Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Humpty Dumpty Marketers

This post does not mark the end of my annual hiatus which will run into August.

I’ve been mulling over a future post that a business school professor-friend of mind asked me to write about what I see as the future for community destination marketing organizations, my former profession.

It will be an opportunity for me to practice what I preach about looking back to see forward for strategic insight.

It pains me to admit that many in my former profession don’t seem to be the brightest bulbs in some respects or there would be far more than 200+ of these organizations that are accredited.

Maybe I resemble that remark in some respects (smile.)

But even accreditation, which is essentially a diagnostic to identify areas for continuing improvement, isn’t a guarantee against a proclivity common among far too many DMO execs.

This is the regressive tendency of a few tenacious but well-meaning and otherwise reasonable execs to waste everyone’s time trying to put the proverbial “Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

What these folks fail to grasp is that forms of organizational structure and marketing strategy along with various tactics become obsolete because essentially the “ecosystem” of tourism has rapidly and perpetually evolved.

They could easily spot these paradigm shifts in SWOTS analysis if they were not in such a hurry to check that process of the list rather than mine it for insight.

Brian Solis, a strategic analyst, futurist and principal for Altimeter Group, now a Prophet Company, has a great line.  “The future of marketing has little to do with marketing.” He is referring to traditional marketing and especially advertising.Cleansville Billboard in Durham

Some businesses and organizations in the various industries that make up travel and tourism are guilty of hypocritically keeping roadside billboards on life support.

I call their use “desecration marketing” because they underwrite no content other than the advertiser “yelling at you” while blighting the communities and scenic assets that motivate travel.

All of this to reach 2/10th of 1 percent of people who are motivated to buy something in a given year based on that form of message.

If you have read some earlier posts, you will see the irony in the message on the image captured of a billboard in this essay.  It was posted on one of the 80 or so remaining in Durham, North Carolina where I live and where billboards were banned in the early-1980s.

For those new to this blog, between smart devices and in-vehicle navigation systems, eight times the percentage of Americans who aren’t turned off by billboards in general have already shifted to navigation systems for both directions and to find points of interest such as gas stations.

The advertiser on that billboard shown above is proud of its efforts at conservation and environmental restoration but that apparently doesn’t extend to scenic preservation including eliminating sense-of-place pollution such as sign blight.

It is not the first company where company marketers apparently feel exempt from social responsibility policies when it comes to where they advertise or oblivious to metrics such as turn-off ratios.

Traditional advertising overall (in newspapers and on radio, television and billboards) began an overall decline in effectiveness three decades ago that by 2010 had reached a negative return on investment.

When adjusted for inflation, ad revenues for newspapers today have fallen below where they were in 1950.  Even when digital and other revenues are included they are essentially where they were 65 years ago.

Other traditional advertising mediums are or will be following suit.  Analysts now project that newspapers are poised to replace local television when it comes to local video content within the next ten years.

The rapid shift to online advertising instead has created what experts such as Mathew Ingram, a senior writer for Fortune, described as an “arms race” this month between advertisers who still don’t get it and viewers determined to block out ad content.

Marketers engaged in this arms race have failed to notice that even online, where ad blocking has grown 7 times just over the past five years, that the ecosystem for advertising period has changed.

If you want to reach consumers, it no longer works to yell at them which is essentially what advertising is. There is no use trying to put that obsolete “Humpty Dumpty” back together again.

It isn’t the nature of advertising that changed; it is the overall consumer ecosystem.  It is long overdue for communicators to also evolve.

But many marketers, including more than a few in my former profession of community destination marketing simply won’t.  That’s apparent by their steadfast refusal to evolve or perhaps due to stakeholders who won’t let them or peers who keep pulling them into futile schemes to reassemble old “Humpty.”

Billboards are an example.  The first one was erected in the United States in the 1830s.  They had become a pariah to consumers by the 1880s when billboard owners turned to out-of-step lawmakers to keep them on life support.

Oblivious or lacking a strategic bone in their body, many advertisers who are obviously also very bad at math still insist on using them today, even though eight consumers are turned off by their use for every one who isn’t.

Like I said, not the sharpest knives in the drawer.  But hey, neither was “Humpty Dumpty.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bowman, please check your facebook inbox.