Keeping up with the rapid changes in technology and consumer behavior can be a daunting task for a business owner who has to manage employees, top line revenue, bottom line profit, daily cash-flow, and family life as well. I think it’s important to shed some light on how marketing has changed and what the average business can do about it.
Marketing is the most misunderstood profession in the world. Marketing used to be very simple. It was a department of the organization, either internal or outsourced, that was in charge of coming up with creative ideas for capturing the attention of consumers. A business would produce a product, and good or bad, the marketing department would be tasked with selling that product to the outside world. Usually this was done through interrupting the consumer from what they wanted to do. Television ads interrupted the person who was watching the program. Magazine ads interrupted the person reading the article, etc.
This does not work nearly as well anymore. The primary reason is because attention does not come neatly packaged in little boxes anymore. What do I mean? In the 1930’s the entire family used to sit around the radio after dinner every night and listen to the nightly broadcast. EVERYONE’S attention was on the radio. Then the TV came along and everyone’s attention was on the TV. There were several major newspapers and a couple major magazines.
Close to 100% of our information came from these outlets. Our attention was given to neatly organized channels. Due to the fact that everything had to go through these channels it meant we had gatekeepers at the networks who decided what would and would not be told to us. There were two ways to get known. One was to have connections to important people who could spread the news about your business, hence the reason PR used to be so important. The other one was to have a lot of money to advertise your product through one of these media outlets.
With the invention of the internet, this has been broken. The internet, and especially the current iteration of the internet which is social media, has lowered the cost of entry into any market to almost zero. Previously, it cost a ton of money or you had to have important connections to the media in order to get your ideas and your message into society.
Now though, anyone can tell any message they want to just by opening a facebook account, a youtube account, a twitter account, and an Instagram account, all for free. Every single consumer or potential customer can find exactly what they want to find on the internet rather that what corporations are feeding them through the controlled media channels. If someone is interested in ant farms, or collecting vintage vinyl records, the internet has made it extremely easy to find that type of information and the types of businesses that cater to those interests.
Previously, marketing meant taking a product that was meant for the masses and creating an ad campaign that would appeal to the masses. What we are now finding out though is that there is no such thing as the masses. The masses only existed because mass media existed. In other words, the masses only existed because there was no other choice. We were forced to pick average goods made for average people because we didn’t have any other options.
The internet gives us options. It turns out that there is an equal number of people spread across society with equally varying interests. There is no bell curve. It is actually a flat line. In any area of life this is true.
Back to the question, what is marketing now? Marketing now is more about connecting than interrupting. It's more about recognizing that your products and services are not for everyone in the way that products used to be. One must recognize that there are is an almost unlimited amount of variation in the way that people see the world.
From here on out, it's going to be a lot harder to build a product that everyone wants and likes. Even the Iphone, as broadly accepted as it is, is hated by many. There is just too much choice, too much opinion, and too much information to convince everyone. Instead, companies must focus on connecting with, and aligning with the people and groups that really do care and that will be as passionate about their products as they themselves are.
Modern marketing has a lot to do with understanding this and telling unique stories to those varied groups. It is the art and science of finding one of those groups and understanding their STORY. Then the marketer must weave their product or service into the story of that group. Too ambiguous? Marketing is the art of telling meaningful stories to the people that CARE, in the places they are paying ATTENTION to. This skill of course takes a tremendous understanding of markets. Markets are made of people and therefore, understanding those people and how they think is paramount to marketing success.