Breaking through is something the world celebrates. Award shows recognize breakout movie actors -- people who have permanently shed mere performer status to become ironclad, bankable, big-name box office stars. The X Prize and other similar competitions confer both notoriety and financial rewards upon people and teams that find a way to be first -- solving a problem or challenge that confounded the best efforts of everyone who came before. And the rock canon is filled with songs that celebrate our need to climb over, tear down, and break through conventional barriers. We love getting to the other side, and we typically like seeing other people get there too.
In the marketplace, brands that break through have done something extraordinary. In the past, we typically only thought about the winners in terms narrowly defined by revenue and profit. Today, in a period we call the Relationship Era, brands that win are expanding their focus to also include non-financial goals -- the kind of things that shareholders might have considered a distraction previously. And these brands are realizing that it is possible to do something that is intensely meaningful and also more profitable. It's also a lot more fun. But achieving this today requires an entirely different marketing model and some new tools for creating the kind of ground-shaking results we're referring to when we talk about breakthrough success.
This article will cover some points of interest along the marketing journey and offer five principles that can put your brand on the path to your own breakout moment. But a permanent solution requires you to think beyond simply hitting a number at the end of the next quarter. We're talking about a true transformation, and that's something that requires immediate action and long-term commitment.
The rise of Sterling Cooper
Until recently, there were two eras of marketing: the Product Era and Consumer Era -- and each featured a winning marketing model that distinguished the period.
In the Product Era, from the 1900s through the 1960s, the focus in business was on producing products. During this era, marketing was about simply informing people about these products. Ads were copy heavy, and the strongest performers did the best job of explaining why their product was superior.
In the 1960s (cue Don Draper), marketers realized that product descriptions reached people at a logical level but failed to connect on an emotional level. As a result, the Consumer Era was born. Whereas in the Product Era, the thinking started with the marketer and its products, in the Consumer Era, marketers learned that an understanding of the consumer was paramount. Marketers worked to deeply understand consumers' wants and needs, to reach them at a moment of utmost receptivity with a message most likely to influence them.
A super model
While marketers in the Product Era informed people about products, and marketers in the Consumer Era persuaded consumers to buy more, my agency, imc², welcomes a new period in the evolution of our industry that we call the Relationship Era. The role of marketing in this new era is to foster sustainable relationships between brands and people.
The following graphic shows the progression to the Relationship Era and the predominant marketing models in each era:
The new model of marketing -- fostering sustainable relationships -- represents a meaningful change in the role of marketing. In the Consumer Era, the starting point was typically the consumer. Marketers worked to understand the buyer and become what consumers wanted them to be. The problem is, what consumers want the brand to be may not be what the brand authentically is. This causes a gap between the brand's true intentions and how the brand presents itself -- a gap that can cause mistrust with customers.
In the Relationship Era, the starting point is the brand. The brand must know its authentic self before it can engage in sustainable relationships with people. (This is similar to other relationships in our lives -- at least the good ones -- where it's pretty much a prerequisite to know yourself and what's important to you before finding a good match.)
The winners in the Relationship Era will be those that build trust and transactions, creating sustainable relationships with people.
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