The Death of Traditional MARCOM

How over saturation and hyper targeting are killing marketing communications.

November 16, 2018

Written by Chad McNeill

What we cover in this article

4 min read

  • A brief history of MARCOM
  • Where MARCOM went wrong
  • Why messaging is the solution

We Used to Be Better at Marketing Communication

Technology has had a dramatic effect on the way we communicate. It wasn’t that long ago the mail order catalog was a revolutionary way to communicate with customers. Alvah C. Roebuck’s idea seems infantile compared to the complexity of Amazon today; but would Amazon exist in a world that couldn’t comprehend the joy of spending hours looking through the Sears catalog? Roebuck’s idea was genius but it was Richard Sears understanding of how to communicate with rural America that made the catalog a massive success in marketing communication for over 100 years. The recipe for Sears’ success isn’t a mix of special sauces, it’s the single ingredient of personalized communication. Sears spoke to his audience like the general store owners spoke to him growing up in rural Minnesota.

Where We Went Wrong

Somewhere in the evolution of technology we’ve lost that personal 1:1 touch in favour of mass communication and hyper targeting. We lump customers into cohorts and then broadcast to them. We tolerate low conversion rates because of the speed, ease, and ubiquitousness of our available channels. There’s seemingly no problem with combining several customer types into a single messaging campaign so long as there is even the slightest overlap in the Venn diagram. Marketers continue to progress in this direction because of the increased reach, but we’re paying a steep price in communication quality which is effecting customer quality.

Customers don’t like this communication style. Extreme reach and a multitude of channels have caused us to turn a blind eye to what our customer’s prefer. We can easily qualify this with our own consumer behaviours. When was the last time you can remember thinking “That hour I spent on hold with customer service was so much fun and the music was awesome.” or “I really enjoy receiving so many emails from that company. Makes me want to purchase more of their products.” Perhaps you’re even a fan of hyper targeting and really enjoy how that one Google search you did to settle a bet is now represented in every banner ad you see.

Just Say No to Broadcasting

Broadcast marketing has created a jaded audience. Even when there’s a great campaign that specifically speaks to our interests it’s often missed because trying to find the signal in all the noise is overwhelming. There are at least 300,000 mobile apps currently serving Google Mobile Ads (Blue Corona). Which could explain why 70% of people report disliking mobile ads and usage of ad blocking software is increasing 90% year-over-year (HubSpot). Look no further than email marketing to see how ineffective broadcast communication truly is. The average email open rate is 20.81% and a 4% click rate is considered high according to MailChimp. If you’re only generating a 4% clickthrough rate the size of your broadcast platform needs to extraordinary to remotely move the needle on your MRR – that or have a +30k price point.

We’ve created so much noise in MARCOM it’s impossible to rise above without being louder. Yet, customers don’t want us to be louder. In 2019, mobile advertising is expected to represent 72% of all U.S. digital ad spending (MarketingLand). However, 90% of online users trust reviews over any other form of digital communication (MarketingLand). That’s a massive disconnect between a business and their customer.

In a world where the average internet user sees more than 11k ads per month (Huffington Post) how can we begin to increase the signal and reduce the noise? Our planet is getting more connected and scalability is directly dependent on maximizing time and effort. The picture we have in our minds of the local general store isn’t feasible on a global scale. However, the principles of personalized communication are more achievable than ever before through automation.

We’ve Seen This Trend Before

In late 2005 I was sitting in a meeting with Sr. VPs at Verizon making a case for a shift in ad spend related to SMS & MMS – specifically the trajectory to overtake voice. The executive in charge looked me in the eye, as if to emphasize his point further, and said “…text and multi-media messaging will **never** overtake voice.”

While all major carriers have evolved their views on voice, the missing component for that executive was the personal nature of messaging. He believed there was nothing more personal than hearing the person – the effort in and of itself was the personal touch. What wasn’t being emphasized at the time was how messaging was changing the dynamics of conversation in the same way answering machines did. Messaging created an asynchronicity that allowed the conversation to unfold without being tied to specific time or place. That simple concept has forever changed they way we communicate with friends and family over the past decade+ and we are seeing the same trajectory from 2005 happening now, but for B2C communication this time.

What’s the Solution

Personal messaging has become so ubiquitous that millennial comedians regularly joke at the idea of voice communication. Major companies like Apple and Facebook have made huge plays in the messaging space and it’s no wonder why. Messaging has a 4x higher conversion rate over email. Messaging is less than 25% the cost of phone and direct marketing. It has a 10x return on investment and +33% higher customer satisfaction rate.

So why hasn’t messaging taken hold as a mainstream channel? In short, because too much emphasis was placed on the rise of bots in the messaging run up of 2016. The market was littered with bot creators, foolishly promising to automate every business use case. Promotion for bots was greater than the quality of technology and the first wave fell short of its intended target. Regardless, the misplaced hype of 2016 doesn’t change the simple fact that messaging is the communication channel of the future. It’s true, automations can’t solve every need and from time to time humans need to step in order to seamlessly solve the customer’s need. If we’re waiting for the perfect AI emerge before taking on this powerful channel then we’ll be waiting for a long time.

Why It Matters

Fast Company reported that Gen-Z doesn’t email just this past month. There is an entire generation coming of age that is treating email like we treated the fax machine. That simple fact should make every business owner immediately implement messaging into their communication mix. Messaging is a powerful way to build long lasting, meaningful relationships with customers. Or, as we put it at Airy:

Everything your customers need is just a message away!

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