7 Ways Marketing HAS Changed (And It’s Not Just The Tools)

by Ilana Rabinowitz |

I keep hearing about how the rules of marketing haven’t changed —- we’re just using new tools.  I think that’s hogwash. Marketing has changed in profound ways.

First of all, it’s no small matter that the tools have changed.  When we started using the phone instead of the letter, or mobile phone instead of the land line, our lives changed in significant ways.  New communication tools have meant lost industries and jobs as well as new opportunities. The same is and will be true in marketing so we should not deny the major changes that face us.

But when I say that marketing has changed, I’m talking about the outdated stuff that was in your marketing textbooks in college and what you learned in your first few jobs if you’ve been in this business for more than 5 or 10 years.  But, there is one exception that I’ll get to later.

At Shop.org this year, Arthur Kurzweil spoke about the pace of change in technology and how the pace is doubling each year.  He spoke of how computer storage and speed has changed exponentially and what this means for the possibility for artificial intelligence. It was a stunning presentation, yet I could hear people grumbling in the seats at his keynote, wondering what he was doing at an e-commerce summit.  It was an ironic moment to see people resisting the message of exponential change.   It may be hard to see change except in retrospect. But I, for one, did not imagine just two years ago that I would ask my phone, “Where’s the closest Thai restaurant with three stars closest to where I’m standing at that moment?” and get a better answer than I asked for.  That is one small example of how technological change effects marketing.

So, one important change in marketing is its intimate connection to technology which should make us question the status quo every day. And there are more:

  1. Marketing and its tools change so quickly, that your marketing team needs to become a research department. You can’t simply attend a marketing conference once a year and expect to keep up. You really do need to find curators and be your own curator of what’s important in the cutting edge of marketing.  Are you aware of how platforms like  Pinterest or Vyou  could be used in your business? Do you know the research on how people actually use Facebook or any of the other platforms?  Are you aware of cutting edge developments and case studies on social media measurement?
  2. The changing tools of marketing mean that your initiatives have to shift.  Video is one example. If you haven’t started to use your smartphone and inexpensive video cams to use video more this year to introduce your website, answer customer questions, and communicate one on one, you’re not even using the tools to their advantage. If your focus is totally on words, it’s as if you’re still sticking a stamp on all your letters and taking them to the post office. Here are eight inexpensive, highly effective ideas for using video to wow your readers that you can implement today.
  3. Your entire business has to change to accommodate the use of social media.  Before marketing became social, the rest of the business didn’t have to revolve around what you were doing in your department.  Today, your company needs to be an open book.  It’s more important than ever to break down departmental silos because your customers don’t care and they are in control now.  I wrote about nine ways that the entire business needs to rethink its way of operating to become social a few months ago.  Here is one way to add to that list: having a flexible, open and entrepreneurial approach to business, no matter what your size.
  4. Your marketing department needs to become a media and education department. Marketing has moved from creating punchy little messages to producing content that moves people over a period of time to make you their provider of choice. That means hiring differently, whether they are in house, freelance or consultants.  Some of these talents include video production, writing, editing of text and video, WordPress technical skills, analytical skills.
  5. How you spend your marketing dollars is different. A Facebook business page is free. A Twitter profile is free.  How much extra do you need to spend on services, apps and design?  What agency is going to be able to help you make the right decisions at the most prudent cost? How much of the expertise should you bring in-house? Does social media demand more in-house expertise than broadcast media? The budgetary questions are more nuanced. It’s not a matter of buying time and space on someone else’s media.Some of the money that once went into traditional media will move into digital media.  Just a year or two ago, few companies had line items for app development, social media monitoring, or training or hiring staff in how to use the new tools. I may be raising more questions than answers here but they need to be asked.
  6. Even the Four Ps of marketing have changed.  Brian Fetherstonhaugh of Ogilvy One has spoken and written about how marketing is no longer about Product,  Place, Price and Promotion but about Experience, Everyplace, Exchange and Evangelism.  Well, if the Four Ps of marketing have changed, then the textbooks need to be rewritten.
  7. People have changed. You might think that  the basic rules of marketing don’t need to change because people don’t change.  But people have changed.  In three significant ways, your potential customers are different.   First, they don’t see themselves as passive consumers. They don’t expect to call your toll free help line and be placed on hold forever.  They expect to get the attention of someone on Twitter or Facebook NOW. And if not, they will get the attention of plenty of others about their problems. Second, their attention spans are shorter.  Attention marketing is where there is hope.  You can’t just be providing a wonderful product anymore. You have to use your platform as a business to make their lives more meaningful.  That’s a tall order for the marketing department.Third, they don’t see themselves as the targets that marketing people have traditionally seen them as. They see themselves as people with innumerable options. They’ll call you when they decide.  Don’t call them.  This means you’ve got to be a great looking suitor with alluring content.

One thing has not changed: the importance of the Unique Selling Proposition. 

It’s more important than ever. What was true then is truer now.  Seth Godin has written over 30 books, thousands of blog posts and spoken hundreds of times on what is essentially this one topic. They all say the same thing.  Be extraordinary. I don’t mean this as a criticism because I’ve read every one of his books I’ve heard him speak five times.  Today this means being more meaningful, being better at whatever it is that you promise, and creating a better experience.  This one marketing principle has stood the test of time and technology because of the proliferation of choice and content and the loss of people’s attention span.  It’s a good place to focus as the ground shifts beneath us.

About the Author

Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.