Monday, May 31, 2010

Three things they ought to teach in marketing 101

Back in the 60's, marketers in undergraduate programs learned all about the four P's--pricing, promotion, product and...positioning. Then, in the early 1990s Integrated Marketing added the four C's to frame how marketing was supposed to work in niche markets.

With the emergence of 'teh webz', everything about marketing's control and role changed. Making good on 'customer insight' suddenly meant that the cool kidz in marketing had to add the obvious if long-neglected P to their marketing mix: People.

And not just implicitly, via concepts like SIVA or persona's or other behavioral generalizations that describe people more like cattle than as self-determined actors.

The challenge with understanding people as people, of course, is that you often have to use behavior as a proxy for psychology. And unfortunately, people misbehave consistently. Which makes group think about people's intentions based on observable behavior a, shall we say, incomplete errand.

So what's a marketer to do with people who refuse to follow the rules we'd like to believe they live by?

Here's three concepts that might help marketing graduates in the class of 2011:

The Long Tail: Hard to believe this already seems old school to some, but the reality of most brands (i.e., you won't be adored by millions) makes this look into niches and the marketing potential worth the (re) read. Where we are different is where we are often most engaged...Long Tail looks at how our differences can provide marketers with insights into where the real opportunities lie.

At worst, incorporating long-tail thinking reminds us to push back on the grossest generalizations about segments and audiences. At best, it helps define more relevant customization of the four P's based on the relationship that the long tail helps us define.

Systems thinking: When marketers talk about brand experience, of course we know that encompasses more than the product. But the reality of marketing's influence in most situations is that it ends where sales takes over, where customer support begins, or at the point that customer experimentation drives product development and innovation. Understanding how marketing is part of the system of an enterprise and its relationship to customers can help marketers fill a more meaningful role for the individual that is the customer.

Networking.  Not computer systems, per se, but rather the way that people join with one another for a task, for a time, for a life. How we network with others--in spheres as disparate as entertainment and finance (or as Jim Cramer would say, as financial entertainment)--is the subject of study by physicists, psychologists and politicians as the emergent behavior of individuals sums to a value greater than its parts...think open source software...or YouTube memes like dramatic chipmunk or...pants on the ground.

A network map showing the influence of 5 social relationships among 14 runaways living in 4 cottages. The four largest circles (C12, C10, C5, C3) represent cottages in which the girls lived. Each of the circles within the cottages represents an individual girl. The 14 runaways are identified by initials (e.g., SR). 

Pants on the ground you say? Lest you were one of the 300 million Americans who did not see it, here you go:

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