Consumer technology has had a serious impact on expectations for business software. Why, the business user asked, can I unwrap a new mobile device and intuitively understand how to use it, but the business software I use at work requires several hours or days of training?
The colloquial phrase for this trend is the “consumerization of information technology.” In B2B tech sectors, it’s been a driving force since the advent of the iPhone and cloud-based software. More importantly, it demonstrates the profound influence of technology on behavior.
Something similar has occurred in marketing as a result of digital and social media. The ease by which we can subscribe, consume, comment, publish, or disavow content has reshaped marketing over the last 10 years.
Unfortunately, many in senior management have been disconnected from this sociological transformation. As a result, one of the biggest challenges I see marketing struggle with today is making a marketing case to leaders that haven’t studied marketing in perhaps decades.
Over the last year or so, I’ve given a talk on just how much marketing has changed a dozen times to organizations ranging from startups to the Fortune 500. This talk has been well-received and has helped several marketers make a course correction so I’ve transformed this talk into this blog post, and embedded an abbreviated version of the presentation nearby.
Here are the four big trends in PR and media that have upended marketing.
1) The media landscape is fractured
There are more publications, covering more niches today, but outlets have less reach. In bona fide news organizations, there are fewer reporters writing more stories…with the same deadlines. Alternative outlets often have an agenda, don’t function in the same way, and aren’t “pitch-able” in the traditional sense.
Like the media, the audience has fractured too. We have access to a wide variety of information sources and across a range of formats. This means getting the word out effectively involves more variables, requires more experiments, and with continuous adjustments.
Savvy marketers are building their own audience through content marketing and then amplifying the best performing content with PR and advertising efforts.
2) Channels are interactive
Anyone can be an influencer. Sometimes this influence lasts just for a few moments, for others, it’s the result of years of audience development. While much of this wasn’t possible in a pre-digital age, it comes with greater competition and a fickle audience prone to make its views known.
If you pay for promotion on Facebook, for example, anyone can comment, and anyone can see it. Sometimes these comments are positive, sometimes they are negative, and sometimes you are left trying to comprehend what the heck someone just said. If you force a message the public does not believe, you’re going to hear about it.
For marketing, this has completely upended the way we think about external communications. “Listening” may sound like social media passé, but it’s never been more relevant.
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3) Attention is fleeting
The audience today hops channels. It even hops frequencies within those channels. What feels to a brand like separate interactions across various media, is a single unified experience to a customer or prospect.
This is complicated by the fact commercial messages appear in digital news streams, juxtaposed among pictures from a neighbor’s last vacation, a sibling’s birthday party, celebrity gossip, and the latest political vitriol.
Earning attention – and keeping it – has never been harder. Businesses today are not just in a commercial race, they are competing with all this other noise to get a few minutes of attention. This leaves marketing with three basic strategies: a) entertain b) educate or c) interrupt.
4) People can and do reject commercialization
The predominant legacy model is interruption, so businesses naturally gravitate toward this approach. Yet more than ever, people have the capacity to reject commercialization thrust in their faces.
My daughter, who is six, likes to play games on my iPhone. Panda Pop is currently among her favorites gaming apps and is advertising-supported. She’s learned at a very young age, how to filter out the noise and hit that ‘x’ to close commercials that get between her and playtime.
She can’t understand why the app would permit such interference because it ruins the experience. The advertising model, which feeds off interruption, doesn’t make sense to her, and when it becomes too persistent, she’ll switch to a different game.
Interruption is making less and less sense to all of us. Clicking the close, delete or “mark as spam” button has become a basic instinct. On many social sites, once the audience has indicated to they don’t want to see your ads, no amount of money can buy that attention back. It’s gone forever.
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There’s a case to be made for old software businesses that just want to squeeze out a few more years of maintenance on the way to an inevitable sunset. However, technology companies that want to stay relevant continuously update their software in an endeavor to solve new problems and make it easier to use. Likewise, B2B marketing is driven by a similar trend in order to keep pace with modern expectations.
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