One hundred years ago, if I wanted to run for exercise, I would put on a pair of shoes and some comfortable clothes, and then go out and run.
In 2021, however, a steady running habit requires proper running shoes, a pair of running shorts with the right inner lining, a dry-fit shirt and hat to keep me cool, and perhaps a GPS watch.
Running used to be simple. Down the line, someone made it more complicated. Special shoes, special clothes, and special nutrition products have all contributed to the complication of running as a hobby. Perhaps this was done to create a market to sell to, or perhaps running experts wanted to make their profession seem more impressive. Either way, running as a simple hobby, became less reachable and less relatable.
The same thing has happened and continues to happen in marketing.
We ARE overcomplicating marketing.
At its core, the purpose of marketing is to connect with an audience in order to inspire brand loyalty and purchasing decisions. It involves appealing to people and their emotions. It involves showing people how whatever you are selling can help them or improve their lives.
Over the last few decades, marketing efforts have almost completely moved to an online, computer-driven environment. The connectivity of everything we do on the internet has allowed marketers to dive deeper and deeper into our buying behavior.
We capture data about our customers, track links, analyze conversion rates, and see how much time people spend on a page, what they click on, and what our search engine ranking is. We have created entire careers specifically for analyzing and interpreting all that data. We read reports and create strategies based on that data.
Since the dawn of the internet, marketing has become a data-driven industry. But what has that cost us?
Losing the human touch.
As we have relied more on data, I believe the human touch of marketing has lost its place as the primary driver of the content we create. I see far too many gimmicky marketing tactics that are obviously attempting to increase metrics such as engagement or SEO, but miss the mark because they lack relatability and empathy.
When marketers become slaves to analytics, their content quality often suffers because it is no longer appealing or helpful to people. The perfect example of this is an online recipe that forces you to read or scroll through a novel about the author’s search-engine-optimized, keyword-laden, personal life story before reaching what you are there for in the first place: the recipe.
That’s not to say that the author’s story may not be relevant or helpful, but it is often a barrier to what the reader is looking for. Scrolling through a long story in order to get to the recipe makes me feel like the author’s primary aims were to increase my time spent on their page and to have a successfully optimized page. Neither of those makes me feel particularly connected to that author and the information they are sharing.
Earning fans is better than winning at data contests.
In my opinion, data-driven marketing strategies are great for instant gratification or short-term ROI, but they are almost always counter-productive in creating lasting, meaningful connections with an audience.
The primary aim of marketing should be gaining loyal fans, not optimizing data outputs. To do this, we must sometimes step back from the grind of analytics and keep our focus on the human touch of marketing. We must create content that helps, inspires, and makes the audience feel heard.
People are always sharing what they are looking for, what they want, and what they dislike. Instead of relying so much on numbers, I believe marketers should spend more time listening to their audiences.
This may sound too simple, and that’s because it is. Marketing is not mathematics and statistics. These may serve as tools for marketing, but they should not be the primary drivers.
We should always remember that we are marketing to people and if we do that well, we’ll not only succeed at our jobs as marketers, but we’ll make a difference as well.