There are far too many marketers in this country who just can’t seem to let go of the crutches that have allowed them to profit from the good times of the past that were skewed by negligible competition and deep seated racial segregation.
South Africa has an acute shortage of experienced product and brand managers , with so many having left the country over the past few decades.
And many of those who are left are indecisive and shy of commitment to the changing world around them.
The mere fact that so many local marketers keep insisting that the media provide them with outdated WCI/blacks data is, in my opinion, symptomatic of a tendency to cling to bygone and obsolete marketing practices. This in spite of SAARF having wanted to stop using WCI/Black data way back in 1997.
It is ludicrous to base one’s marketing effort on the premise that whites, coloureds and Indians all think the same and that all blacks have identical aspirations, habits and desires.
They will argue that race is still very important but that is nonsense. What IS important is cultural differences, not racial differences. That’s a big difference.
The marketing environment is changing faster and faster, leaving behind anyone who clings to the past.
The phenomenon of media convergence will accelerate to the point where the clear lines that now separate TV, radio, print and online mass media will blur into insignificance.
Twelve years ago, when I visited Japan, I watched consumers using 100Mb/s internet connections to ‘demand’ what information they wanted. Consumers who did not watch TV programmes or listen to the radio or read newspaper to find out what the ads were offering.
Rather, consumers who programmed their TV sets or PC’s or cell phones to allow search engines to look for the ads and deliver them on a silver plate as and when they wanted them
Watching them, I was never actually sure whether they were readings newspapers, listening ton the radio or watching TV.
It is going to happen in South Africa, that is a certainty. It is just a question of when.
Already in the UK online ad spend is now the biggest sector having overtaken TV during the latter stages of 2009.
The web and internet, despite technical changes, will undoubtedly play the dominant role in media consumption in the future and South African marketers still have to come to grips with what it is all about.
The first thing they need to understand is that the World Wide Web is not a medium. It is a portal. A gateway.
A mistake that most print media in South Africa have made to their detriment. Most of them still persist in simply sticking an online version of their daily or weekly newspapers onto their websites. With the result that contrary to keeping up with the times and offering digital alternatives, they are simply giving away their newspaper content for nothing. And wondering why their circulations are falling.
Marketers will also have to completely reassess their current customer service and customer relations management strategies. Because social networking will change the way consumers complain about products and service. Beyond 2010 consumers will no longer just wait for a dinner party to tell 10 friends about bad service. They will get on to their cell phones while they are still in store and via their social networks all their friends and their friends’ friends about their experience.
Marketers need to implement ways of monitoring and analysing these social network conversations about their brands and then intervene. But, be warned. Just employing an outside “blogger” will make things worse not better.
This is something that needs to be very carefully handled by someone very experienced in the art of communication and permanently employed on the inside.
Right now, for example, Dell Computers in the USA have 17 such people working fulltime and around the clock.
But, the biggest marketing challenge beyond 2010 will not have anything to do with the internet, media convergence or customer service management.
It will have everything to do with getting the attention of consumers and managing that attention.
Advances in technology and a trend towards more entertainment and lifestyle activity comes at a price. And that price is consumer attention.
The departure point of marketing is no longer information but rather attention. In the future the amount of time an advertisement will have to get the attention of a consumer will reduce from a few seconds of a decade ago to fractions of second. And eventually it simply won’t get any consumer attention at all.
What all of this adds up to is that SA’s marketers need to wean themselves off the 30 second commercial and other advertising paradigms.
Advertising in the future will play a lesser role to new marketing communications techniques including good old word of mouth, which is making a comeback of note.
Follow Chris Moerdyk on Twitter @chrismoerdyk
IMAGE: Free Photos and Art