Ian Wolfman, CMO at creative agency MEplusYOU and professor at the Cox School of Business at SMU, spends a lot of time looking at the big picture. Prior to his keynote presentation at the upcoming ad:tech conference, Ian drew us a sketch of what that picture looks like and why all the players out there better start thinking about settling down.
On Relationships Versus “Friends With Benefits”
We've just entered a new era in marketing, which we've coined "the Relationship Era." Our role as marketers has changed. It used to be about the transaction—as long as we were creating the transaction that was fine. Now our role is to create sustainable relationships, which we define as still high transaction, but also high trust. Because that's our core purpose.
Before we were in charge of creating “friends with benefits” relationships. We like our customers well enough, but our job as marketers is to know what they wanted to think and hear and feel so that we can get to the ultimate goal—the "transaction." That's “friends with benefits.” We want to be friends with them, but at the end of the day your one ultimate goal is: Can I get in bed with these people? Can I get the transaction?
You're not able to just test your customers and say whatever they want to hear anymore; people will catch you on your contradictions and inauthenticity. Our job is to create authentic relationships now, to build trust. Before we'd do things to build trust, but we'd also do things that were trust neutral or even trust negative as long as they're creating the transaction in the short run.
We're only going to spend money and do things if they have a positive impact on both transaction and trust.
On Not Wanting To Be a Player Any More
Right now, we could be headed to an era were personalization and technology lets us say different things to all kinds of different people. And I think that could be very good for the short-term transaction and very bad for our brands in the long term.
If our goal is to become the stone-cold player, we're getting better and better tools to do that. To just be what anyone wants us to be. The problem is your brand, your reputation, will become one of a stone-cold player.
Before, when you're limited to just advertising—quick, uni-directional messaging on packaging, in ads—you're really limited to saying "what does our consumer care about" and then going and finding a charity that those consumers care about.
What does the brand stand for, what does it believe in, what's its vision for a better world? That’s how we make our decisions. Brands are in this incredible place now were they can actually take a stand and believe in something versus simply leasing another cause.
On the Three Relationships
There's three brand/consumer relationships that have evolved very quickly after being basically static for a long time.
The first relationship would be actually using the product—I eat the ice cream, I drive the car, etc. Now this is evolving to include content from the brand as well. Now you can actually consume content by a brand before you've even used the service. For example, maybe you haven't eaten a type of pizza, but you've consumed their fantasy football advice—something of that nature.
The second is point of sale. Used to be a physical place. Now you have virtual storefronts. You don't need to come to an actual storefront to find a point of sale.
The third, and the one that’s changed the most, is word-of-mouth. This has always been the most high trust. It's also always been the lowest scalability: Your friends, family, community, experts—that’s it.
Now with social media, this is scalable. Companies like Blue Calypso are out there letting people share owned media content—-and incentivizing them to do so. All of the sudden you have these platforms to scale word-of-mouth, where that was never the case before. That’s a big deal.
On the Marketer's New Role
Marketing has become bigger. If you went to business school, you learned about the "Four P’s." But marketing, to this point, had become less about Product, Place and Price and mainly about the fourth, Promotion.
It's now become much more synonymous with core business. Marketing is not just advertising. We're not throwing products over the transom and saying, go market it. It's all one process now.
One great example is what they’ve done at Zappos, with Tony Hsieh. They decided very early on that they weren't going to spend any money on promotions. Instead, they decide to reallocate all those resources to Customer Service and enable the word-of-mouth sharing of their customers. That's one extreme example of this new versatility that marketers have.
On the other hand, you take companies like AT&T or American Airlines that are focused on acquiring new customers through trying to understand what they want to hear and saying that louder. You’re basically packaging your product with some message that tests well that you think the consumers want to hear. That’s the old model.
This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest digital marketing and technology conferences and expositions. Check out allvoices.com/adtech for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech New York event coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.