Image from gapingvoid.com
I sense a number of threads coming together this year around content strategy, user experience and marketing. I am not sure what’s driving all of this sudden collaboration; it’s been pretty clear to me for a while that there was little sense in holding onto the old divisions. Maybe it’s just I’m paying attention for a change…
Thread #1: “Old” marketing
“Old” marketing relied on budgets. You want to get your message across, you try to speak to the biggest, most relevant audience possible. Size matters. You hammer that message home in all media you can afford. Maybe do a bit of targeting here and there. Don’t go crazy though. There’s agency lunches to attend and wotnot.
The worrying part is that *this marketing still works*. As a result, I do wonder if old school marketers hide under their desks saying to themselves, “has the Internet gone away yet?”
Either that, or they’re worrying about social media.
Thread #2: Next Big Thing frenzy
First it was all about online marketing. Online marketing was different because it involved the Internet. Just give all that stuff to an agency and let them sort it out. Phew, narrow escape!
Then it was “usability”. Do a couple of user tests with random people in the hallway and they will tell you all the answers you need. Box ticked? Oh, OK, nothing out of that either? Right.
Now, if you’ve not got a “social media strategy” then clearly you’re leaving £££s on the table. Have you even looked at your Klout score recently? Sheesh!
Over the past 15 or so years I have watched the buzzwords come and go. Today more than ever I’m positive about the situation: we are getting to a point where people are beyond the buzzwords. And I think it’s people at the top who are driving this train of thought.
Thread #3: Look beyond the divisions, we’re transforming business (finally)
It’s been a long time since the magazine Business 2.0 stopped publishing. But as I noted a while back, the web is starting to properly transform businesses, for better or for worse. This is when it gets interesting. Suddenly the conversation shifts from having to justify each minor project to actually driving the bigger ones. The ones where you get to work out what skills you need, pick the team, and how to make it all hang together.
UX people no longer need to fight with Content Strategists or Project Managers, because you call the shots. Indeed you most likely can’t afford to have all those skills at once so you need to find people that can spin many plates, not just one.
Doing this has made me re-assess my own position on these things. And I’ve come to the conclusion that this is all about customers, or more broadly, people. Nothing new there. However I have also come to the conclusion that the web, in it’s infinite capability to break things down into smaller and smaller niches of people is making businesses think more about individuals, rather than groups or segments.
And that in turn is breaking down the silos within companies. Functions need proper overall orchestration if they are going to appear to offer a seamless service to a customer. There’s no value in chucking things over the fence to the next team. Departments need to collaborate effectively.
That’s hard work if you’re tied to your functional area. But good news if you like to get stuck in and make a difference.
Finally I’ve come to the conclusion that all this good work fundamentally belongs to Marketing. If you read the textbooks and go back to basics, this is where that special “watching and listening to people –> creating things –> make people’s lives better” sauce comes from.
Now, after all those years cringing about that awkward moment when you know you’re going to have to have the “form follows function” conversation with a client from hell, I’m coming out of the closet.
My name is DJ, and I work in Marketing.