Does Marketing Have A Marketing Problem?

Imagine this: You walk into your first day at a new job and find out you will be presenting to more than 100 very senior marketing executives at an invitation-only event in 2 days. 2 days!

In 2014, I was honored to speak to a hungry crowd of content marketers. “One common theme of this event has been change,” I said after joking that I was the only thing standing between the hungry crowd and their lunch.

“We all know the world has changed due to digital, mobile and cloud technologies. Our customers are tuning out ineffective marketing content. Content marketing is an imperative because it represents the biggest gap between what brands produce and the content our customer actually want.”

Below are some ideas and highlights from my presentation, “The Content Marketing Imperative.”

“Ask most people what they think Marketing is and they will tell you it is an ad, a banner or some form of promotion,” I said. “Marketing has a marketing problem.”

And you all know it’s true. The word “advertising” has become something that leaves some people with a bad taste in their mouth.

And to some people, marketing equates to lying.

At Cannes just last week, a marketing executive quipped that “marketing used to be creating a myth and telling it. Now it’s about finding a truth and sharing it.”

So with all the digital distractions offered by our social, mobile life, just because your ad is on or in front of someone doesn’t mean they’re paying attention. As a society we have learned to tune marketing out.

Let’s talk about Banner ads.

Banners have 99 problems and a click ain’t one.

Make that 99.9-something problems. And the way the math works out, you are more likely to get struck by lightning, give birth to twins, die on a plane crash or win the lottery than to have someone click on your banner ad.

That’s right. Worse news?

Millennials don’t even realize that banners exist.

We’ve taught them to ignore the edges of the internet and they are pretty good at tuning them out.

The real problem for brands is that even our own customers could care less if we exist.

So we have to tell them why we exist. We have to talk about our higher purpose. Our reason for being. And we have to stop talking about what we do, and start talking about what we do for our customers.

So what will save marketing?

“Content Marketing and Storytelling are the fuel that ignite the fire that allows you to get found, get shared and get new customers.”

Think of it this way. Since the beginning of time, the human race has used their communication skills to pass on stories of survival. When we evolved away from being in fight or flight mode on a daily basis, we used stories to entertain and create a shared knowledge base. But the best stories are not about the information they convey, but the emotional connection they create.

Today your customers expect you to care.

They expect something in exchange for their time, attention, and loyalty. That’s why permission marketing works so well. It starts with respecting your customer.

If you tell a story about your brand and your customers through great content, then deliver that content in the right moment in a valuable way, while continuing to go above and beyond for your audience – that will create brand loyalty and content strategy success.

It’s time to become a 21st-century marketer and act like a publisher.

That means creating content people actually want, engaging them with a great user experience and earning their attention and trust. It also means you have to find ways to convert them into new customers.

“Content is not a campaign,” I told the crowd. “It needs to be managed like an asset, with a strategy to generate an ROI. Effective content marketing is a balanced combination of original created, licensed, and syndicated content.”

And there is no debate between quality vs. quantity of content. Focus on setting the quality bar and then build a platform that allows you to scale at that level.

Check out my full presentation on Slideshare

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

19 thoughts on “Does Marketing Have A Marketing Problem?

  1. Wee said Michael. I particularly like “And there is no debate between quality vs. quantity of content. Focus on setting the quality bar and then build a platform that allows you to scale at that level.” As a profession we need measure ourselves mostly on quality. What measurement KPIs do you advocate?

    1. Hi Michael,

      I think it’s important to measure all the way down the engagement funnel starting with organic and social traffic (are you attracting visitors with the quality of your content and is it relevant to them?), engagement in the form of time spent, pageviews, share rate, comments, etc. and finally conversion. Conversion can mean many things and a ton of testing should be done to determine the right mix.

  2. Michael, here’s another banner ad statistic I like: “You are more likely to complete NAVY SEAL training than click a banner ad.” (Source: Solve Media)

  3. Thank you for sharing your insights, Michael! As a millennial myself, your statement “We’ve taught them to ignore the edges of the internet and they are pretty good at tuning them out” is extremely accurate. And therefore it makes sense that content is what will truly capture customers’ attention. But as a marketer, I struggle with finding exactly what content will create that emotional pull you discuss. Do you have any ideas for finding inspiration for great content? Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Claire, thanks so much for your comment. Every one of your peers I know has expressed the same thoughts.

      As for ideas, I am always looking at what kind of content does well in the channels our audience is using. So I covered the best videos of 2013, the best slideshares on business, the best flickr photos, etc. You can find some of those articles here but I think the best way to do this is to look at the sites your audience uses and then identify what works there. If you can replicate those successes, I think that is the trick to content marketing success.

  4. Very compelling article. Much thanks. I found myself staring at the statistics along side the boy with the book bag. From a B2B perspective, can you recommend any sources on what percentage of tele-efforts are all for naught? {i.e. responder does not answer phone?} I have seen averages as low as 40% and as high as 80% (after 3 attempts). Curious if you have any stats on this – and what your source was for the stats in the image?

    Appreciate the article.

  5. Good article, particularly I loved this quote:
    “Content is not a campaign,” I told the crowd. “It needs to be managed like an asset, with a strategy to generate an ROI. Effective content marketing is a balanced combination of original created, licensed, and syndicated content.”
    And I believe that marketing doesn’t have any problem, but some Marketers do. The evolution of marketing has to be understood and the way to reach, find and talk with the “target”.

  6. Great article! So many brands and agencies are slowly starting to realize that the traditional modes of advertising (print ads, website banners) aren’t enough and are totally ignored by modern audiences. As you said, many millennials have simply tuned out the edges of websites and don’t even know banners exist on the sites they use. The change to content marketing is starting to build speed and, with compelling insight like you have provided here, I hope more will see how much their approach to marketing needs to change!

    1. wow. thanks so much Katherine. I have taken on this as my mission, for better or for worse: To stop marketers from creating all this crap, wasting their company’s money and interrupting our content experiences.

      This is good for business and good for us all as content consumers. And I think we are getting close to the tipping point!

  7. Thanks Michael for the wonderful article.

    I especially liked the parts under Today your customers expect you to care and . . . . act like a publisher.

    Great article

    David Baker

  8. Great article! I hope this will serve as a wake-up call for marketers to not just make dozens of campaigns and ads. That content development should be focused on, as well as the branding, its quality and features. That’s what interests the customers most. Don’t tell them a lie, they deserve the truth regarding your product.

  9. Michael — I just recently started following your blog … it’s fantastic. One of the things I have asserted many times with colleagues is that most decisions are driven emotionally, not intellectually. As business people, it seems to me we are often hesitant to accept this, because we want to be known for our intellect. So your statement that “your customers expect you to care” really resonated with me as this is inherently emotive. Which is why great story telling is so critical, because it always has an emotional element. So when it’s delivered at the right time and place it can be very powerful. And as I reflected on all this it reminded me of an old saying in sports that seems to apply…. “Nobody cares what you have to say until they know you care.”

    1. Hi Frank, thanks for reading, following and also really appreciate you sharing your thoughts here. I think you make some great points about the emotional and often counter-intuitive nature of business. I also think its important to understand this in the context of why so much marketing stinks. It stinks because behind it is a bunch of people who really love their company, their product and they want to talk about it. Just like I want to talk about my kids. But marketing needs to try and help the business resist this natural tendency. We have to start the conversation, as you say, by letting our audience know we care about them!

  10. Michael, I wanted to add to the list for “They expect something in exchange for their time, attention, and loyalty”. I am finally seeing the emergence of Permission Marketing at Scale, 16 years after Seth Godin coined the term. Many of the major retailers I am working with have realized that with likely only 2% of product viewers actually buying, why not stop ‘marketing/advertising’ to them after they leave the page, begging them to come back. Instead, why not simply ask them to opt-in to consent for post-visit marketing via 1:1 email alerts on criteria they set, like a price drop, new review posted, new item added in the category or by the brand, and so on. Among the top 10 e-Tailers embedding this ‘just ask’ option in their sites, some are seeing up to a 40% take rate, and up to a 15% conversion to sale when they send an alert that has been requested.

    1. Thanks Kim, Seth has predicted many things that have started to make themselves more evident. I think permission-based marketing has been a long time coming and anyone following the math of what works, is pursuing a permission-based approach.

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