Article

Kevin Adema
Kevin Adema 22 February 2017

Context Marketing – Putting it into profitable action (Part 1 of 3)

Sitecore’s recent release of Context Marketing for Dummies® has yet again challenged the marketer of today with the resounding truth that customer-first (Context Marketing) is the only path towards digital success and meaningful brand engagement.

Sitecore’s recent release of Context Marketing for Dummies® has yet again challenged the marketer of today with the resounding truth that customer-first (Context Marketing) is the only path towards digital success and meaningful brand engagement.

marketing_ages_timeline-(1).png

Most importantly is the #1 recommendation in its concluding section of “Dos and Don’ts”: Adopt a different mindset:

“when it comes to marketing, focus on the customer experience and what the customer wants rather than prioritizing what your company wants to market”.

This is part 1 of a 3-part series addressing putting Context Marketing into profitable action. 

Part 1: What actually is the new mindset and the very real and very powerful challenges it’s causing.

Part 2: What marketing leaders must do to overcome Context Marketing's challenges and how to present customer-first for seamless acceptance into their business/brand

Part 3: The 5 steps marketers must follow to ensure customer-first/Context Marketing acceptance, adoption and ultimately profitable growth.

The required mindset

Without question, "the mindset" is the most crucial and yet most challenging task facing marketers today. To adopt a new mindset, you first have to truly grasp what your current mindset is: what are your established set of attitudes, believes and approaches facing marketing?

To understand this, let’s look at how marketers have been trained to think for the past 100 years (so you can see how deeply it’s entrenched and how completely erroneous it is for today’s digital landscape):

In the beginning…

Since the early 1900’s when marketing began to take shape within academic fields, it was seen as a discipline of telling a story to an audience with a desired outcome (buy something, promotional offer, trade in, etc.). This approach developed by E. Jerome McCarthy, is commonly referenced as the 4P’s (Product. Price. Promotion. Place). It took hold and became the fundamental thrust of marketing for the next century. 

Granted, the media has changed greatly seeing radio, TV, telemarketing, direct mail, e-mail campaigns and even .coms and social media all hold places of prominence on the marketer’s podium but again, marketers still relied on the 4 P approach:

  1. Tell a story via the available media (fill in your own 4 P’s)
  2. Expect changed behavior from target audience

Tactics aside, marketers have gone through a series of very distinct ages: Product. Sales. Market. Target Market. Response. Social. All of which again caused us to modify overarching approaches of how we would tell our stories but those stories still were delivered within the framework of a 4 P philosophy; brands talked AT an audience (please insert timeline here):

So now with digital at the forefront, marketers do what marketers have always done: talk AT the audience. The problem: we pour enormous energy into learning the media itself and then, deploy traditional campaigns through it, again:

  1. Tell a story via the available media (fill in your own 4 P’s)
  2. Expect changed behavior from target audience

But it’s not working.

  • Coca-Cola has pulled back from digital, Marco de Qunito, global CMO openly said: “Social Media is for those who don’t have a true digital strategy”
  • Forbes points out, “only 32% of brand marketers believe they’re executing an effective digital strategy.”
  • Accenture Digital’s study on digital showed that only 45% of business executives interviewed believe their digital programs will achieve business objectives
  • Sapient’s national online digital survey shows that nearly 50% of brands switched marketing agencies (or plan to in the next 12 months) for one with greater digital knowledge or, have hired additional digital specialists to handle digital work.
  • Forrester’s engagement report shows Instagram rates are falling as are Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter per-follower interactions

Yes, gone are the ages of Product, Sales, Market and so on; today’s age is the Dialogue AgeTM – the age of instant, two-way communication and it demands a new WAY: new strategies, methods and tactics (a new mindset).

We have to stop talking AT

And start talking WITH

(for more on this and how marketing has changed because of digital, see our earlier work on Digital GunpowderTM)

The challenges

Bluntly: there are many challenges facing today’s marketer: strategically understanding the digital age, the radically changing and transient workforce (10,000 baby boomers retire every day, 75% of employed Americans are currently looking for different jobs, etc.), the fragmented and enormous series of tactical options but, none are greater and more pressing than the challenge of changing the mindset.

The mindset shift challenge is daftly unpacked by Professor of Harvard Business School’s, Rosabeth Moss Kanter. According to Kanter, when a situation changes (as digital has done to marketing), both leadership traits and competency skills are called into question. These change problems are significant and unless we’re aware of them, marketers won’t know how to approach Context Marketing properly and usher it in to the new era of digital.

There are 5 reasons from Kanter’s work that will impede the new mindset of digital:

  1. Loss of control: in our world of autonomy, self-choice is removed when something new comes into affect. According to Kanter’s Law: “everything looks like a failure in the middle”. We’re a long way from digital mastery and the pain of today (we’re in the middle) often serves as motivation to go back vs. pressing on.
  2. Everything seems different: Although change is meant to bring about something different, different is uncomfortable because we are all creatures of habit. Change then “jolts us into consciousness – sometimes in very uncomfortable ways.” Our 100+ year approach is now no longer working as it once did and as marketers we’re being forced to “wake up” and yes, it’s uncomfortable.
  3. Loss of face: By definition, “change is a departure from the past.” The marketers associated with the “last version” (the versions that are now dead or dying) are likely to be defensive about “their work” as they were the ones responsible for it.
  4. Concerns about competence: The scary one: can I actually do it? Do I have the strategy skills, the sales and presentation skills, the abilities to understand consumer behavior, the knowledge to deploy meaningful content for engagement and the analytical insights to harness and control a brand?
  5. More work: Change is exactly that, work. Time to invest. Time to learn. Time that you don’t really have but you have to find.

The Digital Dialogue AgeTM is upon us. We’re passed digital infancy; the hype of social is fading and now marketing leaders are staring this growing toddler in the face: Consumer first / Context marketing is here and we’re the ones responsible for ushering in maturity, delivering programs that prove ROI and leading the new way of marketing forward.

Up next:

Part 2: What marketing leaders must do overcome Context marketing’s challenges and how to present Customer first for seamless acceptance into their business/brand

Part 3: The 5 steps marketers must follow to ensure Customer-first/Context Marketing acceptance, adoption and ultimately profitable growth.

Sources:

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