As we all know, the hit series Mad Men portrays an ad industry and set of clients that are as dated as businessmen in fedoras, which makes the show so fascinating.
Yet, the twist is that the kind of marketing the show depicts -- one where advertisers crafted brand messages to capture the imagination of a mass market and then broadcast those messages via one-way media channels -- didn't disappear gradually over the past 50 years. It has happened only in the last decade.
Consumers began challenging conventional marketing strategies with the advent of social media, which became a virtual testing ground for whether marketers could keep their promises.
Now, people turn to their Facebook friends, price-scanning apps and video uploads to create their own channels. They voice opinions about brands within their own groups and to the world at large. In essence, social media has become a new channel between brands and their customers -- but one where the customers are broadcasting and the marketers are listening.
Social media has emerged as a kind of "truth serum" for good and bad customer experiences. It enables consumers to keep companies honest and potentially elevate them to celebrity status -- or hurt them if they refuse to listen.
In response, marketers are doing nothing less than remaking their profession. They are using the latest advances in social media and big data analytics technology to better comprehend their markets, and most importantly, remake their own companies and brands.
Still, if marketing's tactics are changing, the discipline's purpose isn't. Marketing has always been based on a few basic principles: understanding customers, meeting their needs, and doing so in a way that builds trust. They still face the same questions about how to accomplish these goals; they're simply answering them in completely new ways.
Yes, marketers are still creating campaigns because consumers accept nothing less. But it is no longer enough to just focus on broad demographics, such as "women 18 to 49."
Forward-thinking marketers are also trying to piece together the information people share about themselves to paint a vivid picture of each consumer as an individual. People are so digitally active that marketers are looking at digital cues -- from tweets to posts to mobile purchases -- to respond to their customers as individuals on a massive scale.
And with a broader view of their customers as people, marketers are inventing new ways to engage. Beyond selling mere products and services, companies are offering information and vivid digital experiences, all designed to meet a range of needs and interests -- in some cases creating an aspirational journey that only begins with an initial purchase.
Companies armed with information can use business analytics to determine the moments to engage with the right information or right suggestion. Increasingly, we're seeing this done in such a personalized, authentic way that the best marketing feels more like a welcomed service.
Marketers are also considering how a company's values and purpose impact the brand. Helping to build an internal company culture that's in sync with the brand is now part of a marketer's portfolio. Likewise, marketing is becoming essential to the strategy of any company.
So as marketing's role broadens, so do the skills and relationships required for the job. The discipline is changing, but armed with data and the insights it provides, marketers are stepping up to the task.
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