The marketing industry is inventing and re-inventing itself at light speed. Innovations in marketing tactics, tools, and tech are evolving almost daily. The most effective ones become trends, and every marketer on the planet is forced to jump on board until the trend becomes ineffective, unwieldy, passé, or just starts pissing off consumers to the point where they have to try something new.
So for a variety of reasons, here's my top 10 list of trends marketers wish would die.
Content and content marketing
Content marketing is super effective, but can't we think of a catchier name for it? We just took everything cool and fun about creating and sharing on the internet for marketing purposes and gave it the most boring, generic label in the history of boring, generic labels.
Normal people don't talk like this. Nobody says, "I'm watching the coolest YouTube content right now." But that's what it's called. And I know, I know, the new Google algorithm favors content. But it needs to die, because making good content is hard work, and getting people to see it and share it is even harder work! Right? Who's with me?
You: What do you mean? I just snap a photo of my lunch and post it to Instagram and tag my company. That's content marketing, right?
Me: No, you need an organized flow of content (still hate that word) including blogs, videos, mini videos, micro videos, graphics, memes, white papers, case studies, infographics, animated infographics, a content calendar, and a small army to pull it off effectively.
You need to know what entertains, educates, and informs the people who buy your stuff and in which format they prefer to (I hate this word even more) "consume" it.
You need a plan. You need consistency, and, above all else, the content has to be creative and shareable. That's the whole point. So that means now you need a creative team to make the content plus a marketing team to figure out the best way to share the content.
Plus, you need to put a call to action in there somewhere. After the content reaches its destination, what do you want the viewer to do? Share it? Click through to a website? Download something? Buy now? What's the call to action, and who decides what it should be?
This is getting complicated, huh?
You can try to pull it off with an internal department, interns, or whoever isn't busy at the moment, or you can go with an outside agency. I've tried making creatives into marketers, marketers into graphics people, even shipping and receiving guys into community managers, but it seldom works out.
I've never seen so much uncertainty around a major social media platform.
Just do it, or not. Jump in or jump out. Stop testing the waters and just go for it. Or don't. But stop wasting your time playing around with it.
Google+ is like that quiet geek in school that nobody really knows. Nobody really likes him, but nobody really dislikes him, and he keeps showing up at parties. Everyone needs to step up and get to know him, because it turns out he's pretty important, or at least he will be someday. So the sooner you get on his speed dial, the better -- because pretty soon he'll be the one deciding what parties the cool kids go to.
It's great for SEO, Hangouts, making video interviews, podcasts -- but that means you have to figure out why and how it works, and you're already too busy figuring out all the new changes to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.
Google+ isn't just Google's version of Facebook. Google+ is Google. Google owns search. Play nice with it, and it will return the favor -- or not.
Being on every social media channel on the planet
So when you decided to launch that new brand product, business initiative, or startup, you knew you needed to be on social media, right? And then your team was all like, "Which channels should we be on?"
Rather than study consumers' habits, the competition, and see what's working and not working, you decided you would be everywhere. Ubiquity! That way, you wouldn't have to worry about missing out anywhere!
You: We'll engage our fans on every social medium platform on the universe and get an intern to write updates for it.
Me: That's dumb.
The problem is that by doing this, you diffuse your efforts. That said, there is some wisdom in trying one of two approaches:
- Launch several social media channels at once, work them like dogs, and then cut the ones that don't yield results.
- Decide on just a few to start with, work them like dogs, cut the ones that don't yield results, and then add new ones in.
Otherwise, you'll be judged according to the lowest performing channel.
Your boss: We here at Big National Bank are very disappointed in our Snapchat stats. Given the resources we've poured into employee selfies, we really expected more.
You: Yes, but our Facebook contest just earned 50,000 new "likes," and new accounts and customer service engagement have gone up significantly!
Your boss: Tell Harold in maintenance he's our new social media person. You're fired.
How is storytelling new? Because it's on the internet? Cavemen told stories around the campfire (they just called it "the fire" back then), and somewhere in the middle, the storyteller probably did a quick promo for "Ugu's BB-Q Cave, featuring the finest mammoth ribs this side of Iceland. And now back to our regularly scheduled story."
Isn't that what we've always done in marketing, advertising, and PR? Storytelling?
Ads are stories. Pictures are stories. Memes are stories. Videos are stories. Movies with product placement are stories. Billboards are stories. Stories that were carefully placed by the PR team are stories. Bumper stickers are stories. I can tell more about someone from their bumper sticker than I can from a one-hour drunken conversation at a marketing convention.
You: Yes, but we must carefully disguise the fact that we're selling something by wrapping it in a story.
Me: That's called branded entertainment, and everyone sees through it anyway. If the story's good enough, they don't care that you're trying to sell them something.
You: OK, but we must also properly tell our "brand story."
Me: Nobody gives a crap whether your company was founded by a one-legged farmer in 1806, a 17-year-old with a car battery and a Commodore 64, or a bunch of Stanford students huddled around an iPad at Starbucks.
At first, I thought it was just advertising done by natives -- like they had a certain style or something.
Native advertising is like a guy from Minnesota that gets a fake tan, flies to California, and tells everyone he's a local so you'll buy his book on California living.
It used to be called paid content, or related content, and you placed articles and videos on relevant blogs or websites with the thinking that if a reader or viewer is interested in what they're reading or watching, they might be interested in the paid content as well.
The ideas still makes sense, and it works, but now we call it "native advertising" so agencies can redefine themselves and offer new tactics.
The only difference between native advertising and regular advertising is that native ads are designed to trick people into thinking the guy's really from California.
Subscribe now and mandatory subscription pop ups
I'm three lines into an article and -- bam! -- there's a pop-up that wants me to subscribe with some agonizingly friendly message like, "Are you enjoying this article? Don't forget to subscribe." Sometimes it even follows me down the page as I scroll, covering up what I'm trying to read.
I actually was enjoying it until you pulled me out of it with your self-serving "subscribe now" crap. Now I'm mad and debating if I even want to finish. At that point, it all comes down to how well you've hidden the X button for me to make it go away. If I can't find it within two seconds, I'm out.
Worse yet are the pop-ups that won't let you even view the website until you sign in via Facebook, Twitter, or email.
I see the value, but I don't know if it's worth the cost of pissing people off.
One-hit-wonder viral video expectations
So you've decided that your online marketing strategy will revolve around one, single, epic video that will raise overall awareness.
That's not a bad idea, but you have to factor in all the elements that will go into making that first video successful, including video seeding and plenty of social media and digital PR hustle.
Even if your viral video does go super viral, then what? There has to be consistency. Getting lots of views is easy, and it's getting cheaper and cheaper. Getting your video(s) viewed by the right people -- defined as those either in a position to buy what you're selling or share with a friend who might buy -- is harder, but more effective.
Start thinking in terms of quality, quantity, and consistency rather than one-off smash hits.
Enough already with big data and all the tech startups clamoring at the gate to get in so they can provide us with even bigger data.
Too many marketers are using big data results as success metrics when the only true success metric is an increase in sales.
Here's my take -- real simple.
- You set sales goals.
- You develop your sales and marketing strategy based on your knowledge of your product(s), service(s), need in the marketplace, and key target demographic.
- You establish and divide up responsibilities for hitting those goals among the departments, including sales, traditional marketing, online marketing, social media, PR, and promotions (flash sales, gimmicks).
- You use data for one purpose only -- to track which departments and tactics are producing and which aren't.
- If overall sales go up, great. If they don't, why?
Infographics, animated infographics, and explainer videos
Enough already -- they were new, cool, and actually pretty interesting until everybody (my agency too) made them, and we still do.
Now they all look like somebody ate a statistics book and a case of finger paints and puked it all out onto a really long piece of paper.
In all fairness, and another reason for them to go away quickly, is that they're not as easy to make as they look. You have to select an interesting topic, do research, write a script, lay out the graphics, and put it all together in a way that makes sense.
The animated infographic/explainer video is basically an infographic that either moves graphics around to music or features cartoon characters explaining seemingly complex concepts in a way that appeals to 6-year-olds.
I think there's always room for animated marketing videos, but it's as if somewhere around 2012 everyone decided that their products and services were waaaaaay too complicated for their demographic to fully grasp, so we all started making videos that look and sound like a first grade teacher trying to explain algebra to a monkey.
Needing to measure ROI
I'm not saying this isn't important. I'm saying that all marketers wish it would die. Know why? Because it's hard to do.
Ultimately, ROI should be measured by sales. But there are steps along the way.
- Set goals/expectations that define what a successful return on investment would look like.
- Define a social media marketing strategy that will meet or exceed that expected return on investment.
- Assign a price tag.
- Execute the campaign.
- If everything goes according to plan, the campaign will achieve the goals and meet the expected ROI.
Think of social media as pushing a boulder up a hill, at a certain cost, with the goal of getting it over the top of the hill. At which point gravity and inertia take over and roll the boulder down the other side of the hill at no additional cost.
But, without the required spend on strategy, resources, really good content (still hate that word), paid ads, PR, and social media distribution and/or influencer or star power, that boulder's not getting over the top of that hill.
"Young man making a wish isolated on white background" and "Shabby Wood Background" images via Shutterstock.