A university approached me this week to advise on its proposed curriculum for a new course in digital marketing that its business school wants to offer in September. An examination of the suggested modules revealed it to be fairly thorough, but I offered a couple of suggestions.
One of them was to consider whether it was wise to restrict the study of consumer behaviour to a single module in the third and final year. I tried not to be too prescriptive (after all, while I know a bit about marketing and business, I know precious little about what it takes to get funding for a new university course) but understanding your customer cannot be an afterthought.
Tracking consumer behaviour and needs, then applying that knowledge to the business strategy, is essentially what marketing – digital or otherwise – is all about. While the communications and media landscape is evolving rapidly, being an organisation’s customer expert is the most powerful weapon a marketing department has to justify itself as a vital component of that business.
It made me wonder how many of us talk about putting the customer first and how many of us actually do it. Now seems a good time to tune back into the mood of your customer on behalf of your organisation. It might be that you find you need to troubleshoot your marketing plans and check they align with the experience your customer is going through.
“Being an organisation’s customer expert is the most powerful weapon a marketing department has to justify itself as a vital component of that business”
Recently I met one of the UK’s most senior marketing figures for dinner. He is a top food and drink executive who has made a career out of fairly outlandish ad campaigns. He told me his marketing communications for 2011 would be quieter, more boring and more functional than their predecessors. They would talk about the health benefits and taste of his products and little else.
“Businesses are going to have an awful year, but so are consumers,” he said. “Money is tight. Explain why they should spend on your product, then leave them to it. They don’t want to hear any more.”
I’m not sure I agree. I believe insight can still flourish when fuelled with compelling creative. But his point remains. The financial storm goes on. Rising commodity and oil prices will raise prices at a time when high unemployment and a hike in VAT will cause widespread desperation. Cuts to public services will not help the national mood. Keep tuning in to your customers. As our cover feature on ’the new family’ shows, there are opportunities for those who listen.
Mark Choueke, editor