Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The reality of marketing and comms today

Marketing just isn't the same anymore - customers are harder to reach, they trust brands less and spend their time listening to each other rather than to media or to corporate or government marketers and communicators.

Yet many comms and marketing people are still stuck on the 'shout louder and longer' theory. If someone isn't listening, the theory goes, you keep shouting at them louder and louder until they MUST listen to you.

It's an interesting theory - one that I sometimes see English speakers use to attempt to reach those who speak other languages. The twin fallacies of the approach are that people can simply walk away (switch you off) or may not actually understand you in the first place. They may also find you obnoxious and rude and go tell all their friends that.

The other communications approach I see used a great deal is the 'love'em and leave'em' or 'big bang' approach. An organisation will go for saturation coverage, a big launch event and then - nothing. After launch they settle back to assess the numbers, maybe doing a mini-relaunch every now and then to attempt to regain interest. Big launches are good fun and I've participated in a number of them over the years, but they don't shape lasting impressions.

As most people have discovered, it is hard to build a long-term relationship with another person by leaping out of a box with a bunch of flowers while a plane skywrites their name in the sky and then ignoring them totally for the next year.

So what's another option?

How about starting with a conversation - simply talking to your customers without expectations or attempting to direct or control the conversation. Over time, as trust builds your relationship, you can inject ideas or build on suggestions and co-create a product, service, policy or program in collaboration with your audience.

Sounds crazy? It's been done - with everything from government policy (in New Zealand) to beer. In fact it even has a name - relationship marketing.

Even if you think this approach is too out there, or would take too long, it's clear that our audiences have changed their behaviours. Old marketing techniques are less effective and old marketers need to learn new tricks.

And if you believe that just because we're in government we're different in some way, sorry no. People are bombarded with advertising all the time. Putting an Australian crest into an ad doesn't mystically help it cut through the morass of messages. We have to do better than that.

Steve Collins from AcidLabs recently blogged about the video below in his post Engage them.

As a marketer I found this video tells a compelling story of how markets have changed.

The big question for me is - have government communicators?

1 comment:

  1. I think there are a good number of government communicators in Australia that want to change and approach their roles and their targets in new and innovative ways but that the conservatism in governments both current and previous and the culture of risk aversion that predominates simply prevents them from doing so.

    I've got no solid research-based evidence to back this assertion, of course. It's simply and observation and aggregate of an number of conversations I've had.

    Am I right or wrong? Because I'd dearly love to be proved wrong.