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Do marketers suffer from schizophrenia? Do we unwittingly switch between being "normal people" to being blinkered marketers?

Do we lose sight of our own emotions and passions and turn into metric driven robots? And if we do, does this change in behaviour cloud our judgement when building marketing strategies for the organisations we work for? 

If you can relate to such behaviour, and find yourself, and others around you, showing some symptoms, then this post may be of interest.

It explores examples of such behaviour and provides some reasons why this conditions arises, and some suggestions on how to cure it.

Marketers are real people too...

The Marketers SwitchRumour has it, that most marketers are real people too. [Disclaimer: I class myself as a marketer, of sorts.] We have the same emotions, passions and motivations bubbling around inside us, in the same way "normal people" have.

In fact, despite some of our job titles, which some super heroes would be proud of, we are just "normal people".

We live our lives around the things we care about, friends, family, hobbies, socialising, films, music and in some instances, work. Through mobile and social, we're constantly in touch with everyone and everything; anything we could ever wish to know is at our fingertips. We're in control, we'll get what we want, when we want it.

The plethora of interruptive and disruptive marketing messages we are bomdarded with have become unwanted noise. In fact, they are background noise we sub-consciously choose to ignore.

We're extremely selective about where we devote our time and focus during our daily lives, and only a few such messages break through our sub-conscious filters. The ones that do, have done so because they strike a chord with our passions. 

So, if all of that is true, do we as marketers, possess some form of mental switch? A switch, we unconsciously flick, causing us to forget how we think and behave as normal people and begin to operate in a robotic, non-emotive work mode.

Here's what I mean

It's Monday morning. You're on the commute into work, and checking your phone. You have a bit of a giggle about the photos from Saturday night, which your friends have shared; you're texting your closest friends catching up on the gossip; maybe reading some articles related to work; checking the news; looking at the people who've checked you out on LinkedIn, as well as being determined to get that annoying four pics, one word puzzle right.

Even on the commute, you're pretty busy. Did you see any advertising? You will have been the recipient of many, and be counted in those impression numbers.....but did any grab your attention?

Other than the annoying ones such as, your friend "likes Amazon" in your newsfeed causing you to instantly click through and also like the Amazon page...not.

Monday Morning MeetingYou finally arrive at work, and have the Monday morning team meeting, to review last week's performance and agree priorities for the forthcoming week. The reports flash up on the screen about impressions, click-through rates, visits, conversions, likes, follows, etc.

Typically, they're not as good as everyone would like them to be, but they're ok. And of course, you've got that Mrs Simpkins, constantly having a whinge on your Facebook page.

She needs to be dealt with in that very diplomatic, nicey, nicey, but fair manner. Everyone starts discussing how they're going to improve results, get the agencies back on track.....hey presto! You've flicked the switch. You've gone from human emotive mode to robotic work mode.

You're playing the game. It's not your fault! It's a form of Groupthink.

Of course, I'm not saying this is true for everyone, but it's certainly not uncommon. If you can relate to this, it's worth looking at why this happens.

I've put together a number of reasons, which may contribute to triggering the switch, and I suspect there will be others too:

  • Habit: Your business, for many years has always meausured performance this way. It's done ok so far, so why change?
  • Structure: Your business, structures its marketing teams into specific disciplines, where team members are responsible for isolated parts of the consumer journey; and/or structured in specific marketing channels, such as above the line, mobile, social, digital, display etc.
  • Targets: Teams are targeted on specific elements. i.e. Acquisitions are targeted on conversions, but not frequency of purchase or repeat purchases.
  • Credibility: In most organisations you are as good as your performance against targets, so even though the targets maybe incorrect, you still need to demonstrate you're achieving them.
  • Centricity: Having the brand, business, product at the centre, as opposed to the people or consumers, which causes conversations and focus from an inside our perspective, Hence you think in channels, where as normal people don't see channels.
  • Culture: Let's say, it may be difficult to stimulate and effect change within your organisation should you want to.

So, how can you prevent the switch from flicking?

  • The first and probably the hardest thing, is to catch yourself changing modes and at the time of changing. When going through the weekly drill of numbers, ask yourself, as a "normal person", why you would click through that ad'?

    Would it grab your attention? How would your brand or product proposition make your life better? Then ask others in the room the same thing. If it's a struggle to answer easily, then you have work to do.

  • Be brave. Challenge the relevance of your targets if you feel they're not right. They maybe good indicators, but what is their worth in isolation? What does 1 Million Facebook Likes actually give you?
  • Congregate around the common point throughout the consumer journey... that being the consumer. See the world from their perspective. Go back to basics, do the research, find out from them why they buy your product; how do you make their lives better?

    Don't get caught up in internal conjecture from people who may have been at your organisation longer, or are more senior and hence deemed to be more knowledgeable. They probably aren't. Lose sight of your consumers' feedback at your peril.

  • Build work groups, around the consumer, and have representatives from all stages of the consumer journey and across all marketing disciplines. If you've undertaken consumer centric research, then building complimentary and integrated approaches to reach, engage and entertain people will be much easier and more effective.

    A more cohesive and compelling strategy will emerge.

Of course, this is all easier said than done, but if you don't do it, nothing will change.

More agile competitors, and even new market entrants will come from nowhere, they will be seen by people as more interesting, more entertaining, more relevant and readily accessible. i.e. Be there whenever and wherever consumers choose to reach them.

Unfortunately, it's the inability or unwillingness to observe and embrace the need to change which is holding marketers back. If you find yourself "switching" stop yourself, speak out...don't be a schizophrenic.

Karl Havard

Published 28 May, 2013 by Karl Havard

Karl Havard is a trainer and contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter and connect via LinkedIn.

21 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Tim Britt, Digital Marketing Consultant at Integrity Wills and legal Services

Putting yourself in the position of your customer is paramount if you want them to believe in your brand and build loyalty so this article makes a lot of sense.

Numbers are always important and they can tell you a lot about the relevance of your campaigns but as mentioned isolating the worth of these numbers (especially in targets) is essential.

Bench marking can help when it comes to placing value on stats as it can give you a clear idea as to the size of audience required to make revenue targets but as the article indicates you should never lose focus of the human that's actually generating these numbers.

almost 3 years ago

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Dr. Mathew McDougall

Hi Karl,

It was unfortunate that you used schizophrenia as the illness representing 'split personality' as this is completely wrong and misrepresents schizophrenia. Actually, schizophrenia is a psychotic illness and not a personality disorder to which you should have made reference.

With that technical point out of the way, I think that your key point in this post is "be the ball", take the perspective of the consumer. Make the switch from marketer to some consumer relating human (specifically, "You've flicked the switch. You've gone from human emotive mode to robotic work mode")

But I would suggest that the reason we are marketers and not some other profession is that we should be able to do both the technical deselection of marketing data as well as "being human and relating to the consumer". Maybe you are taking a polar extreme to highlight the point but for me, marketers don't and should be looking for a switch as they should be both a marketer (with all that means) and a human (for what that means). So rather than schizophrenic you could have used bipolar disorder where someone has to deal with both the highs and lows.

Just my thoughts and thanks for getting me to think about this and respond to your post. :)

Cheers
Matt

almost 3 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Matt,

Thank you for correcting me. You're right about my key point; the ability for marketers to see the full picture, ideally from all angles. This is a reminder to consciously catch ourselves to make sure we do this, rather than get carried away on the internal driven metrics. Which so often happens.

Thanks

Karl

almost 3 years ago

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