Change or Die: The New Marketing Imperative
At the recent annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers, corporate marketing executives discussed how technology advances and social changes are forcing advertisers to adapt. The same holds true for association marketers.
Today, successful marketing requires an ability to continually adapt and evolve: This was the sentiment among a group marketing executives gathered at the recent annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers.
According to a New York Times report, the executives, representing some of the most influential corporate brands in the country—Coca Cola, Wal-Mart, General Electric—said that to keep pace with technology and social changes, marketers must be adept at adapting.
“Change or die,” said Stephen Quinn, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Wal-Mart U.S., a division of Wal-Mart Stores. He added that marketers are now operating in a “customer era,” where “the consumer is in control.”
In a variation on Quinn’s theme, John Costello, president for global marketing and innovation at Dunkin’ Brands Group, spoke of the need to create unique products, services, and experiences. “Differentiate or die,” he said.
And Beth Comstock, senior vice president and CMO at General Electric, advised fellow marketers to get clear on what their brands are and what they are not.
“Know yourself,” Comstock said. “At G.E., we’re not going to be Facebook. We’re not going to be Apple. We’re pretty cool with what we are. … We’re geeky, and we’re proud of it.”
Association marketers are facing similar challenges—or, depending on how you look at it, opportunities—as they work to keep pace with technological and social change. Take the idea of differentiating a product or service, for example.
“Associations haven’t largely had to develop their own story and tell a compelling story that differentiates themselves from other things on the market, because they haven’t been in a competitive landscape, historically,” said Suzanne Carawan, CMO of HighRoad Solution.
While it’s a relatively new tactic for many association marketers, finding and delivering unique value propositions around products and services is becoming increasingly important.
“People know that they can get networking and education and all this stuff somewhere else, so you have got to get something that’s going to break through that noise and give them something that is going to uniquely benefit them personally,” Carawan said.
Association marketers are also adapting to the consumer-driven mindset. Carawan gave the example of one association that began tailoring its email newsletter delivery to its members’ preferences instead of delivering the newsletter when it was convenient for staff.
It’s about restructuring the association to be focused on the member. And although most associations would say they’ve always been member-focused, they haven’t always designed their operations to reflect that philosophy, Carawan said.
“There’s always been member focus in a sense of they want the members to be happy and taken care of,” she said. “But they haven’t been willing, or haven’t had the technological ability, yet, to be able to restructure the operational organization to be focused on the member.”
How do you set your products and services apart from the competition and tell that story to your members? Let us know in the comments.