The marketing graveyard has shut up shop

A blog post on the death of email caused quite a stir recently.

The point was a fair one – B2B marketers are focusing on email marketing when in fact they should be keeping up with the latest marketing trends.

There was even evidence to back it up. The author explained that “of the 300 odd slices of spam, about 60% had personalised the email with my name. About 10% of them had my name spelt incorrectly, left blank where the data merge had failed and one even said ‘Dear Do Not Email’”

That’s not very good at all. But does it mean email marketing is dead?

‘Surely not’ was the resounding answer from those enthused enough to engage in the debate that followed.

The general consensus and argument put forward was that powerful, effective, compelling messaging can be used in ANY medium. As long as you have engaging creative and a 'valuable' call to action you should be onto a winner (taking into account previous brand preference of course). Get that right and it doesn't matter if you are using twitter, email, DM or good old press ads - you will get results.

The author’s response was clear – the times are changing:

“If you asked your kids 5 years ago how they communicated with one another, they would have said email, sms and the telephone. Ask them now. And there's my point. E-mail's future is limited. Not only is email saturated today, the new generation entering our workplaces don't use it. Simple.”

Well unfortunately, no – it’s not that simple.

You see if you did ask your kids (and by kids I am assuming they are not currently in the ‘face squashed against the tube door mopping your sweaty brow with your tie’ world of work yet) the no, of course they won’t use email. Why on earth would they?

At the same time they don’t sit in front of a screen all day with the need to correspond with a variety of people in a formal way (I assume)

The point is it’s everything’s contextual.

The way you communicate, the channels you use, the messages you focus on – it will work for some, it won’t for others. It depends on their context and the context in which they experience your communications.

Let’s take social media as an example. A tsunami of expectation has built over the last four years that social media will ultimately replace all marketing. Our audience will shut down their email, chuck away their newspapers and wile away the hours engaging with brands on twitter.

We know social can have massive effects on a campaign, we know social is great to engage with clients and potential customers, blimey we even run campaigns that have social as the focus (if that is the right answer).

But again, it all depends on the context.

Take for example the very non-B2B example of deodorant and body wash. In this market studies have shown that social media influence is close to zero – but that doesn’t mean it’s dead, it has just been used in the wrong context.

The problem is, as a B2B community at large we seem to be living in a non-contextual vacuum -  focused on a ceaseless obsession with channels  (and not answers to problems)

We blog about channels, we debate the role of channels; we share our best use of email, twitter, DM. But rarely do we talk about innovative answers to difficult questions.

We are giving a very dangerous generalisation about the role of different media.

All this means we fail to really resonate with our audience. We focus using channels and messages that may or may not resonate with them at the time. Working backwards means often starting with the wrong answer (and giving marketing a bad name.)

In the word of a great blogger: If the message is right, who cares what screen people see it on? If the message is wrong, what difference does it make?

So what is the solution? Well it is all quite liberating, very simple and much more fun.

Start with the problem and look at it in several different ways.

Think about your audience, think about their business, and think about your product.

Think about the offer, the pricing, the naming, the creative, the big idea.

Then (and only then) think about the channel. Is email right? Is an app right? Who knows?

The good news is – no channel is dead. Nor will it ever be. It just needs to used in in the right place, at the right time.

Of course many will disagree with this post. Believe email is dead. DM is dead. Advertising is dead. Social is dead.

But then again "Nobody ever got famous predicting that things would stay pretty much the same." Did they?

By Earnest 12 September 2013
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