The point of my last book, The End of Marketing As We Know It, was inescapable. After all, it was meant to be a two-by-four to the side of the head for everybody in marketing. Yo! It’s time to write the new rules of marketing. It’s time to start demanding results, not just fluff. Marketing makes global commerce work. The incredible intensification of competiion in every market and the ever increasing clutter of information in every consumer’s mind have made the process of marketing more important than ever. Marketing must make something happen: It’s got to sell stuff. In other words, marketing has to work harder than ever. And if it’s not working, kill it. Period.
Traditionally, most markets had been divided into three tiers. At the top were the well-known, well-respected, and ubiuitous brands. There were generally two or three of these brand giants in any market, be it aircraft manufacturers or athletic supporters. These market leaders sold their category’s relevance to consumers in the mass market. After all, they would dominate any category growth.
Just below them was a second tier of about ten brands that benefited from the category selling done by the top tier. These brands slipstreamed the leaders like a NASCAR racer, riding in the wake of the marketing power of the category brand leaders. They tried to look and act like the big guys; they had the style, if not the impact.
Then there was the third, botm tier of most markets, traditionall dominated by smaller, more individualisting or niche-appeal brands, regional brands, and price brands. There could be scores of these brands in any market.
The information economy has crushed this traditional achitecture of markets. As consumers became aware of more and more choices and as new products continued to enter every tier of the marketplace, competition intensified. In a state of information overload, weary consumers looked for ways to streamline choice. They moved in two directions: to the top of the market, for the sure-thing brand choice (one or two at the most), and to the bottom, for niche choices to suit particular needs. The middle market is disappearing, pulverized by the brand marketing dominance of the market leaders and teh personalization of niche brands at the bottom of the market. Take a minuet to picture this collapse of the middle market. Use any market as an example and think about its three tiers. What’s happened to the brand in that middle tier? There aren’t many left.
People are besieged by information from all sides. Since the dawn o civilization, people have sought information about the world around them. Knowing more was considered a matter of personal and emotional security. Now, perhaps for the first time in all history, people tell researchers they’d feel more secure with LESS information, not more.
Consumer attention span is decreasing on the Net as it did earlier at the supermarket. Loblaw’s, the giant Canadian food retailer, has been reported to say that today 80% of its customers’ brand decisions are made at the shelf in 6 seconds or less. On the Net, it’s been estimated that the average hit time for any given site is maybe half that. The consumer masses aren’t as brand adventurous as the early adopters. They don’t have time to be. In all categories, they are making brand decisions closer and closer to the point of sale -- ever heightening the value of effective communication in that area, and this is as true on the Net as it is in the retail store. In other words, the point of decision keeps moving closer to the point of sale. On the Net, it’s most often the same place.