This post is intended to provoke a view of where marketing will be 10 years from now. I argue that the focus will shift to an emphasis on product (marketing knowledge applied to creating sexy products) as compared to the current emphasis on communication vehicles (marketing knowledge applied to media, advertising, etc) – hence marketing as we know it, is dead.
Why? As you read this, the consumer is under a barrage from a set of forces that are going to change the way they behave, forever… those forces are
- As consumers- we are deluged in information- tv, newspapers (free, paid), internet, email, texts, social networks, blogs, books, etc. This overdose has serious strategic implications for accessing consumers. They are actually switching off- think about the last time you looked at advertising and did not look "through" it? Extrapolating this trend, cost of access to consumers using unsolicited "media" will steadily escalate, reaching "unsustainable" levels in the very near future- so goodbye TV, newspaper, hoardings/ billboards etc as advertising channels…
- Already, reluctant consumers are very unwilling to recommend to their friends, for fear of "spamming" them, unless they are specifically asked, or know for sure that their friends are looking out – what happens to our reliance on peer recommendations, "Word of mouth" ?
- Most products/ services in mainstream categories perform their job reasonably well- resulting in declining interest to switch products/ services- how are you going to get them to try your new product/service out? Think about the last time you changed your bank? And the last time you changed your internet service provider? ( for the record I have been with the same bank and the same ISP for the last 6 years- and the switch only happened because we moved cities)
- Viral marketing will live, but the virus vectors (the mavens that will propagate the product/the trend) will be from your own network, not a "hero figure" on television- your cues for what you will do will come from others in your network, not from watching someone do something on TV. My use of "Dopplr" & "bookshelf"- both are facebook apps- are clearly driven by my savvy friends who are using these apps.
- Mainstream and "good" will translate to boring, and hence will have severely limited chances of being tried. How many new "GOOD" email apps have you tried in the last 3 months?
A marketing world that is dominated by Advertising, PR, Direct marketing, Word of mouth, etc is clearly going to be irrelevant in the world where the consumer shuts off, will not recommend to friends, will show lesser and lesser switching behavior and is not interested in just good.
So what does marketing do? Pack bags up and take an early retirement? Tempting though the idea is, I would say not yet- played right, Marketing could perhaps end up being the key role in the center of the organization (yes, I do mean the CEO )…
The answer is, perhaps, surprisingly simple- In my view, the solution perhaps lies in a shifting emphasis- the trick lies in ensuring that your product talks to the consumer, rather than getting someone else to talk about the product. Think more about how you embed "viral", "edgy" and "cool" into the product itself, rather than think about viral in the advertising/ PR/ direct marketing of the product. Technically, the key shift is to dramatically increase focus on g marketing into product development, rather than emphasis on marketing in propagating information about the product. I have two examples to illustrate:
- Think Gandhi and Ahimsa (non violence) and the particular notion of Satyagraha -the product was beautiful- non-violence as a way to protest- it stood out, spread virally, made people sit up and listen, and attracted attention of the whole world as a result, and of course, brought India its independence.
- In India, in the rather crowded field of "baby delivery" specialists, which is currently dominated by Gynecologists with "reputation", and large hospitals with a "medical expertise" cache, one unique facility stands out. This is Cradle, a 5star baby delivery specialist center. Through their unique product and facility design (which I must say is a marketing delight), they have succeeded in being cool and viral, and have been very successful as a result.
- Internationally, there are a few examples, but perhaps the best one is Apple- think about their products, their "sexy" design, the fanaticism with which their user base embraces apple and rejects everything else- you will see how the emphasis on marketing in product design clearly takes out the need to focus on marketing the product to the consumer.