Thursday, April 10, 2014

No Time for Lag at the Speed of Culture

There are two things that few, if any, business schools teach college students about advertising in courses on marketing.  One is that it has a down side, what I call whenever I guest lecture, a “turnoff ratio.”

Roadside billboards are the obvious example of this with an 8-to-1 turnoff ratio which grows to 9-to-1 if passerbys spot nearby trees have been cut. Surprisingly, surveys show that ads running during the Super Bowl have a 5-to-1 turn off ratio.

Turnoff ratio is easy to compute from public opinion surveys when you dig down through the obfuscation the advertising industrial complex creates by slicing turnoff results into very thin slices.

The other thing that is sometimes ignored, although more and more business schools are teaching, is that traditional advertising is dead, if not on life support, partly due to negligible return on investment, partly due to massive over exposure and partly because, well, it is just so slow.

In a chapter he penned for the intriguing new book entitled, The Disruption Revolution, Terry Young notes that change is so rapid now, it requires that marketers move at the “speed of culture.”

He divides culture into fast and slow culture, one “bursting in the here- and-now” and the other, those trends that are expected to have impact in 36-48 months.  Marketing must be “fast, lean, and about making decisions in real time.”

Young compares marketing today as more like a CNN newsroom.  He confirms what the community marketing agency in Durham, North Carolina anticipated in 1997.  While still a start up, it formed the Durham New Service (DNS.)

The move was an extension of the organization’s pioneering success years earlier with what we now call content marketing, before most other community marketing organizations had even established marketing divisions.

Five years later, ad veteran Al Reis and his daughter Laura penned The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, the tipping point of which researchers have now pegged as 1984. But now even PR has been supplanted by marketing as publishing.

Young’s background in everything from start ups to McKinsey & Company to volunteering in Kazakhstan in support of micro credit initiatives to founding trend-spotter “sparks & honey” give him a unique perspective on marketing at the “speed of culture.”

Marketing today, according to Young, requires the urgency and pace of a CNN newsroom.  In fact, marketing is now a form of publishing, something Durham’s marketing organization anticipated five years ago when it gave its Durham News Service its own real time dashboard.

Initiatives such as that rely on whether marketers can learn to have zero tolerance for lag time.  Lag time—even more than disruption—has spelled the doom of traditional advertising.  For those unwilling to shift gears, it will do the same for PR as well.

Lag time is the marker that signals the obsolescence of so many marketers today, including a great many institutions that teach marketing.  Even gleaning marketing intelligence is moving closer to real time.

But marketing, like a newsroom, also relies on the ability to be accurate, authentic and able to create value, context and depth in real time.  Especially for anyone in community destination marketing, it is becoming more intense and demanding than ever, which is why so many have fallen into irrelevance.

Those who can keep pace are already recognizing a wave of change that Young believes is transforming PR as we know it.  Just as successful marketing is now publishing, media companies, including the newspaper in Durham, have begun to evolve a model that in part will amplify that content.

Marketing now is about creating relevant, genuine and valuable content in real time.  There is little or no room anymore for those stuck in first or second gear or those so attention deficit that they fail to fully leverage content.

Some marketing organizations such as Durham’s have what it takes going forward in their DNA, and still, they will only be as effective as the people they hire who must continue to be relentless about continuous and never-ending change and improvement.

Key today is a team intolerant of lag time.  As author and disruption analyst Brian Solis wrote a few months ago, marketers today are “at the forefront of a new era and marketing communications and its future is in your hands.”

The future of marketing has little to do with marketing.”

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