As I was driving this morning, I was thinking about how much has changed over the years for Marketeers. Just last week, I had a stimulating meeting with an agency that demonstrated, by their scope and investment areas, a clear understanding of the needs of Marketeers. They have sub-businesses like a dedicated content lab practice, a strategy and analytics group, an early stage ad technology ventures team and a media trading desk. Yes, they still do the traditional work that remains a part of the mix, yet they’ve had the vision and foresight to evolve to meet the ever changing needs of Marketeers. In their view, “Marketers are the new Makers” and I couldn’t agree more. I wish more agencies had this mind set.
As time goes on, we’re seeing significant shifts and trends occurring with increasing frequency. I started noodling on these shifts and thinking about how long it took us to recognize that we were indeed in the middle of a fundamental change as well as the time between each successive event. At the risk of dating myself, let’s have some fun and take a look at the last 20 plus years:
- The Advent of Cable – as a media planner in a large, multinational agency, I remember the heated discussions around cable. There were concerns about what the fragmentation would do to the market, whether these new stations were stable – should we invest in them or wait, the lack or research, would consumers really want more choices, the impact of smaller TV audiences on delivery and plan R/Fs, etc. There were many strategic huddles to determine the right approach. Clients were warned that we need to look at this carefully and evaluate the impact before investing heavily. The industry and agency reaction was very conservative when you consider what we’re dealing with now. It’s hard to imagine a world where cable didn’t exist.
- Websites – For younger professionals, yes there was actually a time when companies didn’t have websites or Facebook pages or apps for that matter. This was before Al Gore invented the internet. When the technology became available, companies didn’t know what to do with it. Early websites were really bulletin boards. A place you could go for static information. Early adopters saw the potential of their site for sales, customer service, marketing, distribution and more. The ones that focused early had a competitive advantage in using technology to drive efficiencies that previously didn’t exist.
- Media Planning — Planning has fundamentally shifted. Gone are the days when you faxed plans back and forth for approvals after months of work. Today, we don’t have the option of time and technology has forever changed how we negotiate and buy. Now media practices are taking advantage of the digital efficiency with technology like trading desks and DMPs. From broadcast to retail, media is moving to digital and a level of data collection and tracking that lends to efficiencies and optimization. It couldn’t be more exciting. At Intel we’re running fast, using technology as a way to add value back to our audiences and deliver engaging experiences and content.
- Online –With the evolution of the web, of course advertising opportunities were created. Some companies tentatively tested the waters. In the mid 2000’s, Intel made a decision one year to stop broadcast completely and significantly increase online to 50% of the budget. That was unheard of at the time, and we learned many things from the experiment. The critical one was that all online advertising was not created equal and we experimented with an array of formats, approaches and innovative ideas. The other important piece is that TV serves an important role. Cutting any media completely off your plan without considering the important synergy and multi-consumption behavior of consumers would be short sited today.
- Content Publishing – I struggled with where to put this one as the area has gone through its own interesting critical evolutions. Think about electronic content. I was lucky enough to work on the first online addition of the WSJ. At the time it was called Personal Journal. As a beta tester as well, I loved logging on to my pc at home (a 486 tower which I was so proud of at the time) and reading the news of the day with my coffee without having to leave my apartment. The launch of the online paper was not taken lightly and there were heated debates on the impact of online sales versus the print edition. Management was concerned about their core business, while others had a vision of where the industry was going and decided the risk was worth it. In retrospect, newspapers and magazines didn’t disappear. Yes, we’ve seen an evolution from print to digital across all forms, but it’s been much slower than expected at the time. Editorial quality continues to be rewarded whether in print or online. .
- Social Media - The arrival of social media was fast and it defined the early adopters and leaders from the complacent. Companies that quickly recognized this new communications trend/channel/behavior have reaped the benefits as you can see from great examples like Old Spice, Starbucks, etc. This is an area where Intel has been nimble and with true engineering finesse, set up internal training, operational excellence and tracking early on to support social media marketing efforts. For all the naysayers out there, we’ve seen real lift in brand perception and purchase intent across various activities.
- Content publishing from Consumers – To solve my dilemma of where to place this on the timeline, I wanted highlight the socialization of content. Gone are the days where big publishers owned content and protected that domain. What we’re seeing now is consumers taking control with a passion and vigor that few would have anticipated even 5 years ago. As Marketeers our language has changed significantly from push to share/listen, from create to aggregate and share. Your content strategy should be increasing in importance and become a foundation of your marketing plan. You can’t afford not to get it right.
- Data - Everyone is talking about data. We’re in the midst of one of the biggest changes to date with data exploding around us providing opportunities for marketing, technology solutions/products, sales, etc. I will keep this one short as we’re living this cataclysmic event today. I predict we’ll see a shift in ownership of personal data. That we will see security concerns increase. That there will be new technology advancements in tracking, storage, access that we don’t even know today. The world is becoming a collector of information and Marketing must be at the forefront of these developments in order to garner market insights and drive effectiveness.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on trends or developments I’ve missed and the importance of these transitions to you. We are living in a complex world. Choices, time to market, expectations around engagement are changing rapidly. It’s not going away and will only get worse. Be open to market transitions and lead. The best thing you can do is to embrace these challenges and have fun.