Monday, October 18, 2021

Marketing to Humans: A Classic Case of History Repeated

Nicole Davis, Design Lead, Dallas
Innovation / Strategy

For as long as there have been products, there has been marketing.

 

Through the ages, we have seen marketing strategies adapt and change to appeal to the ever-evolving customer. What started as primitive marketing in the years before the Industrial Revolution gave way to more sophisticated, targeted strategies after the advertising boom of the 1920s. Several advancements have changed the way we market to our customers over the years, from the invention of the printing press to the internet, and they have enabled marketing strategies to become far more targeted, resulting in what we now know as B2B and B2C marketing.

 

Companies have been taking advantage where possible. According to eMarketer, digital ad spending around the world is expected to reach $375 billion in 2021—yet Forrester found that 58% of marketers find targeted marketing to be an ongoing challenge.

 

These seemingly contradictory figures speak to the evolving nature of marketing, and a question arises: Are we on the precipice of another evolution that focuses on Human Experience? Looking to our past frequently gives us a good indication of our future, and in the case of the modern digital customer, this appears to be true.

A Look Back

Before the Industrial Revolution, there weren't as many businesses—which meant only a few shops held the entire market on a select number of products; there wasn't a great need to stand out amongst competitors or target customers. In the 1800s, marketing was done primarily through word-of-mouth or rudimentary advertisements, and, for the most part, businesses remained small. After the Industrial Revolution, however, the economy boomed. The flood of new business meant owners needed to market with more strategic intent, and the targeted marketing strategy was born.

 

This evolution in the 18th century economy perfectly mirrors the Dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. During this period of massive digital growth, new and established companies alike suddenly had a better, faster way to market to the public. The digital B2B and B2C marketing strategies that are synonymous with internet sales today can all be traced back to this moment in our history.

 

It’s now been over 20 years since the Dot-com bubble, so are these digital targeted marketing strategies still working for us? Recent research suggests they aren't. According to Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey, the marketing strategies for B2B and B2C are becoming more alike because of technological innovations and changing customer expectations. What B2B and B2C strategies are beginning to share is a focus on the Human Experience, and the demarcation between "customer" and "business" is dissolving.

Building a Better Experience Takes Heart

Bain Insights recently reported that B2B offerings are becoming increasingly commoditized, and the subjective considerations of business customers are becoming more important.

 

Because the internet is a vast and fluid space, business consumers are beginning to expect the same level of vibrancy, diversity of expression and conversational approach they encounter when engaging in a B2C experience. The business customer is still a person, and they have a desire to be addressed as such.

 

Now that we are equipped with these new insights, how can we pivot our strategic marketing to be more human-centric? Again, history may hold the key. If we look back to the time before the printing press when word of mouth was the primary way businesses amassed customers, we can assume these were honest testimonials from a trusted friend or family member. The purchase wasn't sold based on sales tactics but was based on trust and emotion.

 

Further supporting this theory, LinkedIn recently commissioned marketing luminaries Peter Field and Les Binet to assess the importance of brand building in the B2B sector and found that the use of storytelling, which taps into emotions, is just as important to long-term B2B marketing success as focusing on features, benefits and price. 

Focusing on the Human Experience

Bain Insights reported that when a business understands the rational and emotional considerations of their customers and tailors their value propositions to the ones customers prize most, they avoid falling into the commodity trap and instead retain greater customer loyalty for both B2B and B2C tracks.

 

These facts indicate that the strongest marketing strategy is a holistic one—focused on the company's altruistic and purposeful values instead of the traditional B2B and B2C targeted marketing strategies and supports the idea that the experience should focus on the Human Experience. Moreover, research by Deloitte found that organizations with close alignment to the values of their customers by creating meaningful human experiences—grow faster and build stronger brand loyalty. In fact, businesses that focus on the Human Experience are twice as likely to outperform their peers in revenue growth and have 17 times faster growth than those who do not.

What Goes Around Comes Around

With all we are learning about marketing in the digital age, it's only natural that how we connect with people would also evolve. Digital B2B and B2C marketing strategies do appear to be fading away in favor of a more externally focused Human Experience strategy where the emphasis is on people and their altruistic motivations. This evolution in marketing might be considered a de-evolution; the vehicle might be different—pixels rather than paper—but the strategy is one we've used time and time again, and it's that of a trusted, emotional connection.

 

To continue the conversation and begin tailoring your marketing efforts towards better human experiences, reach out to Rightpoint today.