Are you prepared to recast the journey to growth?
More has changed in the marketing world over the last two years than the previous 50. The traditional marketing rulebook is sooo cooked. The path to growth is a different journey. Yet, remarkably, many organizations are still tethered to an outmoded view that marketing operates as a distinct unit or practice within the business to lure customers to the brand and store.
That view is no longer adequate. Tools aside, in many respects, the product – be it food, beverage or retailer – IS the marketing. Thus, what a company believes it’s on earth to accomplish and how it behaves is inextricably tied to the success of the enterprise and to the goals of marketing.
In fact, marketing AND the organization are one thing. This insight (if followed through to its true meaning) requires a redefinition of how marketing operates in service of the customer. And make no mistake about it, the customer is calling the shots.
In his 1983 masterpiece The Marketing Imagination, Harvard University’s Dean of Marketing, Theodore Levitt, proposed a new definition of corporate purpose – and it wasn’t just to make money or create returns to investors. He said fundamentally the purpose of business is to ‘create and keep a customer.’ All executives, departments, functional areas of a company ARE an integral part of marketing whether people recognize it or not.
Levitt was a champion of customer centricity. He was also very prescient about the business world even as it stands some 33 years later!
Business is in the business of customer-creating value satisfactions. Code for mining relevance to the lifestyle needs, concerns and aspirations of people. Gone now is the age of all things to all people; of scale advantages or barriers to entry; of marketing as persuasion; of promoting what companies sell vs. providing what people want.
If you buy the argument that we’ve now reached a nexus of change where help triumphs over hype in marketing, then alignment with consumer desire and interest becomes the calling card of successful strategy.
Belief and mission sit at the front door of informing behaviors that drive the required relevance to consumer interests. Why? Because consumers want to believe in the products and services they prefer.
If you can see this eco-system in full bloom, the goal of every organization is to:
- Make reciprocity an operating principle that is tangible and visible, then delivered operationally in how you go to market.
- Become an enabler and facilitator or lifestyle aspiration for your core customers.
- Know that experience matters more than what you claim about the benefits of products or services.
- Social proof and validation are the ingredients of consumer belief. Thus, efforts to build trust and credibility may matter more to outcomes than any promotion or price incentive.
- Redefine your business objectives to appeal to distinct market segments and stop working to try and please everyone all of the time.
- And above all else, the organization’s Higher Purpose must be refined and optimized in line with consumer insight about their priorities.
By the way, Higher Purpose isn’t just a euphemism for cause or philanthropy, and is NOT mainly the province of high cost products and services. Higher Purpose means organizations have a reason for being that transcends commerce or profit. Instead, companies work to hone a value proposition that improves lives and makes a difference in the customer’s future.
A snack can have a higher purpose. And a beverage, too. This is ultimately a way of thinking. Pet food is an extraordinary example of this consideration at work. When pet food brands realize it’s not about the percentage of protein in the kibble, but the relationship between four-legged family members and pet parents. This is the starting point, the initiator of relevance and value at another level.
The new path to growth begins with recasting the role of marketing to start at the core understanding of what/why the organization exists.
We are mining the new age of relevant marketing that starts at the top of what an organization believes and does. These principles properly applied can offer the opportunity of transformational growth.
And that’s what gets us up in the morning.
Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent Healthy Living. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.