Marketing Effectiveness: What’s Changed?

Marketing Effectiveness: What’s Changed?

In his latest B&T column, industry recalcitrant and rabble rouser, Robert Strohfeldt, casts his eye over modern marketing buzzwords and says the old adage of “keep it simple stupid” still rings true…

I have often quoted or referred to article and papers by Professor Mark Ritson. But his latest column in Monday’s The Australian Media section has left me shaking my head.

“Evidence Based Marketing” is being portrayed as a 21st century concept. Mark stated, “There are the enlightened marketers who use evidence based and those who continue to build their campaigns around arcane myths of the 20th century”.

Mark has stated that 21st century marketers,

  • Are evidence-based
  • Still believe in mass marketing
  • Use emotion in advertising to increase effectiveness

The term “legendary” is often thrown about, but a truly legendary marketer is Bob Miller, the former director of marketing for Toyota. If you have not heard of Bob, then your history of marketing and advertising in Australia is lacking.

We had a chat this morning after reading this article and both pissed ourselves laughing. Does he think we stuck a fucking finger in the air to see which way the wind blew and then spent $40,000,000 in advertising on guesses?

Today we live in a world of algorithms. Programmatic media planning is seen as the most effective method. How many people know what are the details of the algorithm and its accuracy? There is so much media “stock” out there to choose from, a person with a calculator cannot cope. But computer modelling was well established and used in media in the 1980s (and before). We are getting dumber and our computers are supposedly getting smarter. (But we don’t really know, as no one has a fucking clue about the algorithms on which they base their assumptions?)

I joined a market research firm in 1980, working for the mad genius George Kelly. “If you want your advertising to work, you need emotion,” he told every client.

The statistical analysis we did had far more rigour to it than much of the rubbish I see today. That attribution has gained such credibility is a testament to the lack of serious understanding of mathematics. Statistics is applied mathematics, particularly multi-dimensional calculus and linear algebra. A 12- month course in statistics to enable a person to become a data scientist, is akin to giving a 17- year old a bottle of bourbon, a joint and the keys to a turbo Porsche. It will end in tears.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was developed between 1943 to 1954. A bloody long time ago.

  • Self- actualisation
  • Self esteem
  • Love and belonging
  • Safety and security
  • Physiological needs.

So, tell me, which of these do not involve emotion?

And then we have the promotion of mass marketing. Segmenting markets is a great way for media proprietors (traditional and particularly online) to get more money for the same amount of media. (Break your audience into segments and stick a loading on each.)

Too often, marketers and advertisers restrict their reach by targeting too finely. I saw this come out of research so many times.

Take cars as just one example. Respondents are asked a series of “behavioural” questions. The analysis will look for correlations (not causal) and say that Mercedes buyers have different views to people who buy BMW and Audi.

And so, they will buy media that can target this particular group of people. But there is no difference between Mercedes, BMW and Audi buyers. They are all the same sort of people but have bought a particular vehicle brand because they like how it looks or were offered a better deal. Not because of some pre-determined behavioural question stuck into the survey.

Of course, there are target segments. People with more money are going to buy more expensive cars. (Not all rich people buy expensive cars, but people without money don’t buy expensive ones). But today, with the ability to target way down to micro levels, many potential buyers are not reached.

Mass marketing gave way to segmented, tactical activities. They may raise sales in the short term but do nothing for the brand over the longer term. Brands are like big ships – they take a long time to change direction, but also a long time to turn back in the right direction.

Alan Morris from MoJo, (another pair who were legendary for their jingle- based campaigns) was asked who the target market for Toohey’s Draught was, “Anyone over 18 with a mouth”.

The biggest difference between the 20th and 21st centuries, is the fragmented media landscape. The creative execution has always had to be empathetic to the medium in which it appeared – e.g. radio “theatre of the mind”. To be successful requires integration, one medium alone will not cut it. There in is the challenge for creative – to ensure empathy across such a wide range of possible mediums, as integration is a must. No one medium can be relied upon. Though pre-digital, we had above and below the line, so marketers still had to be across both longer-term strategic brand building and short- term tactical activities.

And, of course, there is social media, the full effects of which are still occurring.

There is no doubting the marketing landscape is far more cluttered and complex, but the KISS principal still applies. It is so easy to be caught up in the complex. But cut through the bullshit and “keep it simple stupid”.


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Robert Strohfeldt

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