When I began in this business, the Communications Mix primarily referred to a combination of conventional media vehicles -- TV, radio, outdoor and print. Then sponsorship, point-of-sale and promotion became part of the formula. And eventually, public relations won a seat at the table. As each marketing discipline reaches a certain level of maturity, they are “blessed” by the significant brands that deploy them and they become an integral part of the marketing playbook.
Today, there is a dizzying array of choices. In addition to traditional media, sponsorship, point-of-sale, promotion and public relations efforts, there is experiential marketing, rewards & incentives, digital communications, website content, search marketing, Facebook (and Vkontakte in Russia), Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, LinkedIn, and more. And the list keeps growing. Not to mention the blurring of marketing with sales, customer service and internal communications.
Now that consumers have become part of the marketing equation thanks to social media, it would seem that virtually everything is marketing...everything is potentially a part of the communications mix. It has become virtually impossible for any marketing head to be sufficiently well-versed in all the options necessary to make an informed decision when it comes to determining strategy for a brand.
It’s enough to make a grown marketing director weep.
At the same time, the increasing control of procurement departments over the selection of marketing agencies and services has created a disconnect for companies between controlling costs and the proper planning and execution of marketing strategies -- especially where the marketing director does not have sufficient knowledge or the muscle to impact the purchase decision-making process.
The emergence of the Chief Marketing Officer at some companies should go some way to reestablishing the balance of quality and value. However, there is still this knowledge gap to close, which has led to a certain amount of paralysis when it comes to adopting new procedures and adding new strategies to the communications mix. In other words, it has become far easier for marketing departments to continue doing things the same old way than to buck the system and suggest the right way to achieve marketing goals and lead the company through these dynamic times.
Add to this the fact that number-crunchers are attempting to commoditize a service that can thrive only with a certain amount of creative freedom. A downward pressure on fees is forcing agencies away from the consulting process to focus on the execution of programs at precisely the time when the reverse is what is needed. This is taking the thinking out of a thinking game. Sometimes it appears that everyone is in the engine room and no one is steering the ship.
What is needed is the reemergence of agencies as true marketing partners to help lead companies rather than become subservient, low-cost bidders in an increasingly high stakes game. Successful companies understand this and are working more closely with their agencies. Others may learn this lesson far too late.