“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make but about the stories you tell,” said American entrepreneur and author, Seth Godin.
Those stories have changed in recent years. In the 20th century, every story played into the customer’s fears and anxieties – be they worrying about being too old, too fat and so on. This century, we appeal to the customers hopes and aspirations. It’s about making the customer feel they are a special, feel they are a star – that’s what buys brand loyalty.
This desire to become, or at the very least to imitate, a celebrity has become one of the largest and most influential new trends. Millennials and Generation Z, especially, now find a “celebrity” endorsement more aspirational than they do one of an industry expert. Even being seen to have interaction with a B-list celebrity on social media adds appeal and therefore value to your brand.
One of the savvy business people who saw the potential of this is Timothy Armoo, co-founder of Fanbytes. Armoo’s business helps brands collaborate with “influencers”, celebrities and other “personalities” known for their online presence. You can expect to pay for their services because of their following on Youtube or Snapchat, rather than any relevant qualification.
Armoo believes it’s the strength of his company’s data setup that serves as its USP in comparison to competitors in this massively growing market – and data measurement is key to marketing strategies now. Technology is moving so quickly that it is difficult for people to keep up with the skill sets. All the trends are changing continually, and SEO is a good example of this. Only two years ago, it was perhaps the most dominant section of marketing strategies. Now, according to Smart Insights, it is relegated to a minor element, the focus being all on content marketing and marketing analysis. Social media has also lessened in importance.
As trends change so too are skills gaps showing up. In Smart Insights’ latest executive summary, only eight per cent of those surveyed felt that they were strong in all areas of digital marketing and over half described their digital marketing as poor. Eight out of ten said that the planning and analytics was the most vital skill to have, yet 78 per cent felt this was an area that needed improvement.
Helping a client with marketing recruitment recently, I saw the skills gap for myself. We were inundated with applicants who claimed content writing ability, while others trumpeted their technical and analytical skills, but virtually none with both sides of the skills set. That is fine for the bigger business that can employ more than one person, but not so helpful for a smaller business. These businesses are exposed to the huge and growing numbers of applicants who have dabbled in social media, written the odd blog but claim to be specialist marketeers when they have zero idea of analytics or planning – let alone technical skills.
Marketing strategies have hanged in other ways too. Undoubtedly, Millennials research more than they used to. Animoto say that 80 per cent of Millennials will consider video content before a purchase decision. They are happy to be sent information by email and text in advance, which many older people find irritating and intrusive. These new generations expect a seamless experience across all the marketing platforms and devices, so gone are the days when marketing could be departmentalised. Every message, everywhere, has to be co-ordinated.
More than any generation before them, Millennials and Generation Z want an experience when they buy – and this is now part of marketing’s branding work. It follows there is more need for interaction at each stage. Social media and internet reviews are now more and more influential, which leaves companies open to the dangers of reputation damage from some vindictive customer or ex-employee.
The buying experience has to be highly personal and, for these younger buyers, brand authenticity is crucial. Millennials hate sales pitches and will fact check throughout the sales process. They dismiss the brand loyalty of the past, and see it as common sense to move onto an alternative brand if something better comes along. Increasingly, their own loyalty is stirred by a socially conscious brand, in alignment with their own personal beliefs. They may be susceptible to discounts, they may want excellent customer service and product/service quality, but it is the authenticity of the brand’s alignment with social consciousness that is becoming the clincher for younger buyers.
Marketeers need to concentrate on their data and research to achieve these things. These trends, being spearheaded by Millennials and onwards, are fast rippling out to all generations of the marketplace.
And therein lies a danger. Marketeers tend to concentrate on the newest and latest and their data is too often too general. It is all too easy to overlook that even the older half of Millennials are very different from the younger – not as tech-savvy, often with different motivations now being settled with partners and children.
In this focus on the new trends, it is easy to miss the fact that it is still the over 50s who have much of the disposable income. This group is often overlooked, assuming it to be too set in its ways and too afraid of technology to be worth bothering with. But the over 50s are more aware than many assume, and have money to spend. Seriously clever marketing uses analysis of every bit of every generation, not just the up and coming.