Sometimes we forget that the brands we toil over are just the tip of an iceberg; just the small bit of the product or service that’s showing above the waves. Beneath the surface, for most brands, is a huge, complex value proposition encompassing all the reasons that make our product or service better than the other guys.
However, the tip of this iceberg is what we usually focus on in our marketing efforts. This is what we show to prospects to entice their interest, and our challenge is always how to make a small piece of the story represent the power of the complex whole lurking below. This has been the game for brand stewards for most of the history of modern marketing, but something happened last year that I believe will change it forever.
Sometime in the third quarter of last year someone signed up for broadband Internet service and at that moment the U.S. hit 50% penetration of homes with broadband. At first, no one but a few statisticians noticed, but soon, the significance of this moment would be picked up by marketing cognoscenti everywhere. Suddenly, it seemed everyone understood that the entire advertising and marketing world was changing.
As I have watched this process, I have been intrigued by the noise appearing in the market heralding this new reality, but at the same time, I have been amazed that all of the noisemakers have missed the biggest and the most fundamental change to marketing that the Internet has wrought. Whereas before, advertising only focused on the tip of the iceberg leaving most of the value proposition to the sales organization to handle, now the Internet can do most, if not all, of the job. The Internet, newly equipped with all the communication tools of television, can now deliver the emotional impact required to truly engage the prospect.
But this doesn’t mean that the Internet is just another television medium. It is, as Joseph Jaffe described so well in his book, Life After the 30-Second Spot, actually something quite new and extraordinary. By combining broadband’s rich media capabilities with the remarkable dimension of interactivity that technology makes possible, the Internet can now fuse branding and selling into one comprehensive experience. Never before in the history of marketing has this been possible.
Think of it this way, before you can begin to sell anything you must first attract the attention of the prospect. TV is good at that, but with the limitation of 30 seconds, the real selling has to come later. This is where the gulf between branding and actual selling lies. The physical limitations of TV, print, radio and outdoors, all the traditional media, have created a model where we market with multiple touches over time that somehow, we hope, add up to our value proposition. The inefficiency of this structure is obvious, but no alternative has existed until broadband brought branding to the Internet.
With the broadband Internet, there is no separation. In one user session we can engage a prospect and move them through most, if not all, of the value proposition. We can discover their specific needs and interests and in real time adapt our story to achieve maximum relevance. We can use the entire arsenal of creative tools, from video to sound to imagery, to create emotional engagement at every step.
We can accelerate understanding, compress the sales cycle and move prospects to the point of sale faster than ever before. At the same time, we can identify those prospects not ready to buy and invite them into an on-going direct CRM conversation. Now companies can have millions of great, one to one, sales people, who will personalize a sales story for each of us and never get tired.
This is not marketing as usual. This is every CEO’s dream; a fusion of branding and sales into one measurable experience. Until this point, our ability to use marketing to supply leads to sales has been a function of the limitations of 20th century media. This new 21st century marketing medium has no limitations in depth, breadth, time, personalization and engagement. It will fundamentally change not only how we view the web, but marketing in general. This is the true marketing promise of the broadband Internet, and rather than just shift ad spend from TV spots to web ads, marketers need to shift to a web-centric strategy that recognizes that a something completely different is going on.