Don't Panic: Marketing has(n't) changed.

Lost in a sea of TikTok and Instagram? You're not alone, but don't worry - you don't have to know it all to be successful in marketing.

During a recent client session, we were deep in an audit of his current marketing activities. My client saw all at once before him the sheer number of systems he had tried using to varying degrees of success. Faced with everything, he drew a long breath.

“Laura,” he said, I’ve been marketing in this business for almost 40 years. This is so foreign to me. All these new things – YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn now TikTok. It used to be I could just run a newspaper and radio ad and pick up clients. But now? Marketing was never like this. Marketing has changed so much.

I paused. Was it true? Is everything in marketing so different that it’s no longer recognizable from decades past? Or was there a different way to think about this?

Marketing is Completely Different

On the surface, this certainly feels true. Almost all of the channels and tools we use for marketing today didn’t even exist twenty years ago. Google Ads? Barely a year old. Websites? Such a young technology that they were static electronic brochures. Email marketing tools were in relative infancy. YouTube wouldn’t launch for another four years, and it would be five before Facebook would be available to the general public. Tack on yet one more year and we’d see the iPhone for the first time.

Twenty years ago, in a world dominated by TV, radio, print media, and direct mail advertising, the customer journey looked different. It started from the media available at the time. Media consumption and the habits that drove brand awareness used different channels.

Let’s rewind further. Before TV, radio dominated awareness advertising. And before that, print media. And if you ask each prior generation of advertisers, you’d be likely to get the same answer: That marketing has changed into something unrecognizable.

Remember when we were all very concerned about our proprietary player piano rolls? No? Me neither, but it’s a clear demonstration of the way marketing messages were crafted in the early 1900s.

Marketing is (Mostly) the Same

In reality, much of what worked in marketing 20, 40, even 100 years ago still works today. Even though the individual tools are different, the core of marketing strategy remains the same.

Good marketing strategy starts in profiling the customer. It uses that understanding to create messaging, a product, and an experience that resonates with them.

Good marketing strategy puts that messaging in front of them where they devote time and attention. It moves them along their customer journey from awareness to interest to purchase.

Good marketing strategy measures the performance of the systems we build to ensure that results are refined and improved as our customer needs evolve and the tools they use change.

The 4 Ps of Marketing – Product, Price, Place, Promotion – these strategic foundations are the same today as they were decades ago. And not a one of them is panic.

The tools and tactics are different. The way we use them is the same: build bridges between our brand and our customer.

Solving for the Future

When I shared this perspective, my client got it right away. We refined and focused on his customer profile, and what channels they use in their day to day lives. From there, it was easy to see which tools would be the most effective in generating awareness with his best type of customer.

All the noise becomes clear when we focus on understanding how customers use these channels, and which might be effective in starting that customer journey. And although it’s good to keep up on new technology, you don’t have to learn them all. Devote time and resources to the channels your customer actually use, and build from there.

After all, marketing hasn’t changed… much.

Until next time!



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