[What follows is a fictional leaked memo regarding the state of brand marketing from the perspective of an imaginary insider brand manager]
Memo To: All Company Brand Managers
Memo From: Anonymous
Fellow brand managers, it is now 2010 and unless we face up to reality, our respective brands will continue the precipitous declines they and we have experienced over the past 25 years.
Perhaps it's time to remind ourselves that we are the architects of our own shortcomings and only we have the power to rehabilitate ourselves to rekindle the vestiges of former glory. But in order to do so, we must first subject our inclined perceptions to the scrutiny of common sense.
We must reverse our all-consuming inclination to sacrifice both brand and business on the altar of the spreadsheet. The MBAs in our midst have been systematically winning the day, fiddling the same tune as Rome burns. We must confront those whose mission is to sell management on every new targeting technology and/or methodology that comes along.
The targeting meme has become so entrenched that few people even dare to raise their voice in opposition. Branding relationships have been reduced to seemingly rational, transactional metrics that fit the spreadsheet. But targeting doesn't scale. It leads to ever more niche marketing…and ultimately niche thinking. Since we become our attentions, we now think small. It is our niche mentality that obfuscates a simple truth: brand building is all about audience reach.
To understand how this misguided, uber targeting meme can destroy a brand, a simple "what if" is in order: What would happen if EVERY ad impression resulted in a sale? In other words, zero "waste"? Every ad impression would only be put in front of customers ready to buy. A 100% effective targeting campaign.
Sounds perfect, doesn't it? But this is actually the road to any brand's destruction. This would hasten the demise of the brand, as only customers would be reached…no prospects. The promise of uber targeting is to market to existing intent. What is left undone – virtually abandoned - is the act of influencing and persuading prospects – the essential brand-building blocks that targeting always misses. We have lost our brand evangelism.
Without evangelizing our brand, we are left with an ever-shrinking congregation.
Collectively, we brand managers have billions of dollars to spend to help build and foster the relationship between brand and audience. In our vain pursuit of "efficiency", we have unwittingly, albeit it purposely, fostered the fragmentation of the media marketplace.
By supporting unsustainable niche channels, niche magazines and niche websites, we have made mass reach all but impossible. We have fashioned the Internet, which is arguably the most scalable mass marketing opportunity ever devised and rendered it virtually impotent. We have subsidized the decline of our own brands. Our tepid response to our own foolishness has been to double-down in the conception and creation of new, niche brand offerings. We've built a house with 250 million rooms that no one can live in comfortably.
So what is to be done?
The first order of business is to stop encouraging the excessive narcissism that this plethora of choices has created. We have fashioned a fragmented, self-indulgent consumer and media environment. In today's hyper-paced world, change is the only constant. We must make hard decisions to move to sustainability, because business as usual cannot sustain us.
What is sustainability?
It means culling the herd and determining which brands are sustainable and which media options can best sustain them. The big box retailers are ahead of us in this respect, evidenced by their drastic reductions in stock-keeping units (SKUs). But they are making decisions based on perceived weaknesses in the media ecosystem rather than by exploring the promise and possibilities of scale. We must refuse to accept the status quo as a fait accompli; refuse to follow the path of least resistance; refuse to concede that we are fresh out of new ideas.
From our agencies, we must demand scalable media solutions. They have encouraged this niche-marketing nonsense long enough, and we have bought into it hook, line, and sinker. We need to reach people… really reach them, and we never will if we spend all of our time chasing our own long tail.
The Internet can be the next great media platform to build our brands if we change the way we think of it. But we can never achieve our goals if we continue down the same road we have traveled.
Jaffer is the CEO of Vidsense (www.Vidsense.com) and can be reached at j.ali (at) Vidsense (dotcom).
Read all Jaffer’s MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Jaffer Ali - MediaBizBloggers.