Digital (i.e. web+search+social+mobile) has changed everything in the world of marketing. Digital is doing to marketing what quantum mechanics did to newtonian mechanics. Let me share five indicators of a tectonic shift taking place right under our feet:
1. Communications models are now based on themes, not on THE BIG IDEA. The evidence of this is all around us. Think of your favorite brand and see how it is speaking differently to various audiences in different channels. Interestingly, a richer multi-dimensional argument has replaced cartesian coordinates stemming from a single point. Google, with its smart semantic and natural language processing capabilities, is able to understand themes and is creating winners by serving up theme leaders via Google search.
2. Iterative experimentation is replacing getting it right the first time. Analytics/testing are being used to narrow winning messages and weed out losers. Marketers are increasingly relying on A/B testing to guide message refinement. Intuit-Write-Measure-Adapt loops are replacing the traditionally linear research-write-measure sequences. The testing and analytic tools have matured to a point where this truly is possible.
3. Customized communications for channels and communities are replacing one-size-fits-all communications. Marketers are talking to 140-character twitter consumers with rapid clock speed very differently than to relatively slower social Facebook users; and YouTube audience differently than 6-second vine audience. It might not even be possible to state your point within the 140-character limit; so you have to say it in a hundred different ways, 140 characters at a time.
4. Getting-brand-ambassadors-to-talk is more important than let’s-tell-them-about-us. According to Nielsen, 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations, while 70 percent trusted consumer opinions posted online; marketers are trusted the least. Google, too, trusts brands less; it now ranks a website based more on social factors and less on brand messages. The new game is less about controlling the forces you can, and more about harnessing the forces you don’t control.
5. “The death of tagline: Flexible branding is the new name of the game.” AdWeek’s prophetic headline reads in September 2013 issue. The article goes on to say “Moreover, companies are moving to flexible branding, in which they present different identities to express their range (Yahoo’s 30 days of brand logos, for example) or a targeted brand strategy, in which they target specific brand messages to different audiences (e.g., Best Buy appeals to small businesses with Geek Squad, while it appeals to younger consumers with mobile offerings). A single brand tagline has less value in these more fluid and variable applications.”
In a nutshell, speed, rapid evolution, metrics, multi-dimensional messages, communities and orchestration are the new marketing mantras. The brand doesn’t exist in a place; as in quantum mechanics, the brand exists in many places all at the same time – no one place being more important than the other. When you look for a brand in a place, you may not find it there and see it elsewhere. It’s a sea change from the world of marketing just five years ago and a monumental shift from the world of marketing a decade ago.