More than a load of old bull
There are places in Spain that offer a very good analogy for
the media landscape (well, we think so)…
You drive round the corner of a hillside, or look up towards
the mountains and catch sight of a giant bull, a billboard silhouette,
standing in proud relief against the surrounding Spanish countryside.
He's there to remind you about sherry and in a landscape populated
by little more than olive trees and goats he makes a distinct
But imagine a different scene, where the bull jostles cheek by
jowl with a giant carton of Del Monte orange juice. Inflatable,
40-metre high Coca Cola bottles sway in the breeze. A few yards
away the Michelin man does battle with the Goodyear hot air balloon.
You cease thinking about sherry… or tyres. Your visual cortex
goes into overload.
In effect, that is what has happened. Marketers vie for attention,
promoting brand virtues and selling factors so we will choose
one product over the other. To do this they use an ever more sophisticated
and ever growing media arsenal: The shingle outside your shop
is superseded by the sandwich board, the newspaper ad, the radio
commercial, the television sponsorship deal and an ad on someone's
Marketing relies on a plethora of media approaches to grab
the ever more fickle attention of its audience as they go about
their increasingly busy lives. But who is actually seeing, listening
On the internet we are exposed to sponsored copy, 'optimised
pages', ads - down the side, across the top… at the bottom and
still 'popping up' as we try and navigate web pages. We're enticed
to choose the sponsored links when we search.
Is it any wonder that the media landscape - and the online media
landscape in particular - has become cluttered?
But at the same time the consumer has become educated in the
way marketing works - so it is no longer simply a question of
pressing the right buttons. Neither is there a Pavlovian response
to external economic stimuli. High streets in the UK are ever
more aware that periods of economic stability don't automatically
send people rushing out to the shops with their credit cards clutched
in eager hands. Neither does a downturn stop them spending (at
least, not right away).
Even when things are going well for them they are still prepared
to bargain and seek out discounts. Couple that with a media-aware
audience less likely to fall for fancy ads and sales artifice
and traditional marketing faces a problem.
In his book, Right Side Up, author Alan Mitchell pointed out
that for its first hundred years, marketing - and business itself
- revolved around a single driving imperative: helping sellers
to sell. It was seller-centric. It employed what is called the
"sell to" model.
"A soap powder brand - the classic icon of traditional marketing
- is a good example of seller-centric value," Alan Mitchell
wrote. "The value is defined by what is convenient for me
the producer to make in my factories, not what is convenient for
you the consumer to achieve in your life.
"Having brought this value to market, I expect you, the
consumer, to come searching for it and to organise your life -
the things you have to do to realise its value such as washing
and ironing - around it."
Alan Mitchell then expounded a new buyer-centric world - the
"buy from" model, or reverse marketing - in part fuelled
by advances in technology but also by the ever more sophisticated
consumer. Even the term "consumer" takes on a slightly
derogatory feel when you analyse it in depth. It defines people
more by appetite than aspiration.
In a buyer-centric world increasingly sophisticated buyers choose
what they buy and from whom exerting a collective will to ensure
their needs are met. They use the tools at their disposal - including
new technologies - to effect group power, compare and choose.
Consumer agents facilitate these new-style transactions. They
act as a conduit between buyer and seller. Early examples of this
include facilities such as on-line auctions and buying collectives.
The consumer agent brings people together so they can buy from
- not be sold to.
As a result sellers need to not only think in more detail about
what they sell but the way that they sell it. Seth Godin talks
about Permission Marketing™ in his book of the same name (to which
he adds the strapline: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends
Permission marketing offers the consumer "an opportunity
to volunteer to be marketed to. By talking only to volunteers,
Permission Marketing guarantees that consumers pay more attention
to the marketing message."
Not that this guarantee is cast iron. The internet has seized
upon Godin's own success with Permission Marketing and reduced
it to its simplest form - "Click on this and win a prize"
or "…get a discount" - but the increasingly media aware
consumer is no longer so easily bought.
This is more than simple media geology as new philosophies and
models come on the horizon. The media landscape is experiencing
a seismic shift thanks to the pace of new technology and the accelerating
information flow, born on the back of the media explosion, which
has educated the buyer.
And while the marketing industry musters its forces to meet
the new challenge at least one thing seems certain: all the bull
will have to go.
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