Contributed by Joakim Vars Nilsen, Senior Creative Strategist, MediaFront – A part of McCann World Group.

Joakim Vars Nilsen

The debate about the most fundamental changes in the market landscape the last 100 years is colored by sterile polemicists who focus on insignificant fragments of the whole that is magnified far out of proportion, instead of constructive sparring and curiosity. A debate filled with arguments that seem driven more by wanting to win and/or gaining followers on twitter, quora, blog traffic and linkedin – than being part of coming up with better knowledge.

The most important thing is to constructively identify what opportunities we have right now – that work. What can we do to get optimal effect out of our marketing initiatives today that supports a sustainable business model? And how do we do it?

Don’t be an echo. Lead!

The main challenge is to include different views on marketing and putting these into a larger theoretical and practical structure. There is no truth, which obviously can be a challenge to live with – but to base a marketing career by desperately holding on to principles can make you redundant and in worst case prevent desired growth for your business or the company you are working for. This goes for both old school traditional thinkers to new school social media hipsters.

It’s also a challenge that the industry seems to be mostly creating marketing solutions that is an echo of the culture, instead of driving it. Marketing and advertising is in most cases still used to make up for poor products or parity when the hash reality is that innovation and further development of existing products is increasingly important due to the fundamental changes in the marketplace. The hipster is dead. Time to move on. And it requires a different mindset and approach to marketing. But first of all, what is happening?

Become part of the stories between people.

Up until just a few years ago it was only brands, media and the state that could publish content publicly. Today it is every single one of us due to new technology that has enabled us to do so. We are evolutionary wired to share information and thrive on doing so – and have always been. But with new technology the world has gone bananas in regards to the amount of information published every single second. And it has just begun. This is the shift we are in the midst of.

This means that we have gone from a reality of scarcity of media to scarcity of attention, something that cannot be bought as effective anymore. So the question is how can a brand make itself worthy of attention in this new market landscape? Where one of the main consequences of this fundamental shift is that we are not competing against competitors stories alone, but the stories people share with each other. That is why we need to create marketing that ensures that the brand is being part of creating these stories and thus becomes part of the stories between people.

Invest, don’t only spend.

There is an increased understanding from marketers on the importance, and not least the effect, of launching 24/7, 365 days solutions that are a combination of product, platform and communication. In addition, there is an emergence of examples of a holistic approach to marketing where there is a clear focus on creating something people can bring to their networks or enhance the possibility of them contributing to it, by creating something of shared interest that makes people talk. Something that generates endogenous word of mouth. Where paid media is used for kick-starting 365 days solutions, maintain traction by showing what the brand is doing together with whom, and assisting people to after rationalize why the time they are spending and investing in the solution is of value. The model of a media neutral planning with one idea being expressed in different channels is dead. Invest in 365 days solutions and, again, spend on advertising to kick-start, keep momentum and influence after rationalization.

TCB – Taking care of business

Right now, the key for effective marketing is to create solutions that integrate customers and potential new customers even more so that the brand becomes a platform for rich interactions – this gives the brand unique valuable data that should be used to steer future marketing initiatives. It is what people are doing, not what they are saying in marketing research, that is important. These kinds of solutions are also key for building ambassadors. These are people who will sell your product by sharing positive experiences within their social networks both on and offline.

Although it is important to shift focus from the self-interested individual to group dynamics this requires being able to build relationships with customers and potential customers as individuals. There is no contradiction here. And just to be clear: Continuously building a customer base by building meaningful relationships is a win-win-win situation. Bigger awareness base for kick-starting new initiatives, continuously fueling advocates who creates new customers and gaining valuable insight in the culture for adjusting your strategy. Oh, and you can reduce your paid media spend, enabling you to invest more and the word sustainable starts to make sense.

Who are gaining market shares – right now?

Those companies that focus on communicating the emotional response to why they are in the market, rather than using marketing trying to differentiate themselves from competitors, are the ones that is succeeding in capturing market share right now. The more this ideal, the why, is cemented internally the better the effect of the external communication. And it needs to be based on values that the brand shares with its customers so that meaningful relationships can occur. These companies build a trustworthy position in the market. 24/7. 365 days a year. How?

Give people something to do, and someone to do it with.

There are two things that are important for success. And both can be done right now. One is to create an integration strategy for social media in your organization that blend social media activities with the existing work being done to ensure that the company’s mission, or better ideal, and business goals are met – instead of creating a social media strategy. The second thing is to look at marketing in traditional and social media as a 100% necessary merge and as a consequence create an accompanying marketing strategy. A constructive strategy, and/or for the bold ones: Build a philosophy.

Then increase the effect of the marketing budget by creating marketing solutions that organize information, by giving people something to do, and at the same time puts people in touch with each other. Facility and help people to share and create in order to help yourself sell more. A marketing solution where people not only like your brand better, but like to get you more customers.

Give people social currency.

An example of this would be if an energy provider sent me a message that I had used less power than expected and was giving me the choice to donate the surplus to someone who needs it i.e. a social project in my neighborhood. The same aligned message in paid media. The energy company then follows up with information about how many people have contributed together with me, how many people have received help and what it has accomplished through i.e. email, FB page updates, their smart phone app, website and paid media to help after rationalize and influence group dynamics. Maybe they let me choose or propose different projects that will benefit my community and put me in touch with others in the neighborhood that also are involved through this. Then they invite and build a co-create 365 day platform, communication, product where the advocates are invited to evolve and/or create new projects. Supported by paid media. And on it goes…

This would have created a meaningful relationship between me and my supplier of electricity. A company I would recommend to others. It’s a marketing solution that is built on a social graph like Facebook so that people will have the opportunity to post their involvement to their social network and talk about it on their blogs, tweets and offline with their friends, neighbors and family.

This is valuable social currency for people. It all provided and facilitated by the company. Which now has become part of the stories between people.

Joakim Vars Nilsen is a strategist, copywriter and entrepreneur who currently work as a Senior Creative Strategist at MediaFront – A Part of McCann Worldgroup. Feel free to follow-up Q&A on twitter:

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