For marketing, the times they are a-changin’

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In 1964 Bob Dylan wrote a song which in his recollection was to create an “anthem of change for the moment.” For the time it was a statement of the political situation as much as it was about the 60′s but even now the song transcends that decade into the here and now. For those in the traditional marketing and advertising arena, the times are indeed changing and faster than most can follow.

While the retail consumer landscape has changed from simple banner and magazine advertising to punchy viral and targeted messaging, the lumbering beast of marketing in the business world is in danger of going the way of the dodo bird, suited in quintessential Hugo Boss and a crisp white shirt.

If you’re a CIO, COO, CFO, CTO or some such member of an oak-lined boardroom and you are still reaching for the Washington Post or Financial Times for your insight…if you are on the phone to one of the large research firms who have been paid by ten software providers to give you an unbiased opinion then I pity you.

The modern C-suite executive should no longer interested in learning about products from a New York Times full page spread. They need to gain an edge from insight. They should expect to find it where information is current and forward-gazing, not from a report already nine months out of date when it hits print. They need to seek out those who write at the bleeding edge, people who could be classed as “journalysts”, a breed of journalist and analyst. Sites like Techcrunch, Ars Technica, GigaOM, Venturebeat exist for this purpose already.

And while you may be thinking “what has this got to do with marketing and advertising ?” I’m about to counter that thought with “Everything!”

The insight executives need is very hard to find on corporate websites. Software vendors follow the trends very very slowly, giving us company blogs and company and CEO twitter accounts in an attempt to keep up an image of being current and consistent with the times. The marketing department employs PR firms to write second hand articles for them and in most cases, these firms have little to no clue on the subject being promoted. IBM’s Smarter Planet is an attempt that bucks the norm but its overt style of branding detracts from the value behind it.

Business marketing needs to take its cues from the Consumer advertising side more: It needs to be more subtle; it needs that breed of internal “journalysm”; it needs to be smarter than Smarter Planet.

I look at Wired magazine in particular. It’s the only one I regularly subscribe to via the iPad, both the US and UK variants. It’s not current, it’s forward-thinking. I don’t find today’s issues…I find tomorrow’s and how to approach avoiding or embracing them. It has style, is slick in its design and reporting, its analysis has bite and they seek out technology culture and make it personal.

In April 2012, Wired UK launched a consulting business on the back of their success and it’s this very approach that marketing in the business world needs to take. I’m not saying, “Go out and buy a publishing house (although that might not be a bad idea),” but what I am saying is that marketing and advertising has to shift with the times.

Marketing has to be slick in its design, offer forward thinking analysis of issues that a C-suite exec cares about, it has to be cultural as well as technical, and it has to be personal.

Marketing needs to grow up. It cannot simply follow trends…by the time those trends become mainstream they’re as out of date as the aforementioned research report. Marketing needs to create the trends and then report on them with the analysis, edge and relevancy to the product or solution they want to sell you.

Come writers and critics;

Who prophesize with your pen.

And keep your eyes wide;

The chance may not come again.

For those in marketing and advertising still clinging to tradition, that chance may not come again. For the times they are a-changin’……

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