Are Marketers Going To Be Extinct?

Are Marketers Going The Way of the Dodo? (Courtesy of kevinzim)

Do marketers still have a job in this day and age?  With blogs, Skype, Facebook, MSN, Youtube, and Twitter, everybody - from the CEO down to the company driver - can be accessible online, 24 by 7, 365 days a week. One can also get tonnes of information about a company's products or services online or offline. Best of all, they come from 3rd party individuals with no vested interests in the organisation.

Is there still a place for the specialist marketer or publicist in any organisation?
After all (gulp), nobody wants to hear it from the spin doctor anymore, right?  Are we fated to die like the Dodo bird above?

Well, I strongly believe that there is a future for marketers. What we need to do is reinvent our role - from one that is traditionally more marketing communications oriented (ie branding, advertising, PR, direct marketing, roadshows, online marketing) to one that is more customer centric. 

Here are some of my ideas on how marketing could possibly evolve in the future:

From Reach to Reputation

Marketers of the future will need to be credible spokespersons for the company's brand, spreading goodwill and extending its influence beyond that television commercial or print ad. We need to be knowledgeable about what our product or service does, and aware of how it compares to competitive offerings. Ignorance is no longer bliss in an open and transparent digitally networked world.

In the age of environmental disasters, financial meltdowns and mass retrenchments, marketers will need to don the cloak of conscience. We have to play a positive role in strengthening the credibility and reputation of our organisations and their products/ services. Marketers will have to also act as barometers of public trust and be proactive in coming up with contingency measures to address crises in consumer confidence, should that fateful day arrive.

From Discounted Sales to Delightful Sensations

One of the chief tools of the marketer is the "last minute deal". Or better yet, "50% off". Promotions help to trigger gut responses in consumers and get them to buy, Buy, BUY! Of course, the problem is one of sustainability as you can generate alot of sales without being profitable.

To circumvent this, marketers should switch to a holistic experiential approach in offering one's wares. Appeal to the emotion of your customers with sensory and aesthetic triggers - sight, sound, taste, smell, touch. Find ways to utilise the rich multi-media channels available - whether online or offline - to strike a chord with your customers.

From Advertising to Advocacy

Instead of being purveyors of propaganda, marketers will also need to live the brand through their behaviours. In an information cluttered world, it is increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd of "me-too" advertisers, each claiming to be better than the rest. Marketers will have to be evangelists that assist in triggering positive word through our own respective networks whether online or offline. Just splashing an advertisement on mainstream or online channels isn't enough anymore to convince anybody anymore.

From Channels to Communities

One of the most significant shifts in marketing would be the shift in focus from media to men. In other words, who you are and what you do may be more important than what your ad or press release says. As influencers, marketers will need to focus on forging relationships and building networks of believers. They need to learn the basic skills of organising a crowd, connecting and contacting one's customers, and finding ways and means to forge a longer-term link to every shopper.

Find ways to meet your customers and get them to share their experiences in using your product or service. Look for opportunities to foster that friendship beyond the cash till. With social media, this becomes as easy as just setting up a blog or forum and encouraging your customers to visit it.

From Products and Services to Problems and Solutions

Finally, marketers will have to shift their orientation from one of features and benefits to holistic solutions. Address the real pain and real concerns of your customers, rather than just focus on the state-of-the-art functions available on your product. For example, banks can offer real money saving tips to their customers during a recession rather than just what percentage returns they can expect. Similarly, if you are selling laundry detergent, why not teach your customers the most effective way to keep their clothes looking new instead of just how powerful your wonder liquid is.

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