enough with the crappy loyalty programs based on rewards with no real value.
If marketing professionals were able to identify their best followers, the ones to whom the brand is a lovemark, through them, it would be possible to increase not only market share but also the loyalty index.
After all, people in love like to shout it out to the world, and the best advertising is still word-of-mouth.
Rute Silva Brito
PS. I wrote this article when I was working in Europe. Since then, I have moved to the Middle East where the reality is very different, particularly here in Dubai. Many people have a lot of money to spend, don’t make rational buying decisions and sometimes buy stuff just for show. But the underlying principles still apply if a brand plans to aim for long-term success.