Never before in the history of marketing have we been subject to a bombardment of ‘How To’ content to get us better, faster, stronger, richer, smarter, sexier, slimmer, productive etc.
It is ubiquitous and it’s mostly crap.
Open up any biz website/network and you will be inundated with ‘How to...’ and ‘7 steps to…’ and ‘88 tips to…’ and ’18 signs you suck…’—content that makes you wonder who is actually reading this BS that is served as ‘value content’.
This is especially true in digital marketing. We are made to believe that digital marketing is moving at lightning speed and that you will have to adapt to the next best thing with these 46 ways of doing digital right using these 7 sticky second-screen engagement types while avoiding these 12 pitfalls on social to drive ‘leads’ by ’69-ing’ your audience. Most of such content lacks any meat. It is regurgitated copy and an insult to decent intelligence.
In reality, innovation in digital marketing is much slower than what it is made out to be. Digital engagement and content consumption platforms have moved on, but digital marketing has not kept up. We keep doing the same thing in new platforms. Same old 20th-century techniques morphed in 21st-century parlance, efficiency and relevance. No Tesla-fication, just Toyota-fication. Both work and return profits, but Toyota’s idea of innovation and Tesla’s idea of innovation cannot be more different.
A classic example was a global telecom equipment manufacturer that asked my team to figure out ‘how’ it could use Facebook for its business. Truth was, the company's entire audience was not active on Facebook, and while the client is a multi-billion-dollar company, neither its brand platform nor the nature of its business lent itself to having a vibrant, engaged Facebook community. So the question we asked ourselves and posed to the client was ‘Why Facebook’? Thankfully, better sense prevailed we convinced the client to drive its audience via LinkedIn, and it worked out great. That another agency in Hong Kong convinced ‘regional’ to use Facebook and that the page today is as exciting as a wake for that nasty old aunt of yours? That's another story.
One look at any Lumascape and a marketer is bound to go nuts trying to figure out ‘How to’ navigate this noodle soup of marketing tech that is a sea of sameness. Add to this, the type of content that comes out is most driven to increase pageviews and drive PR rather than provide stuff of real value. Not convinced? Read this ‘Why I quit Venturebeat’ article by Bekah Grant.
The point I am trying to make here is to keep your ‘How to’ mongering short and focus on the ‘Why to' of digital. It’s time to shield you from this constant barrage of ‘junk’ content and drop the fear of missing out. It’s time to move on from a reactionary, competition-driven marketing strategy and get into a Tesla-fication mode, where anything and everything starts with a ‘Why’ instead of a ‘How’.
‘Why’ challenges the status quo. ‘How’ stretches it. ‘Why’ puts the ‘audience’ at the centre. ‘How’ puts ‘you’ or the ‘platform’ at the centre. ‘Why’ challenge you to think and ask hard questions. ‘How’ convinces you to ‘fit in’ and ‘compromise’. ‘Why’ gets the reasons right, ‘How’ gets the details right.
It’s really not about 'Why' versus 'How'. But about ‘Why’ first and ‘How’ next.
You can log onto KPCB’s website and read and re-read Mary Meeker’s latest Digital Trends Report all you want. I'd be surprised if you have not read it yet. But to base your next campaign on what she has shared without asking ‘Why’ would be plain right stupid.
But hey, if your next agency wants you to use ‘Tinder’ because her report says it’s white-hot and you want to leverage it to find your next customer whenever the app says ‘It’s a match’, then be my guest. Just make sure you use a brand condom for protection. After all, it’s Tinder!
RamKrishna Raja is a digital marketer who is still on sabbatical but actively interviewing.