The start of a new year is here, and far be it from me to serve you up yet another one of those flashy lists about content or digital marketing trends that will dominate 2016 (though if you must, check out this one; it’s pretty decent). We marketers talk a lot about marketing in the marketing blogosphere. We seem to love lists, stats, and hyped new technologies that may or may not become mainstream next year or over the next couple of years. “2016 is the year interactive 3d printed virtual reality online video will finally definitely overtake x modality of content marketing.” Sure. Same as last year. And the year before that. “Content is king”; “4 reasons why you need to focus on inbound”; and, the next month; ”the end of content” and “content is dead”. We create hypes, we follow hypes and often simply seem to parrot each other. We’re a lot like humans, in that respect.
The love for marketing
And I get it. It is a wonderful thing to be in online marketing and/or content marketing. It’s exciting, with every new technology coming available that instantly changes the game. With the power of emotion, connection, and thus; a story to be told, timelessly ingrained in our work as it is in human nature itself. I love being in marketing. I love the balancing act between a thousand channels, a hundred stories and one main message to convey. About this wonderful Dutch tech concultancy company that’s doing amazing work producing solutions to problems people deal with. If you’re lucky, as a marketer that’s the kind of mind frame you get to work with.
Marketing strategy vs. marketing responsibility
But there’s more than just love in this game. There’s more than the excitement of every next newest technology. Or even the timeless art of storytelling to get your point across. There’s also responsibility. This is what I’d like to talk to you about today. Our responsibility as marketers. I believe it is threefold. I wonder how you feel about this:
1. Responsibility to drive leads and sales
Of course, this is what you were hired to do and what it is you’re paid for. By the end of the quarter or the end of the year, this is what you’ll have to account for, first and foremost. It’s your job to add to revenue, by serving up leads for sales to keep swinging ‘em out. Of course it’s your responsibility to produce great ROI. And sometimes it’s very important to prove that ROI. But often, I think about knowing what you don’t know. Not everything that matters is easily measured. Or, in the words of Gary Vaynerchuck: What’s the ROI of your mother?
Immediate turnover, quarterly revenue and generated leads are of course quite important to a company in our commercial world. Money, happy customers and exposure count, to for-profit and non-profit organizations alike. However, for your organization to flourish in the long run, you need to work on your brand. And by that I mean have a clear vision of your corporate identity. And to have that gut feeling shared by (potential) customers. A strong and very distinctive brand is, in my opinion, at the very least equally important as the more direct marketing ROI. Here’s where marketing professionals’ second responsibility comes in.
2. Responsibility to inform and consult management
It’s a marketer’s job to inform management, and keep management informed about the market. Additionally, it is of vital importance for the survival and flourishing of your organization in the long run, to be utterly conscious about your corporate and brand identity. And it’s a marketer’s responsibility to remind management and the whole of the organization of that. Is there even a clear corporate vision? Is it broadly accepted and embraced by management and the rest of your people?
Don’t just act responsively; running this or that campaign because management needs it. And then running to demonstrate ROI on it. Why should we invest in this new product? And why would we invest in that new array of services? Does this strategy make sense if you hold it up against signals we’re getting from our customers and prospects? Does it make sense in the light of our corporate identity and our brand? Marketing needs to keep feeding management, portfolio development, and all other divisions of the organization insights into the market. And it’s your responsibility to offer strategic advice, as it’s your management’s responsibility to take it seriously. Ultimately, marketing needs to unite the company in a single, commonly felt corporate identity, culture, and vision. That will form your brand identity. And the purpose that all of those smart people need to want to work for your organization. What is your organization’s purpose in the world? As a marketing professional, can you answer that question easily? You should. It’s your job.
3. Purpose, or responsibility to society
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Generations Y and Z are perhaps the most caring generations in modern capitalist history. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife could be regarded as the poster children for that. What does that mean to you as a marketer and to your organization? It means that you need to treat corporate responsibility as more than a thin layer of varnish on top of your core operations. Again; it is of vital importance for the survival and flourishing of your organization in the long run, to be utterly conscious about your distinct corporate and brand identity. This works in two main ways:
Firstly, your company needs to be distinct from other companies to be able to stand out. There are [enter big number with a lot of zeros here] pages on the internet. People are constantly blasted with digital marketing content and ads. How are you going to be different? By being the first or one of the first to adopt this or that new marketing technology? Think again. Your brand message is only going to be unique if it carries the same distinctive, authentic, gut-feeling reality about who you are as a brand. From your every tweet to every blogpost to every first handshake from one of your sales people to the friendly ‘glad to be of service’ from your customer service agents. There are literally 100’s of touchpoints and the only way to be consistent is to have your brand identity, mission, and purpose clear to all divisions and all people in the company. That’s the only way to clearly get it across to people outside of the company.
Secondly: the internet has changed us as a human race. We are more connected and more informed than ever. And apparently, judging by the importance placed on responsible entrepreneurship by gen Y’ers (and presumably, even more so by gen Z’ers), we are more recognizing of our own responsibility towards each other. Worldwide. To keep your brand relevant and your company alive over the next couple of decades, you need to realize this.
2015 summed up
We’ve seen some pretty awful things happen. Again this year. From the terrorist attacks in France or Kenya, to the bombing of Syria and the immense stream of refugees from that ever difficult Middle East to the relatively much calmer Western world. A thing our CEO at Motion10 once told me in a one-on-one we had one time, keeps popping into my head. Roughly translated: “It’s actually really simple. If we, here, don’t make sure that they have better lives over there, they’ll come here to come and get it.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that terrorist attacks and the wars in the Middle East are the responsibility of marketers worldwide. The causes for that are far too complex and broad in scope for me to even try and analyze in a blog post. Let alone be as superficial as to point to one group of professionals.
What I will say is that wars and poverty could all be prevented and eradicated with the technology we have today. If it weren’t for the industrial/financial/commercial mind frame that all people have accepted as the background to all of our lives and thoughts. Like a kind of mental wallpaper that we don’t even notice anymore, but that does color the way we organize society. Words, money, capitalist economy, war, poverty. They are all figments of our common creativity or imagination, and exist exclusively because we commonly decide and continually accept that they do. Couldn’t that same trick be applied to responsibility to each other and the environment, and a continual striving for a better world?
“Ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth.”
What can digital and content marketing really do?
Luckily, also in 2015, we’ve seen more and more brands investing in responsible marketing. In marketing that focuses on an experience, a human connection, a redefinition of self or beauty. Good to see that the industry is changing: as a marketer I welcome the change.
So what reality can you help construct, as a marketing professional? What is the influence you can have on the vision of your management and your company, and what direction would you like to steer it in? What choices will you make in 2016?
Happy marketing in 2016! But market responsibly.
Thank you for reading my thoughts today. How do you feel about a marketer’s responsibility? I’d like to hear from you.