Written version of my Search Insider Summit presentation today:
In the beginning, there was marketing. Simply marketing.
Then, in the era of Mad Men, the marketing universe split in two. Suddenly, we had brand marketing, building a brand image, a position in the market — marketing above the fray. Versus direct marketing, right down in the frothy fray of persuading individual prospects to do something, the origin of calls-to-action and conversion rates.
Specialized galaxies of marketing began to form — different tactics, philosophies, domains of marketing. There was channel marketing — managing distributors and dealers, reaching our audience through these intermediaries. Product marketing focused on the design and features of what we were delivering. Can we build it so they come? And database marketing — the first real intersection of marketing and technology — to segment and test, primarily in direct mail.
The concept of industrial marketing led to a bifurcation that would eventually become known as B2C marketing to consumers and B2B marketing to businesses. (Years later Gord Hotchkiss would publish The Buyersphere Project to show that this conceptual split actually obscures the point that in both scenarios we’re marketing to emotional and beautifully irrational creatures.)
By the 80’s and early 90’s, the westward expansion of marketing specialization was in full gear. Some highlights included Jay Conrad Levinson’s guerrilla marketing — a pragmatic, non-conventional attitude that infuses many of our marketing practices today. The development of global marketing programs, sparking the debate of centralization vs. localization that continues to this day. Relationship marketing championed by Regis McKenna focused on longer-term views of customers — which set the stage for the multi-billion dollar CRM software industry. In a similar vein, with a more consumer emphasis, was loyalty marketing, the origin of points and badges.
It was a fertile time for marketing invention and reinvention. But we hadn’t seen anything yet. Because in the mid-90’s, the web arrived and changed everything.
The Web as rocket fuel for marketing specialization
Initially, this was just one new offshoot of marketing, a rose by many names: internet marketing, online marketing, web marketing, interactive marketing, new media marketing, digital marketing — your label of choice depended on your point of reference. Digital marketing has probably won out as the most resilient variation.
But it was at this moment that arguably the most regrettable schism in our industry occurred: all this was online marketing, everything else was offline marketing. And for a while, the two slept in separate beds — just long enough to establish schizophrenic politics, precedents and silos that would haunt us for the next 16 years. Thank you very much.
The seeds of online marketing soon spread and germinated, quickly specializing on “Internet time.” Search engines were born — followed minutes later by search engine marketing. A whole subculture grew around this speciality — with conferences and summits and rap battles debating PPC and SEO subspecialties that live on to this day. Seth Godin popularized the concept of permission marketing, which would influence a major shift in the marketer-marketee dynamic. The concept of crowdsourcing audience reach via affiliate marketing became even more effective than Tupperware parties. Email marketing thrived, garnering affectionate labels such as spam and bacon. And software vendors started to promote the capability of personalized marketing on this digital substrate — a promise that we keep making to this very day.
The Internet bubble may have burst at the turn of the 21st century, but Internet marketing specialization kept evolving. User-generated marketing emerged, as did the frequently related concept of viral marketing. With this staggering profusion of specialized marketing methods, someone raised the point that maybe we should coordinate our interactions with the customer, the combinatorially complex field of multichannel marketing. You can almost here the cha-ching for IBM’s professional services.
Chris Anderson revealed the power of The Long Tail in Internet businesses, transforming segmentation and niche marketing into the far more sexy nomenclature of Long Tail marketing. As analytics proliferated in the marketing department and became meaningfully connected to the bottom line, performance marketing cast marketing as a source of revenue rather than an expense. (Now that’s brilliant marketing.)
I’d also like to mention the amazing fields of conversion rate marketing and post-click marketing that emerged in this timeframe because, in full disclosure, this is what I do for a living and, objectively speaking, they rock.
But marketing specialization continued to accelerate. Data-driven marketing, the genetic splicing of database marketing with modern analytics, also known as analytical marketing or left-brain marketing. Mobile marketing — finally here after years of claiming to be here. The dancing elephant in the marketing room these days, social media marketing, in all its splendid incarnations — notable for, among other things, generating more self-proclaimed experts at a greater speed than any other subdiscipline in marketing history. Near ubiquitous bandwidth has powered a specialization in modern video marketing. And, courtesy of my MIT classmate Dharmesh Shah, we have another dichotomy: inbound marketing categorically distinct from outbound marketing — or pull marketing vs. push marketing, if you prefer.
Now we’re really cooking, with new marketing specializations appearing almost faster than we can name them. Almost. Agile marketing, adapting agile software development practices in the marketing department. Computational marketing, closely related to algorithmic marketing — the immigration of Wall Street quants to Madison Avenue. David Meerman Scott’s concept of real-time marketing, the ultimate conclusion of marketing’s ever-accelerating clockspeed. Community marketing and the nurturing of our own gardens in the social media landscape. Content marketing as the three-way lovechild of search marketing, social media marketing, and good, old-fashioned brand marketing. Local marketing, which has been reborn via a plethora of new technologies and the popularization of the check-in. Too much marketing for you? There’s the paradoxical antidote of unmarketing. And cloud marketing for leveraging a thousand blooming software-as-a-service platforms built for marketers.
Whew. Later at Search Insider Summit, Roger Dooley will blow people’s mind, literally, with neuromarketing. And then on Saturday morning, Ben Edwards will enlighten the audience on agile.
All these different kinds of marketing begs the question: if marketing has an idea, but doesn’t give it a jargony name… does it really exist?
Apparently not, so I’m going to call this the inflationary universe of marketing theory. Old marketing concepts never die, they just get fewer sessions on the conference circuit.
The power of marketing cross-pollination
Now nomenclature is fascinating, but I want you to take away something that you can actually use. And that’s this: there’s tremendous, untapped innovation in cross-pollinating among these specializations. Let me give you an example.
Take my favorite, conversion rate marketing, and say, content marketing. Now, each of these is a respectable field of marketing, each with books and books of best practices. Content marketing its experts, such as Ann Handley and Joe Pulizzi. Conversion rate marketing has its experts, like Tim Ash and Bryan Eisenberg.
But despite their respective success, each has its own weaknesses too. Content marketing can be a little shy when it comes to asking its readers and viewers to take the next step. (No offense intended to content marketers: heck, I spent most of high school pursuing a content marketing strategy.) Conversion rate marketing, landing page optimization, on the other hand, can be a little like honing pick-up lines. But, hey, sometimes people don’t want to be picked up.
If you put these on a scale, ranging from free love to used car salesman, content marketing is on one end, conversion rate marketing is on the other.
But what if we mashed-up the best practices of each in the middle?
Build conversion-oriented landing experiences, like this example by Intuit. But instead of a single landing page of three bullets and a call-to-action, bring in much richer content. A walk-through. Not a qualified teaser price, but detailed pricing information. Not merely a meatball logo or two, but details of write-ups and endorsements. Not a hit-and-run social proof, but real feedback from real people. Give visitors the freedom to explore and learn, without losing the focus on conversion.
Or add a dash of content marketing authenticity into a conversion experience by surfacing the real people behind a product or service, like this example by Blue Mountain. Meet the people crafting e-cards, making them — and your offering — more real, more tangible.
Or take the concept of a landing page — like this example from Overland Storage, targeting a very specific search term — and multiply it the way we generate blog posts. Instead of a blog post per day, a laser-targeted landing page per day. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Where we measure the performance of this entire portfolio of post-click marketing.
I’m just scratching the surface here, but you can see that mixing these two kinds of marketing inspires a number of promising, creative ideas.
In fact, this one is so good, we should give it a name. How about conversion content marketing?
Marketing is dead, long live marketing
Okay, this is where the nomenclature police intervene.
Maybe instead of exponentially adding new combinations to this list, we should take this cross-pollination to its logical extreme. Let’s strive to synthesize all of these different kinds of marketing into our worldview, converging rather than diverging. The Big Crunch instead of the Big Bang.
If we absolutely need a name for for this ultimate marketing mash-up, perhaps we could call it Renaissance marketing. Or maybe holistic marketing. Too New Age-y? Since we’re leveraging all these other kinds of marketing, how about we call this meta-mash-up multi-marketing marketing?
Or, and this is a bit radical, what about… simply marketing?
Here are the slides to the above presentation:
Source material from 131 different kinds of marketing.