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American Marketing Association Philadelphia - Answers in Action™

The Frankenstein Conundrum

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“There is something at work in my soul which I do not understand. I am practically industrious—painstaking, a workman to execute with perseverance and labour—but besides this there is a love for the marvellous, a belief in the marvellous, intertwined in all my projects, which hurries me out of the common pathways of men, even to the wild sea and unvisited regions I am about to explore.” Robert Walton, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

As marketers, innovators and communicators stand on the edge of this era of innovation, the possibilities in front of us are, indeed, marvelous and inspiring. We find ourselves charting waters that we do not entirely understand, and working tirelessly to achieve excellence across an ever-shifting landscape. All of the comfort of what “success” looks like has been stripped away by the break-neck pace of innovation and technology, leaving us staring at a new breed of customer, who appears to be one thing at one moment and an entirely different creature in the next.

But let’s be honest: It’s not the customer who feels like Frankenstein’s monster here. It’s the marketers. With one arm wielding campaigns, a leg dancing in social, and a brain trying to make sense of analytics and data, marketers are stitching together all sorts of systems and then just putting a lightning bolt of energy into it all, hoping that something relatable comes out the other side. We look like a marketer, we walk like a marketer, but the end result still just isn’t human enough to be effective with a hyper-connected and hyper-aware customer.

We need to wield all of the tools that modern innovation has placed at our feet while maintaining an awareness of what is at work in our souls, as well. Unlike Frankenstein’s monster, however, our awareness of the world around us has positioned us for greatness if we can learn how to harness the tools and insights at our fingertips. Our marketing needs to be technical, versatile, human and intuitive to succeed in the wild sea of the modern age.

Technical Marketing 

“My days were spent in close attention, that I might more speedily master the language.” The Monster

Building strong marketing teams and initiatives requires a strong understanding of the tools on the market. While you may not be pushing all of the buttons on your SaaS or on-premises platform mix, you do need to be able to orchestrate the overall efforts and iterate when things are not working. Looking back at 2014 as a year of breakout startups, disruptors, mergers and acquisitions, it’s no surprise that the resulting landscape of tools is going to feel somewhat fragmented and confusing. This is where technical aptitude comes into play. You need to understand how legacy platforms play with new solutions, and you need to understand the needs of your marketing and sales departments when it comes to effectively leveraging these technologies to drive meaningful results.

To do this, you need a team that understands data, digital, social, mobile, CRM, CMS, campaign management, content, e-mail, listening and creative, to name a few. And the technology layer that you build beneath them needs to allow them to simultaneously do their own jobs and provide a unified view of your effectiveness.

With titles like chief innovation officer and vice president of social becoming more commonplace, your ability to stay on top of technology fluctuations is more important now than ever. In a nutshell, you need to get good at learning new tech, and you need to keep learning new tech with the same attention that you might give to any industry that sees frequent shifts, such as fashion, politics or sports.

Versatile Marketing 

“When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, a monster, a blot upon the earth from which all men fled?” The Monster

When you look around at your marketing efforts, what do you see? Are you self-aware to the extent that you can see disconnects or opportunities to provide value and rapidly act on them? Many large companies find limitations in their ability to make quick decisions based on market and consumer fluctuations. Your teams need to understand how to pull together insights based on solid, real-time data and then quickly act on what they have learned. If legislation is passed in Des Moines subjecting bikers to fines if they are without a helmet, are you ready to roll out a helmet campaign to outdoor enthusiasts in zip code 50309? This is where a nimble campaign environment and well-structured, real-time listening technology results in cohesive, smart marketing that people will appreciate. If your team is stuck in rigid campaigns, they can’t move on these types of opportunities. You also need to be able to iterate your plans based on market fluctuations, news cycles and trends, and a yearly planning session isn’t going to cut it. Given the major security hacks that shot holes in the enterprise retail and entertainment industries in the last three months, do you think that IT security companies should rely on marketing plans laid out six months ago? When the customer’s need for information and assurance evolves, so should your strategy and execution. 

Human Marketing 

“With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.”  Victor Frankenstein  

What is your spark of being? Where is the humanity behind your brand, and what are you giving life to? The most effective modern marketers do a great job of stepping beyond tools and tactics to find creative ways to infuse humanity into their current efforts. Gap, for example, which includes Banana Republic, Old Navy, etc., manages customer preference by allowing customers to choose the information that they receive by brand, frequency and timing. The end result leaves the customer feeling like she is in control and as though you, the brand, are respecting her boundaries—an atmosphere much more likely to lead to long-term relationships with the modern consumer.

Ford took a big risk letting one man, Scott Monty, be the social voice of the company. The result? A massively “unfuzzy” brand was transformed and personified by an authentic, likeable person with fresh perspective. Beck Bennett did the same thing for AT&T when the actor sat down with a table of kids in the brand’s TV spots to talk about how “it’s not complicated.” In doing so, the telecom giant found a way to charm the pants off of people and made us laugh, while reinvigorating the brand.

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” The Monster 

Marketers have more information and capabilities at our fingertips than we know what to do with. But it will be critical to put on your customer hat when considering frequency of communication, privacy and security. Customers don’t want to feel like you are a monster looming over their shoulders, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. And they don’t want to feel as though you are careless with their information, be it personal preferences or financial data. You will need to figure out the right time to act and the right time to simply collect information for a more targeted future interaction. You also will need to reassure your customers that you care about their privacy and protect the information that they give you.

While it might feel crazy, complex and cobbled together, the marketing data and technology at your feet are pillars on which to build your brand. The modern marketer will not lurk in dark shadows, doomed to a life of misunderstanding, but will rise up and harness the tools at his fingertips to forever shift the brand/consumer relationship.

Paul Mandeville is the chief product officer at Boston-based marketing automation firm QuickPivot Corp. Prior to QuickPivot, he served as chief operating officer of Conversen, a cross-channel marketing technology startup.

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