The age of clichés

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Jean-Luc Ambrosi is an award winning marketer and recognised expert in branding and customer relationship management. He is the author of the new book, Branding to Differ, a strategic and practical guide on how to build and manage a successful brand.

We have reached a point in time where marketers need to beware of the latest fads, buzzwords and easy clichés. Many are at risk of losing sight of what distinguishes them as true professionals: Their ability to market the right product at the right time, through the right channel, to the right audience, in the right manner.

I can easily understand that people outside the marketing world get bamboozled with the hype around social media, big data, content marketing, apps and so on, but that marketers fail to distinguish hype from substance is another story. Marketing has become more strategic and more reliant on precise techniques to its great benefit, but we need to view new developments for what they truly are. That is, instruments, tools or channels, driven by the evolution of technology that in varied degrees may or may not be relevant to the marketing mix.

In other words, mobile apps may be great, but it doesn’t mean you need to launch one today.

Every now and then, news reaches the marketing world of a ‘sweeping revolution’ and ‘dawn of a new age’ emanating out of the ashes of our collapsing marketing world. We have witnessed a quasi-annual frequency of these revolutions, and if we believed all of them, we’d think traditional marketing has come to an abrupt end almost every year of this century.

But let’s get serious. Outside Hollywood, there aren’t many marketers or communication departments reaching their last gasp as they face their unfortunate and ultimate fate: The final countdown in Dolby stereo.

Yes, much has changed in a short period of time. New technologies and tools have evolved and so have our modes of interaction, our consumption patterns and our communication needs. Most of this change is linked to advances in technology or more exactly, in how we use this technology, rather than a societal shift (which happens conjointly but at a different pace).

Just as the industrial age changed consumption patterns through a greater availability of products, digital technology, in particular, is changing communication patterns through a greater availability of channels and modes of interaction. Just as products became more available to the masses two centuries ago, modern communication tools have evolved in a similar way.

So what does it mean for marketers? Simply that new tools, such as social media, are just tools, as formidable or exciting as they may be. They may have their place in your marketing mix, but that depends on your offering, your customers and your market.

These tools can give you a formidable competitive edge when they are suited to your strategy, but they can also be a costly distraction when they are not. Apps or responsive design are just mechanisms to optimise the presentation of your website, brand, products and services. Big data is just a bit more data than small, medium or large data.

Marketers also need to keep in mind that most social media efforts do not return positive ROIs. The talk around big data is not really about big data but rather customer data, the same data extensively used since the 1960s.

Content marketing, the other big buzzword circulating around our industry, is great but it needs to be appropriate to your positioning and relevant to your target audience, like any other good marketing communication.

The foundation of marketing, and I mean bona fide marketing using appropriate methods, has not changed. The evolution is for marketers to harness this technology when and where it is relevant, not when it is fashionable. So as any good marketer will tell you don't judge a book by its cover, but use its cover to market it.

Tags: digital strategy, data-driven marketing, marketing technology

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