Transcript of How Businesses Can Survive the Latest Marketing Rebellion
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John Jantsch: If you’ve been in marketing any time at all, you’ve lived through some seismic shifts or rebellions in the things that have come along. The internet, search, social media, all these things have changed how we go to market. And there’s a new marketing rebellion; quite frankly, the thing that has changed the most is the way people buy. In this episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, a visit with Mark Schaefer. He’s the author of Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins.
Hello and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is your host, John Jantsch, and my guest today is Mark Schaefer. He is a columnist, teacher, speaker, author, podcaster, and we’re going to talk about his latest book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins. So, Mark, thanks for joining us.
Mark Schaefer: Oh, it’s always a delight to catch up with you, John.
John Jantsch: Well, I think you and Tom Webster have a show. Is it still called The Marketing Companion? Forgive me if that’s not right.
Mark Schaefer: Yes.
John Jantsch: Yes.
Mark Schaefer: Yeah, Marketing Companion, sure.
John Jantsch: And I was … I got to be on your show, which was a lot of fun, and I said off-air and I’ll say it now on the air, you guys are a lot funnier than me. I really enjoy some of the pranks and the gags that you guys come up with. You give that a lot of thought and make it a lot of fun.
Mark Schaefer: Well, we try to be entertaining, that’s sort of our thing. And I’d like to take credit for it, but Tom is just hilarious, so we kind of go with that.
John Jantsch: He has a unique point of view, doesn’t he?
Mark Schaefer: So funny, so funny.
John Jantsch: So, you and I have been … I’ll just tell people this, my listeners know this, but you and I have been doing this for like 30 years or so in some capacity in marketing. And I’d like to be the first to say that this is not the first rebellion that I’ve participated in in marketing.
Mark Schaefer: Right.
John Jantsch: I mean, if you think about it, I mean, there’s a whole bunch of mini-rebellions, right? I mean, the internet certainly changed marketing, search dependency changed it, the fact that we can now collaborate and do business all over the globe changed it, social media came and changed it again. And now, what’s the marketing rebellion that we’re facing today?
Mark Schaefer: Well, I think you set it up very good, John, is that there’s almost been like a continuous rebellion. But the thing about it, you can either be fearful about it or you can say, “This is a lot of fun.” And I remember all those rebellions, especially the internet, and I kind of point that out as the second rebellion. So the first rebellion was sort of in the 1920s, 1930s, when advertising and marketing just started, and advertising at the beginning basically was lies. And so there was a rebellion against lies, and it became eventually a crime to lie in your advertising.
Then the second rebellion, I was in the middle of that because the internet came. Back before the internet, you made money on the secrets. That’s how you sold a car, that’s how you sold insurance, and then … I can remember those days, and I don’t know if any of your listeners will remember, there was this thing called a reverse auction, and some of these commodity buyers used the internet to get all their suppliers online, and then bid against each other in real time on the internet. It was terrifying, it was crazy, because basically, negotiations were over, because secrets were over.
And so that was … I lump the whole internet thing, social media, into this idea of … It was the end of secrets. And today, the rebellion that we’re in is the end of control. For me, this is really hard to accept, it’s hard to get my head around it. And I’ll remember there was this piece of research that I read from McKinsey that basically was saying, “The sales funnel is gone, loyalty is over. It’s a waste of money to spend money on loyalty programs anymore.” And I’m reading this, I’m thinking, “I’ve been in marketing more than 30 years. This is what I do.” But there’s a … And it’s not just McKinsey, it’s all over.
The research is compelling, and many of your listeners are probably right in the middle of it, that we’re in a shop-around society. People own the customer journey. The customers are the marketers now, because when you and I were growing up in business, we controlled the message, because an ad or some sort of marketing program, that’s the only way customers could learn about us. Today, they learn from each other, they share with each other, and that’s what they believe, that’s what they trust, and that’s what works.
And so this suggests that for marketers today, we have to think about, how do we become invited to those conversations? The messaging, the control, the sales funnel isn’t working like it used to. Certainly, ads don’t work like they used to. How do you thrive and survive in this environment when the customer is the marketer, the customer is in control? And that’s the challenge I present with the book.
John Jantsch: Before we get to how, I mean, let’s put this out there. Everyone except a cynical marketer is probably going to suggest this is better for the customer.
Mark Schaefer: Oh, absolutely. One of the points I make in the book is that the customers have always won these rebellions. When the customers said, “No more lies,” then there were laws that were made, and when they said, “No more secrets,” I mean, there are no more secrets. And the customers are basically saying, “Respect us. We don’t … Stop the spam, stop the robocalling, stop the email blasts, stop the lead nurturing and all this stuff that we hate. Just stop it.”
And look, you know, the thing about technology and a lot of these things that have caused these problems is it’s so intoxicating. That’s not because technology is bad, it’s because technology is good. It’s so easy, it’s so cheap, and it’s so easy to think, “Oh, just for $9.99, we can get a list of a million emails and blast all these people, and if we just get one sales, it’s going to pay it off.” And that’s sort of the way marketing churns today, and every time we do that, we’re isolating ourselves, we’re disenfranchising ourselves from customers, and the customers don’t want it, and they’re going to win. Eventually, they’re going to win, so we need to be proactive about this and think about, how do we change our mindset, change our culture to adopt and really serve customers in the way they want to be served?
John Jantsch: I’ve heard you say this comment, and this has got to just … In fact, I know it does. It’s so counterintuitive, it runs so counter to how people think about marketing their businesses that they’re having trouble wrapping their heads around it. And the statement is that two-thirds of our marketing is not our marketing.
Mark Schaefer: Well, it’s undeniable. And I know that this is a controversial opinion, but I back everything up in the book with research, and this was a study, believe it or not, that first came out in 2009. And when it came out, it really sort of shook the rafters of the business world, and then it kind of went away. And then, as you see how the world plays out, you sort of see this happening. And then I saw research from Deloitte and from Accenture and from Pew about how this sales funnel is going away, and how it’s changing.
And then McKinsey came out with sort of an updated study, and they identified, oh, I think it … I can’t remember the exact number. I want to say it was 135,000 customer journeys they analyzed, and they basically said that, look, the marketing and advertising is having very little impact, that the customer owns the journey, and no two are alike. And recent research from Google, Google has put out a few white papers in the last 6 to 12 months that have basically said the same thing. Even on search, even when people are looking for the same thing, it’s a tangled mess. There is no lockstep customer journey. There is no sales funnel anymore.
And of course, one of the things I emphasize in the book is, look, there are always exceptions. Some businesses and some industries are different from others. But this was across … McKinsey said they looked at 80 different industries, and they said in 90% of the cases, there is no loyalty, there is no … There’s basically no sales funnel to speak of, and there’s no loyalty. And I’m in the same place you are. I’m in the same place your listeners were. This is, like, shaking me to the core. There was literally a point, John, when I was researching this book, where I almost kind of lost my breath and just sat there and thought, “I don’t know what it means to be a marketer anymore.”
This requires … If you look at what’s going on, if you look at this research, it requires a radically different mindset, a radically different approach. It redefines what it means to be a marketer today, and it took me a while to accept that.
John Jantsch: One of the things about research studies that … You know, I don’t care who’s doing it, McKinsey or whoever’s doing it. I think there’s a bias that’s hard to measure, and here’s what I mean by that, that they talk about, you know, “Across industries, 17% of customers are loyal, and investing in sales funnels and loyalty programs is a waste of time.” Now, is that because of the way we’re doing them, that we’re wasting our time? And I guess what my contention is, is there a way to do what we might … I mean, is there a way to create customer loyalty that’s so radically different than what we’re doing today and calling customer loyalty, that would actually drive those numbers up? We all know companies, I’m sure you have companies that you’re extremely loyal to, and I am as well, because they do things so differently. And I wonder if a lot of these surveys just measure the fact that there’s a lot of crap marketing.
Mark Schaefer: Well, that’s exactly what it’s measuring. That’s precisely what it’s saying. And there was a clue in that McKinsey study, and they said the reason this is happening is because there’s no longer any emotional attachment to these brands, and people are forming … You know, trust, this is a well-known study by Edelman, the Trust Barometer that they come out with every year, and trust in businesses, brands, and advertising has declined 10 years in a row.
But who do people trust? They trust each other, they trust their neighbors, they trust industry experts. Trust in entrepreneurs, by the way, is very high. And a lot of people roll their eyes when you talk about influencers, but influencers are simply people on the web who are trusted and beloved, and people look at them as if they’re friends. I’m sure you experience this. You may not consider yourself a, you know, air quote, unquote, “influencer,” but people who you don’t even know probably leave you comments and say, “John, I really trust your advice, I love your books. You influenced my business and my life.”
It’s this idea that we have to become part of these conversations, but you can’t really buy your way in like you used to. You know, 20 or 25 years ago, you could buy your way in, because advertising was the only way people had to really discover your product, or have discussions about your product. But today, people have all the power in the palm of their hand. It used to be a brand was something we told you, a company told you, and today a brand is what people tell each other. And so we’ve got to find a way to embed ourselves in those conversations, and there’s lots of ideas in the book on how to do that.
John Jantsch: So, the subtitle of the book, The Most Human Company Wins.
Mark Schaefer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Jantsch: You know, there was a point in time in one of these past rebellions where social media was actually supposed to make that happen. What happened?
Mark Schaefer: Well, you and I were there at the beginning, and what happened was, I think at first, companies did get it, and they really embraced it, and it was like this amazing thing that happened, that customers were talking back. And companies thought, “Well, okay, we’ll try that, we’ll talk back, we’ll join these conversations,” and there were real people having real conversations. And then companies kind of did what they always do, they’re like, “Oh, well, we can make this simpler because we can automate things, and we can create these algorithms.” And the human voice was replaced with personas, and the heart and the compassion of our human voices were replaced by these soulless messages, and social media today has sort of been a way to just become another form of advertising and weaponizing influencers, and that’s about it.
The only companies that are having some sort of substantial, meaningful impact on social media are the ones that are sort of reclaiming a human voice, and not an advertising agency providing legally approved snarky quips. I think people are getting tired of that. I think that hopefully that phase is going to be over soon. It just looks like a company trying too hard. People can sense that, they can sniff out a fake in 280 characters. Basically, companies just try to automate everything. They try to cut costs, try to cut the humans out of it, in search of the marketing easy button, “Let’s use technology.” And those days are over, they just are. It’s not a message that’s easy to hear, but that’s not what’s going to work anymore.
John Jantsch: A mutual friend of ours, Jay Baer, has a new book called … Or, fairly new book called Talk Triggers. I know you’re aware of it, and I had Jay on the show, and he mentioned me on the YouTube broadcast today, so I have to throw him a bone, so that’s why I’m working him into today’s show. No, but, you know, one of the things about that book is that he’s saying we have to create these moments to get people to talk about us.
Mark Schaefer: Yeah.
John Jantsch: And if you read through the book, the moments are all human-centered.
Mark Schaefer: Yeah.
John Jantsch: You know, it’s not because somebody had, like, red in their logo that people are talking about it, it’s they did something that was exceptional and surprising.
Mark Schaefer: Something that’s conversational, something that will spark, something that delights people and surprises them. And I think Jay and I sort of do this dance together, from really the beginning. We’re sort of thinking about the same things, we’re sort of thinking of … We both enjoy thinking about what’s next, and how all these pieces come together, and in many ways, our two books are companion pieces. I spend quite a bit of time in my book talking about word-of-mouth marketing, without getting into the tactical piece that Jay covers in his book. So I think they’re 100% compatible. I talk about the larger trend of what the heck is going on, and why we need to do this, and then you can pick up Jay’s book and say, “Oh, yeah, okay, now I see what Mark’s talking about.”
John Jantsch: One of my favorite lines in your book, or it’s actually, I think it’s a subhead, is that “the greatest companies make fans of their fans.” How do we do that?
Mark Schaefer: Yeah, you know, John, I was so, so fortunate in this book to interview some of the greatest marketers, and that quote came from a marketing hero of mine, Fabio Tambosi. He was with Nike, he’s now with Adidas in Germany. And this part of the book talks about how marketing has to become artisanal. It’s not the perfect word, but marketing almost has to be, appear like it’s local, like it’s craftsmanlike, like it’s part of the local community, it has personality, and that you have to be fans of your fans on a local level. People don’t believe companies anymore. You know, people that say, “Oh, look at us, we’ve stopped polluting. Oh, look at us, we’ve hired more women.” This is basically saying, “Look at us, we’re normal.”
John Jantsch: Or “We’re not as screwed up as we used to be.”
Mark Schaefer: Yeah. “Look, we’ve stopped being bad.” That’s not marketing, all right? What people what to see is that they want to see what you’re doing that impacts me and my community. And another great quote in the book from Fabio is that today, you can’t be in a community. You have to be of a community. You have to be down in the streets, in the neighborhoods. You have to relate to people on a local level. You have to be a fan of your fans, you have to be where the work and the action is actually happening. Marketing takes place in meetings and at the tip of a shovel.
And I’ll tell you, it’s extraordinarily hard for a big company to do that, and you can see these cataclysmic shifts going on right now, with companies like Procter & Gamble, that they know they’ve got to be doing this. And some are going to win, and some are going to lose, but everybody has to pay attention. Everybody has to know about these trends and make up their own minds about what it means for your own business.
John Jantsch: You tell some good stories and good examples of brands that you think are doing it right. I’m going to go out on a limb here, this is not very manly what I’m getting ready to say, but I don’t get YETI.
Mark Schaefer: I don’t get YETI either. I don’t.
John Jantsch: But yet you can go into a gift store and they’ve got them, the hardware store’s got them, the fishing tackle store’s got them. I mean, people are nuts about them.
Mark Schaefer: Well, and for your listeners, especially your listeners who are outside of America, I mean, YETI is this … It started out as a premium cooler. So, you could buy a cooler for your ice, probably for $29; they’re selling these things for $400, and they’ve just introduced a $1,300 cooler. And they’ve now extended into other products like coffee mugs, and … So, I live in an area of America that enjoys hunting and fishing, you know, there’s a lot of outdoorsmen here, and I started noticing people wearing hats and putting even stickers on their car that say YETI. And I thought, “Isn’t that a cooler?” It’s a cooler, it’s a freaking ice cooler. Why are people supporting this brand?
So, the story in the book is absolutely fascinating, and I love it, because it shows how you can even take a commodity product like an ice cooler and truly, sincerely build a community of emotional support and love for a cooler. But the same lesson applies, John. They are not in a community; they are not participating in some community. They are of the community. They are outdoorsmen. Everything they do lives and breathes outdoors, you know, people who love the outdoors. So it’s a great, great inspirational case study. I still could never bring myself to wear a hat that promotes a cooler. That is not part of my personal value set. But thousands and thousands of people are doing it, the brand has become a sensation, and it’s a great example, a perfect example of how to win in the marketing rebellion.
John Jantsch: Well, and I think you could safely say they’re no longer selling coolers.
Mark Schaefer: They’re selling a lifestyle, really. I mean, that’s … Marketing is emotion, it’s always been emotion. But here’s the difference: In the old days, we used to build an emotion to a product, because it worked really well, or because our parents used it, or because maybe we like the smell. And of course, it still works that way to some extent. But today, we build these emotional attachments to people, more than products or attributions of a product.
And I think one of the main points of the book is that in the old days, our businesses and brands were built through an accumulation of human impressions, and going forward, it’s going to be built through an accumulation of human impressions. We’re going to listen to people, we’re going to trust people, we’re going to love people, and the products that they represent, and that’s … If you look at YETI, it’s the owners. If you look at Glossier, by the way, I think Glossier is the single best case study today in a company that was built from the ground up to win in this world where the customer is the marketer. It’s a skincare and makeup company, probably beyond startup at this point. But this is built through a person. She started out as a blogger, and just built this love, and built this engagement and this emotion and this community through her blog, and now it’s a multimillion-dollar business. It’s the hottest skincare business out there right now, built from social media up.
Now, how does L’Oréal recreate that? I don’t know. I really don’t know, and experts I talk to in the field who are sort of in this marketing rebellion era with me, this human era of human-centered marketing. L’Oréal is not built on human-centered marketing, it’s built on a huge relationship with an ad agency, and Glossier is built on this human-centered marketing. That’s what’s going to win in the future.
We see Procter & Gamble trying to make moves into this human-centered marketing. I just saw that they just bought a company, a small company that has built their consumer products on this human-centered idea. So Procter & Gamble is basically saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” So anyway, it’s going to be an interesting … You know, we’re in for another cataclysm.
John Jantsch: Well, and I think one of the things that we sometimes forget, too, is that a new generation of companies will come along, and they’ll do the new generation, and then they’ll be the next thing, and they’ll be the next L’Oréals of some fashion.
Mark Schaefer: And I think this new generation, it’s just second nature to them, because if you look at the way we’ve sort of automated marketing, and commoditized marketing, and made it soulless, they’re looking at it like, “Who would do that? Who would do that? That’s not what I like.” And from their perspective, it makes so much sense. So we’ve got to get out of our bubble and look at the real world and real life, and we do not have a choice. We have got to make the change.
John Jantsch: Visiting with Mark Schaefer, the author of Marketing Rebellion. Mark, it was awesome to catch up with you again. Where can people find more about you, your work, and pick up a copy of Marketing Rebellion?
Mark Schaefer: Well, you can find everything about me at businessesgrow.com. You can find my blog, my podcast, and my books. And the new book, Marketing Rebellion, is out in paper, it is out on Kindle, and it is out on audio, narrated by me, and I’d love for your listeners to pick it up and stay in touch with me on social media.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Thanks, Mark. Hopefully we’ll run into you soon out there on the road.
Mark Schaefer: Thank you, John.