By Joe Pulizzi published February 19, 2008

Why Marketers Are Reluctant to Move Away from Traditional Marketing Strategies

“The future of advertising is radically different from its past. The struggle for control of attention, creativity measurements and platforms will reshape the advertising value chain and shift the balance of power. And, as in previous disruptive cycles, the future cannot be extrapolated from the past.”

– from The End of Advertising as We Know It, IBM Global Services, 2007

Today, most companies are still using traditional marketing approaches that they may have been using since the middle of the 20th century.  There are several reasons for this:

  • Companies are set up to sell products, not to provide relevant and valuable information to customers and prospects.
  • Companies have well-worn marketing paths that are easy to follow.  Going off the beaten path into uncharted territory is intimidating.
  • Companies have strong relationships with media partners that may go back decades.  It’s not easy to break those relationships by pursuing a brand-new content marketing strategy.
  • The reduced effectiveness of traditional marketing may have occurred so slowly that no alarm bells have gone off within your organization.
  • Many companies aren’t measuring their marketing, so they aren’t even sure what is and what is not effective.
  • Many companies lack both the right people and the right processes to implement a new kind of marketing.
  • Many businesses are reluctant to abandon traditional marketing tactics for what they may believe to be unproven content marketing or new media practices.
  • Most companies lack content marketing role models from whom they can learn best practices.
  • Some companies place very little value in marketing versus other aspects of the organization (operations, product development). Little do they know, that every part of the organization is affected by (or actually is) marketing.

In order for a company to alter their mindset toward one of new media or content marketing, they need one of a few things to happen:

  • Business gets so bad that they start trying new things.
  • Voluntary or involuntary turnover creates new thinking in the organization.
  • A culture change in sparked in the organization, through an internal champion, external customer demands, or the merging of a new business culture through an actual merger or buyout.

The point is that there is great opportunity. There is opportunity for small businesses who can make these changes and adaptations faster than their larger competitive set. There is also opportunity for medium and large organizations who can make decisions based on how their customers want to engage with them, not on what they’ve done in the past.

The IBM white paper that led off this post has an interesting set of questions to ask marketing professionals that speaks directly to the drastic changes that have taken place just in the last few years.

  • Will advertisers still need a traditional agency? If so, in what capacity?
  • Will traditional programmers lose significant revenue to the Internet, mobile device providers and interactive home portals?
  • Will consumers reject outright the concept of interruption marketing in the future?
  • Will consumer receptivity vary by medium (for example, mobile devices versus home-oriented devices)?
  • Will consumers see value in advertising as a trade-off for content?
  • To what extent will advertising inventory be sold through open platforms?
  • Do advertising industry players have the customer analytics needed to better understand and reach target customers?
  • Are companies organized correctly to create, market and distribute cross-platform content?

Most everyone has an answer to the above questions – but noone knows for sure if they will be right. All we can do is see what is happening and talk to our customers. That said, the more I interact with marketing and publishing professionals, the more I realize that the old rules don’t apply anymore. What is going on right now is a revolution like nothing we’ve ever seen. The opportunity is great for those companies that buy into this.

Some companies think that the Internet is just another way to market. It’s those companies that are in trouble.

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Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • http://www.strategicmarketingmontreal.ca/ Barry Welford

    A great post, Joe, and very thought-provoking. Perhaps part of the problem is that so few people are customer centric. Almost without thinking, they assume that the customer thinks as they do. So they use their own impressions to guess how the market will react. You need to put in special measures to get customer feedback. Hopefully articles such as this will get more marketers aware of the new reality.

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi, Junta42

    Thanks Barry…I agree 100%. Really, all this new marketing stuff would be pretty easy if we just listened to our customers.

  • Hans

    A couple of excellent points, but a few bold claims as well. Is ‘ignoring the internet’ really a high risk strategy, as customers in many segments use it as a medium, not the medium. I guess it’s high risk if your customers expect internet orientation from their suppliers, AND your competitors are already catering to this need.
    But no argument from me that internet marketing holds tremendous promise to extend reach while lowering costs. There are rewards for those companies who master it first within their niche.

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi, Junta42

    Hans…thanks for the clarification. Actually, I do believe it is high-risk to ignore the Internet, even in those industry’s that don’t use it at all at the present time. Innovation is speeding up and buyers are starting to use the web to make buying decisions in even those industries where most people think it doesn’t exist.
    I’m afraid for those companies that will wake up one morning when a smaller, internet-savvy competitor they’ve never heard of blows right by them.

  • ShinyMule

    Nice post. So true, so true. There are a lot of new non-traditional internet marketing opportunities out there that are slow to adopt. For example, have you ever heard of Whip Hand? Check out: http://www.whiphand.com to see what I mean.