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The Futurist: A call to return to basics

When McFly travelled to the future in the 1989 movie Back to the Future II, amazing technology greeted him in 2015 – flying cars, Nike self-tying sneakers and hoverboards.

Predicting the future is a nasty business, as we all know, and we will most likely overestimate what the future holds versus predicting what will evolve or develop over a much shorter time span.

The marketing eco-system pulsates with fresh buzzwords every other season, each trying to outrank the other to become the next “it” word – such as mobile, big data, programmatic, just to name a few.

With many media conglomerates adding new terms to the ever-growing list to describe or sell the same thing, it’s sometimes demanding to just catch up. To all digital media publishers/ owners, it’s at times bolder to call a spade a spade.

The future of marketing, as it stands, calls for a return to basics; to scrape past the excessive volume of data and information and to return to what marketers do best – be consumer-focused.

In the exciting realm of marketing, bells and whistles may have changed over the years, but deep down the consumer has not really evolved much and the very core concept of marketing is rooted in human needs and not in technology. Yes, granted that technology has created new opportunities and shifted attention and behaviours, but it merely serves the same human need in a different form. Simplifying things would help break down much mystique behind the development of the industry.

If we constantly return to our marketing core, which is meeting human needs, there will be much bravado in marketing and we no longer have to hide behind big words, big data, and at the same time, we will be able to make good sense of the landscape and colossal charts and data in a relatively straightforward manner.

So, what does returning to the core mean? It’s about telling a good story to your audience to imprint on them a favourable impression that will meet a need of the consumer. With all the clutter amid the evolution, often resulting in overwhelming data and information and an ever-growing list of new media vehicles, we have to take a step out of it all and look in and sift out what really matters.

Marketing, to me, is akin to orchestrating a performance to reach your intended audience. It is the magical ability to weave different connecting points together and tell a story to fascinate your intended audience.

Through such orchestration, one key element is critical – integration across the silos of marketing  disciplines, including public relations. Integration may sound easy, but many mistake multi-media or multi-platform as integration. Integration also does not mean the same message be amplifi ed across all touch-points.

As consumers are exposed to multiple touch-points and they get information from a plethora of sources, the consumer journey or path-to-purchase then becomes a network of connection points versus the old linear model.

Hence, good integration means that when a consumer sees one connection point and later on sees another, the consumer could be exposed to different aspects of the brand and yet the two could make a complete brand/product story.

Another consumer might be exposed to four to six connection points across social, digital, print, events, editorial articles, influencer interviews, and form yet another complete story. The essence of good integration lies in having a central idea built on insights so that communication messages and content can travel across connection points and form different aspects of the central idea.

Such “liquid” content allows for the customisation of messaging to each connection point so that it makes sense within the vehicle framework, yet laddering up to the central idea of the brand.

Resisting the thought of repeating one single key visual across all connection points takes much bravery and definitely requires more effort in planning the matrix of messages across the consumer’s network of consumer path-to-purchase. But doing so will certainly reap higher returns for the campaign and brand
in the long run.

Specifically, integrating marketing communication messages and content with PR will up the ante for a brand as PR helps build up another pillar of brand storytelling in an authentic way via earned and shared media. Traditionally a distinct separation of disciplines, more conscious efforts thus have to be put in place when planning the matrix of messages across various disciplines and including PR will yield greater rewards for the brand.

Returning to the core of marketing will become increasingly critical as the “new” developments in the industry will become the new normal. And further newer developments will take off sooner than you can say “wow”, hence, we need to fall back on what the human need is and fulfil it.

Jennifer Loke, senior manager, marketing – Southeast Asia, Hong Kong Tourism Board.

This article was first published in Marketing Magazine Singapore’s Jan-Feb 2016 print edition. To read more views from senior marketers click here.

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