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  • Suman Shrivastav

Innovation is critical in marketing

The main reason why the old marketing doesn’t work now as well as before is that consumers have caught on to the old tricks. It’s like a lover using the same old words to his beloved. After a while, they become routine and lose their thrill. In marketing, as in love, innovation is critical.

Consumers now know that claims made by brands are not to be relied upon. They have learnt to read the product labels more carefully and put more faith on the opinions of their friends than on the word of the brand. Consumers can even predict the tactics that brands use, and can anticipate the timing of consumer promotions.

Even if brands have a proposition that consumers would believe, it is extremely hard to reach large enough numbers of potential customers. Gone are the days when network television provided blanket coverage. Today’s fragmented media means that brand messages are also fragmented. The growth of new technologies allow consumers to watch their TV content on multiple platforms where they may be out of reach of advertising or where they can skip the ads.

Marketing used to bow at the altar of consumer understanding. And research was the main tool in this quest. In the early days, very few companies did consumer research. These companies had a competitive advantage. However, now research has become a mature industry and everyone is getting research done. Research techniques have become products and are sold to large numbers of clients. The result is that every marketer is working off the same U&A study, the same insighting workshop and the same consumer clinics. No wonder that their strategies are the same.

This results in failure. Marketing is about differentiation. But if everyone is trying to differentiate in the same way, then….

‘Best practices’ have become the holy grail rather than innovation. No wonder that even major marketing giants have more failures than successes with new brands.

Overall, the picture that emerges is that the marketing function sat back and became lazy. Instead of constantly innovating, it became a process. Marketers started to enjoy the glamour of marketing and weren’t prepared for the tsunami of change.

And then everything changed. Camera makers found they were competing with mobile phones. Retailers sitting on prime real estate on high street found they were competing with hole-in-the-wall players from the other end of the world. Publishers of books and music suddenly found they had to justify their existence. Businesses found that consumers wanted lots of things for free.

Middle men found themselves being squeezed out. Media found their content more in demand, but less remunerative than ever before.

It is in this context that we have to step back and look at marketing afresh. We need to forget that marketing is a process and take an unplugged view of it.

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