Each month The Drum will publish a chapter from “Paradox: Feeling Machines and the Rise of Post-Modern Marketing”. The sixth chapter, Post-Modern Creative & Content Experiences: Marketing is Experience, explores the profound ramifications as customer experience takes center – no, scratch that, the entire – stage.
In the Post-Modern Marketing ‘Age of Wow!’, marketing is experience. And, as it turns out, experience is marketing.
Marketers probably don’t need much supporting evidence for this three-word palindrome; they’re, well, experiencing it. Still, plenty of research houses are documenting the shift, from Gartner to McKinsey. The implications of ‘marketing is experience’ are many – and they raise the stakes higher than ever before for marketers and the businesses they serve. “Post-Modern Marketing creative and content experiences must wow customers and prospects the way the first Uber experiences wowed New Yorkers who had never known an alternative to abusive yellow cab rides,” says Dan Collins, Stein IAS’ Head of Digital Creative Experience.
Here’s why marketing is experience raises the stakes so high:
- Experience is immersive. People participate in experiences. So, Post-Modern Marketers must achieve storyliving rather than just storytelling.
- Experience is emotional. Post-Modern Marketers must pursue bolder, braver ideas, because all the data-and-tech-enabled personalized messaging in the world doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if you don’t make an emotional connection. As Ella sang, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”
- Experience raises the bar on style and – even more so – substance. People expect to get something out of their experiences; they have to be useful, educational, fulfilling, enjoyable, inspiring. Get it right, it’s awesome. Get it wrong, it’s awful.
- Experience is personal. It exists “only in the mind of an individual.” This makes experiences different for each and every customer, and implies that Post-Modern Marketers must master real 1:1 creative and content experiences, at long last.
- Experience raises marketing’s stature in the enterprise. As business leaders realize that customer experience is the hallmark of higher-performing enterprises, Post-Modern Marketers have the opportunity to be the advocates for and owners of extraordinary customer experiences – and owners of strategic high ground in corporate c-suites as a result.
It’s enough to overwhelm the analytical left side of your brain – many times over. “Post-Modern Marketing will come down to creative intuition, and to bravery,” says Collins. “It’s having faith that if you do something great, people will want it, and want to share it.” Or, what Procter & Gamble chief marketing officer Marc Pritchard calls “the tingle factor.” In explaining how he couldn’t technically measure the success of the award-winning ‘It’s a Tide commercial’ advertising, Pritchard said he could feel the magic of it. "[You] don’t measure creativity, you feel it … I go with the tingle factor.”
But in the Post-Modern Marketing ‘Age of Wow!’, the context in which tingles do or don’t get generated could not be more different from that of the Mad Men era. Marketers’ tingles can be augmented by analysis of big data oceans so large that even our intuitive right brains need AI and machine learning to turbocharge our insights.
All of which leads B2B marketers to a Post-Modern experience paradox. Namely, how to achieve that magical tingle when B2B purchase decisions simply aren’t simple. But that’s no excuse: In the words of Cisco’s Joseph Puthussery, vice president of digital marketing, at the ANA’s June 2018 Masters of B2B Marketing conference in Chicago: “The best customer experience anywhere sets the bar for customer experience everywhere.”
As Stein IAS’ chairman and chief client officer , Tom Stein, says: “We in B2B have to be able to market at that level of simplicity. But B2B is still B2B. The product and value proposition complexity is still there. The committee decision-making complexity is still there. The high stakes of big-ticket purchases is still there. All of these core B2B differences are still there. But then there’s this overlay from all of our personal experiences. That’s a very, very important paradox to solve.”
In other words, B2B marketing still has to have that swing.