As our knowledge of the human brain and how it makes decisions is growing (through fields like behavioral economics, neuromarketing, and customer experience) it is becoming clear that traditional marketing doesn't cut it anymore. There are three sins of traditional marketing your business must eliminate if you want to succeed on the new frontier.
The good news is, while they require a few extra conversations on the front end, they can actually be much more efficient (in both time and monetary investments) in the long run. And, while all the sins need to be addressed by your business, they are intended to be tackled in the order they appear.
1. Marketing Instead Of Branding
Marketing is all the stuff a company puts out in the world: posters, brochures, direct mail, ads on social media, a website, sponsorships of the local soccer team, and more. When you are focused on "marketing" you end up in a reactive place where you are responding to each request as it comes in.
Branding, on the other hand, means you have a deep understanding of what your organization is about: who you are, what you stand for, your personality and tone of voice, where your audience would find you, colors, and everything else that makes up your core existence.
When you have a brand, you are looking for opportunities that align with who you are, and what your customers have come to expect from you. Any unplanned opportunities can be quickly vetted against the brand standards to determine if they are worth the investment or out of alignment.
Humans evaluate brands in the same way they evaluate people. If you had a friend who was constantly changing their opinions, and the way they spoke, and what they supported, and the types of clothes they wore...would you be concerned with their well being and think something was off? This is the same way people will see you if your company is simply reacting to requests as they come in-- flip-flopping on ideas is not a recipe for a great brand. Consistency is key to brand success.
2. Focusing On What People Should Do
When you sit down to create your advertising promotion, build a new product, or rewrite all the copy on your website, you are using your conscious brain. You think through all the ins and outs of the decisions, go down logic rabbit holes, and choose words, images and steps based on what people "should" do if they make all the logical choices.
The problem is, humans don't make decisions this way. Mountains of studies and research have shown that people tend to make illogical decisions. Nobel-prize winner Daniel Kahneman explains that our brains are made up of two systems: the fast, automatic system one (subconscious) and the slow, more manual system two (conscious).
These systems don't speak well to each other, and the subconscious is typically running the decision show. That means, your logical approach is likely to be ignored by the reward-driven subconscious. The great thing about behavioral economics is we have found that people, while illogical, are very predictable. If you understand and implement the concepts of how the brain actually makes decisions (versus how you think it should make decisions) you can quickly increase conversions without increasing costs.
3. Asking People To Do Too Much
That subconscious brain has a lot going on (processing up to 11 million bits of information per second) so if your messaging has too much information or is confusing, it is ripe for being ignored.
Too many ads out there have three or four calls to action and lots of text. The logical brain making the ad might think, "I don't know how someone will want to contact us, so I will give them all the possible options just in case!" The problem is, too much in will result in everything tuned out.
It is better to pick one objective for each piece. If the person looking at this ad (or looking at this piece of the website, or picking up this brochure) can only do one thing...what would that be? What is best for your company (and for the customer in this moment)? Once you figure that out, ensure all roads point to that destination so it is beyond clear what you are asking them to do. As long as you've overcome the first two sins, knowing what is the best step for them at this point should be easy.
If you are committing any of the cardinal sins, it's time for a much-needed re-evaluation.