I just finished reading a 1998 interview of Seth Godin with The Fast Company. The whole interview was basically aimed at having Seth Godin explain the marketing concept that he pioneered; permission marketing, and how his company, Yoyodyne was using online games and sweepstakes to aid companies acquire customers via this concept.
Instead the whole interview turned out to be some sort of a sit-down with the three witches of Macbeth as his perspective on what online was supposed to be like is now, 20 years later, THE standard. In other words, he predicted the future of marketing. What strikes me most is that he wasn’t making predictions per se. He was just talking about how he saw internet marketing at the time; what it was like and what it ought to be. Most of the predictions he made have turned out to be true.
In attempting to explain Permission Marketing, which can be defined loosely as persuading customers to give you their attention before you sell them your products, he mentioned that “Interruption Marketing” was still the standard of the time. You could be watching a TV Show and you were interrupted by six 30-seconds advertisements. He said interruption marketing was dying away as more and more people were exposed to adverts (3000 daily) and having TV ads interrupt an episode of Seinfeld, for example, was a nuisance. It was important that marketers shift from this approach and move to one where getting the customer’s attention and his approval to continue having a relationship with them would trump.
“Marketing is a contest for people’s attention. You get it and you treat it accordingly.”
It this was true back then, it is worse now. Just take a look at how much things have changed over the last 20 years. Today it is not just about adverts as one has to take into account all the content that it is floating around on the internet. And then there is social media. All these things are constantly vying for the customer’s attention. It has become even harder to attract the customer’s attention even with a permission strategy. Nothing has made this truer than the Content Marketing strategy deployed by just about everyone on the internet today.
“I guarantee you that by the year 2000, Internet banner ads will be gone. They don’t work. Why? Because most companies are trying to reach consumers in this new medium by using the same model they used in the old media.”
I also enjoy how he predicted how the marketing funnel would change over time. Hitherto, transactions ended after the sale. It was about getting people to buy your products and that was it. In the internet era of the late 1990s, advertisers cared a whole lot about media impressions, no doubt because banner ads were booming at the time. Of course the more people saw your ad, the more they were likely to click through. And it worked for as long as it could until it became a spamming and virus-spreading tool and the effectiveness of banner ads plummeted over the last decade. Banner ads have not disappeared but they are not near as attractive as before. I personally cannot remember the last time I clicked on one. Clicking through again does not guarantee conversion. And if it did convert, what then? Does the process end there?
“Permission marketing also changes how companies evaluate their marketing campaigns. In this model, you don’t care about cheap impressions. You care about deep relationships.”
Caring about deep relationships as I mentioned earlier is about doing away with the old marketing funnel and adopting the new one where customer conversion is not the end of the funnel but the start of another kind of relationship where customer loyalty and advocacy is sought. Today, this is the order of the day; which is another prediction made by Seth Godin in the interview. He predicted that we are increasingly going to be concerned about building these deep relationships with customers. If I order a classic English literature fiction from Amazon kindle. I know for a fact over the next week, I will receive recommendations for similar books.
Another important prediction he made in that interview is how much data mining and manipulation would be a HUGE part of the marketing future. In one statement, he not only predicted that, but also somehow predicted the demise of YAHOO! which at the time was THE internet giant along with AOL.
“Yahoo! is a wonderfully successful operation. But every month, 25 million unique users show up at this site, and Yahoo! flushes those people down the toilet. Yahoo! doesn’t know who they are, where they live, what they like – it’s all anonymous. That strikes me as foolish.”
It’s safe to say GOOGLE, (which was kicking off at the time) and was not even mentioned in the article went the right way. Basically every self-respecting company with a digital presence today is involved in some form of data mining and data collection in order to understand and know its customers better. Even those who cannot do this on their own pay for this service via third party companies. All social media platforms today have a measure of analytics incorporated for paying users.
When asked about his predictions for the future of marketing, he said he could see mainly three. The first of which concerned the subscription model of business. He said, “we’re going to move from a world where companies sell products to one where they sell subscriptions.”
Today, this is clearly what goes on in the marketing landscape. This can be seen from HULU subscriptions to Canva to LinkedIn to The Dollar Shave Club. I’m going to go further and they he even predicted the Freemium Model being a major part of marketing today as well.
“the second big shift: Forget interruption marketing as we know it today. Tomorrow I’ll have someone or something that negotiates on my behalf. Every time a company wants me to pay attention, it will have to offer some tangible benefits.”
This is quite an interesting one and it builds up somewhat from the first prediction. As a result of subscription models, lock-in programmes, the search of deeper relationships with customers, multiplication of brands and brand loyalty diffusion, increased personalisation of services and data mining and predictive behaviour software, customers are now more reluctant to move from one service provider to the other. Also they are harder to be seduced. And so, to be able to get a customer you have to be able to offer quite the incentive.
The third prediction, however, is where he got things wrong. He said “the third big shift in marketing – is that less and less content will be free.” But au contraire we have seen more and more free content thrown into our faces. Companies are fighting the content war and basically, with subtlety, telling us how to do the things that they do for us on our own. Take Shopify.com for example. Their YouTube channel is basically a course on internet e-commerce. The principles therein can be moved to any other platform and will work pretty much fine.
Although with this last point, Seth Godin was talking more about how we (consumers ) would pay not to be “interrupted.” He gave the example of people paying $4 at the time not to see adverts during a movie. But now we have the option of skipping through ads on whatever content we want to say on most internet platforms.
I found this interview very interesting and the sagacity of Seth Godin struck me as the perceptions he had of internet market and what it would evolve into have been for the most part very true.