Pontiac announced recently that they were launching a car only via the internet. No TV, print or anything else. Pretty big news if you’re an ad agency. Every day you can read about the changing landscape of marketing. TV ad viewership is way down, media is fragmenting, new media channels are popping up, advertising clutter is at an all-time high, experiential marketing departments have formed, there is buzz and guerilla marketing, direct, etc.

What’s a company to do?

In regards to his forthcoming book, Pat Fallon made the statement, “The future of advertising,” Mr. Fallon said, “is to become experts on how media is consumed, and by whom.”

Sounds like a good idea, but it demonstrates the limited perspective we’ve come to expect from ad agencies. They still only think about the world in terms of media because that is how they get paid. The real marketing story of the next decade will revolve around the individual consumer experience. Factors like customer service, associate behaviors, the retail experience, packaging, customer intimacy, PR, internal branding, and other non-mass factors will be the hot topics of discussion.

The issues around the non-mass marketing variables are numerous. One biggie is the marketing organizations within companies. Departments are too siloed, usually by function. The CRM person has a budget and an agenda, and so does the web person, the advertising/media group, product development and training departments.

Customers, on the other hand, see a company holistically. Every facet of the operations is in play. So who is responsible for pulling all of it together?

The CEO has to have a role in the entire customer experience. Companies that have done it well include Abercrombie & Fitch, where Michael Jeffries controls virtually every aspect of the brand personally. Even their corporate campus is a living testament to the brand lifestyle. The reason the CEO must be involved is that no one else has the clout to drive it through the organization. Too many chiefs in most companies. So, if you’re a marketing guy, now’s the time to get the big boss involved.

1 reply
  1. Daniel Karpelman
    Daniel Karpelman says:

    I think the Pontiac strategy was not a harbinger, but an anomaly. According to Automotive News the Pontiac G5 Coupe was aimed at the youth male audience, which online advertising reaches very cost-effectively. The magazine does report that the car had exceeded its introductory month sales goal by 185% but, “That number could also be attributed to how much Pontiac dealers were starved for a small car after the Sunfire was discontinued.”
    I’ve worked with a lot of CEO’s who knew bupkis about marketing. That’s why they hired me! I agree that such radical changes in company marketing policy have to be a top-down initiative. But marketing managers have always had a CYA attitude. They may not have blown the CEO away with their traditional marketing efforts, but at least there is a track record of “semi-success” … and a general affirmation that a media mix of print, broadcast, DM and internet is better for hedging your bets than blowing the whole marketing wad on one medium.
    In other words they’re not putting their ass on the line by going all-in on something that may or may not work.
    We know that non-traditional marketing gets press. Every time Golden Palace Casino puts their logo on a pregnant belly or boob or boxer’s chest, it’s noticed. But is there conversion? Just because something is unique doesn’t mean it encourages people to buy. Have we learned nothing from the Taco Bell chihuahua?

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