Is Marketing Dead?

Ben Matthews

By Ben Matthews

In Blog, Empower Life, Moments

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Is marketing dead? was the tad hyperbolic title for an event that I was part of at London’s General Assembly. Hosted by Kin & Co, the event might not have killed off marketing, but it did look at how marketing has changed in recent years. As the event blurb said:

“What you say is important, but unless you’re walking the talk it ain’t gonna land with customers. Or your employees, who will smell contradiction a mile off. Your story must be embedded in your strategy, your culture and actions. Then, it’s simply about communicating that story transparently.”

The event was hosted by Kin & Co MD Rosie Warin, with the following on the panel:

The discussion was lively with plenty of interesting insights from both the panel and the questions from the audience. Here are the main points I took from the event:

  1. Blurring of traditional marketing lines
  2. The best marketing doesn’t look like marketing
  3. Purpose-driven organisations bake marketing in
  4. Move from marketing to loyalty
  5. Kill some marketing channels
  6. Measure what matters

Blurring of traditional marketing lines

While marketing might not be dead, there has certainly been a blurring of the traditional marketing lines.

When ad agencies are running social media campaigns (even if they struggle ), PR agencies are investing in content marketing , and media agencies are delving into experiential, how we define different types marketing is changing.

After all, we’re in the age of the “full digital-spectrum” agency, so if anyone can do anything, what is the difference between advertising, marketing and PR?

The best marketing doesn’t look like marketing

“The companies doing marketing best are making it look like it’s not marketing at all.” #mdwisdom from @benrmatthews@KinAndCoTweets

— Lora Schellenberg (@lschells7) March 29, 2017

There’s been a rise in marketing that doesn’t even look like marketing. Marketing isn’t dead as such, it’s just wearing an invisibility cloak.

Take Airbnb’s rebranding process, which was a huge success and, as Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall told FastCo , was “when [Airbnb] went from a property listings company, which is what we were – a very successful property listings company – to a culturally-driven brand.”

A change in logos and a new colour palette never generated so much interest.

Or look at Uber, who celebrated National Cat Day by delivering kittens , delivering roses on Valentine’s Day , and – on the rare hot summer’s day in London – ice creams.

This one-day, timely repurposing of the Uber cars exposed the company to a much wider audience.

Purpose-driven organisations bake marketing in

“Companies today are going beyond purpose – they need to be #sustainable if they’re going to survive,” says @benrmatthews.#gmwisdom ?

— Harriet… (@TheScribbleBug) March 29, 2017

Partnering with a cause has always been a good marketing tactic. Many businesses are looking to go further than traditional marketing activities by focussing their business around a purpose.

In the new world of Purpose-driven brands, how the business impacts its stakeholders internally and externally is baked into the operating model.

Think of Tom’s Shoes, with their Buy One, Give One model for example, which helped Tom’s grow from $9 million to $21 million in revenue in just three years by being a “purpose-driven brand” that enables people to give back to others simply by making a purchase.

Success generates profits that allow the business to continue operating so long as its purpose remains relevant. Doing well is a by-product of doing ‘good’.

And the stats back the purpose-driven approach. Edelman’s “Good Purpose Study” , covering a five-year study of consumers worldwide, shows:

47 percent of global consumers buy brands that support a good cause at least monthly, a 47 percent increase in just two years.

  • 72 percent of consumers would recommend a brand that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t, a 39 percent increase since 2008
  • 71 percent of consumers would help a brand promote its products or services if there is a good cause behind them, representing a growth of 34 percent since 2008
  • 73 percent of consumers would switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supported a good cause, which is a 9 percent increase since 2009

Forbes magazine published figures that support this as well:

  • 87 percent of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interests.
  • 20 percent of brands worldwide are seen to meaningfully and positively impact people’s lives.
  • Only 6 percent of people believe the singular purpose of business is to make money for shareholders.

Move from marketing to loyalty

If there’s one thing that purpose-driven brands inspire it’s customer loyalty. But purpose-driven brands aren’t the only companies looking at loyalty as the next level in marketing.

Take Apple, who compared to similar brands spend considerably less on traditional marketing. That’s because they have an 87% loyalty rate for the iPhone, which means once you have an iPhone once, you’re very likely to continue to upgrade with every new iteration of the iPhone.

That kind of extreme loyalty inspires confidence in others, which in turn drives new sales – 74.5 million new phones last quarter – without Apple having to lift a finger. Indeed, aside from a few television spots and billboards here and there, Apple have killed marketing and are favouring loyalty.

Kill some marketing channels

Work out the right channels and really focus on them @benrmatthews#mdwisdom

— Luke Guinness (@LukeGuinness) March 29, 2017

But we can’t all be Apple. So what about the brands that still look to marketing as the way to drive interest in their organisation? With new marketing channels appearing all the time, it is extremely beneficial for a brand to focus on the marketing activity that is working for them.

If you spread yourself too thin, your marketing efforts won’t be as effective as if you focussed on the best-performing channels. We can’t all manage every new Instagram or Snapchat well, so it’s best to decide what works best for you.

Learn what works and focus, before you kill the effectiveness of your marketing (and kill your marketing executives from exhaustion.)

Measure what matters

And how do you know what works well? You need to measure what matters.

Many companies have killed traditional marketing metrics and instead created their own measurement frameworks that paint a more realistic picture of marketing performance. What’s the good in measuring impressions or AVEs if it doesn’t tell you how many people actually went on to purchase or take an action?

Marketing isn’t dead, but the brands that evolve how they both approach marketing and measure what works will be the ones that win out in the end.


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