When I hinted at the many faces of marketing last week, a few people reached out to set the record straight — there is much more than meets the eye.
Yes, I know. Right?
Which brings me to the reason why it’s important for marketers to write well; because with digital influence and social engagement being still desirable for brands young and mature alike, regardless of what else is going on, it has never been a better time to connect with audiences and customers.
No matter how you slice it, analyze it, and program it, connection happens through communication.
Look at several generations, not just younger ones, and what you have is generation why. As I said in that post (Dec 2008):
If this is the age of conversation, it is also an age in which the study of generational habits and demographics for marketing purposes has increased.
Yet, many studies fail to recognize two main factors that are impacting business:
(1) size matters
Populations trends have not been taken into consideration when looking at scaling businesses.
There are considerably less Gen-X people than Boomers. There will be many more Gen-Y even than Boomers. What does this mean? The infrastructure and mind-set of many organizations are not ready to deal with this reality.
(2) behavior and attitude change with context
Technology may have something to do with it. If the majority of Gen-X (my generation) is undergoing a period of reexamination of the web of relationships that comprise the social whole – with a rejection of those that do not fit the individual identity – every generation is experiencing a return to its core values at the moment.
This is due to the major forces of conservation – the need of which is becoming apparent after more than 10 years spent on conversation – and change. Conservation is not a trend anymore, it has become a necessity.
Examine those two statements (based on research) alone, and you will see how the rental economy, from apartments to cars, even to jobs (in the sense of collectives and co-working), has fully developed into a viable business model.
So far this is still benefiting the platform builders because we are literally redefining the infrastructure of the model — so infrastructure as a service is what we have now.
Beyond social networks, aka platforms as a service where businesses and brands are trading, many technologies that are being offered to support marketing functions up and down the funnel are constructed as software as a service.
I’m using the construct that cloud computing has followed as a way to explain where all these different layers come into our lives and help broker connections. It is still evident that not many companies are prepared for these changes.
Digital transformation has business implications even if you do no business online. It affects your channel, and because there is demand for online interaction by buyers and customers, it affects how you organize internally around servicing them in a way that makes more sense.
It is widely reported that we now spend more time online and on smartphones than ever before. The Mary Meeker Internet Trends report spells out numbers and areas of opportunity.
A return to core values creates new opportunities. Trendwatching has a good list of 10-trend based ideas to put into action in 2015. Every single one of them involves some form of visual, textual, and two-way communication to tell a story, help people understand how (thus use) a product can help them, and differentiate your brand through service.
For an example, take the last trend on the list:
many consumers believe brands should speak out: 73% of Millennials believe that businesses should share a point of view about issues; 73% also think businesses should influence others to get involved in an issue (MSLGroup, February 2014.)
Communication is how businesses become human again and look to the future. Analytics, programmatic, machine learning are all about understanding (who knows, hopefully) the past. The past, however, is often just a leading indicator of what could happen, not a way to create what might happen in the future.
For that, people, social animals, still want — need actually — to interact with people. Whichever way you cut it, when so much happens online or through mobile windows, you are talking digital body language, text, visual, interactive.
Nobody knows the craft better than fiction writers, at least from where I sit.
The serious ones can teach you how to be human in your communications, how to liberate them from jargon and stilted formats, and how to make them engaging so you can earn permission to tell your story, inform your audience, and even prod them to act. Good stories change us, they stop the clock and earn our favor.
Two books you should read to hone the craft by wildly different personalities, yet that provide the same grounding principles and advice — it’s uncanny, isn’t it, how we go around and around even in business, to arrive to some timeless lessons, albeit now more bundled in complexity.
On Writing – a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I think I already recommended it here; it’s worth repeating it. King is as real as it gets, and a pro (he still writes 2,000 words a day, every day), and he gets to the core of what writing should be about.
The parts about dialogue are especially helpful if you’re involved in research and real-time marketing — for example from paying attention to how the real people around you behave and then telling the truth about what you see to discovering what happens to a story based on what characters do when they face a situation.
Read this book, then go back to all your marketing communications, simplify and look to understand situations better — e.g., mobility, circumstances, etc.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I promise you will laugh out loud in many moments of reading. Lamott focuses on the process of writing and tells you what she learned through personal stories.
She says something you already know — that publication is not going ot change your life. Think about it, how many different types of guides, playbooks, white papers, articles, blog posts you have your hands on, even product instructions! You get it out there and hope it will resonate, then your are right back into the next one.
Imagine if you were to write a guide for the families of people who have cancer — how would you change the way you write that hospital brochure to send out to people? Lamott wrote two books about people dying of cancer because she could not find anything that was remotely useful to her and her family as they were going through the experience.
We talk about customer touchpoints and building experiences that map to them — map to what it means to be human and go through an illness or medical issue as you think of design as an agent of change in complex systems.
Technology is here to stay, and it is changing how we do many things, all the way to how we do business. We are still human and live in the real world and still too many times what we need is a piece of communication that helps us understand that we will be alright. Communicate that.