Is Marketing Dead?

Has automation killed it?

In the past decade the world has changed, and along with it marketers have been trying their hardest to keep up with the ever-changing digital world we live in. There have been countless articles claiming “the death of traditional marketing.”

One of the studies that sent marketers into a panic was the 2015 study done by Microsoft, it was found that with the evolution of mobile, the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. In the report, they claimed, “Heavy multi-screeners find it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli they’re more easily distracted by multiple streams of media.” This sent marketers into a tissy, all trying to figure out the secret sauce on how to breakthrough to their audience in the digital age. Screens have shrunk from a TV screen to a mobile screen, and now with voice technology screens are now nonexistent.

But just because our screens and attention spans are shrinking, does it really mean it is the death of advertising? This was the topic at Canes in 2016 at The Wall Street Journal sponsored panel discussion. “Advertising is dead. Long live advertising?” During this panel discussion, Brad Jakeman, the president of PepsiCo’s Global Beverage Group summed up the discussion with “Not all advertising is dead. Bad advertising is.”

Coincidentally, in 2017, one of the worst ads in recent history was a Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner, you know the one. The ad is centered around what looks to be a Black Lives Matter protest. In the ad, Jenner hands a police officer a Pepsi and suddenly the protest has magically ended and the protesters are now happy and dancing in the streets. This ad was a hard lesson in learning how important it is to handling cultural issues with authenticity and care. Audiences have become smarter and can now smell a fake from a mile away. PepsiCo’’s decision to insinuate that their product was the solution to a highly sensitive cultural discussion was not only insensitive but demonstrated a lack of understanding in the very culture they were trying to connect with. Six months after the ad was pulled Jackman left Pepsi to start a consultancy. He told Ad Age, “the experience was the most gut-wrenching of his career.”

One thing that doesn’t go out of style and never will is creating meaningful connections. Good advertising is not about selling. It has always been and always will be about connecting. Somehow, in this busy digital world we live in, marketers have forgotten that. They have exchanged the solid foundational principles that good advertising is based on for quick hacks and buzzwords like “growth hacking” and “market disruption.”

When taking a look at some of the most iconic brands and why their famous campaigns still ring true today it comes down to a few basic marketing principles:

Insight into

Your Audience

The Nike, Just Do It campaign is a great example of this. Nike doesn’t mention their sneakers once in their advertising, but they are able to connect with their audience and tap into the way they feel about exercise on an emotional level. It worked way back in the 80’s when the campaign was introduced, and it still works today. Don’t want to go to spin class? Just do it. Don’t want to run a marathon? Just do it. No matter where you are on the fitness spectrum, the idea of just getting off your butt and doing it, resonates.

As a marketer, taking time to truly understand the cultural dynamics of your target audience and what they care about is paramount. The key to good advertising is not to make your audience care about what you are selling, but to sell what they care about.

Focusing on your

Core Values

Focusing on your “why” as opposed to your “what” is another critical element to good advertising. A company’s core values are in essence, what the company and stands for. 

Steve Jobs gave a very famous and remarkable speech about core values after his return as the CEO to Apple. In the speech, he states “To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world; it’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. And so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.” Steve Jobs described Apple’s core value as “Apple believes that people with passion can change the world for the better. And those people that are crazy enough to think that they can, are the ones who actually do.”  When you think about Apple’s core values you can clearly see it woven into the fabric of everything they do, including the products they create. 

Many brands get lost in the weeds and focus on their features and benefits, or their “what”, as opposed to talking about their “why.” A great brand, such as Apple, understands that it is their “why” that makes people not only remember a brand, but care about it. 


The Craft

With our fast-paced digital world moving at such a fast pace, it has put pressure on companies to be able to push content out at lightning speed. 

With the rise of digital marketing platforms and self-automated tools somehow the focus on branding and marketing strategy has been forgotten. Great marketing takes both time and care, to really uncover the insights an audience will truly connect with. 

It is important to remember the principles that once created great advertising, are still the same principles that work today. To create a brand with true purpose that will flourish in today’s world it is critically to create a world your audience wants to be part of. Successful brands understand that it is about not only understanding your audience’s world, but creating a brand that is part of their world. 

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