Monday, October 19, 2015

Community Marketing Malpractice

My degrees were in history and political science.  I also studied law.  But my career was in marketing; or more specifically, the marketing of communities.

Fortunately, my collegiate exposure to marketing was a theoretical survey course using the provocative teachings of Harvard’s Dr. Theodore Levitt.

So I always had a much different, and many would say provocative approach to community destination marketing than my DMO peers, who over-relied on the components of traditional sales and advertising.

Results would suggest far more successful too, than those who over-relied on the components of traditional sales and advertising.

Far too many still do today, which is puzzling.  This post may help young community marketers avoid what had been termed “marketing malpractice” by the time I retired nearly six years ago.

A lot about marketing has changed during that span.  Maybe it intrigues me as to why many DMO execs aren’t keeping up because my intellectual curiosity hasn’t yet retired.

Marketing includes the elements of sales and advertising but it fundamentally differs in its overall purpose.

Myopically, to use one of Dr. Levitt favorite words, “selling” customarily has focused on the needs of the seller.

Many use the term relational “selling” today but then still pretty much focus on what “they” have to sell rather than what the customer needs.

Advertising is and has always been focused on “getting” attention.  Trying to “demand” attention is far more like it, which is why so many marketers call it a form of “yelling.”

This is confirmed in this age of waning attention spans when so many lazy practitioners desperately seem to only know how to “yell” louder and louder.

Marketing weaves these and five or so other components into a blend designed instead on creating and satisfying customers, according to Levitt, which means “un-creating” customers for your community if that means directing their attention to destinations more suited.

A longitudinal study at USC determined in 2010 that traditional advertising now has an overall negative return of investment but that its decline began three decades ago, a decade before the Internet was made available for public use.

Still, many of those who bothered to read the study theorized that the demise of advertising was due to the Internet or the fragmentation of media or even clutter, meaning a proliferation of too many ads.

But marketing historians were aware that complaints about ad “cutter” date, at least, to January 20, 1759 when a copywriter and essayist noted, “Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused.”

Dr. Thales Teixeira (Tech-Sarah,) a contemporary Harvard marketing researcher, is an expert in what he calls the “economics of attention.” 

From various studies he has graphed that attention to even  television ads had plummeted from 97% of viewers in 1990 to fewer than 2 in 10 today, even though ads are more than 75% shorter in length.

Attention to ads was plummeting long before the Internet was an alternative and had fallen by nearly half when TiVo, the first DVR device that enabled ad-skipping was introduced in 1999.

This was also long before mobile devices divided the attention of the 44% of viewers who multitask into even thinner slices.

Illustrating the desperation of advertisers, including most that are oblivious to the drop in attentiveness, is that during that span the cost per 1,000 primetime viewers has skyrocketed from $18 to nearly $200 per view, while the quality of attention has severely degraded.

Dr. Teixeira calculates that “Attention is one of our three most valuable, scarce and fungible resources.”

Now even Levitt recognized in his 1993 treatise entitled Advertising: “The Poetry of Becoming,” that ads at the very least provides “variety and changes the pace.”

It’s not unlike the rationale one my friends argues on behalf of billboards, a long-obsolete medium.  But this calculus fails to take into account the turn-of to turn-on ratio of ads.

Yup, and a few people only buy print magazines that are purposely laden with ads.  But attention today, and for several decades now, is something you earn rather than demand.

It is about “them,” not “you” and “yelling” about your product, your community, your brand is a turn-off even when you try to be cute and entertaining.

In the words of Seth Godin, “the goal of marketing interaction isn’t to close the sales, any more than the goal of a first date is to get married.  No, the opportunity is to move foreword, earn attention and trust and curiosity and conversation.”

Trust is the key to earning attention and “you must build trust before you need it,” or want it.

Godin also explains why advertisers seem clueless and only respond by increasing clutter.  “And as with pollution, because no one owns the problem, no one is working very hard to solve it.”

“Advertising” he argues, while explaining why consumers are now “using a sledgehammer to block them all” is in “a relentless race to the bottom.”

A former classmate of mine at BYU who is now renowned Harvard business professor by the name of Dr. Clay Christensen, argued several years before I retired that the paradigms of marketing itself are broken and must be reconfigured beginning with the way we segment customer prospects.

He shows how any communication under the umbrella of marketing, including advertising, must, in the end, show consumers what “job” they need to hire your product or community to do, exposing the flaw in communities that try to be appealing at everything, only to find they have sold their soul.

Christensen, who is famous for coining the concept of disruptive innovation, would not only agree with me that many of my peers, though much younger are marketing dinosaurs but that they are committing “Marketing Malpractice.”

I will continue this primer in the next post by reviewing why techniques such as advertising, not just roadside billboards, are now so obsolete.

Unfortunately, most marketing dinosaurs probably didn’t get this far (sigh.)

No comments: