“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.” Tom Goodwin
THE IRONY OF TODAY’S MARKETING PROFESSIONALS
Every marketing professional knows the world is changing more rapidly than they have time to realize. They embrace all of these new technologies that are at their disposal: democratization and decentralization of services, a wealth of information online, connected devices, smart homes, their ability to share their life experiences through social media, keep up with their friends and families, ask for recommendations and give recommendations, they book online, shop online, chat online, date online, check their kids’ grades online, etc. Yet, the moment they step into their office, is like they walk into a time machine and keep acting like they did 10 years ago! Now that they are in their office wearing a business suit and surrounded by equally bound individuals, they find themselves having to follow the same old business rules. So, when some old-fashioned ad agency sends them and insertion order for some niche magazine that nobody reads anymore, they jump out of their seats to sign off on it and meet the impending deadline!
At MGR, I see this situation happening every day and it’s really fascinating to me! I think the only time I read a printed magazine is when I’m waiting at the Doctor’s or Dentist office and I find a 3-month old issue of “Good Housekeeping” to keep me distracted from the torture that I’m about to go through. Believe me, the last thing that goes through my mind at that point, is how beautiful that full page print ad or centerfold is. In fact, I won’t even pause to see it, yet, I know some company paid (read: wasted) a lot of money to buy that ad space. And of course, the magazine will tell them “Congratulations, your pint ad was viewed by 200,000 subscribers!” Yeah right! But hey! that agency report looks great and it makes that marketing manager look good when reporting to his bosses.
The future of advertising is nothing like we’re seeing it now. As much as old school advertising agencies and large media companies are still trying to sell you their old model with traditional print media, TV commercials and even ineffective banner placements, their equally big clients are going to wake up one day and wonder why those fancy advertising reports they receive each month look so good, yet their revenues look so bad. Ask Toys ‘R Us for example…
What if I told you that you’re measuring ROI incorrectly based on the biased metrics and reports from the people and agencies that are selling the media to you?
It’s time to stop focusing on skewed reports and phony Addy awards and start looking at actual results and true revenues, ROI and dollar figures. I constantly find myself struggling to convince marketing professionals in different industries that they need to focus on “getting it right” rather than wanting to be told they are right.
Working with an agency that is constantly telling you that you’re right and your account is doing great is the comfortable path but certainly not the path to getting it right. But the irony again is that the same Marketing Director that catches an Uber ride to go to the airport while posting on Instagram is still paying hefty dollars to advertise his Taxi or Shuttle company at a local airport magazine. Or the Marketing Manager that is buying print ads and TV commercials to advertise her products, goes home and watches Netflix binging on her favorite series commercial free. As if any of these new consumer trends are unique for them and the rest of the world is going to continue to consume media the old fashioned way.
Ask yourself. Is your marketing plan today much different than it was 2,3,4 years ago? If you’re still using the same old Excel template to work on your annual budgets and simply updating the dollar figures each year, I can tell you that your marketing plan is obsolete before you event get to it.
A LOOK INTO THE (VERY NEAR) FUTURE
Either I’m overestimating what is going to happen over the next ten years, or I’m ahead of my time sharing my predictions about consumer habits and behavior with today’s marketing professionals. But when you look back at history, radio never thought that Television would risk their business… until it did and most radio professionals saw their jobs at risk. The transition from B&W TV to Color TV put some movie theatres out of business. When HDTV Broadcasting became mandatory, sports venues started to have a hard time getting people to leave their homes. And when the Internet started 20+ years ago, nobody thought it would impact their lives, yet all of our professional and personal lives revolve around the Internet today.
Just look back at where you were ten or fifteen years ago compared to today. Today’s biggest brands didn’t even exist or had any influence in our lives. Back then, we were all just worried about Y2K and how the world will stop functioning as we know it. Email was a novelty and we all kept getting AOL CDs in the mail that made great shiny coasters for home parties. Just a few years later, Google, Facebook, Apple, YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, Twitter, Uber, Instagram, etc. started to dominate our conversations. Today, most of these companies have become accepted verbs and not a day goes by when we don’t “Google this” or “Uber somewhere” or “Instagram that.” Think about it: does a day go by when you don’t interact in some way with any or several of these companies? And don’t be fooled by their initial business description, because they have evolved into much more than that…
- Google: OLD: Search Engine – NEW: Bid Data Collection + Content/Media Distribution
- Facebook: OLD: Social Media – NEW: Multimedia Content Distribution and Advertising
- Twitter: OLD: Micro Blogging – NEW: Instant News Distribution/Live Broadcasting
- Instagram: OLD: Photo Filter App – NEW: Mobile Visual Marketing & Advertising
- Uber: OLD: Taxi Alternative – NEW: Online Travel & Transportation
- Amazon: OLD: Online Books – NEW: The Everything Store… and Broadcasting/Media Company
- Apple: OLD: Computer Company – NEW: Media & Distribution,
- Netflix: OLD: Mail-In DVD Rentals – NEW: Streaming Media: America’s Favorite Free Binging Pastime
- Airbnb: OLD Room Sharing – NEW: Largest Worldwide Lodging Company – Soon Online Travel Agency
I could go on with Alibaba, Spotify, HBO, Snapchat, Microsoft, and many others. And don’t forget their own spin-offs into Artificial Intelligence, robotics, autonomous cars, space exploration, human longevity, Virtual Reality, just to name a few.
ADAPT OR DIE
There are plenty of examples of common names and companies that failed to adapt to new times. Blockbuster and Hollywood Video sold or rented products (movies in their case) which Netflix converted into a subscription service and we all know how that story ended. Very familiar companies like Kodak, Blackberry, Sports Authority, Toys R Us, Borders, Radio Shack, Circuit City, Linens N Things, Westinghouse, American Apparel, Fresh & Easy, failed to adjust to the online environment and are no longer around. Others like SEARS, K-Mart, JCPenney, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble and pretty much most big-box retailers, tried to adjust too late and are now fighting extinction. The travel and hospitality industry is not much different. Although much less publicized, both major and independent hotels are frequently changing hands, under receivership, or closing their doors. Airlines are merging, being acquired or disappearing altogether.
As you can see from the above list of companies, the future is in services and not so much in products. If you don’t find a way to convert your product into a service, or at least find a way to de-commoditize it, you will suffer a death by a thousand cuts. If you continue to use the same old business model just because it has worked for the past 2 decades, your days in business are most likely numbered. And I would go even further and say that today’s success factors are based on “Service + Value + Instant Gratification.” If you’re not able to provide consumers with the service and value they expect in a reasonable short time, you can rest assured that that consumer will look for the same service somewhere else. And by the way, Amazon truly excels at this and that’s the reason why it’s putting every other retailer out of business. Today, their operation is as efficient, seamless and frictionless as you can find.
In the next article, I will share with you my thoughts about how all of this relates to the world of media and advertising and what companies should be excel in this new paradigm.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)