Old School vs. New School Is Hurting Your Marketing; 8 Steps to Fix It
In many organizations, two factions within marketing are grappling over a core question: should their role and plans fundamentally change given the emergence of digital technologies and the multi-channel universe? One team considers social networking merely as another tactic within a larger marketing mix. The other group sees these same technologies as game changers that will redefine the marketer’s role and programs. At issue is the direction of the marketing plan and the funding & resources that enable it — and ultimately the performance of the business. Truth be told, both viewpoints are critical for success and need to be inculcated into daily thinking, practices and planning.
For simplicity sake, we can reduce this battle for marketing’s soul down to two competing stereotypes: Mike is an old-school marketer whose mindset emphasizes control of message and channels, and focuses on traditional research techniques and conventional metrics like customer awareness, acquisition and retention. Managers like Mike are comfortable with a "ready, aim, fire" broadcast model that relies on studio-based agencies to develop creative and push it out through media buys. He recognizes the potential of new technologies but needs to see tangible ROI, proven success stories and strategic fit before committing a substantial amount of his tight budget and time.
At the other end of the spectrum is Lynn, a new-school" marketer in her early thirties. She fully embraces the ubiquity and power of mobile computing, social networking and rich media, because she lives it. Her Millennial-focused strategy looks to engage web-powered, trendy audiences on a 1:1 level wherever they are. Lynn’s digitally-focused tactics look to leverage user-defined content, community-building and sharing. A consummate experimenter, Lynn is challenged determining the ROI of new technologies and getting her programs funded in mature companies.
According to best practice research and our experience, marketing performance will be maximized when both Lynn and Mike’s thinking are part of the whole team’s DNA and practices. The key is to find the right balance between their approaches and get them to work collaboratively.
Advice for Old Schoolers
Open up the creative process: Great ideas and content can come from anywhere. Marketers need to open up their broadcast-content model and consider more of an editorial approach to developing and managing their message in conjunction with customers and influencers. This requires them to adopt new skills like brand story-telling, facilitating and integrating multi-channel conversations and fostering shareability, tailored to each digital platform.
Engage the customer: Millennials and other customer segments can quickly change their buying behaviour (think mobile commerce), habits and beliefs as a result of technological developments. For example, many of these people are using new technology to skip advertisements. Instead, many consumers look to be part of an entertaining, meaningful and authentic conversation where the brand is part of the context and not necessarily the focal point.
Embrace speed: The traditional slow and plodding approach to developing and implementing marketing programs is becoming anachronistic. Old schoolers need to figure out ways to get their creative and programs out quicker (even it is not polished), more broadly and tightly integrated across all channels.
Experiment regularly: New technologies and methodologies give marketers an unparalleled ability to quickly and inexpensively test new ads, creative and promotions as well as refine existing programs and websites. Marketers should prioritize continuous improvement initiatives as well as explore breakthrough innovations.
Advice for New Schoolers
Be analytically rigorous: You don’t jettison proper financial and consumer analysis because Facebook offers new functionality or Instagram suddenly takes off. As digital marketing moves beyond the novelty stage, its programs should be expected to demonstrate hurdle-rate ROI and be aligned to the consumer and marketing strategies.
Use the right metrics: Many of the popular digital metrics like re-tweets and Likes cannot be linked to real business results. New schoolers should measure the impact of social sharing by using innovative metrics like ‘positive-neutral-negative’ ratings. These can provide a more accurate picture of program success and word-of-mouth impact and better link to strategic goals.
Consider context: Without a doubt, content is important. Increasingly, brands will also need to take into account the digital context of where they will live and propagate. Marketers need to leverage the right context for consumer conversations and content sharing. Companies like Virgin Mobile and Coca-Cola do a great job of producing interesting content and brand stories tailored for the characteristics of the platform.
Heed the Old Schoolers: Remember that marketing was around long before the Internet. New Schoolers would be wise to study the lessons of pacesetters like Michelin Guides (original content marketers), Harley-Davidson (community cultivators) and Disney theme parks (pioneering experiential marketers).
Mitchell Osak is managing director of Quanta Consulting Inc. Quanta has delivered a variety of strategy and organizational transformation consulting and educational solutions to global Fortune 1,000 organizations. Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org