“Within five years, if you run your business in the same way as you do now, you’re going to be out of business”.
With that pronouncement as a lead-in to his latest book, Marketing 3.0, marketing guru Phillip Kotler stated his belief that too many marketers are still operating in an outdated paradigm that states:
• A company’s aim is to maximize profits.
• Company investors are more important than other stakeholders.
• Customers buy rationally to maximize value.
• Customers get most of their information from sellers and don’t talk to each other about products.
I don’t agree with Kotler that “maximizing profits” is an outdated paradigm, (after all, that’s why we are in business). I do believe, however, that his points reflect yesterday’s thinking and that’s why understanding where marketing is heading is so important to our survival as marketers.
Kotler defined Marketing 3.0 as a re-invention of marketing from customer-driven marketing to values-driving marketing, based on the revised definition of marketing by the American Marketing Association:
Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
In the new marketing paradigm, all stakeholders must be considered invaluable – investors, consumers, employees and channel partners. And the growth of social media has proven the value of peer communications in the success (and failure) of brands in all B2B and B2C categories.
Kotler identified three primary factors for marketers to consider in preparing for the changes that this new era of marketing would bring:
• The continued growth of participation and collaboration among consumers.
• The impact of technology and transportation on globalization.
• The growth of a “creative society” where consumers are not only looking for products and services that satisfy their needs, but are also searching for experiences and business models that touch their spiritual side.
Supplying meaning is the future value proposition in marketing.
We have certainly seen how these first two factors have affected marketing through the exponential growth of social media and the impact of technology on competition. If you aren’t actively engaging in ways to interact with your customer base, you will lose to someone who is.
But what about his third factor? How do marketers supply meaning to their marketing? Here are three ways to consider this important need:
1. Invite your customers to co-create with you. There is an old Chinese proverb that says “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.” Don't just get your customers to purchase your product, give them a reason to care - get them involved. If you are considering a new product for market, ask your customers for input. Involving your customers means letting them have a say in not only what you market but how you market. Don't wait for them to speak up. Instead, solicit their input regularly.
2. Be a person, not a company. Consumers want to be connected to people, not to companies. The questionable ROI value of Facebook Likes beyond registering for a promotion makes this point very clear. A great example of transforming a faceless corporation through simply acting like a person is Comcast. Listen to this Brian Solis interview on the impact that @comcastcares has had on their customer relationships. BTW, I’m still not a great fan of Comcast, but I do appreciate that they seem to be trying and that is a good first step.
3. Being socially responsible is more than adding “sustainability” to your messaging strategy. Consumers have always viewed marketing and advertising with a jaundiced eye, and since the well-publicized corporate scandals of the early 2000’s and the Wall Street meltdown, the skepticism and disillusionment with corporate America has grown even worse. While many companies are legitimately trying to be more socially responsible, the overuse of phrases like green marketing and sustainability have made this concept less believable (and impactful) in my mind.
Kotler describes the challenge to develop meaning in this way – “brands need to develop an authentic DNA that reflects their identity in consumer’s social networks”. That DNA can be based on anything from natural ingredients (The Body Shop) to environment concerns (Flexicar) to family friendliness (Disney). The important thing is to find something that is true, and that rings true to consumers, and then to be intentional about living up to that promise.
It is not about adding a new word to your marketing vocabulary!
As you look for ways to add “meaning” to your marketing, I hope you will find a way to connect with your customer’s mind, heart and spirit.
Want to learn more about Marketing 3.0 and its impact on sales and marketing? Come to the PSAMA lunch on June 13 to hear award-winning marketer and author, Brent Clay, give his take on “how to survive the changing landscape”. For more info and to register, click here.
-- Don Morgan
Don Morgan is VP Communications for PSAMA and Head Rainmaker at Raindance Consulting, a business development and social media consultant in Seattle.