Traditional Marketing is dead. Long live traditional marketing!

This article is on a related note to my earlier post.

My father used to tour a lot as part of his work and for time periods like 15 days at a stretch. Those were days when having a phone was a ‘luxury’ and the favourite mode of communication always used to be India Post.

If I am travelling today, I must SMS my wife before boarding and after reaching. Period!

Sets me thinking: Advertising, Communication and Marketing (they are separate according to me), used to be very different those days. There always used to be a sender and many receivers. A straight line! Lack of communication tools was the key reason.

Today we live in a ‘Matrix’ed world. And the pun is intended. The consumer has a powerful tool in his hand and (s)he can be constructive or destructive. And the best part is the fact that they know that they have the power. The customer has decided to talk back and technology has helped them do so.

  1. Technology has helped cross-conversations
    Back then, the brands used to choose when they talk to their consumers. There was a seasonality associated with it. For instance, the marketers chose when to provide discounts on Air Conditioners or Airline Tickets. Prices used to be very different in different cities (and the reason was not just C&F, transportation etc). With price discovery mechanism taking center stage with liberal help from technology, the marketers are left with little choice but to listen to the consumer. Today, the customer is able to decide between two airlines or air conditioners and is able to choose the best within his price range with the best deal in terms of service / quality.
    It is now possible for anyone to talk to anyone, so long as there is a willingness to communicate. I can have a conversation with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and the only thing that can stop me from doing so is Mr. Bachchan himself. And brands are no different. Unless they engage the consumer in a conversation, it is impossible for them to reach out, be heard and be talked about. Today, that would be the space between success and failure of a brand.
  2. Don’t call them consumers anymore
    ‘Consumers’ as a term has ceased to exist at least with respect to communication. Successful advertising during the earlier days used to be of two broad kinds. Great advertising with no money to back it up AND sad advertising with lots of money! Today, great advertising or not, if the offering (product / service) doesn’t live up to the expectations, chances are that the product will fail in the market. The allowed margin of error has gone down significantly. The customer now has a voice, is heard and ensures that (s)he is loud and clear.
    So if a brand is not engaging them meaningfully, they have the choice and the power to tarnish a brand’s reputation if they choose to.
  3. Brand Loyalty – Heh!
    Options – A word that just used to exist in the marketers mind when discussing creative pieces with the agency. Now the consumer is throwing the same word at him and with a vengeance. Loyalty programs have failed like duds because he wants great service for the price he pays. And the quality of such service is always decided by him. If you don’t believe me, get on twitter. NOW!
  4. Consumer engages you!
    Traditional Marketers used to believe that the message is always from them. And the messenger is the media. Such a strong decision is not taken by the marketers anymore. Neither the message nor the media. The consumer chooses to engage with any brand at his own convenience and expects that the brand is ‘available’ for his to talk to. All he has to do is to use any of the social networking tools and give a shout out. If you don’t respond, your competitor will. And you have lost this customer forever. If a consumer is not happy with my mobile service provider, he gets onto Twitter and calls out for the brand. If the brand is not available, he is more than happy to switch to another brand without the least of issues. Keeping customers has never been this difficult. So it is important to be present at a place where he chooses to talk to you.

Marketers have been talking all this while and they have just been interrupted. They now have to listen and engage. And if marketers are not willing to participate in a discussion, the brand will end up facing a slow but sure death.

Traditional marketing as was known is dead. Long live Traditional Marketing.

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