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The Evolution of Marketing: Navigating the Path Between Facts and Hype

Originally published on LinkedIn here:

In the ever-evolving realm of marketing, sifting through a myriad of advice can be overwhelming. As we approach 2024, let’s cut through the noise and distill 15 key considerations that promise not only to rise above the hype but also to provide a sturdy foundation for navigating the marketing landscape.

For the sake of brevity, I’m assuming you have a product or service to start with…

1. Focus on Organic Growth

Marketing begins with recognizing organic growth as any company’s ultimate goal and the function’s primary contribution. As the guiding force, marketing plays a multifaceted role—from creating initial awareness to establishing a robust foundation for sustained growth.

For more on this, listen to my interview with Kylan Lundeen at Qualtrics.

2. Attract People

The next step involves attracting new customers. The best marketing research now emphasizes the importance of targeting low or non-users to propel growth. These low or non-users are the source of new growth to build a bigger brand for the company.

For more on this topic, listen to my interview with Wiemer Snijders.

3. Choose Where and How to Compete

Strategic decisions about where new customers come from shape the marketing approach. The exploration of Blue Oceans vs. Red Ocean strategies defines whether to innovate in uncharted territories or compete intensely within existing markets. Each choice brings with it different approaches that a company or brand will need to take.

For more on this topic, check out blue ocean strategy for more on the differences.

4. Identifying the Key Entry Points

Understanding that people enter a product category through pretty standardized entry points is crucial. Example, “I need an afternoon pick me up” or “After my child was born, I feel the need for life insurance.” Recognizing and capitalizing on these entry points allows marketers to connect with potential customers at the right moment and in the right context. Also, remember that not all entry points are created equally; each has its own volume and competitive profile.

For more on this topic, check out Ehrenberg-Bass Institute or Jenni Romaniuk.

5. Claim Mindshare

Being top of mind at the most important entry points is the next vital step. Academic research stresses the need for mental availability or brand salience, showcasing examples where brands consistently maintain top-of-mind status, outperforming competitors. Brands like Coca-Cola and Nike consistently achieve top-of-mind awareness through long-term, effective marketing. This isn’t to say that you have to always use paid media, and you should always be looking for ways to arbitrage your way to mindshare in all ways possible – creativity here is paramount.

Check out more on this in my interview with Mark Barden and how small or challenger brands can also win.

6. Seize Early Signals

Connecting with potential customers first involves recognizing and leveraging signals of market entry. Early signals, such as online searches, social media engagement, or life-stage shifts, become tools for impactful communication and capturing people at the moment they might be “in the market.” This is where data collection, technology, or partnerships can play a role in collecting, understanding, and acting on these early signals.

For more on data-driven transformation, listen to Brigitte King at Colgate-Palmolive.

7. Craft Emotionally Resonant Propositions

Acknowledging that decisions are often emotionally driven and later rationalized, understanding System 1 vs. System 2 decision-making processes is critical. Crafting messages that resonate emotionally aids in creating a lasting impact, but I feel you need to also give people the fodder to rationalize those decisions later, especially the larger ticket price items or hard-to-change selections (e.g., new cars, picking a wealth advisor, etc.)

For more on emotion in your propositions, listen to Jon Evans from System1Group.

8. Deliver both Distinctiveness and Differentiation for Sustained Results

Effective communication and marketing must provide distinctiveness or you will simply not break through the noise or be remembered and credited with your hard work. Differentiation is a protection against commoditization and protects future growth if that differentiation is actually valuable to people buying.

For more on this topic, you should listen to my conversation with Mark Ritson or watch his webinar. And don’t miss the episode with Kristin Pagano at Munchkin on a hyper-focus on product innovation.

9. Ensure Physical Availability

Being present where customers expect to make purchases is crucial. Research highlights the importance of physical availability in achieving growth. This is not only being on the shelf where people buy but being where they wish to buy or catering to how they would like to buy in the future.

For more on this topic, this post by Jan-Benedict Steenkamp is a great example, and he is worth following for tons of insights.

10. Streamline the Buying Experience

A seamless buying experience is paramount in removing barriers to success. Cumbersome purchasing processes hinder sales growth and prevent conversion. Simplifying the buying experience facilitates growth.

For more inspiration, check out my conversation with Jeremy Tucker when he was at Planet Fitness.

11. Post-Purchase Assurance

After a purchase, customers seek reassurance that they made the right choice. Managing post-purchase expectations and reinforcing the decision through positive signals become essential steps in the customer experience.

For more on post-purchase that also blurs into #12, check out my conversation with David Sandstrom at Klarna.

12. Product/Service Experience Matters

The impact of product or service quality directly influences customer satisfaction. A positive experience becomes a catalyst, while a subpar one puts up barriers. Pick your moments and elements of the experience that will define the use of your products and services wisely.

For more on experience, check out my interview with Nick Horan at Reckitt

13. Mitigate “Anti-Marketing” Forces

Negative brand impressions can create headwinds for future growth. Lessons from instances where companies failed to treat customers right underscore the importance of positive customer interactions. Treat people how they should be treated to avoid creating headwinds to growth.

For more on this topic, listen to my interview with Ashley Reichheld on trust.

14. If You’ve Got this Far Successfully, Look for New Needs to Solve

For products or services meeting expectations, cross-selling and up-selling opportunities arise if you listen to your customers and users. Successful strategies can increase customer lifetime value and overall business growth.

For more on meeting the needs of customers, check out my conversation with Jessica Padula at Nestlé Nespresso SA.

15. Start Again

The marketing journey is cyclical, returning to the pursuit of organic growth. Consistently adapting strategies based on evidence and consumer insights allows businesses to navigate the evolving marketing landscape, striking the delicate balance between facts and hype.

For a dose of sobering reality from arguably the best marketing author of our time, check out my conversation with Seth Godin 🌔

I’d love to hear from those reading this. What did I miss? What examples do you have? What questions do you have?

Also, if you are leading a marketing organization, check out last year’s post: 2023 CMO Guide to Updating Your Marketing Vision and Value.

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