A Marketing Manifesto for the 21st Century

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This article was first published in 2001.

Both a lot and very little seems to have changed since then.

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A Marketing Manifesto for the 21st Century

  1. 1. A MARKETING MANIFESTO FOR THE 21ST CENTURYby Geoff Glendenning 2001The 1990’s was a dark decade in marketing history. It was the decade when our consumer became cynical,media-literate and empowered with self confidence, when traditional advertising media began to be difficultto rationalise and brand owners started to question why they were spending so much money, with such ahigh level of unaccountability.The changes that took place in society during this period cannot be ignored because they may spell thedownfall of agencies that are too reliant on a traditional route to market. The key change was simply that alarge proportion of our consumers got bored of traditional activity. The implications of this simple statementare potentially as damaging to the old school industry, as is the fact that they have been aware of it for along time, but seem to have done little to change their route to market.To fully grasp the long-term implications, it is essential to understand how the change came about.To begin with; the media explosion across TV, lifestyle related press and the www, has not only bombardedconsumers with information on their lives and the lifestyles they aspire to, but also saturated the market withadvertising. More TV channels encourage hopping between breaks, many magazines might as well have aneditorial supplement so readers wouldn’t have to search so hard for a story, and the net is an intrusiveadvertising hell.With this media explosion came club Culture. Youth movements that followed Disco in the late ‘70’s, whenthe term ‘house music/garage and Hip Hop first appeared. Dance Culture was alive in the UK undergroundduring the mid-late ‘80’s and went on through the ‘90’s to become the biggest youth movement in the historyof youth culture. It could also be the youth movement that killed all chances of anything big ever comingfrom the underground again, as there are so many media hounds out there scrabbling around to write aboutthe next big thing, that nothing ever gets a chance to be underground long enough to build long termcredibility.The point about dance culture is that it was the first youth movement to truly unite everyone. It evenmanaged to get men dancing instead of fighting (nothing to do with Ecstasy of-course). It grew quickly froman underground following to a huge participation and suddenly, for many, the insanity of crap day jobs wasbeing supplemented with what seemed the total sanity of getting mashed up every weekend with yourmates.The mainstream media picked up on the mass appeal of dance culture and suddenly every TV advert had athumping dance tune. Street fashion influenced from clubbing and Boardsports has become so mainstreamthat three generations of the same family can be found sporting combat trousers for Sunday lunch.Clubbers who experienced the culture never quite left it behind. Dance culture has been going in the UK forover fifteen years and yet many brands still havn’t realised the impact this all has on the way they need tomarket products.Youth marketing used to be a term associated with marketing to kids. During the ‘90’s ‘youth’ became amuch broader term, which now refers to an attitude rather than any particular age group. It’s aboutmarketing to a cynical audience, which lets face it, is the way many of our consumers are going to beeventually.
  2. 2. The key to effective youth marketing is to gain acceptance within your target markets environment.Acceptance is crucial because the consumers are cynical and media literate about obvious marketingactivity. So the question must be raised whether the levels of budget allocated to traditional scatter gun typecampaigns is justified, and therefore why brands have not actively sought new routes to market that buildrelationships and support areas of youth culture, instead of the hijack & exploitation that is currently thenorm.You can’t build a credible youth brand with advertising alone. Advertising can support and maintain, but thecore of a brand’s credibility comes from word of mouth, recommendation and experience of the brand.The reason for this is that the credible mass market is influenced from a core age group of 25-35 year olds.The lifestyle at the core of youth culture has a much wider influence across a broad age range. At the coreof youth culture are the influencers and the opinion formers such as musicians, underground and style pressmedia, journalists, DJ’s, fashion designers, film makers, skaters, b-boys, Graf. artists, celebrities, stylists,photographers etc. Moving out you have the early adopters, followed by the credible mass market who areinfluenced by youth culture but may not be participants. Finally there is the mainstream mass market, butthis market is decreasing, with more consumers become empowered with self confidence as they come intocontact with dilutions of youth culture, that have them liking the same music as their kids enjoying the sameTV, and often shopping at the same stores.Many brands recognised the opportunities for associations with areas of youth culture and have mademoves into festivals, clubland, Boardsports, streetfashion and art. However many budgets are dilutedbecause the incumbent agency is paying a consultant or another company, thus diluting the money whichshould be invested into youth culture, which would demonstrate a brands integrity rather than hijack.Building credibility isn’t very hard to do. The simple formula is to start with a good product, stylish design,gain endorsement from the key influencers of your target market, the right associations, word of mouth, prthe associations and support it all with non-patronising, honest, accessible and creative marketing.The trouble is that the majority of budgets are spent on gaining quantities rather than qualities of a hit. Theniche type marketing required to build effective youth brands is difficult to measure as the grass roots ofyouth culture are protective against intrusion from traditional agencies.Too much marketing is based on a cop out system of traditional budget allocation i.e. a standard allocationby the usual %. Of-course the advertising industry is going to support mass media campaigns; because thatis the way they make their money and win awards. The retailers want to see large media spends to supporta product before they will commit to an order, and the senior management is nervous of any marketing thatdoesn’t give a fully researched, tried & tested, safe route to market.Too much money is allocated to an industry that needs to spend big and fast. The creative process is stillabout the big idea. With media and design, still, often only part of the production process. The big idea isoften focussed on a traditional mass media campaign instead of what is the best route to market for a brandor product. Credible long-term brands are built with a combination of activity that must have continuity. Therole of traditional advertising follows pre-launch word of mouth, but it should work across a much broaderrange of activity than it currently does.
  3. 3. Effective youth marketing comes from:Knowing your productKnowing your marketCreativityLateral thinkingCommon-senseLifestyle knowledge & understandingPsychologySociologyKnowing the tools of your tradeIdeas should range from short films to building local amenities. Activity should look to support grass rootsculture and local communities, as well as build mass-market awareness. Brands spend too much moneyriding on the back of big sporting events when they could be allocating a small portion of the budget directlyto the core of the sport.Brands have put money into grass roots sport and culture, but often it is a short-term venture and is eithernot maintained or budgets are diverted annually to different activity. You could actually drop one mediumweight TV spot and for £70k you could build a permanent skate park in association with a local council.The money involved to effectively target grass roots culture and generate word of mouth is insignificantwhen compared to the amount committed to traditional media. The key issue is with the agencies thatcontrol the majority of the budget. Many have changed their names to communications agencies, somehave divided their agency into groups that act as smaller teams who pitch against each other to work onbusiness. The creative process in some agencies involves a more integrated approach to the advertisingbrief, but still the majority of strategies will look to spend far too much through traditional media.The nation demands a new tone to its advertising, it wants advertising it can relate to, with observationalhumour and truisms that make them laugh because they can relate to it rather than aspire.There is no doubt that everybody loves a good commercial, but in many cases the question still needs to beasked; ‘does so much really need to be spent to get the message across’.No-one needs to see a commercial more than 3 or 4 times.PR is often undervalued, whether that is because of the quality of PR out there, or simply the traditionalmethod of budget allocation, is debatable. Certainly the gauge for a successful month, in many areas of thePR industry, is still the thickness of the cuttings book rather than the quality of the cuttings.With our consumer becoming cynical towards traditional advertising they have also become savvy totraditional PR activity. The essence of PR is about gaining endorsement, association and word of mouth,then to maximise the awareness of these associations & endorsements. Unfortunately, associations oftenseem to be a paid for ‘your logo here’ kind of activity which looks great on paper, but in reality can comeacross as contrived and transparent.If the future of marketing is about integrity, sincerity, honesty and broader creative consideration: then theindustry is in trouble.Brands need to reassess their market positions and look at other routes to market. Agencies need torestructure their business, listen to their planners more, broaden the creative resources and develop acreative process that involves all the elements that are required to develop integrated campaigns.

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