When Led Zepplin wrote its iconic rock anthem in 1970, "Dazed and Confused," it could've been describing today's marketing landscape. I believe many marketers are simply scratching their heads about the right ways to reach consumers today. Billions of ad dollars are being thrown at a wide variety of digital platforms, websites and search engines, often with disappointing results.
Joining the dazed and confused are many of the major consumer packaged goods brands, which are seeing their market shares tumble. In speaking with a number of marketers and those on the media side over the last several months, it's apparent that brands are redirecting ad dollars to all things digital, in an attempt to gain favor with the ever-elusive and alluring millennial audience.
But taking dollars away from magazines, for example, and putting them on Facebook, simply isn't going to solve the market-share erosion conundrum. And moves like this explain the recent rash of media agency reviews. An alarming number of CMOs just can't seem to find the holy grail of effective marketing anymore.
So what should a smart marketer do to turn the tide and clear up the confusion? I believe it is all about going back to basics, and here are a few thoughts:
1. Listen to millennials. The fundamentals of our business are all about listening to consumers, gaining a unique insight, and developing a plan and messaging around that insight. Yet I believe much of that planning has been tossed to the side in the rush to be online, procure low online media rates via programmatic buying, and reach young consumers where marketers think they want to be reached.
However, ask a 27-year-old if he or she has ever clicked on a Facebook ad, and the answer is likely "no." Same with Instagram and other ads on websites and social media platforms. It's important to better understand how today's young consumers are consuming media, and where and how to motivate them. They're spending money, will respond to the right advertising, and will be brand-loyal, but many marketers are whiffing on their efforts to connect.
2. Evolve early. We're in an industry that is dynamic and changes fast. Are marketers and their agencies keeping up with the pace of change? It's important to evolve thinking, products and execution sooner in order to stay relevant.
Comcast, for example, recently rolled out a product for cord-cutters called Stream. It's a low-cost option that provides access to content on a Comcast platform, while delivering it on mobile devices and laptops. Comcast is the first of its industry competitors to solve this problem with a market-relevant solution. Smaller and mid-size agencies, which are typically more nimble and can more easily pivot to better figure things out, are also in a position to stay ahead of change.
3. Peer-to-peer selling. Most 18-to-33 year-olds aren't dazed and confused about how and why their friends buy things. So why aren't more millennials in high-level positions, calling the shots about marketing to their peers? Plenty of smart ones are out there, who deserve a chance to re-engineer how their peers are marketed to.
But this is not just about millennials. I believe agencies and clients should have teams dedicated to various target audiences, based on their age groups. Selling today is about specialization and knowing audience nuances. In this scenario, baby boomers would be selling to baby boomers, GenXers selling to GenXers, etc. You'd likely see brands growing again.
The irony of the confused marketplace is that it really isn't all that complicated to figure out. If a more thoughtful approach were taken -- one that goes back into the fundamentals of what makes good advertising and PR campaigns work -- then marketers and their agencies would have clarity in their direction. And results that encourage reinvestment.