A Changing Marketing Concept in a Changing World
Have you heard of the original marketing concept? Chances are if you haven’t, you’re almost certainly practicing elements of it anyway.
The marketing concept framed a philosophy that a company’s marketing should be built on analysing the needs of customers, and then designing a strategy to meet those needs better than the competition. It’s defined by a marketing target strategy that works to understand your audience, then works to present your marketing in a way that best appeals to that group.
What emerged as a marketing strategy in the US in the 1950s is today, by and large, the default understanding of how we engage with our customer base. Understanding their needs, and then explaining why we can best meet them, isn’t exactly a revolution in the modern era. But it’s still the vital foundation of an effective marketing strategy.
It should be a given for a modern brand to understand just why marketing is important. But there’s no denying that the realities of the marketing concept itself have evolved. In a changing world, there are some big changes to just how we understand and communicate with our customers. So what elements of the marketing concept are markedly different today, than they might have been in years gone by?
It’s all a bit digital
The 1950s had a lot going for it (an independent Malaysia anyone?) but it did not have the internet. That means understanding customer needs was less complex, but far less comprehensive.
The emergence in the ‘90s of the weird and wonderful World Wide Web quite literally opened up the world. We had new and exciting ways to understand our customers – internet activity, customer forums, emails. What an adventure it was!
Then with the turn of the millennium came social media. It was a maddening jungle of likes and lols that had marketers positively overflowing with customer insight. Not only could you see what people were saying about you, you could see what they were saying about the competition.
Internet users in Malaysia jumped from 2.5 million in 2006 to a whopping 24.5 million in 2017. Global internet users jumped from just 3% of the world population in 1998 to 45% of the population in 2016. So that’s one big opportunity, right?
It’s not all so easy though, humanity is busy producing frankly insane amounts of data. There are 456,000 tweets sent, 154,000 Skype calls made, 46,740 Instagram posts posted, and 3.6 million searches on Google every single minute. In a single day, humanity produces an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. That’s 2.5×1018 bytes of data. You need a maths degree to even understand that number. You also need to work hard as a marketer to stand out in that environment.
It’s all a little less local
The result of all this digital opportunity is that frankly, marketing globalization has taken over our world. More companies than ever before are interacting across borders, meaning consumer considerations go far beyond the guy down the street, to that bloke on the other continent. That means understanding the nuances of a marketplace involves more cultural and demographic consideration than ever before.
While the digital opportunity means you can now connect across borders, even as a small or micro business, it also highlights opens up the perils of cross-cultural failure the likes of which the internet loves to highlight.
It gone done got social
The horror of the brutalised grammar in that headline aside, there’s no denying that the world is a whole lot more social. Less cordial perhaps, but way more social. There are today almost 3.2 billion active social media users around the world. That’s a lot of duck-faced Instagram photos, but it’s also a huge opportunity to connect with a growing global audience.
It’s not all selfies or arguing about politics though. The PWC Global Consumer Trust Report showed that social networks are the most trusted source for inspiration in consumer decisions. That means such platforms provide a powerful opportunity to attract a new audience to your brand.
The consumers are mobile
This isn’t the late ‘90s anymore – when a screeching dial tone echoed its way towards online connectivity from the comfort of your front room. People are connected on the move. There are an estimated 5.1 billion global mobile users, and almost 3 billion mobile social users, meaning an audience that is constantly connected and ready to interact with your brand.
In fact they’re not just ready, they expect it. Brands today have to be more responsive than ever before, ready to provide instant customer service at the swipe of a sweaty thumb. 84% of consumers expect companies to respond within 24-hours of posting on social media. More widely, a study connected by SAAS pioneers Salesforce revealed that 64% of customers and 80% of business buyers expect companies to respond to them in real-time. That’s a fair bit of change from the days of sorting through the morning post.
The audience is watching
All this connectivity and interaction comes with another important realisation for businesses – the audience is watching. Those dirty secrets in your company cellar won’t stay locked away either. Just look at the frankly mind-blowing story about Volkswagen testing vehicle exhaust fumes on monkeys.
Ethical marketing should be a given for any brand seeking to excel in today’s global marketplace. The court of public opinion does not favour those brands who fail to act with what is deemed appropriate social responsibility. Increasingly that means ethical use of data, with scandals like those that have hit Facebook showing the importance of consumer perception of privacy. 97% of global consumers believe that brands are responsible for ethical use of technology.
Green marketing is also an important part of this equation. Ethics has gone beyond agreeing not to test your new deodorant by spraying it in a puppy’s eye, it’s equally about the environmental impact of what you do. 66% of global consumers say they’re willing to pay more for sustainable brands. That’s an important indicator of the power of brand reputation and sustainability.
What next for marketing?
So with the breathtaking evolution of marketing, and what it means for the marketing concept, what might the future hold? Digital, data and privacy will clearly be an increasingly important consideration, as the depth of data which brands can access begins to clash with the willingness of an audience to be so deeply monitored and tracked.
The increasingly role of sustainability and ethical branding will also play an important role in brand marketing success in the future. If we’re starting to learn a whole lot more about our audience, you can be damn certain they’re learning a whole lot more about us too.
The evolution of the marketing concept from the 1950s to today would be almost inconceivable for someone at that time. It’s likely too that how our marketing looks in 50 years will be completely changed from how we view it now. Writing a blog with actual words? Probably madness. We’ll all be buzzing on immersive holographic experiences the likes of which we can barely imagine. Whatever future it is that emerges, we at Content Nation are looking forward to the journey.