Marketing in the digital age – thoughts from The Art of Marketing

Last week saw a over 1200 of Toronto’s top marketing professionals gather at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the annual The Art of Marketing conference.

My favourite two speakers were Mitch Joel and Seth Godin. And it seemed that their talks  were perfectly paired as one followed the other.

Mitch is the founder of TwistImage as well as the authour of Six Pixels of Separation, which was named after his popular podcast of the same name.  mj

Seth, as many of you probably already know, is one of the most sought after marketing thought leaders today. He has authoured numerous best-sellers the latest which is entitled Linchpin. Seth is also the CEO of Squidoo.com – one of the world’s most popular websites.

Taken together, both men spoke about the need to employ fresh thinking given the technological and economic changes we are experiencing.

Marketing, like most industries, has not been left untouched by the growing popularity of the internet, the ubiquitous nature of mobile technology, and the various free social tools that millions of people employ such as Twitter and Facebook.

The combination of all three (especially occurring on one device!) has meant a drastic change in the way people interact with media. It has also meant a change in the way marketing professionals interact with their potential clients. Or at least it should.

Both Mitch and Seth insinuated that marketing professionals should be doing a better job in telling their stories given such rapid change in the medium.

Here are some insights from their talks:

There has been a 50% decrease in banner ad click-throughs in recent times. So, banner ads are not engaging anymore yet companies like Yahoo! continue to invest in a business model that revolves around banner ads.   sg

The idea that consumers are willing to be interrupted is over. Marketing is now about  engagement between the consumer and the product. Marketing is not interrupting anymore. Marketers need to understand that products will attract consumers if the idea or image they are promoting spreads through a community naturally and organically.

Location-based rating apps are growing in both popularity and importance. Imagine driving round your neighbourhood and seeing a home on sale that you would like to buy. You hold up your smartphone to the Realtor’s lawn sign. Not only do you get all the contact information and listings of that agent but you also get a rating on her. Such a rating can determine whether that agent gets another client or not.

We are the most branded generation ever. We may want to know what our friends like and dislike. However, when it comes to our favourite brands, not even the worst rating can disuade us from being loyal. And services like Twitter and Foursquare help us to spread our admmiration for our favourite brands.

And it’s not only kids who use these social media tools. In fact, there are more grandparents on Facebook than their are high school kids. Are marketing professionals taking advantage of this or are they ignoring that the “greatest generation” is maybe also the most wired?

Because of the proliferation of the internet and social media tools marketers now have the ability to own their destiny rather than being tied to a specific brand. Marketing is about human interaction. For example, Zappos is not successful because they happen to be an online retailer. Zappos is successful because their employees take ownership over their job. They own it.

Ideas that spread win. Prior to the social tools, whoever owned the means of production won. Today, ideas can be spread via the internet. YouTube videos showing ingenious acts or blog posts that force people to stop and think. Products sold on eBay that are unique and can’t be found anywhere else. These will be the winners of today and tomorrow.

Mitch implored the audience to change the way we think about marketing in the digital age. He called it ” ctrl, alt and delete”. Seth challenged us to then become artists. The challenge has been set.

Who will step up to meet it?