Marketing-Obsessed Marketers Need To Become Customer-Obsessed

View this post as it originally appeared on Forbes.

This winter has kept many of us, especially those east of the Mississippi, out of malls and instead hunkered down in our homes. The weather is not the brutal part, though. I have been exposed to a lot more commercials in my hibernation (in part because Hulu doesn’t let you skip them), and I can honestly say that, as a marketing analyst, the link between the agency pitch, the production, and the delivery leaves a lot missing along the way.

There are, of course, those ads that put a lump in your throat and use those heartstrings to cause you to act (or at least put it on your wish list). These ads that relay a strong emotional bond, leading you to act, are typically more aware of you than you realize. But then there are the ads that you shake your head at. “What were they thinking?” you may ask as you scratch your head after a Geico “Portraits Gallery: George Washington” commercial or GoDaddy “Bodybuilder” ad. Sure they may be clever, but are they useful? Do they really get the register to ring?

Successful brands today have found a new way to engage that goes well beyond the snappy taglines, yet has the brand and business impact a CFO can get excited about. Brands like Nike and Apple are obvious on this front, using product and retail experiences to enhance and drive the brand. Successful but less obvious examples, like Warby Parker in online retail, Oscar in consumer health insurance, and Adobe in software, have all proven that there are ways to build a brand that are not dependent on traditional approaches to reach the buyer. For Warby Parker, the mastery of modern marketing came from building a web-native brand that it took to the fashion pages for initial visibility and made the DNA of the company about unconventional marketing approaches rather than footfalls at a mall or display ad overload. Another one to watch is Oscar, a New York-based health insurer, born on the same date as the Affordable Care Act and already recording tens of millions in subscribers by breaking the rules the industry used to play within. Adobe is important to mention here too, since it has completely changed its business model from packaged applications to monthly subscriptions, based on the concerns that its customers expressed about the pace and expense of upgrades on the core creative suite (and a few acquisitions along the way).

This disconnect between marketing obsession and customer obsession is no longer an option for companies. Consumers’ distance between an ad and an authentic connection to a brand is now one thumbprint or mouse click away. Yet advertisers still sit apart. In the age of the customer, marketers will succeed only if they identify the ways that their customer set will want to engage and make the product, actions, and messages resonate beyond the traditional 30-second spot.

At Forrester’s Forum For Marketing Leaders in San Francisco and London, I’ll be speaking more on the issue of how customer-obsessed marketers will separate their strategies from the pack. In this age of the customer that we now live in, marketers will need to manage the money they spend in completely new ways that put the customer at the center of every decision they make. Join me as I kick off Forrester’s Forum For Marketing Leaders in San Francisco, April 10th to 11th. Or join my colleagues and me when we bring the show to London for Forrester’s Forum For Marketing Leaders EMEA, May 13th to 14th. Hope to see you there.