When Marketing becomes Marke-doing

Personal observations from the 2-day STIMA Congress: Become a King of Marketing #STIMAC on December 4 & 5, 2015.

Counting the days of marketing as we know it

We all had a hunch about this before the yearly STIMA Congress, of course, but now we’ve heard all the speeches and discussed them during the numerous networking opportunities with a lot of peers, we are going to have to face it: marketing has had better days.
The promise of multi- or omnichannel campaigns has turned into an impossible and costly nightmare for many a marketer. Disintermediating disruptive technologies have flipped a lot of realities and preconceptions upside down, leaving a lot of businesses orphaned and clueless. Even word-of-mouth seems to be an overpromised hype instead of a solid way to grow businesses as Jeni Romaniuk, author of the much acclaimed How Brands Grow book, proved empirically with international data. Big Data has delivered a lot of (expensive) headaches, but not a lot of insights nor actionable marketing applications so far. The age of Mad Men seems to be over for advertising and Math Men are taking over as IBM’s Ronald Velten shared with the 800+ attendees. The art of marketing is slowly, but surely turning into the science of marketing. And most marketers are the first ones to admit they’re not good with numbers, as Graydon’s Thorsten Strauss and Jens Verboven showed in their research based on a survey amongst marketing professionals in Europe.

The purpose of obtrusive and interfering advertising has never been under more pressure than today. Comscore’s Gian Fulgoni wanted us to believe viewability is more important than click-through rates for instance when measuring online ad-effectiveness. Too bad Gian forgot to mention the overwhelming impact of ad-blockers young surfers are installing massively. Traditional mediaplayers are trying to keep the 20th century advertising model alive, but advertisers don’t believe in it anymore.
And then there’s the consumer who has become as unpredictable as the weather. Thanks to Rachid Lamrabat‘s contribution on the rising urban demographic of the new muslim urban consumers, Belgium and Dutch marketers finally are realizing a lot of their target groups are volatile, multicultural, impossible to predict and most importantly: left untapped. The fact is, all consumers (regardless of age, gender or religion) are looking for direct, unique, relevant and meaningful relationships and experiences with brands which they can craft and adapt to their own needs and context.

As a result of all these evolutions, marketers are losing grip of marketing. The main issue is that traditional and innovative marketing impact has become very difficult to prove, leading to discussions about overvalued budgets and even accountabilities; who is in charge of our big data program: marketing, IT, data scientists or business intelligence? Who is in charge of multichannel approaches: marketing, web builders or digital teams? Who is in charge of our brand: marketing, conversation managers, call centers or salespeople that have direct contact with customers?
The fact of the matter is the very raison d’être of marketing is at stake today. But let’s not forget the wise words of Parkinson-ridden @Demoucelle who shared with us, in what was clearly the most energizing and endearing presentation of all: “There is something good in everything, even in the worst of setbacks.”

From marketing to marke-doing

So how to inspire marketers in times where consumers are so spoilt they dislike technologies, products and services that they didn’t know the existence of only a few seconds ago (thanks for sharing this brilliantly eloquent Louis CK-meets-ConanOBrian moment Ronald Velten)?

If there’s one lesson I remember from the past 2 days of presentations, it’s that marketing should stop talking and start walking. Don’t say you’re transforming, but transform. Marketers have to stop observing, describing, analyzing, summarizing, conceptualizing what’s happening around them. Even worse: stop proving it works, as it works counter-effectively. It comes across as if you have something to hide (sorry, Vincent Fosty). Instead: start doing, experimenting, taking action, going for it, changing, transforming, collaborating, etc. Stop doing what your predecessor did. Stop doing what you’re used to do. Stop doing what your competitor is doing. Stop thinking, start doing and rethink after that.
So how can we make that happen? How can we DO that? It’s all about markeDOING instead of markeTHINK:

1. Doing what’s good for the world

Finally. At last. Marketing is realizing for the first time in its history that corporate social responsibility is not just a side-program where you greenwash your wrongdoings as a company. Today your purpose, your morality and your contribution to society and humanity have become unique selling propositions that can make the difference. Take Yan Ketelers from Bubble Post starting his pitch with a clear purpose: “We want to decrease CO2 levels in our cities and take on the mobile congestion”, he stated. Today, Bubble Post delivers the equivalent of 5 traditional diesel vans with 1 electrical van in 18 cities in the Lowlands.

Belgium’s Vice President Kris Peeters shared with us his concern of how to marry the huge opportunity big data represents whilst observing our privacy rights we fought for in the previous century and keeping our internet neutral. We also witnessed Nir Eyal rightfully questioning the morality of his own speech and suggesting us to pick a human problem to fix before starting the traditional marketing manipulation game.
So ask yourself: How can we help people live better lives before starting to think about marketing?

2. Doing concrete things instead of sending messages

Marketing is not about campaigning anymore. It’s not about making expensive ads nobody wants to see anymore. It’s not about yet another banner on a site. It’s about creating unique and relevant wow’ing experiences in every single touchpoint a consumer has with your brand, as Ronald Velten mentioned. The biggest reason why you’re doing this is to make consumers store a positive value which turns them into hooked users. Nir Eyal showed how you can make people store value by sharing his habit-forming hook: trigger-action-reward-investment.
So ask yourself: How can we turn every single touchpoint into a starting trigger to want to come back?

3. Just do it: Start your start-up!

In marketing today there are no certainties. Even the best impact measurements show biased results and growth has become so contextual and volatile that the only way forward is to experiment, try, fail and adjust along the way. There are no roadmaps or best practices. If there’s one ecosystem, one organizational structure we can all learn best practices from to realize this, however, it’s the world of startups: they are agile, lean & mean, have a big purpose, aspire to make a lot of dreams come true, contain something worth fighting for, never ever give up, hire only passionate people, show unparalleled entrepreneurship and try to change the world. Their common belief? They do things while keeping in mind success is part of failure and vice versa.
And no, it’s not all about Silicon Valley. There is a lot of pride and future in a lot of Lowland start-ups too. Start-ups like neoScores (digital and interactive music sheets) and its founder Bart Van der Roost or Yan Ketelers from Bubble Post (package deliverers aiming to reduce last mile costs of the delivery business) and Geert Houben of Cubigo (turning healthcare into self-care for empowered senior citizens) and even UPlace’s Bart Verhaeghe all showed in the past weekend that the (only) way to the top is long and winding, but oh so rewarding if you start from a dream and a vision. And that’s what marketers in big incumbents miss today: agile risk-taking and the openness to learn from failures. My favourite quote of the two days was actually shared by Bart Van der Roost who told a very personal story on how the downs keep coming back even after the highest of ups: “If you’re gonna eat sh*t, don’t nibble”. Word.
So ask yourself: Am I marketing or markedoing?

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