Has Now-ism Killed Marketing?
Has Now-ism Killed Marketing?
Has Now-ism Killed Marketing?

As consumers we’re drawn to products and services that are:

  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Inexpensive

Walk down the aisle of any electronics or grocery store. You’re greeted with a sea of bright boxes, eye-catching imagery, and alluring claims. Starbursts, even.

Does any of that actually work? Does the most intuitively designed, highly functional, best-made product make the sale? Does the celebrity endorsement tip the scale? As marketers, we’d like to think so (otherwise, what’ve we got to work with?). But is it remotely realistic to think this way?

What really motivates people to buy?

Product strategy: fade to black

Example of an American grocery store aisle.
Image via Wikipedia

In addition to quick, easy, and inexpensive, we often sift purchase decisions through form and function filters too, of course. But even when a feature or design element is part of our heart’s desire, we’ve demonstrated our willingness to sacrifice some functionality or aesthetic when an easy-peasy “plug and play” version is up for grabs. Move over custom install, automated recommended overdrive is in your ‘hood.

Those clever boxes with their professionally-shot images seem less like a good idea right about now?

Communications planning – gone the way of the dodo?

Chalk it up to our species’ inherent laziness or (if you’re more charitable) our situational flexibility and adaptive nature; the reality is consumers continually scan their options and make selections based on current circumstance and active environment. Then they quickly move on. It’s always Go Time. There are flag football practices to make, spreadsheets due at the office and social networks to catch up on. Who’s yelling the loudest? What fire can we let smolder while extinguishing today’s inferno? Busy, overworked us.

What are the marketing implications of a real-time world?

Part marketer, part consumer: between Scylla and Charybdis

On one hand, there’s our “day” job as insight-driven marketers (Assuming you are. Go, team.). On the other, there’s our general evolution into a people that often place cursory thought behind our selections before we forge ahead.

Where our ancestors would have considered provenance, durability, and craftsmanship in trade goods and home life, today we cull based on how quickly people and products can come up to speed, how much time and energy we’ll most likely have to dedicate in order to reach deadline, how easy it integrates, and whether the price hits our current-as-of-the-last-update mark. Brand loyalty and advocacy are often forgone with the next 25%-discount-for-new-customers-only offer (revealed only with a Facebook “like”).

It’s gotta matter to them, those you hope will buy your stuff

What does this behavior bode for marketers? Is it past time we shut off the lights and leave the animals with the keys to the zoo? Can the legs of differentiation your product/service stands on bear the brunt of a semi-attentive consumer audience?

If no one has any time to pay attention to our marketing, and consumers aren’t basing their decisions on our carefully crafted benefits lists, what is there left for us to do?

Wake up and smell the opportunity

All hope isn’t lost. I do think there’s hope for marketing in today’s socio-economic climate. We can breathe new life into our work and affect greater numbers of potential buyers.

I just think we have to be smarter about it. We have to choke down the reality that in a real-time world, there are scant moments to solidify brand image and positioning and to establish a reliable, trustworthy product history to serve as a framework for building stepped plans. The buyer’s journey has changed to reflect multi-point entry into the consideration cycle, and we have to move past the assumption that consumers are waiting patiently to receive our every missive and proceed down our carefully staged, organized paths.

If quick, easy and inexpensive matter most to your customer segments, then I recommend you pay close attention and plot any gaps between what they want and how you communicate your offering.

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About the Author

Heather Rast
Heather is Principal of a boutique Cedar Rapids digital marketing company. She develops brand positioning strategy and marketing communications plans to distinguish small businesses from the competition and attract their ideal customers. Her content planning, writing, and online community-building work helps larger businesses better serve their audiences with useful information that solves problems as it builds affinity for the brand.
  • dorla27

    E89P – Lately i was so very low on cash and debts were eating me from all angles!! that was Right Until I found out how to earn money on the INTERNET! I went to surveymoneymaker d.o.t net, and started filling in surveys for straight cash, and doing so, I’ve been much more able to pay my bills! I’m so glad i did this! kBn1

  • dorla27

    E89P – Lately i was so very low on cash and debts were eating me from all angles!! that was Right Until I found out how to earn money on the INTERNET! I went to surveymoneymaker d.o.t net, and started filling in surveys for straight cash, and doing so, I’ve been much more able to pay my bills! I’m so glad i did this! kBn1

  • Joe Corr

    Major shift is, as Shawn points out, the consumer has all the tools to make decisions and often more knowledge that most retailers. Amazon is the the best retailer on earth. Most other channels rely on intrusive marketing channels. Marketing and communications are being dragged kicking and screaming onto social media platforms where product and service experience can be shared along with other key buying decision data.

    In the old world, sales held the knowledge and the power, this is no longer the case thank goodness. Let’s not do lunch or play golf OK, I’ve got family and friends to spend time with.

    • And it’s that share-enabledness that feeds the “Now!” beast, don’t you think? Because we have more information at our fingertips now from people we trust – doesn’t that radically change the way we evaluate and discriminate brands and products? Yes! Have companies truly embraced this shift to reformulate their marketing communications processes and outputs? Not many! 

      I think many consumers have adapted their behavior to gloss over our “push” talk to focus on the hard line: is it easy? is it quick? is it cheap? I think these criteria layer over peer network recommendations in some instances.

  • I think we may need to step back a bit farther from your opening sentence of “Walk down the aisle of any electronics or grocery store.” Many, maybe even most, of my purchase decisions are influenced before I ever make it to the store (whether a real or virtual one). Social media has made it so easy to share brand and product experiences with your friends (and see all of the various experiences our friends are having) that I often become aware of a product there first (or am able to create a shortlist to consider). By the time I get to the store (or, more likely, Amazon), I am already sold.

    Even with this social filter, brands still need to make kick-ass products and market them well. This includes making sure that their marketing message and/or product benefits are easy to share and understand in 140 characters. Your customers will sell your products if you give them a voice and the tools to do so.

    • Shawn, I’m in agreement with your points about peer/friend/family networks having significant influence on consumer discovery and awareness of products & services. I’m also with you on the way social media enables that influence to reach farther than ever before and create a contextually rich environment in terms of both geolocation and near-time dialogue layering on additional touches (reinforcing opinion/perception). Heck, reading your comment throughout I’d say we’re of the same mind as a whole. So now I’m wondering where I failed to be clear in my intention, hmmm…..Sorry about that.

      Re: my “walk down the aisle” sentence, here’s where I was trying to go: For all the intense debate internal marcoms teams and agencies have about logo size, placement, hero photography, etc. and all the merchandising legwork to get stuff displayed on shelves (all time-intensive work requiring skills and talents), I think that marketers sometimes lose sight of the real probability that whether or not their stuff gets bought has little to do with the the blood, sweat, and anguish it took to gt it there. I’m not dismissing the absolute necessity of building products that serve real user needs, or that branding and messaging has a real place. But I am asserting that there’s been a shift, and continuing to execute marketing communications under the assumption that the bulk of what we have to say about our stuff A)gets heard/seen/read and B)weighs much is out of step with reality (as you suggest). What I want is for marketers to come to terms with how consumers consider and ultimately buy. 

      The window dressing stuff has a place – in the past, I earned a salary being part of those teams – but I’ve seen even global consumer brands fail to push past their comfort space to truly, deeply investigate why people buy their stuff, and how to give them more of what matters (in communications and offerings) while dropping what doesn’t. This is especially important given the current level of consumer empowerment, cultural acceptance of instant gratification, and availability of choice.


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