Intent, Understanding and Channels

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“The medium is the message.”

–     Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980), Canadian author / marketer, in his 1964 book, “Understanding Media:  The Extensions of Man”

Originally intended to suggest that the channel was more important than the meaning or content of the message, it played well in a 3-network, one newspaper media time.

Today, while the channel matters more than ever, simply because there are so danged many of them, consumers are more savvy, and have higher expectations.  They’re better informed because they have access to do 90% (or more) of the buying process in their own way, on their own time.  More and more often, they go through this process without us fully being able to know who / where they are.  The medium is still critical (think “channel”), yet the message is more important than ever before, too.

Some marketing rules that we can still live with and by:

Intent still matters more than content, as long as our intent is clear, and is intended for good, not evil.  Clearly messaging our intent creates deeper connection with our products and services.

Understanding is more important than knowing.  “Huh,” you might be thinking?  I know that 217 people are in the market for the widget I sell today, but if I don’t understand why they’re in the market or what their buying criterion are, it doesn’t matter that I know.  Unless I can get pretty far down the path to understanding who and where they are, knowing they’re out there leaves me feeling empty, icky and with 217 unsold units.

There isn’t one channel, the lines have blurred and the winners can play in an omni-channel market.  In some buying cycles, that may be a little less cut and dried, but consider this:  a top-five bank in the USA is on TV sports, network and local news, has two mobile apps leveraging geo-spatial capabilities (Hey!  Use your credit card here, since you’re here!), uses direct mail, full broadcast and print media campaigns and does a ton of in-market event and destination / experiential marketing.  Open a new account there and it gets attributed to the branch that is closest to your home address.  They’re everywhere, yet attributing the sale to the least likely source of the business.  It’s art and science, and it’s anything but easy.

It’s becoming more science than art, because it’s more difficult than ever to break through, especially if we care to whom we’re breaking through.

Having something worth buying and marketing it with clear, positive intent is key.  Understanding who’s gonna buy, where they are and how they’re engaging is the next step. (Data, data, data – converted to insights!)  Being with them, on their terms, throughout the process raises our odds of winning the business.

We can’t ask enough questions.  We should test and learn more — on what we’re doing and what we’re not yet doing.  We have to be relentless in all three areas; intent, understanding and channels…


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