Over the last 10 years, marketers and their ilk have been busier inventing slogans for themselves than developing innovative ways to sell their clients' products. The overused phrases such as "think out of the box," "push the envelope," "go viral," and create "buzz" have all become part of the marketer's vernacular. Some have followed the teachings of Blink and/or Freakonomics. Many have found themselves falling beyond "the tipping point" while waiting for a "Black Swan."
At the core of all this verbiage is the clarion call to connect, engage, transform, and delight consumers with brands and products -- all dedicated to defining the "consumer benefit," the value of which should not be understated. A clear calling out of the product benefit enables creative to focus the message and media to identify the most effective means to communicate it.
Yet over the years, the consumer benefit of products seems to blur together or become more ephemeral. The word "delight" seemed especially popular, showing up in quite a few briefs and positioning statements. The consumer benefit became increasingly measured in consumers' emotional response and only secondarily their behavior.
Couple this with a decade-long explosion of new media types -- nothing more than new toys -- and it became much easier to think about true consumer engagement as a smile rather than a sale. The consumer benefit designed to delight a target may be nothing more than the style of a commercial or a game on a website.
Meanwhile, traditional tools for driving sales were slowly and often gracelessly imported to the web. Limited time sales offers, rebates, and coupons have all moved cross-channel and been relegated to the pile of sales tools that no doubt benefit consumers but would never be found in the consumer benefit state of any creative or brand brief.
They were tactics, low-hanging fruit, barely better than sandwich board advertising.
The gap between consumer benefit statements and marketing ideas that actually delivered a consumer benefit was more than a click. It was a yawning gap even as consumers drifted away from brands and spent more time with each other online and off (not surprising given that brands are not people, even if you can "friend" one on MySpace).
Then, as everyone Twittered and texted, Lehman failed, and the rest is a history we are still living. Well, guess what? That's what it took to shake marketers right out of that old box into a whole new way of marketing.
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