Secret Marketer: When marketing fashions change, focus on the timeless classics that never go out of style
The core fundamentals of marketing will not change so in times of flux learn the ideas and frameworks that have stood the test of time.
The world our customers inhabit has changed dramatically over the past 10 years – a decade ago there was no iPhone. Dial-up internet was a thing. And marketing hadn’t yet become fixated with ‘the death of…’ articles.
When I see a marketing-related article titled ‘the death of…’ I want to reach for the nearest blunt object and club my laptop. These articles sport lots of ‘evidence’, often based on a sample of one – the author’s subjective experience. A version of ‘I love Twitter, why aren’t you on Twitter?’ or ‘Snapchat is where it’s at, get with the programme’. Newsflash: a succession of anecdotes about shiny new objects selected to fit a story doesn’t constitute evidence.
Why do I get so cranky about this sort of guff? Because it makes my job much trickier. The first people I would hit with my imaginary club would be the people who write ‘the death of email’ stories. A walk through any office in the world would quickly disabuse you of that notion. Nevertheless, I end up having to spend more time than I would care to mention explaining why email marketing is great to the CEO, board and team.
Esteemed columnist of this parish Mark Ritson recently lamented a “fantastically unhelpful” article on ‘the death of sales funnel’. It got me thinking about the core precepts of marketing that will not change and will be timeless, and the cornerstone books that I recommend to the team and to the boss to read.
I’ve always loved reading but I was put off by my first marketing book, Philip Kotler’s Fundamentals of Marketing, which I had to slog through at university. Suffice to say, he didn’t put the fun in ‘fundamentals’. Today, I go back to the same books again and again. My top three are: (i) Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout – it’s the best, every marketer should have a copy; (ii) Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – the six weapons of influence are the keys to being a great marketer; and (iii) Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy – I read this after I left uni and thought ‘this is more like it’.
When I’m working through anything for the web, Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug is my bible. It clears away bad habits and acts as a great screening mechanism for new website designs. For technology marketers, there’s the original and best Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.
Lots of books and articles seduce marketers to follow what’s hot and new, just like a fashionista changing their get-up. Start reading correctly and learn the ideas and frameworks that have stood the test of time. It’s less expensive to focus on permanent style and timeless classics that never go out of date, rather than shiny new marketing fashions that change every season.