Marketing Gurus Mark Ritson & Brad Berens Go Head To Head

Marketing Gurus Mark Ritson & Brad Berens Go Head To Head
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With the ad:tech conference closing in, B&T decided to put the gloves on two industry heavyweights and let them duke it out over technology’s importance to modern day marketing. Read on and decide who’s swinging at air and who’s landing haymakers…

Mark Ritson (pictured above, left)

Marketing isn’t marketing any more

Why 100 years of tradition trumps any new gadget or trend

When you visit the next marketing conference, it is almost certain that you will encounter packed sessions on blockchain, augmented reality and cryptocurrencies, plus whatever new techno toys have been invented between now and the next big event. Marketers have always been the ‘magpie discipline’ – we steal the good stuff from other approaches and bring them into marketing as our own. With so much good stuff around these days, it is perhaps not surprising that marketing is filled to the brim with nonsense.

The only way to kidnap a century-old discipline and replace its long-thought-through principles is to declare the past dead and the future different. It worked for Mao and its certainly working at the moment for a new wave of wildly ignorant marketers intent on reshaping marketing to their own myopic ends. For the past decade, ill-informed, untrained marketing gurus have been declaring various concepts they actually do not fully understand to be dead: brands, advertising, funnels, TV, loyalty, targeting – you name it, RIP. How better to pave the way for bitcoin and AI and a plethora of other jingly stuff?

There is an opportunity cost to all these techno-toys. There is no polite way to say this, but most big Australian brands are being run without any proper marketing strategy. Instead, those in charge delight in the latest gimmicks and tactics, yet remain unable to articulate their target segments beyond the inane and entirely ridiculous concept of ‘Millennials’, while the positioning for their brands are little more than random straplines. Ask for objectives and a dribble of purpose statements and brand love stands in for proper measurable goals.

The obsession with technology in marketing has resulted in all too many Australian companies putting the tactical cart in front of the strategic horse. The promotional ‘P’ dominates the marketing mix so much that no one even notices we do not talk pricing or channels or product any more. It’s all about tactics. It’s all about communications. It’s all about technology. It’s just not that much about marketing.

Brad Berens (pictured above, right)

More than flinging paint

If marketing is art, then technology is the brush

Arguing that technology is a distraction to marketing strategy is like saying that paints, brushes and canvas were distractions to Picasso: the proposition manages both to be obviously false, and to make less and less sense the more you think about it. Marketing strategy that ignores technology is just throwing paint around.

Marketing is the practice of directing different sorts of positive attention to companies and their products. Doing this might involve sparking a potential customer’s rational evaluation of a product’s strengths, non-rational association of a product with an ad campaign that has nothing factual to do with the product (a bikini-clad woman draped on top of sports car, polar bears drinking Coca-Cola), unconscious positive feelings towards a product simply because a consumer has encountered background ads for it numberless times, or any number of other things, but the point of the exercise is attention.

You have to fish where fish are swimming. That is, you can only direct attention to a product from where people are already paying attention.

Since the turn of the century, attention has flowed to digital devices and platforms, often supplementing and sometimes replacing attention that used to flow to analog devices and platforms. Digital cameras replaced film cameras, and then phones replaced digital cameras, and then Facebook became the world’s largest repository of photos because that’s where people were spending time looking at things.

Likewise, email has largely replaced paper mail, YouTube and Netflix have sucked eyeballs away from linear TV, and after seconds of boredom, most people reach for their phones instead of looking around them where they might spy a billboard.

None of this is to say that TV is dead, merely that starting and ending your marketing strategy with television is like only advertising in print newspapers: you’re reaching an ageing, shrinking audience and ignoring a vibrant digital news ecosystem where people younger than 50 get most of their news.

Savvy marketers use different technologies as tools to get attention for their brands.

Brad Berens will be delivering a morning keynote address on the first day of the ad:tech conference on Thursday 22 March at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel.

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