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An article in Forbes magazine recently started with the words, “Marketers don’t cut people open, design cars that can crash, handle hazardous waste or fly into war zones. Relatively speaking, it’s a low-stakes profession…”
Reading these lines I was astounded. As a marketer in the 21st century I take marketing very seriously. It was hard for me to understand how a writer for such a prestigious magazine could make such a blanket statement (which was so obviously incorrect)!
‘Marketing’ is still perceived as a low stakes profession even by professionals
Marketing can make or break a business. Many times marketing strategies are what make products and services famous (even though the product or service itself is mediocre compared to others). Big brands in any business industry can gain acclaim through their creative marketing strategies or alter negative perceptions about their company (think of Nike’s slogan “Just do it” and Coca Cola’s slogan “Open Happiness).
Calling marketing a low stakes profession is definitely below the belt, especially when the writer is discussing the absurdly infamous redesign of the Airbnb Bélo logo that supposedly resembles (and I agree) certain body parts (which one exactly, is still under debate) in the same article.
How can someone critiquing the marketing blunder of the Airbnb team so underestimate the profession of marketing?
I think the problem is that many people in the current workplace are still under the illusion that marketing focuses on the traditional responsibilities which include:
- the customer
- the target audience
- and the brand promise.
Though in the past these three fundamentals made the core of marketing strategies, in the 21st century, marketing has become a whole new ball game.There are new dimensions to marketing that have completely transformed the industry and have created forms and functions that go beyond the traditional ‘test’ groups and ‘pilot studies’ as quoted by Vinjamuri.
Airbnb: Still Focused on Traditional Marketing
Let’s take the case of Airbnb’s re-branding fiasco (which is what the marketing industry is currently talking about) as an illustration. If we decide to dissect the steps taken by Airbnb we realize that they did everything right in terms of marketing-if they were running a business a decade or so ago. They tested the new logo with an initial small ‘pilot’ group (including Bloomberg Business), they got critic opinions, and then some ‘consumer’ ratings. Everyone raved about the logo change, especially when presented with the ‘story’ behind the logo change. However, like many of today’s business owners, Airbnb underestimated the marketing changes that have taken place so that when the logo was actually launched, it was made a laughingstock the world over.
Welcome to the 21st Century.
Successful marketers in the current marketplace have to be educated on various factors that go beyond the traditional three listed above. They have to consider facets like, Big Data, Social Media Metrics and Strategic implementation of long term goals. If Airbnb, Gap and other such brands currently following the fad of redesigning their logos so that they are able to ‘rebrand’ their business in the long run were more in tune with market changes, they could avoid the blunders being made when logo redesigns take place.
- Big Data, Marketers and Individuals as Customers
With the Big Data available to marketers today, they have the potential to drive their role to new heights. A successful marketer will use the insights available to him or her through the data to maneuver the strategic decisions to ensure growth and long term competitive advantage. The velocity of the data change available, the variety and volume of the factors they can access all combine to produce market function that has enormous potential.
By capturing the most effective marketing mix marketers can use the Big Data to understand not a ‘target group,’ but individual customers, making the marketing experience more personal. They can create interaction of processes that maximize the value individually. The current marketers do not focus on the ‘market’ rather they focus on the promise of individuals as customers.
- Social Media Metrics
No matter how often Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms are derided by critics and people alike as to their short term effect on society, the fact is, social media opinions can make or break a business.
When using a pilot study or creating a control group to test a product, social media has to become an essential facet of the test. The ‘real world’ control groups no longer garner the same results as they did in the past. Social media or the virtual world has for all intents and purposes become the ‘real world’ and when marketers ignore that aspect of the reality, they fail to prove their hypothesis accurately. It is a form of false positive as can be seen by the Airbnb logo redesign.
- Strategic Implementation of long term goals
The marketer has to respond to the needs and opinions of the consumer. These needs are not always obvious, and opinions not absolutely clear. The marketer has to grasp the unstated needs and the underlying needs of the consumer just as much as the obvious and stated needs. It is no longer a game about numbers, rather it is knowing, and understanding where the numbers are taking the business and how long the trend will continue. Marketers have to strategically analyze the long term goals and anticipate changes rather than waiting for the trends to change.
The BP Fiasco and Damage Control by the Marketing team
When the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill fiasco took place in 2010 stocks fell and the company took on a negative image overnight. There seemed to be no way to clear up the images of devastation that spanned the Gulf of Mexico.
However, through positive marketing efforts and by taking full responsibility the company recovered.
Positive Marketing Efforts
The key here is positive marketing efforts. The CEO, the company, and other stakeholders could have apologized until their faces turned red (and they did). However, the public perceived the initial response of apologies as half-hearted, and stocks continued to fall for more than a year. It was then the company made the realization that social media and the current marketing dimensions do not support such mediocre responses. The people, the consumers, have more at stake, and through technological advances, have more control, in their support and dissent of brands and companies.
It was the marketing team that saved the day. They created a series of advertisements that helped the consumers realize that BP was trying hard to resolve the problems created by the spill. They began chatting on social media forums. The marketers tackled individuals rather than a whole audience through Twitter and Facebook. They took on a picture of a company that was maturing as a business and had more than the bottom line in mind. Most of the public was still skeptical and though some of the effects were irreversible, BP was continuously shown as being invested in building environmental sustainability. Their bottom line? They regretted the mistake made and were ready to go the extra mile to ensure such a devastating mishap never took place again.
It was the consistent efforts of the marketing team that helped BP slowly recover. To this day a lot of the people view BP negatively, however, the complete refusal to see the brand or company as ‘acceptable’ has been altered.
This change did not take place overnight and could not have been done without the efforts of a so called ‘low stake profession’.
Bottomline: Marketing, despite what David Vinjamuri suggests in Forbes magazine, is not a low stake profession. Businesses and professions have to reassess their assumptions and presumptions of the field and accept that marketing in the 21st century is the core of business success.
Marketers do not work in isolation, rather they are the pulse of the company as they cohesively bring together every aspect of the product or service and integrate the corporate values with the individual consumers. The Big Data they have access to in essence becomes an individual’s profile and with that profile they can create a highly successful strategy that allows brands to be successful and rebranding efforts to become effective.
Marketers and corporations alike, have to understand that they must make use of Big Data to transform brands. Marketers that lag in time create logo redesign and rebranding fiascos as shown in the Gap, Pepsico (Tropicana), and current Airbnbredesign. Those who are able to harness the value of Big Date will be able to successfully redesign their logo and rebrand their company.