The new age of honesty
It’s not far away but 2014 could be the dawn of a new age of honesty in marketing. There are many theories about cycles but what seems always to be true is that cycles exist and what goes up then goes down, what is in one minute is out the next. Currently we are in an age of virtual numbers so it’s only a matter of time before we see a backlash and a return to real values.
Of course you can blame the politicians, after all they created the ‘Numeric Society’ – a world where the only values are numbers, even when those numbers have no real value at all. Worse, almost everything they have applied numbers to is worse for it.
The question, are we putting too much importance on vacuous measures like ‘intent’, ‘impressions’, ‘opportunity to see’ and any social media number? Almost certainly, yes.
The change back to more honesty will be in part because, as with social media, it’s rife with spin and even fraud – just look at the expose about Justin Bierber (and most other top stars) faking up Twitter numbers. The Channel 4 programme on click farms and the fact we all know buying social media numbers is cheap, easy and rampant.
More seriously, it’s only a matter of time before CFOs and shareholders are questioning what value all the millions spent across marketing is really delivering. Bugger all in some cases. It happen in the late 90’s in the US and gave a turbo boost to the DM industry who were far more well equipped to deliver numbers than the TV agencies.
I was reading about the Dove ‘Sketches’ campaign, a campaign about honesty, and how it got 170 million* views online (I haven’t been able to verify this) and 4.7 billion global media impressions. How it won 19 Lions in Cannes 2013. Impressive, but nowhere is there one mention about sales figures, increased distribution or increased brand awareness.
Recently I heard how one senior marketer was presenting this case study and when asked at the end about what contributions it made to sales, he didn’t know! How could you get on stage and not know? Even a dumb politician would have expected that question. We’re in marketing after all, aren’t we?
Well maybe not. David Bernbach said that we were “glorified salesmen,” while Leo Burnett, a man who believed that the end game of our profession was selling said, “If it doesn’t sell it isn’t creative.” Well the answer to that today is, “no problem if it doesn’t sell we have a load of measures that make it look good to your boss.” And here lies areal danger that could give critics even more ammunition against us.
Many years ago I was doing the key note speech at a major research conference and spoke to many researchers afterwards. What shocked me was best summed up by one of their comments, “We are in the business of providing clients with insights that allow them to make informed decisions but in reality we spend 90% of our time justifying bad, ill informed decisions to protect their lazy arses.” A strong view but coming from a researcher, probably a well informed one.
Now not all clients are as described, but if the social norm of the industry is to put value on vacuous measures, then why worry about sales? Of course the smart ones start to question, discuss and rebel. Finally the bubble bursts and we see a return to real values, real measures.
One area I predict will see a defining of true values, as it’s growing, will be Proximity Marketing*. It’s an area that is all about marketing close to where consumers buy, so sales results matter.
Fact: 83% of consumer retail spend is offline where people shop, eat, drink, have fun, socialise… so it’s no wonder this is an area estimated to be worth up to $9bn across Europe within a few years. (Even by 2018 on-line retail sales will only be 12.5% according to the Government’s official figures.) And because it’s close to sale, they only real numbers that matter are those that lead to a purchase.
It’s easy to say a shop window delivers an ‘impression’ or claim anyone looking in a window equals a ‘view’ or ‘intent’. Or a car driving by is an ‘opportunity to see,’ I think you get the picture. But what really matters is how many people actually enter the shop and buy. That is what marketing is all about.
Of course there’s a journey – raising brand awareness, defining values, acquisition, etc, but that’s all about delivering the end goal. If your end goal is only half way along the journey, what’s the incentive to finish it?
Personally, I feel there is too much dishonesty in numbers these days, deliberate or not, with little real benefits to clients (though loads to the agencies). We need to be honest to ourselves, to our clients, to their shareholders, to the public and to return to Legal, Decent… and of course, Honest (as the ASA use to say).
• Just to add a small but interesting fact here, Judson Laipply’s Evolution of Dance hit over 226 million views on just one posting (there are many) and it didn’t drive up sales of dancing lessons.
Proximity Mobile Marketing – to find out more visit www.comobi2.com