The weakest link

Advertising suffers from setbacks and cutbacks in many respects. The advertising industry as a whole is under pressure. The weak links in the value chain of advertising are up for grabs.  Advertising as a once more or less respected trade is getting more and more obscure. Advertising as part and percentage of corporate spending patterns will diminish.

Many smart business writers and thinkers in marketing are very clear in this matter. In this day and age the golden days of advertising are over. End of story. Read Godin. Listen to Garfield. Bob that is, not the cat. Just like mass media and mass production advertising as a way to reach the masses is water under the bridge. Masses have gone, except maybe now during the World Cup. Almost 50% of our kids do not believe advertisers and the media they use.  They actually distrust them. It is difficult to say if the leisure time on the internet surpasses television because a growing majority of people use both at the same time. Almost 60% of Americans use tv and the web simultaneously.

Marketers read these books and reports also. If they do not have the time for it, quotes from these books and reports will reach them through conferences, conversations and social media.  If marketers don’t read and think about these issues, their competing collegues and co workers do and will bring arguments to the table if and when the CFO holds budget meetings.

The concept of the marketingmix was invented not that long ago and still is a rather new discipline. In the 60’s it all started to blossom during the glory days of radio and the early days of tv. Marketing people suffer from myopia, as all professional people do. They think they are indispensable and provide an essential function within a company. Is this really the case?

Let’s have a very brief and rather contrarian look at the history of business after WW II. Cash rich mass markets, homogeneous and huge demand. Golden opportunities for business people. Entrepreneurs and inventors came up with things people needed. Once succesfull, factories produced more and more and wharehouses were filled. Enter the salespeople. Hey, we need to go door to door and sell this stuff. It worked very well, until it didn’t. Enter the discipline of marketing. Hey, we have to figure out who our target groups are and what they want, before we actually start producing things. That worked very well, until it didn’t anymore. Enter marcom & advertising claiming that we should not make things and could not sell or market them without the creation of a brand. That worked well, until it didn’t. Enter the growing number of online experts of today. Are they right? Probably not.

What strikes me is the direction of this trend. Everything  moves away from idea and product, through the phases of selling and marketing to branding and nowadays into online & mobile. All these steps go away from the original starting point. Every step of the way, further away from the source: normal people with normal needs and wants. When Akio Morita started what later on became Sony he and his fellow engineers came up with a wooden (!!!) pan to boil rice, because that’s what people needed in Japan at the time. Find out what people want and deliver it. It still is that easy. Morita never forgot where he came from.

Advertising or in a broader sense marcom is nothing more than a tiny little link in a value chain. The value chain of advertising is broken. The whole chain consists of broken links. Weak links. The first and foremost weakest link is that most parties involved in reaching customers don’t have a clue anymore who the customer is and what it is the customer is doing and wants.

The sole reason for my contrarian view is one of today’s most intriguing phenomena: all value chains have turned upside down. Customers, consumers, people have become the beginning. Again.

All other links in the chain are weak.

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