This post by Kendall Allen in Marketing Land does a great job of highlighting the way technology has increased marketers’ ability to compete. I like the way she phrases it:

Gradually, both brand and performance marketers began to focus more on engagement and maximizing that. This focus has stuck. It’s the way we collectively operate. Making sure that targeting, placement, message and creative all conspire to spur a productive interaction has become the normal obsession — and automation has allowed us to take this to a level that’s almost like sport for marketers. [emphasis mine]

Like a sport! She goes on to discuss the ways that technology makes it possible for marketers to go directly after their competitors, using technologies such as personalization and localization. She’s right on point. Technology has revolutionized the world of marketing. Things that were unimaginable a decade ago are now commonplace. But most marketers don’t really know what to do with that technology. They know that some of these things are possible, but they’re not really sure how to make them happen. We see some really cool examples – often executed by the biggest brands – but your average marketer is often left watching them from the sidelines. Some of this is the result of a lack of technical aptitude/resources/budget. It’s no secret that in hard times, marketing is often the fist thing to get cut. But I think a bigger culprit is to blame. I think it’s because a lot of marketers are still operating in an old paradigm. Allen – the author of the article – seems to even fall prey to this, despite her extensive experience and impressive resume. Specifically, here’s what I’m talking about:

Within digital, as audience-based approaches and programmatic have become the industry standard, mobile has made strides to dive into this opportunity. Now that the data science has matured for mobile and we are no beholden to the cookie, we can explore a greater scope of audience opportunity. Mobile can be a driver and even a lead within the mix, and we can engage in much more competitive tactics.

The stuff she’s talking about is great, with one exception. Audience. She’s right that audience-based approaches have become the industry standard. They are. It’s taken a while to get there, but it seems the entire digital marketing world now recognizes the value of building a well-defined audience. But here’s the thing. Audience marketing is just the application of 1970s direct marketing principles in the digital world. However, technology now exists that enables you to market to the individual. We can now record what customers are doing across devices and platforms, and use that data to drive relevance at the individual level. I’m not just talking about triggering messages based on behavior. I’m talking about harnessing the rich ecosystem available to us as marketers to populate messages with completely relevant content, via the best channel, at the time at which customers are most likely to convert. It’s possible now. The technology exists. But if marketers are still functioning within the audience paradigm, they’re not going to think that way. They’re going to keep trying to be relevant to 100,000 people at a time, which just doesn’t work. So stop. Stop focusing on audiences and start focusing on individuals. So do me a favor, when you click on the link below to read the full article mentally replace the word ‘audience’ with ‘individual.’ And then go win.

Today’s Methods Help Us More Aggressively Compete

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