The pie is the same, but the slices are different. “As a marketer, you used to have your pie list – PR, advertising and maybe digital marketing, events or direct mail,” says Drew Davis, author of the book “Brandscaping.” “You had five or six big slices that you focused your energy and effort on. What’s happened today is that pie is ever-more sliced. Now you’re focusing on social media and video strategies, LinkedIn strategies. On top of that, you’re trying to master SEO and SEM, update your website, etc. You’re essentially overwhelmed. Vendors and service providers are offering you services you think you might need toward the activity of the day. You feel like you should be doing that you think you’re missing out on.”
Davis says there is a deep desire to simplify, and that’s what people have to look toward in the future: “Build a better framework of understanding of what our marketing efforts are and then what tactics might flow out of those.”
In short, take a deep breath and evaluate. What are the new realities for marketers, branding and the people who put the initiatives in place? We spoke to several experts to get a handle on the new landscape and how companies and individuals can adapt successfully.
In the new marketing landscape, marketers are creating content that potential customers want to read or watch in and of itself.Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS
With the explosion of social media platforms, customers recognize and engage with a company’s brand like never before. But how should companies position themselves, and communicate, with their brands? Davis says the confusion over branding involves the mix of corporate brands with the brands of employees/personnel who may have their own audiences.
“How do I leverage both to the greatest efficiency?” Davis asks. “It’s one thing to have a digital strategy that’s based around your corporate brand, but it’s hard to have a social interaction around your corporate brand.”
Davis says what ends up being successful are social interactions within the brand.
“If you’re the CMO of GE, and you’re on Twitter, you can build a huge audience of people who respect what you’re doing. It’s hard to get a relationship with a logo-type GE on Twitter or Facebook. I think there is a real conflict there that people are struggling with. It’s one of the biggest untapped opportunities in the digital space. Everyone today has an audience – that’s your employees, partners, vendors. All the people who work at those institutions have audiences of their own on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. The more you can message those personal brands to build real relationships, the more successful your business will be.”
The old marketing strategy was almost apologetic in its attempt to gain attention. That’s changing, says Daniel Burstein, director of editorial content, MECLABS, an independent research lab focused exclusively on marketing and sales. “The biggest shift I’ve seen in the marketing landscape is from interruption-based marketing to inbound marketing built around quality content.”
Interruption-based marketing involved the traditional practice of latching onto someone else’s quality content, he says. “So, for example, I read The Wall Street Journal every morning, and on page 3 of the newspaper every day there is an ad for Tiffany & Co. Now, I’m not reading the WSJ to learn about a really nice pair of diamond earrings, but Tiffany hopes they can interrupt my interaction with the newspaper long enough to get my business.
“In the new marketing landscape, marketers are creating content that potential customers want to read or watch in and of itself,” he continues. “You see this on blogs, videos, social media, etc. Customers are coming to you, hence the term inbound, because they want to hear what you have to say.”
Relying on the ‘old’ way of interacting with customers because ‘that’s what’s made me successful’ will likely drive many Millennials away.Thomas DeCarlo, Ph.D., Professor, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Business
Burstein says a need for that interruption- based marketing will always exist, because it is hard to get customers to come to your content. But that interruption-based marketing might be better used to promote something of value to potential customers that invites customers into your content, he says. “For example, instead of showing an ad with diamond earrings and a price, what if Tiffany was promoting a diamond- earring buying guide on their website to me? ‘Learn from our 175 years of experience crafting legendary diamonds.’ I might be much more likely to engage with them.”
Success also lies in how companies communicate with their own personnel – usually a mix of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and increasingly more Millennials (also known as Gen-Y). The younger workers deploying these new strategies will require different motivations, says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding, and author of the best selling book, “Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future.”
Millennials aren’t driven as much by money like older generations, Schawbel says. They want to make an impact on society and feel like they are making a difference. Research shows that they would choose that over a higher salary.
“Managers who want to motivate Millennials will have to become their career counselors, offering them constant feedback and advice for getting ahead,” Schawbel says. “They will have to trust them with bigger and bigger projects and allow them to become more ‘intrapreneurial.’ They need to show Millennials a clear path forward, or they will leave to work somewhere else or start a company. Managers should also ensure that Millennials are paired together to collaborate on projects, and they are given the ability to pitch new ideas freely without consequences.”
In order to attract the new workforce, companies will have to start acting more like startups if they want to compete against startups for talent, Schawbel says. “I wouldn’t say that 10 years ago, but now it’s true. A million more Millennials enter the workforce each year, and by 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce will be Millennials, so it’s imperative they switch their culture now, before it’s too late. They should allow for more casual work attire, telecommuting, etc.”
Thomas DeCarlo, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Business, and Ben S. Weil Endowed Chair of Industrial Distribution, says companies that embrace technology will be more attractive to the new workforce, and the shift also will have a positive influence on customer communication.
“Because Millennials have grown up using technology and think of it as an extension of how they communicate and how they brand them- selves, companies should attempt to immerse new hires into not only using technology in their training programs, but also foster a culture of advancing opportunities for use of technology in new and different ways to grow the business,” DeCarlo says. “Relying on the ‘old’ way of interacting with customers because ‘that’s what’s made me successful’ will likely drive many Millennials away.”
A shifting landscape doesn’t mean a company should abandon its foundation. Davis actually recommends companies focus on the assets they own, rather than the time, space or relationships they rent when developing marketing and branding strategies.
“By that I mean, if you’re creating white papers or video content or podcasts or email newsletters – those are assets that you can own, and then you can use those as leverage to figure out what distribution channels you might use to increase the consumption of those assets,” he says. “I challenge people to look at their marketing assets, rather than their marketing tactics, and spend more time understanding what they’ve probably got and leverage it to their fullest extent. [I challenge them to find] what they need and where they should fill in some gaps. That seems to be an effective way of getting out of the ‘slice of the pie’ game and focus on the assets you have to be more successful.”
A million more Millennials enter the workforce each year, and, by 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce will be Millennials, so it’s imperative they switch their culture now, before it’s too late.Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner, Millennial Branding