The Future of Marketing
In the Age of Digital, how have the rules and mantras of the old marketing masters changed - are Kotler's 4 Ps passé now?
Mahesh Murthy, founder and CEO of new age advertising firm Pinstorm, says marketing in the age of digital is a bit like being inside an air traffic control room.
He paints a scene where marketers are bunched over computers watching news and events on their radar screens and based on whatever is trending, take instant action, deftly changing flight paths, swerving here, zooming in there.
The imagery evokes an instant connect with Tim Leberecht, CMO of Aricent Group, for whom smart brands of the 21st century are super-flexible organisms.
In a highly connected world through nearly a 100 billion devices, he says a smart brand has to be multi-polar with several centres of gravity. “There is no room for strategy – it’s the tyranny of now that rules”. He, incidentally calls himself Chief Meaning Officer!
The event is ‘The Futurist CMO Conference’ in Gurgaon, where a motley bunch of marketers have gathered to crystal-gaze and debate on the new marketing path. They have been brought together by former Wipro CMO Jessie Paul in her new avatar as founder of Paul Writer, a marketing advisory firm.
The takeaway is that definitely a new book of words for marketers is needed. The only thing is the chapters might have to be updated on a nearly daily basis – so fast is the world changing.
Murthy says marketers have to have very nimble feet. He cites the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The marketing fraternity prepared assiduously for the event for three to six months in advance, building campaigns, planning their advertising.
And then, along came Paul the Octopus, the most tweeted and talked about subject during the games, creating mass hysteria and hijacking the mindspace of the entire world. And thereby many a marketing dollar spent on the event went waste.
OFF WITH KOTLER
For Murthy, who has a reputation for generating debates, it is time to say goodbye to the 4 Ps – product, pricing, placement and promotion – that Kotler had made holy.
In a way he is echoing the rumbles that one constantly hears in marketing corridors. In the 1990s, one had heard about the need to replace the 4 Ps with 4 Cs – consumer, cost, convenience and communication.
More recently, Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide, had suggested replacing the 4 Ps with 4 Es – Experience, Everyplace, Exchange and Evangelism.
As Murthy points out, it’s not about products but people. “We are no longer an atom-driven world but neuron-driven, governed by emotions.”
Pricing in the digital world varies according to time of day, geography. And, as Leberecht writes in his blog, brands have to be omnipresent – stretch like rubber bands in all directions without breaking.
As for promotion, smart marketers would leave it to the people, the users and consumers to do it, shape and spread the message.
In the age of smart branding, Leberecht argues that it is time to do away with four things that marketers are usually fixated upon – strategy, consistency, control and data.
“The world is changing so fast that there is no time for strategy, it’s all about flexibility and tinkering with the marketing mix,” he says.
As for consistency, he says, it no longer needs to be the Holy Grail. With social media, most brands have to become conversation brands, listening in, talking and “sometimes that can mean being inconsistent,” he says.
It’s also impossible to be in control. “Your brand is what people say and will co-shape.”
The last myth shattered by Leberecht was on the fixation for data. “You have to be careful about worshipping data as there is no time to plan – we must not lose our intuition,” he says.
ARE WE NEARLY THERE?
The ground rules for digital marketing are clearly different, but where do we stand now?
A product such as NIIT’s Cloud Campus embracing the digital route – though it still has invested in television advertising – appears logical. But imagine an FMCG company spending over 65 per cent of its marketing spend online.
Ajay Gupta of Capital Goods (maker of Ching’s Secret) dwells on how he has busted the “only 5 per cent of spend online rule” to create a huge band of followers for the noodle brand. “Ching’s Secret was one of the first brands in India to embrace social media three years ago – we didn’t create content, but conversations,” he said.
He paints a fascinating story of how the brand managed to break down all the layers separating it from the consumer – the stockists, the distributors, the sub-distributors, the retailers – and connected straight with the users.
“Today, if we have a presence in 40 countries, it’s thanks to social media,” he says.
His reading – in five years’ time almost everything would be digital with millions adopting the addicted-to-digital lifestyle.
And then, there were the sceptics.
Amidst these heady stories by the digital evangelists, it was left to the likes of Nita Kapur, CMO of Godfrey Philips, to restore some order and parity, by mounting a strong defence of the traditional. Urging marketers to stay grounded, she ruthlessly pointed out how digital does not feature in more than five per cent of most national media budgets now.
The basics of marketing – a strong product, pricing power, access and above all, focus on the consumer – are not going to change, she insisted. For her the future of smart marketing for Indian CMOs lay in learning to manage and address multiplicities – different demographies, the urban, the rural, the small town, the different age groups and audience sets.
Jessie Paul sums it up succinctly when she says that the fundamentals of marketing haven’t changed but the tools and language have.
The language has become instantaneous and personalised, and the tools available have dramatically increased. “Today, you have the tools to figure out what every individual customer wants, and deliver targeted customised marketing,” is how she puts it.