The changing face of Marketing – Part 2

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These days all marketing conferences are buzzing with discussions about digital marketing with advise on how to handle the ‘digital natives’ and the importance of having a ‘dialog and not a monologue’ with the consumer. The urgency in the pitches of most presenters will unsettle any skeptic of the new media. Even though online medium is no more than 7% of the entire advertising and marketing landscape in India today, discussion about it may consume more than 50% of the time of the agencies, as per a media buyer.

The most interesting guys to hear at these conferences are actually the tech geeks who are selling their sophisticated online tools to help you reach your target audience. They may not have the suaveness or the sartorial elegance of the brand managers, and most of them look suspiciously young, but they really are at the cutting edge of marketing and you would do well to listen to them.

As I see it, to be relevant online, a brand  has to  either entertain the audience or be useful for them. This changes the role of brands from being just products and services, to becoming producers of content and utilities. By creating relevant content, the brands can now reach specific consumers that they could never dream of reaching before based on their psychographic profile – but you need to be willing to step out of your brands comfort zones. So even if think your brand may have nothing to do with careers for youth, but if the consumers of the brands are interested in careers, then the brands could adopt career advise as a platform. I agree that not all brands have the authority to talk about careers in a meaningful way, but if they put their resources behind it they can easily generate valuable content, and the idea is worth considering.

Use of the right technology is crucial too. Now there are tools to quickly test ideas for a new copy, design, slogan, etc on a massive scale online without any risk to the brand. Digital platforms allow you to rapidly roll various initiatives  online  and then track and then figure out what is working for you, and then do more of it- you could never use this approach in traditional marketing. You can track the sentiment of your brand buzz in realtime online. The intelligence in your website can be used to personalise the experience for the consumer. Even my blog knows who you are and has even served you an advertisement on the right hand side and at the bottom with a message which is targeted at you based on your browsing history and an approximate profile of you basis that history.

As a marketing manager you cant indulge in your favorite fantasy anymore about what the consumer wants. Consumers will let you know what they think of your product and the real world experience of it, which could rapidly become an online marketing disaster (e.g. the unfolding #McStories Backlash). You better have a road map for SEO and SEM and SMM – and if you don’t know what each of those things stand for, you are behind the marketing curve. The marketing professionals at the cutting edge are those who have a viewpoint on Edge rank and know something about the Panda updates.

There is a popular cliché of about not knowing which part of your advertising budget is working, but now you will know. Age of bad ideas is probably getting over and it is time for marketers to re-invent themselves and to get a lot more comfortable with technology.

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