One of the challenges facing modern day marketing is that marketing teams are not content with much of anything that worked in the past. Today, there is a race for the shiny new technologies and, like the Olympics, it’s a race for the Gold. Have you noticed that during these London Olympics that the races, games and matches all have the same ring as the Beijing Olympics four years ago? The winners may be a little faster and a little stronger but the basics don’t seem to change that much.
Sports don’t radically reinvent themselves every four years but in the “sport” of marketing, there is a new strategy or a new tactic every day. This week’s AH-ha! moment suggests that marketing should be more about transformation rather than renovation.
I spent much of this weekend working at our rebuilding Together Twin Cities Maxwell House Drops of Good rehab project. This was true renovation. The Twin Cities team of volunteers ripped and tore out everything old – carpets, ceiling tiles and everything in between and created a new teaching kitchen, a handicapped accessible bathroom, a new lobby and exterior painting and landscaping. (And yes, the team leaders knew better than to give me a hammer.)
While brick and mortar renovations lead to transformations – and the American Family Indian Center indeed was transformed, marketing renovations often lead to marketplace chaos. Marketing teams have adopted the mistaken belief that we have to tear down, start over, and begin anew. This is a bad strategy for several reasons:
- The process forces the marketing team to lose sight of the customer because the focus shifts to what’s new at the expense of what’s been successful.
- We have to come up with new sets of metrics to prove the new focus is working and in the process the team misses important pattern shifts in the marketplace and among customers.
- It takes time to implement new tactics in a brand or marketplace renovation scenario and that can open the door for competition to make gains.
The Olympic athletes we are watching have one common focus and that’s staying focused on using their strengths to finish. Marketing teams that renovate and tear down first rather than transform their strengths expose a major flaw in their marketing thinking.
The Marketing Implications
Our Sixth Star marketing strategy and new Ei3 trigger based marketing system are classic examples of transformation. We don’t tear anything down. We build on the strengths of past strategies that we know have proven track records. Granted, maybe we err on the side of conservative caution but we believe in blending in new technologies when it makes sense while at the same time knowing that we live in the Age of NOW.
We don’t believe in keeping up with the times. We believe we must be ahead of the times in terms of transforming strategic marketing platforms that support business in the Age of NOW. We know that the Age of NOW has to be about transformation but most marketing teams either jump ahead too fast or actually slip into slow gear. Last spring, we were contacted by an advertising agency whose retail client wanted to implement a rewards and data mining strategy quickly because a new competitor was coming into their market and has a robust rewards program. Group 3 Marketing to the rescue! Not exactly. The project quickly stalled because the agency thought that they should redesign the client’s website first, a classic case of renovation, rather than our transformation strategy of building a database driven marketing focused initiative that would have met the competitive threat, improved the retailer’s retention and growth, and made an immediate impact on their business. The project stalled, momentum was lost and we doubt it will ever recover. In the meantime, the competitor has opened stores and is grasping a marketplace foothold.
There are two other reasons why transformation is the prudent marketing strategy:
- The global economy is still stagnant, fragile and most importantly, very confusing. In last week’s Thursday Minneapolis Star Tribune (Yes, some of us still read the “paper.”) a business headline said seasonally adjusted construction spending is the highest since 2009. Another article cited a Creighton University report of business conditions that noted the first contraction since 2009. The Central Bank rejected any new actions to bolster the economy, while half the country is in a drought situation and a flat PC market is having major ripples in the economy. And Friday’s dismal jobs report is more proof that a transforming strategy is correct.
- All the hype about new technologies and new delivery channels like social media have not proven any successful ROI – in fact, neither marketing nor finance can measure it. Classically, finance whispers to the CEO that it’s a resource drainer while marketing proposes more emphasis in these unproven strategies, citing “Likes,” “Fans,” open rates, and click-throughs must have hidden implications toward the bottom line.
And thus, the dance continues as departments compete for attention and funding. There is no good reason why marketing should not be leading the way in the Age of NOW – unless it follows the path of renovation – tearing down – rather than transformation – the strategy of building up. This week, ask your team if you are renovating or transforming your brand’s marketing plan. Call us if you need a referee. We’ll bring the whistle.
Have a Fantastic week.
Bart Foreman and the Group 3 Marketing Team