In the beginning, there were products and services, and some were good. Fewer became trusted brands, but those that did enjoyed unquestioned loyalty supported by a simple yet effective marketing engines built to reach people in mass quantity. The formula worked for decades. An empire was built on the shoulders of Madison Avenue and expanded globally. It is an empire, which still exists today, though arguably it’s a diminished version of its former self.
More recently, technology has had it’s own evolutionary process which it’s still going through. Well over a decade ago, when large organizations developed and updated their complex Web properties, the most popular and rigorous process one could follow in development was referred to as “Waterfall”. Think of this as a descending, linear staircase where one step of the process was completed in full before moving on the next. The methodology was rigorous, but also left little room for tweaking, testing, adapting and improving along the way.
Today, digital design and development is often done leveraging the “agile” method of development, which favors smaller, cyclical bursts of development and rapid testing. Start-ups favor this approach as well building not only their tech products but also their business models in a way, which resembles more of an agile philosophy vs. a rigid, sequential approach. Even “large” start-ups like Facebook demonstrate this in how they roll out enhancements to their global platform, often making the changes incrementally, rolling them out with select users and then adjusting based off the data they analyze. Google often works this was as well. If you were to undertake designing and building a digital property today—you would also have to ensure that it would perform across multiple platforms (desktop, tablet, mobile). A popular methodology for developing this way is called “responsive design”—a technique, which leverages code that results in a shape shifting design which auto-magically fits the medium it, is being interacted with in.
Most Marketing Remains Linear And Unresponsive
Despite the pervasive nature of all manifestations of digital, including social and mobile, much of the marketing emphasis remains dedicated to reaching people in mass, following a tried and true formula for advertising designed to build off consumer insights and craft compelling messages which could be distributed across a myriad of channels (including digital). The approach is designed for the broadcast industrial machine including print, radio and television, which, despite rumors of its demise is likely to stay with us for some time. The problem it poses however is that it is an approach that much like its counterpart in tech development, (Waterfall) is neither nimble nor flexible and isn’t built for rapid change nor does it adapt well beyond the dominant media it was designed for.
“Content Marketing” Is Disrupting Modern Day Brand Building
CMOs, chief digital officers and brand managers across many organizations are currently grappling with the notion of content used in the context of marketing—inherently they understand that their customers value content, consume it, create it, and share it—and they want in on the action. They also understand that this type of content isn’t often the traditional campaigns they execute for broadcast so they face a dilemma:
What content do consumers value most?
How do they find it?
What gets individuals sharing content with peers?
How does content scale, reaching the right audience at the right time?
How do brands insert themselves into the content ecosystem in ways that bring value back to the brand?
The solution to the content question lies somewhere between acknowledging that a brand must support both a traditional, linear marketing model in addition to a newer, cyclical construct which is constantly in tune with the current environment and operates in consolidated time frames. Responsive marketing sits at the core of the content evolution that many companies find themselves trying to navigate as they pull together newsrooms,command centers and media operations which are designed to help brands act more like publishers. All of these can be effective in treating the symptoms a brand may exhibit if they possess only competencies in linear forms of marketing, but they do not address the root issue—deconstructing a marketing machine which places the majority of resources on mass marketing will ensure it never gains proficiency in alternate forms of content and media.
A more holistic approach is needed.