Seismic shifts in marketing

TRENDAFRiCA April 7, 2014

By Tim Allemann

There is a seismic shift occurring in marketing understanding, that for some is shaking many long held beliefs to the core and for others is providing credibility towhat they’ve always believed to be true.

The shift is being brought about because of the tipping points reached in two core areas of understanding by the global marketing and scientific community. Marketers can either embrace, or ignore, these at their peril.

The first ‘new’ area of thinking explores marketing principles on how to achieve brand growth, and the second lies in a better understanding of how the human mind works and how we can leverage this to our advantage as marketers and communicators.

Central to both streams is a more scientific approach to understanding what works in practice, rather than basing our knowledge on loose theory, anecdote or popular opinion.

The Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science – the largest marketing institute in the world, based in Australia – counts corporations like Coca-Cola, Unilever and P&G as its sponsors. Locally, organisations such as South African Breweries, First National Bank and Distell use its services. The Institute bases its knowledge and thinking on empirical evidence.  That is to say that they look at the physical evidence of how brands perform over time, across multiple different countries, in multiple conditions and categories. And they see evidence of the same “laws” of marketing repeated over and over again.

Interestingly, many of these new “laws” of marketing contradict what countless senior marketers still hold to be true. In fact, some of this new wave of understanding appears downright heretical to those who view the world in a particular way.

For example, there are many marketers who have been taught to believe that loyalty schemes are an efficient way of retaining consumers or getting them to buy more. Evidence may just prove that this is equivalent to believing that the earth is flat. Likewise, while some marketers believe in spending the majority of their budget on ‘heavyusers’or brand advocates, modern research shows us why light buyers deserve the lion’s share of your budget.

Influence of the subconscious

The second groundswell of knowledge lies in an understanding of how people think and behave.

While 90% of marketing and consumer theories were developed over 30 years ago, 90% of what neuroscientists now know about how the mind works was discovered in the last three decades. There is a far greater understanding of the influence of the subconscious and emotion in decision making, and the manner in which the brain is essentially one big pattern matching machine. This has a number of fundamental implications for what we offer consumers, how we present the offering and how we brand and communicate it.

The fascinating field of behavioural economics leverages much of this understanding, employing a number of principles for how people make irrational decisions in very predictable ways. Consciously applying these principles to marketing and communication can make huge differences in how consumers respond to an offering or message.

It often seems to me that the digital revolution, important as it is, is the only one acknowledged by some marketers.

What the love affair with digital perhaps overshadows, are the other seismic shifts occurring in the marketing field, shifts at a more fundamental level of how consumers think and behave irrespective of channel or device, and how brands can leverage some simple (new) rules in order to fundamentally shift their fortunes.


Source: Tim Allemann is strategic director at Draftfcb Johannesburg.





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