Jul 2018

A Paper on The New Marketing Era – Marketing in the Post Digital Age

Mr Jimi Awosika

Good evening Humans,

One of our Group companies proposes its philosophy as “the human experience company” and goes on to clarify that “the world may be digital, but humans are analogue”. 

This point of view suggests a dichotomy of the two entities, the world and humans. And there is. 

The first, the world, refers to the physical context that the second, humans dwell in. 

The second, human, refers to the essence of the embodied being that carries feelings and emotions and a soul that dwell in the embodied person, marking him out as a unique entity that lives his existence in the physical context of the world.

The modes of thinking that frame the peculiar ways in which humans live in time and space in the world, mark what we call the ages. And these shifts are further marked and impacted by the outcomes of the enterprise of humans of each particular age. 

Today, the most significant outcome of the enterprise of humans that is impacting the age is digital technology. It is birthing innovations that are changing the dynamics of human existence in time. Every aspect of living can feel the impact of this change and with regards to the profession of the people, under whose auspices we are gathered here today, marketing, we see new tensions arising. 

Polls coming in show human beings are begging for a new definition.

  • 75% of people believe they do not need marketers to find out information about their offerings. Or about anything, for that matter.

  • 67% of people do not believe marketers make things that are relevant or tailored to their lives.

          (Source: Peter Fisk, GeniusWorks)

This growing disintermediation of marketing, as we knew it, is the theoretical core for the subject matter of this paper, The New Era of Marketing- Marketing in a Post Digital Age.

The kernel of this discourse therefore will reveal the philosophical issues that should promote the influence of marketing on business growth and sustainability, and those that are threatening to stunt it. 

So, we may actually be dealing with a philosophical subject matter in this discourse and even if we assume that the predominant profession across this audience would be marketing or management, we have no choice but to begin with philosophy. 

And I believe it is in order, for philosophy is the mother of all enterprise. Out of its belly comes all enterprise and from its wisdom do all disciplines of business gain their footing. 

The point therefore is that being the main factor whose existence modulates the world, any business, product, service in any age- that does not give the human a clarified sense of meaning; with regards to the peculiar age in which he lives, will not find pride of place in the market as ages shift. 

But first, let us apprise the key issues of the post digital age; the first being connectivity. 

In today’s post-digital age- and some people actually call it the “connectivity age”, the market and consumer conversation is changing. To lead and dominate in the market place today requires a different mindset and approach in dealing with the always-on consumer who is so-called because he is always on anyway, shopping for ideas, inspiration, products, movements, perspectives, brands, and experiences.

Therefore, welcome to the age of the always-on shopper. We should also x-ray the concept of the shopper in the lager context of what it means to the human for whom the activity really means a quest in search or pursuit of something in order to find things meaning in life. Throughout time, when man starts shopping for ideas and there is a technology that facilitates that search, a renaissance occurs.

Let me take one illustration right out of Wikipedia because it serves as a citation that should broaden our minds to the yet inconceivable ramifications of how a technology can impact an age and change things forever.

It’s the one about Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum 

Gutenberg , the German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe. His introduction of mechanical movable type printing to Europe started the Printing Revolution and is regarded as a milestone of the second millennium, ushering in the modern period of human history. It played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses. 

When a revolutionary technology comes to the scene, information is first to proliferate. Processed, the information becomes knowledge and then eventually synthesized into wisdom, which is the productive application of knowledge. 

So today, we have the wise shopper who is far ahead on his quest and picking up ideas, experiences, inspiration, perspectives, sometimes even more than the marketer. He, the human shopper could even know more about the need that your brand can take care of. So, marketing has to be adaptive and to be able to fuse its products and services along the journey of the shopper.

Fusing products, services or indeed any solutions in the holistic journey along the shopper’s quest is what consumer connectedness is about. 

And this phenomenon, consumer connectedness to and through technology is at the heart of the digital transformation. 

We Uber our commute. We Google our health symptoms. 

The fusion therefore required of marketing has to begin from understanding the human consumer thinking, to predictive analytics of his behavior enabled by technology, of all factors that lead to the destination that you are selling to him. This is as opposed to the past when such factors as packaging, store design, merchandising, social etc. that formed the complex of communicating with the consumer was often done in silos, with the result being a very disjointed view because of the lack of true shopper insight to drive the omni-channel integration required today. 

Another implication of things being no longer linear is that marketing needs to be holistic and consistent in its journey with the popular factors at which the consumer is addressed– mentally, physically and virtually. But I add a fourth dimension. It’s the spiritual; the most important because it is his differentiating essence from all things and beings. His soul. And by this I’m not talking about religion. 

Any business that is serious about marketing must design tools to measure performance at all of these parameters. 

My observation is that discussions about how digital technology has affected business often stop at technology hardware and the software that drive them but we often fall short of the other software; the software of the soul as repository of the feelings and emotions that control our decisions. 

Important as technology is, the frenzy around it seems to be making marketing lose the plot because, instead of creating and messaging by understanding the human and having technology fit in this understanding, the discussion seems to be about having humans fit into technology. Business and indeed any enterprise will do well to always think “human” first. 

That’s why at Troyka, our own point of view of business begins with a human purpose that “if we treat our people well and consistently do great work, fame and fortune will follow”. 

Then the purpose of your product or service must be seen to be authentic, as your corporate brand must ensure that the experience of your internal and external customers aligns with your strategy. 

We marketers understand this sentiment, which incidentally is expressed in words out of the register of marketing practice. It’s called “buy-in”. 

When any business’ purpose and solutions are not authentic, it begins to try too hard to promote itself and its products because they will not resonate with people. This is where hype begins. And brand distrust festers. 

I am going this length to highlight the most crucial issue that is framing the minds of people towards brands today. 

And it is indirectly creating expectations and scrutiny for the Chief Marketing Officer because when buy-in to a business and its offerings are low, it’s the CMO, more than anyone else that bears the brunt. And that is the way it should be. 

Statistics show that 80% of CEOs do not trust their CMOs; compared to 10% of the CEOs that feel the same way about their Chief Financial Officers and Chief Information Officers.

Source: Harvard Business Review.

The Chief Marketing Officer who is more commonly perceived to be in charge of marketing communication must therefore define communication as entailing so much broader than the commercialization role of catalyzing sales through advertisements, promotions and media placements. 

She must now be a leader and an aggregator of thinking, especially in view of what we have found; that services are usually in silos. She has to put the team of disciplines together into a discipline of one; which we call The Power of One at our company Insight Redefini. This thinking that should be adopted in the new age, to give solutions that are not disjointed from the human consumer in a fused age and this fusion of disciplines must be brought together at the outset of solving a problem. 

The CMO now has to take on the strategy role, with responsibility for innovation, customer insight and product design, leading therefore to the enterprise wide role that is pivotal to P & L. 

This immediately opens up the conversation on product design as pivotal to corporate strategy and to the limitless opportunities that it presents for business growth and sustainability. 

As Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Growth and Strategy Officer of Publicis Groupe puts it, “we now need to think more about communication in terms of products and services”. He goes further to say, “we now need to create great experiences, jaw dropping design, convenient utilities and satisfying services and let people talk about them. We are, as an age, in a renaissance of marketing. 

All of this then brings to the fore, the big “D” word, Design. 

This is the reason for the growing ascendancy of the design discipline; which encompasses both a mindset and actions that produce practical solutions and products that are guaranteed to resonate with people, even going beyond satisfaction; to delight. 

It is also why the conversation about product design and product ideology must take centre stage in the marketing communications industry and we in the business, communicators and advertisers, should realize the phenomenon that this is pushing what I call the design premium. It is the notion that good design- in addition to utility and aesthetics, the mindset and intentional practices to create business value, out of difficult conditions- pushes the value of a brand. 

Which brings me to the point about the brand and how it affects corporate reputation and business value. 

Not at all a totally new notion but one which when embraced brings revolutionary business results, especially when we consider the proliferation or even surplus of choice whether of technology or channels and which on their own create further proliferation so much so that the terms “spoilt for choice” and “free as air” are now literally real. 

As we all know, consumers will buy new products from companies with the greater reputation than others. 

As endorsement of the primacy of products and services as the key drivers of business value, the Reputation Institute, a global corporate reputation consultancy has released the numbers for considerations that consumers make about a company’s value. They are:

  • Products and services 19.7%
  • Governance 17.2%
  • Citizenship 15.8%
  • Innovation 12.7%
  • Leadership 12.3%
  • Workplace 11.9%
  • Performance 10.6%

Here, we can see how the triple bottom line of social, environmental and financial considerations cannot be relegated to advertising and marketing alone. But the most crucial to business value is the appeal power of products and services. 

Good design therefore is corporate diplomacy. It's like the role that soft power plays in national diplomacy; but in the case of the corporate organization, it is to attract and co-opt customers into purchase behaviors that benefit the business, thereby creating corporate influence. This way, no customer feels exploited, as the product is never seen as over-priced because its perceived value goes beyond human consumer’s financial considerations. The brand; no matter how high the price becomes a statement of the human consumer's self-worth. 

She is paying the producer for the compliment that says "I consider you so special that I had to invest uncommon passion to make this product a delightful experience for you to enjoy". Wouldn't you fall in love for that line? Apple woos people everyday with that line, but you’ll never hear it verbalized as audible speech or advertisements. It is the buyers of the products and services that say so and spread the word. 

Point: beta market dey sell insef. 

When you tell a good marketing story through your product or service, it will give you both the desired revenue and the social echo that the industry calls earned media. 

This is the biggest antidote to commoditization and the most potent driver of loyalty because it catalyzes love for the brand. The path to getting to this point begins with design thinking; a designerly approach to problem-solving. 

It is the most proven methodology for understanding and navigating complexity. It is based on deep empathy with the human consumer, idea generation, prototyping and experimentation, iterating and refining. It all goes back to human. We have to think meaning, before we think technology channels and formats. 

Marketing today must understand the alchemy of man and technology. Because of this need, the interest in leveraging neuromarketing is on the rise as the advancement in psychology is leading us to pay more attention to the dynamics of how to engage the chemistry of the happiness tree with its branches of dopamine- for controlling pleasure, serotonin-for significance, oxytocin- for bonding and endorphins- laughter. 

Witness that storytelling in marketing messaging is shifting emphasis from dopamine, the neurotransmitter that gives us surges of pleasure when we buy, to emphasis on oxytocin, the one that ignites emotion at the deepest chambers of human being, resulting in the creation of strong bonding and improved social interactions. 

It’s the reason that technology companies are on the trend of tooling for designing their products to connect and sell by recruiting comedians and poets. 

The implication of this is that marketing messaging of interrupt and repeat, with the notion that if you bombard people with advertising, they will “get it”, is fading away. 

Emphasis is shifting to messaging that transforms people and takes their spirit to embrace a higher order- emotions that stirs us to embrace our one existential advantage over other creatures, our spirit. Spiritual intelligence will trump every other intelligence. 

So as technology advances, this reality is framing an evolution of the considerations of what determines higher economic value as it is rising beyond commodities, beyond goods, beyond services, to experiences. I dare say that some are beyond that, making progress to the ultimate point of transformations that change peoples’ belief system and gives them a better view and more endearing view of the world. It’s a great day for marketing. 

Marketers will do well to embrace this spirit of the age and design transformational businesses, product and services. At Insight Redefini, we have captured it in a new credo: “Don’t tell me; make me feel it” 

Let’s not see this as a complicated demand for our vocation. Essential marketing was and always will be about storytelling. And only humans, not machines, have the capacity of the limbic brain to control our thoughts and feelings, for data as important as it is a consideration for efficient marketing would only amount to cold figures that can only lead to mechanical messages or solutions. And we are not machines. 

When I hear that “the CMO has to be more technically advanced and digitally focused”, I agree totally but I always like to stress the point that digital technology is a method of reaching people. It is not the substance. The substance is a good human story, designed to reach the inner recesses of a human’s being. That’s not a mistake so I’ll say it again; “a human’s being”. 

We in marketing business have long resolved that marketing is about intuition and magic, even before and more than logic. 

I propose that we need to reappraise our methodologies for questioning and discovery by learning how to understand the anthropology of marketing challenges in order to create relevant and resonant solutions that are human-centered. Design thinking- employing intuition and systemic reasoning for problem solving will help us do this. 

We need to increase capability and capacity for creativity, by design. 

It needs no telling that only partnerships can help businesses achieve success today because the issues are not linear and clear cut as in the past when there were delineations of what a business did. 

The telecommunications businesses have entered the music business. Now they have decided to get into media and take on the DSTVs of this world. This weekend, a bank is taking the popular culture sentiment of fashion by storm. They have Miss J who happens to be a man as key presenter of a master class. All in our time and in our country. 

It’s not about channels, media, it’s about meaning, for meaning is the new money. Until now, we had tended to understand external lifestyle influences that ultimately affect purchase, behavior and preferences, but as the world has seen progress in the evolution of considerations for what makes competitive economic value, the factor of meaning has become paramount. 

Our creative solutions need to be delivered to traverse the consumer decision journey in his path to purchase, using data that emphasize human insight into what makes meaningful experiences on that path to purchase. Every serious marketing business has to have tools to manage that journey. 

I’d like to re-emphasize meaningful experiences along the consumer path to purchase. Again, the deal from now on is “Don’t tell me; make me feel it”. 

The human being does not seek digital, he seeks meaning in life. It helps if the meaning comes to him through digital technology. For now. Another technology will come to the fore because technologies come and go, but humanness will remain. 

If marketing gets this, practitioners have nothing to fear. They will thrive. It’s about creating products and services that make the lives of people more meaningful. 

See the rave about Artificial intelligence: the science of making clever machines which, much as it fascinates us, is also the source of the biggest fear in the world today. So much so that the likes of Elon Musk and Richard Branson, forerunners that have taken human travel literally out of this world with their civilian space travel businesses are also the people at the forefront of advocacy for regulation. It sounds like they are counseling man travelling at extra supersonic speed to make haste slowly. 

It is the reason that as AI, artificial intelligence is growing, the experimentation in AEI, artificial emotional intelligence is growing as well, to direct behavior that is concealed and private in the mind of man, so that he does not go rogue and humanity finds that we have a Frankenstein on our world. 

Therefore the question to ask when you hear the statement that “digital is killing marketing” is to ask, “what is marketing?” Let us take the received definition by the American Marketing Association as: 

"The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large." 

It’s in insight into what gives humans- customers, clients, people that consist the society at large experiences of lives of meaning that the answer lies. 

At our own business, we have tried to answer the question; why we exist. 

And we see that it is for no other reason than to help guide businesses into the high purpose of creating human-centered products and services that enrich people’s lives. And help them live with dignity. It’s WHY we believe Troyka exists. 

We take a point of view that every business must start by organizing for understanding by framing a point of view that serves the corporate purpose as a filter for all that the business produces. 

I believe that an unfairly disproportionate emphasis is placed on the fear of new technologies and cold technical factors as channels- even data, for any data that falls short of the understanding of the essential knowledge of existence as humans will not reach to the depth of our being. We must take consideration for understanding the subtle alchemy of marketing, in its job of raising people to a better quality of life. 

Any business involved in marketing- in whatever age- that, by its design, has the capability to live this human purpose is the one that will be in business tomorrow. The one that is not so designed will not. 

No one business, sticking to its traditional category is designed to successfully grapple with the serious complexities of these times. 

This is why I’d like to very earnestly congratulate ADVAN for its long standing quality partnership with the industry and for some categories of awards that I see listed for celebration tonight. This I believe you have done in living part of your purpose to “drive Visionary and Thought Leadership within the Marketing Communication Industry”. 

But you can infer from my position that your own offerings as advertisers should also be communication, in themselves. That’s why we need to kick off our partnership at earlier stages than we are doing now; where the product is already finished and the “ad agency” is only called in to talk about it in ads. 

As for my business, we are beyond an ad agency. We are a business transformation and marketing innovation enterprise. 

I charge ADVAN to stay the course and do more to encourage marketing new thinking because as the onslaught of disruption continues, marketing needs new thinkers and new thinking adapted to the future that's guided by new realities of the information and knowledge- empowered consumer or human shopper who will promptly punish your business for any lapse in serving him to his delight. I believe that such Awards should be decided through a mechanism that is judged by real users; in addition to -or even more than- industry practitioners. 

That way, we can receive better quality critiquing that gears us to perform better. 

Let me end therefore with a quote by Eric Hoffer that “in times of change, learners will inherit the earth, while the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists”. 

Marketing practitioners in the entire chain will do well to pay heed to learning about the post digital human. And help him simplify complexities of the post digital era by serving his “Human”. 

In closing, we can see why the pivotal role a business needs today is the Chief Meaning Office. 

This places the onus of business leadership on the CMO, at least if not in that formal title, but in purpose because at the end of the day, the business’ greatest worth is the products and services that it presents to people in exchange for value. 

The CMO is a leader, first because he leads by asking the most important question “what’s in our product that satisfies the consumer’s quest for meaning as she consumes or uses it?” 

The answer to this question can only be satisfactory answered if the product or service meets the high mark of content and character, what in design terms make up the twin quantities of performance and meaning. The first, performance, is the easy part but it is essentially about utility. Most products can do highly on this score and as we know, if utility were all that a product or service was about, then we would only have one of such to do all that is required. One brand of car, design of a dress, one design of building, one design of everything. Isn’t that scary, if not out rightly distasteful? 

The second value of the product, its meaning, is the one that is the product’s character, expressed in the product’s language, usually it’s aesthetics. It is the value that communicates the appeal at the deeper level of the humanity of the shopper. The product must also fit this consideration. 

The human as distinct in his choices and tastes would go anywhere to find what fits at both levels. This compulsion to go anywhere is philosophical driver of the quest that we began with. This is the shopper journey that was essentially made on foot to the store, until digital technology came along. 

But if today you don’t follow him online along the connected omni channels, to the blog, the website, the chat room, instant messaging and even to the ethereal world, intriguingly called virtual reality, because it feels real and at the same time not really real, I can tell you here offline that your job is on the line. Hence the incidence that the relationship between the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Marketing Officer is getting more tenuous by the day than with other roles. 

Next the CMO is a leader because he is an aggregator that is adept at fusing, in addition to the omni channels, the omni disciplines- product design, advertising, retail presence, merchandising, promotions etc. together in order to deliver powerful experiences for the human in his quest to make his “be ing” meaningful.

If he does these successfully, he will have fulfilled his duty as Chief Meaning Officer.

No small role you would say for what we think of as the humble profession of “marketing”, because finding meaning is what the continuous quest of shopping for ideas, knowledge and acquisition of the needs that make life worthwhile is truly about. 

And because the human is also an integrated creation of spirit soul and body, creating products to satisfy not only his physical but also his essential spiritual nature is the high order of business. Every marketer should therefore feel better about what she or he does from now on. Because practicing a meaningful profession is also crucial to having a meaningful life. 

Pictures of the late celebrated marketer, Chief Leo Aimiuwu come to my mind here, as he would often be in a celebratory mood singing the anthem of the marketing profession. When was the last time that a profession had an anthem? 

The responsibility for bringing this meaning to people now falls on us the storytellers, to communicate to man, how the marketer’s product or service would help him find it, in powerful stories that touch his soul at each station on his quest. This is where the technology of the age also becomes our ally to deliver to the technology-empowered human. 

An ally and not a threat, because in the first place, we are human and we make technology. And not the other way round. 

We were all here before the technology of the gong came along, telling stories by word of mouth from the village square. Other technologies have come and we are still here. 

What marks us for distinction therefore is our capacity to invent solutions and as the Greek philosopher Protagoras said, “man is the measure of all things”; the new thinking that unleashed new knowledge that propelled the advancement of man from the medieval age to what we called the modern age. 

This is the post- modern age and human is still the factor. 

Give him, beyond mere satisfaction, a happy and meaningful life through his experience of what you produce and the job of marketing is done. 

Then your company can also be in essence like ours, a human experience company. 

Post script: To ADVAN, as you celebrate your 25th Anniversary, I wish you happy shopping in your ever increasing quest for marketing excellence.

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