I think it’s finally safe to say it: The tactics of traditional marketing have become laughable. While a simple strategy of newspaper ads, webpage banners, and TV ads might still pay off through eye-watering spend and sheer reach, they increasingly reek of tiresome brands grasping onto the old scattergun ways of selling products and services.
Marketers who understand that we already have one foot firmly in a new marketing world will not be cheering when their expensive banner ad shows a 1% click rate—rather, they’ll be placing palms to faces because they realize that such results in today’s new consumer environment fundamentally misses the point of how the cult brands of tomorrow are being built.
But who exactly are these new marketers? Someone put it nicely by saying they have evolved from “mad men” to “math men.” They know that the secrets of rabid fan engagement, loyal interaction, and customer devotion go far beyond spending millions on a TV ad to sell a shiny new product. Using these secrets, they are infusing brands into the minds of mass audiences in new ways – through word of mouth rather than indiscriminate mass awareness, and through ideas rather than money. They likely don’t even consider themselves marketers anymore, but rather culture or community managers.
How do they do it, and why would we call them “math men?” Because they are at the forefront of using data and software to understand how consumers are interacting with brands and the world around them. Using numbers, they are figuring out to engage customers in context and across all the available channels. They use data as the fuel to be noticed, to appeal to perceived needs and desires, and ultimately to sell their wares.
The key to driving this is knowing what customers and potential customers have done, what they may do, and most importantly, what they are doing now. Feeding this knowledge are tools that use data to track explicit behavior, like past purchases, and implicit customer behavior, like webpage views. This enables brands to offer up personalized, context-based promotions and online social engagement on an incredibly intimate level.
Marketing has always been about tapping into the emotions of consumers. Making them feel unique while still being part of a community that shares common interests is a very powerful way to do that. As more marketers have figured that out, consumers have come to expect that level of both individualization and virtual community spirit. To put it bluntly, they are no longer falling for budget-busting national TV ads and the like, but are instead considering carefully engineered word of mouth and that irresistible feeling of uniqueness created by data-driven marketing.
Many executives, even at large established brands with cash to burn, have begun to understand just how significant this shift is, so naturally marketing budgets are shrinking and marketers are expected to do more with less. The skills one needs to become a successful marketer are changing as fast as in any profession you can name, moving from creativity and communication to analytical ingenuity and technical prowess.
It’s not something those betting on their ability to execute a traditional marketing strategy will want to hear, but marketing is increasingly a world for techies and number wizards. They hold the secrets of the dark art of cult brand-building, and they will shape the cultures and consumer connections of the future.
For more on future-focused marketing strategies, see MarTech: The Future Of Digital Marketing.