July 12, 2018
In a business environment as volatile and complex as this one, there is one phrase that marketers must keep top of mind if they want to lead in their categories: “Average is over.” This phrase came from an interview I did with journalist and author, Thomas L. Friedman, for my book Shift Ahead, which takes on the challenge of how businesses stay relevant in a volatile, complex, and increasingly-changing world. During our discussion, we focused on the key question answered in this book - why it is that some organizations can continually evolve to meet the times and marketplace, and others can’t. Among the key answers is that companies that continue to succeed know they must continue to identify a unique way to stand out in the crowd. Not gratuitously unique. But something that makes clear that they are different in a way that matters to consumers.
It used to be that marketers could operate in a “check-the-box” mode. Stay the course and maintain the status quo in terms of how they reached consumers. A mixture of okay general media, some okay promotional events, an okay digital platform, and okay packaging. Okay is no longer okay. This is due to a number of factors. To begin with, the number of products and services has proliferated with unprecedented speed. So, too, the number of media channels, along with other nontraditional ways and means of touching and connecting with customers. But, the most critical reason that average is over is the killer of all marketing apps – social media. What has been referred to as word-of-mouth on steroids. The much-proven simple rule between effective and ineffective social media is that no one shares ordinary. Consumers only share things that are extraordinary. If your marketing is a check-all-the-boxes model, you’ll not only be spreading your resources thinner and thinner, you’ll become invisible. You’ll be spending lots of money doing ordinary things without any one of them breaking through.
Success in marketing today is driven by focusing on a few key points of touch and brilliantly executing against them. It doesn’t have to involve using any of the newest shiny objects. It could be phenomenal packaging, industrial design, or advertising. It could be an extraordinary digital platform or an extraordinary event, any of which bring to life your brand’s unique value proposition in an eminently sharable way. It’s a matter of both knowing where you can play and win, and then doing something that is worth talking about. Marketers today must resist the temptation to do many things in an average way. To succeed in marketing in a world in which average is over and where only the extraordinary matters, marketers need to focus on doing less, and doing it exceptionally well.
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