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The deadly sins of modern marketing – and how to be absolved

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Sometimes, yes, old school methods will work, but companies should be aware that some marketing approaches are not just beyond their sell-by dates; they’ve actually become deadly sins that eschew the fundamentals of effective strategy. So take a look at the list below and, if you’re guilty of any of these, it’s time to rethink. 

(1) Advertising first

The idea that you should spend large chunks of budget on advertising, and that it will compensate for a poor brand experience, is nothing short of scandalous in this day and age.  

All the effort companies put behind advertising does drive consideration. However  bosses often create a “matching luggage” approach based on one big advertising idea and just cascade that same creative concept through to a landing page, or email, or digital content, or piece of direct marketing. It’s lazy – and more to the point it doesn’t deliver on the reality of dealing with the brand or show any understanding of customers.

How to be absolved: Companies should always start with customer first and use the right media and placements for them, with creative integrated via the proposition or idea. Take cycling clothing and accessories brand Rapha; its 90-day no quibble returns policy says a lot about the brand, both on the quality of its product and its service ethos.

The brand also learns about individual customers’ preferences. The email programme, for instance, is tailored to the types of cycling you prefer.

(2) If you build it, they will come

Modern businesses seem to be creating lots of content (some of which might be excellent, but who will ever know?) and then expecting time-poor customers to want to spend time visiting a hub and searching for the bits relevant to them. 

How to be absolved: Understand customers and be where they are, at a relevant time with relevant content. The Economist’s provocative digital display campaign is a great example, using provocative headlines on unexpected topics to interest new readers – but crucially placing relevant content in front of people where they are – no expecting them to find it for themselves.

Read more marketing-related articles:

(3) Making expensive film content that “will go viral” 

Too many companies create video in hope of “going viral” but put no paid traffic-driving media behind it. Content created like this is simply a vanity project and the odds are massively stacked against it working. Frankly, the best place to hide something is on the internet.

How to be absolved: There isn’t a guaranteed formula for creating viral content – we all wish there was. So if bosses want people to read or view what they’ve created, their best bet is to accept that viral videos and social are not a low-cost option and they have to spend money – ideally using data to target relevant audiences.

(4) Collecting (or indeed just having) loads of data and investing no money in analytics and data planning

Yes, data is incredibly important. But only through analytics and planning can businesses use it to understand what the customer needs. There is no excuse for not using the data they have on customers in an intelligent way that adds value both for the customer and the brand.

How to be absolved: Effective data analytics can kick-start a marketing campaign. Just look at Boden: it uses customer data to re-engage casual or lapsed users, analysing everything from the last item ordered to how long ago it was.

(5) Using focus groups to decide your entire future marketing platform

Of course research and focus groups have an important role to play, but there are much more effective forms of research available now.

Modern research techniques are based on behavioural sciences and the “system 1 and system 2” model of how we make decisions. People in focus groups generally say what they think the organiser wants to hear, what they think is the right answer or what makes them look good. They don’t say how they would really respond and the impact on the buying decision because they’re unaware of their deeper subconscious influences – so can’t express them.

How to be absolved: Businesses can use the focus group approach as directional or to add insight, but all too often good ideas are binned in their entirety based simply on the loudest voices in the room: which could be a few punters who turned up for £40 and a free supper. Instead, companies should adopt a more considered approach to research based on more sophisticated models.

Finally, there is a sixth sin that seems to crop up regularly: companies working with marketing agencies in the same old ways. Those looking for absolution should be open to new models and different takes on the “traditional’ agency-client relationship”.

Robots will not replace marketing people. That statement has been repeated with glee, by marketing people I might add, in response to programmes and articles that talk about how robots are replacing white collar jobs. Except that may not be true

Sharon Whale is chief executive officer of OLIVER Group UK.

Image: Shutterstock

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