"Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing, right into your product or service. Not slapping on marketing as a last-minute add-on, but understanding that if your offering itself isn't remarkable, it's invisible.
The TV-industrial complex was the symbiotic relationship between consumer demand, TV advertising, and ever-growing companies that were built around investments in ever-increasing marketing expenditures.
The post-consumption consumer is out of things to buy. We have what we need, we want very little, and we're too busy to spend a lot of time researching something you've worked hard to create for us.
The marketing department takes a nearly finished product or service and spends money to communicate its special benefits to a target audience. This approach no longer works.
I believe we've now reached the point where we can no longer market directly to the masses. We've created a world where most products are invisible. Over the past two decades, smart business writers have pointed out that the dynamic of marketing is changing. Marketers have read and talked about those ideas, and even used some of them, but have maintained the essence of their old marketing strategies. The traditional approaches are now obsolete, though. One hundred years of marketing thought are gone. Alternative approaches aren't a novelty – they are all we've got left.
"Before Advertising, there was word of mouth. Products and services that could solve a problem got talked about and eventually got purchased.
The best vegetable seller at the market had a reputation, and her booth was always crowded.
During Advertising, the combination of increasing prosperity, seemingly endless consumer desire, and the power of television and mass media led to a magic formula: If you advertised directly to the consumer (every consumer), sales would go up.
A partnership with the right ad agency and the right banker meant you could drive a company to be almost as big as you could imagine.
After Advertising, we're almost back where we started. But instead of products succeeding by slow and awkward word of mouth, the power of our new networks allows remarkable ideas to diffuse through segments of the population at rocket speed.
As marketers, we know the old stuff isn't working. And we know why: because as consumers, we're too busy to pay attention to advertising, but we're desperate to find good stuff that solves our problems.
The world has changed. There are far more choices, but there is less and less time to sort them out.
All the obvious targets are gone, so people aren't likely to have easily solved problems.
Consumers are hard to reach because they ignore you.
Satisfied customers are less likely to tell their friends.
The old rules don't work so well any more. Marketing is dead. Long live marketing.
Remember the much-maligned "military-industrial complex? The idea behind it was simple. The government spent money on weapons. Companies received tax dollars to build weapons. The companies hired labor. They paid taxes. The taxes were used to buy more weapons. A virtuous cycle was created: The government got bigger, employment went up, and it appeared that everyone was a winner.
The military-industrial complex was likely responsible for many of the world's ills, but it was undeniably a symbiotic system. As one half of it grew and prospered, so did the other.
Little noticed over the past fifty years was a very different symbiotic relationship, one that arguably created far more wealth (with large side effects) than the military-industrial complex did. I call it the TV-industrial complex. The reason we need to worry about it is that it's dying. We built a huge economic engine around the idea of this system, and now it's going away. The death of the complex is responsible for much of the turmoil at our companies today.
The system was simple. Find a large market niche that's growing and not yet dominated. Build a factory. Buy a lot of TV ads. The ads will lead to retail distribution and to sales. The sales will keep the factory busy and create profits.
Astute business then used all the profits to buy more ads. This lead to more distribution and more factories. Soon the virtuous cycle was in place, and a large, profitable brand was built.
As the brand was built, it could command a higher price, generating larger profits and leaving more money for more TV ads. Consumers were trained to believe that "as seen on TV was proof of product quality, so they looked for products on television. Non-advertised brands lost distribution and, ultimately profits.
Big marketers with guts (like Procter and Gamble) were able to dominate entire categories by using this simple idea.
In 1962, a smart ad agency hired Jay Ward, creator of Bullwinkle, and asked him to make a commercial. He invented Cap'n Crunch and came back with an animated commercial. Then, and only after that was done, did the cereal company go about actually making the cereal. Quaker knew that if they had a commercial, they could run enough ads to imprint the Cap'n into just about every kid in America. The cereal was secondary.
You cold never afford to introduce Cap'n Crunch today, regardless of who made your commercial. Kids won't listen. Neither will adults.
Consumers were like kids in the candy store, they had pockets filled with shiny money and they had a real desire to buy stuff. We shopped on TV and we shopped in stores. We were in a hurry and we wanted to fill our houses, our fridges and our garages.
A quick look down this list of Proctor and Gamble brands turns up significant proof of the presence of the TV-industrial complex. Is it possible to read the list without filling your head with images and jingles?
Bold, Bounce, Bounty, Cascade, Charmin, Cheer, Cover Girl, Crest, Dawn, Downy, Folgers, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essence, Ivory, Max Factor, Miss Clairol, Mr. Clean, Nice ‘n Easy, Noxzema, NyQuil, Oil of Olay, Old Spice, Pampers, Pepto-Bismol, Pringles, Safeguard, Scope, Secret, Tampax, Tide, Vicks, Vidal Sassoon, and Zest. Throw in particularly annoying product pitches like Wisk and Irish Spring, and the point is obvious. Advertising this stuff used to work. Really well.
TV commercials are the most effective selling medium ever devised. A large part of the success of the American century is due to our companies' perfecting this medium and exploiting it to the hilt.
Our cars, our cigarettes, our clothes, our food – anything that was effectively advertised on TV was changed by the medium. Not only did marketers use television to promote their products, but television itself changed the way products were created and marketed. As a result, all of the marketing Ps were adjusted to take advantage of the synergies between our factories and our ability to capture the attention of the audience.
Of course, it's not just TV that's fading. It's newspapers and magazines – any form of media interrupting any form of consumer activity. Individuals and businesses have ceased to pay attention.
The TV-industrial complex lasted a half-century – a long time. So long that the people who devised the strategies and ads that worked so well are gone. There's no one left at Phillip Morris or General Foods who remembers what life was like before TV created the bureaucratic behemoths.
And that's the problem. The TV-industrial complex is hemorrhaging, and most marketers don't have a clue what to do about it. Every day, companies spend million to re-create the glory days of the TV-industrial complex. And every day, they fail.
The old rule was this:
Create safe, ordinary products and combine them with great marketing.
The new rule is:
Create remarkable products that the right people seek out.
It's not just TV that's broken. Just about all of the ways marketers promote themselves (whether they sell to businesses or to consumers) are becoming less effective.
The marketing old guard is quick to defend the power of the TV commercial. They're delighted to point out the great success stories of years past, and to happily articulate why only TV can get the awareness needed to launch a new product or maintain an existing one.
In Sergio's (Zyman, Chief Marketing Officer for Coca-Cola) words, "Kmart has plenty of awareness. So what?