As Albert Einstein said:

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Current marketing strategy is reaching breaking point

The role of marketing has always been to connect a company and brand with its audience in a way that establishes brand affinity. By achieving this, companies raise the likelihood that the individual will buy into their proposition. However, the way to achieving this has always been highly company-centric, where communication and engagement is sought based on the needs and goals of the organisation, rather than that of the consumer. The view being that if we offer something of interest and it is relevant, then consumers will be thankful for the company interrupting their lives with an advertisement or communication. 

Move forward to the modern day and this approach is clearly starting to fail. We all know that consumer expectation is rising; coupled with the following trends it is clear that current marketing strategy is reaching breaking point:

  • Media fragmentation – so many different options for individuals to consume media and entertainment
  • Channel proliferation – a growing number of channels (offline, online and social) through which to communicate
  • Multiple devices – with individuals communicating through PCs, mobile phones and tablets
  • Advertising saturation – the average US citizen exposed to over 3000 messages daily
  • Explosion in the number of messages sent and received – with the average person receiving over 180 emails per day
  • A diminishing, or perhaps more demanding, attention span
  • Increased mental opt-out as an individual’s attention is not gained and therefore messages fail to be memory encoded, i.e. memorable

Setting aside advertising, which is a blog post (or several) in itself, let’s take a look at direct consumer engagement when you have a known customer. 

Very simply this form of marketing is focused on the contact record. That’s it. This is the starting point and the premise is that the better we can understand the individual the better able we are to send them our most relevant offer. 

Here’s the scenario: We have a contact record. We ask the individual for some additional first party data. We add in some behavioural data, e.g. a previous purchase. We can add big data, from social feeds. We can even apply some unstructured data, e.g. from a call centre. We can even in some cases find some contextual data. In fact, we can add and apply any data we can capture.

Then with all our AI and predictive analytics we can identify the propensity for each consumer to buy into our next proposition. From here we then profile each and every consumer. We can create segments, micro segments, even nano segments. Much is talked of 1:1 marketing. We will customize the offer for the specific individual. We can even identify the most likely time that consumers will respond. We then push out communication and offers on our terms, knowing that we have optimized the likelihood of a response and made the offer as relevant as possible to the individual who will be receiving our communication. That’s it, the smartest marketing we can do.  

So how well is this working? Well there are tons of stats out there. Here’s some data from Mailchimp: In summary, they generally find email open rates around 25% and a click through rate of just 2-3%. So, 97% of individuals are just not interested, and this is the smartest marketing we can do. Even with the best AI and self-learning programmes in the world how much better do we think we can do. 

In all honesty, this is the equivalent of a lemming standing on the edge of a cliff. If this is the best you can do, there really is nowhere else to go but down, with lower and lower click through rates being achieved.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

So, what should modern marketing really look like? The way to approach this is to put yourself in the shoes of your prospective and current customers and to identify what you really believe their needs, expectations and aspirations are. Here are some thoughts:

  • Consumers don’t want to be disrupted, based on company goals
  • Consumers desire to be able to choose when they engage, and in what form they wish to engage (device / channel). They are weary and over-saturated with direct engagement
  • Consumers want offers “In the Moment” when it makes sense to them, not the brand
  • Consumers want to receive compelling and rewarding experiences, it is not just about what you offer but about how you offer it
  • Consumers want to be able to define how their engagement unfolds – they want control. They want to define their own journey
  • Consumers want to be rewarded for their engagement, there has to be mutual value in the exchange
  • Consumers are happy to engage and respond to brands that are distinctive, fun and valuable
  • Consumers want a continuous relationship on their terms

To deliver against these expectations, modern marketing must place experience design at the core, both in terms of advertising as well as direct communication. So, what is experience design? Very simply, it is developing an experience that the consumer will value, but where value is not constrained by a specific offer. Consumers value experiences that are interesting, informative, fun, artistic, shareable, curious and even humorous as we are potentially providing a good deal or a chance to win.

If these experiences are valuable, then you don’t have to push them out as communications. All you need to do is to make them available, to invite individuals to engage, to participate, to respond. These invitations can be provided in many ways, both when the consumer is known and also when they are unknown. You also don’t have to limit who you are making the experience available to. This can be achieved in so many ways; QR codes, through Shazam, via packaging, display adds, via notifications etc.

There are two key additional brand benefits:

1. When an individual responds to an invitation, you are ‘in the moment’. You have contextual data like time of day, location, weather etc. so you can make each engagement highly relevant, compelling, fun and most importantly valuable. You can also pull through CRM data in real time, when customers are known, to make experiences truly smart.

2. You are also mass marketing. There is no reason to limit your invitation to a specific segment. You can position yourself to the entire category. When 50% of your business may come from casual or very infrequent purchases, you can influence these consumers as well. Increased penetration and real growth are more than possible, they are highly likely

Welcome to invitational marketing

Invitational marketing is making available an experience that is seen as being valuable by the individual and is so compelling that they have to engage.

Invitational marketing is based on three fundamental principles:

  1. Make available interactive journeys that encourage your consumers to engage in a two-way conversation that they control, this is continuous, highly distinctive and builds emotional connection.
  2. Provide rewarding experiences that are seen as being highly valuable in the eyes of the consumer, whether it be fun, informative, offer-related, interesting or even humorous.
  3. Invite and motivate the consumer to engage in the moment, when they want to, in the way they want to. 

This is the future of marketing.

Any thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.