The End of Marketing as We Know It…Is Not Here

It’s not just the holiday season. It’s also predictions season, and I’ve spent the past few weeks immersed in reading predictions for 2015, 2016, and beyond. One trend I’ve seen within those predictions is the sweeping pronouncement of the end of X; for example, the complete demise of mass marketing within the next five years.

When I see predictions like that I wonder if the predictor truly believes his prediction, or if the prediction is all about the shock value and the attention that brings.

Let’s consider the potential for mass marketing to slowly disappear over the next five year and come to an end within, say, 10 years. Now, I’m all about personalization and one-to-one marketing. But the fact is, there will long be a place for mass marketing. Sure, marketers will use it less, and they’ll use it differently, but many large brands will continue to use it well into the future.

Picture this: Advertising is often a means of mass marketing. Imagine if Coca-Cola stopped advertising Coke tomorrow. How long do you think it would take for Pepsi to overtake Coke’s position as the leading cola brand? Of course, Coca-Cola uses such targeted techniques as loyalty marketing, but will we stop seeing TV commercials with people making other people happy by sharing a Coke? Unlikely.

Another all-too-common prediction is the death of print in all its forms. We all know that print has decreased in popularity and why. But there remains a place for advertising in print publications (e.g., magazines and newspapers) and for direct mail. There are still people who enjoy print publications and catalogs, and they’re not just Baby Boomers. My 17-year-old daughter’s enthusiasm when her Seventeen magazine arrives in the mail is the equivalent of receiving a gift. She grabs it, tosses herself on the couch, and immerses herself in reading it cover to cover. She even reads the ads and has tried products advertised in the magazine.

Indeed, there are enough people who still enjoy print that several e-businesses have launched print magazines over the past year. Travel company Airbnb, for example, launched Pineapple, which showcases stories and tips from its customer community. And luxury fashion website Net-a-Porter launched Porter, a fashion magazine that includes scannable codes that allow readers to make purchases using their smartphone.

Similarly, direct mail and DRTV are experiencing a mini-resurgence as some brands—including CPGs such as Clorox, ConAgra Foods, and P&G in terms of DRTV—weave those channels more tightly in with their omnichannel marketing mix. Even standard TV advertising is evolving as some marketers embrace programmatic ad buying for the channel. 

Yes, marketing is changing—and in some regards those changes are drastic. So, of course, it’s essential that marketers keep abreast of the opportunities that new channels and technologies present, and that they watch for trends in such areas as customers’ behaviors and preferences for new and existing channels and technologies and act on those as necessary. But it’s also important that they step back and make sure that their marketing mix reflects what actually works best for their brand, and not rush to decisions based too heavily on what’s hot in the moment or “what might be” at some nebulous distant future time.

So, to those whose prognostications are hyperbole, I implore you: Please stop. The sky is not falling, Chicken Little. 

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