04 August 2006

Design | Marketing | Advertising… is that it?

I was having a conversation this weekend with a friend and fellow professional, Scott Bower. Scott is an exceptionally bright person and a very talented interaction designer. He asked me if there was a book or place where he could research a user centric approach to marketing. It kind of stopped me cold.

Scott and I have had many long conversations about the divide in design schools between the “studio” or old school craft approach, and the more mature “design thinking” movement. We have also had in depth conversations about how the advertising agency model has long been broken. Hell, aside from that, they have been in five-year panic trying to figure out how to integrate interactive media. Most still see it as a department in the agency, or something they sub out to a specialty house.

Design has moved definitively towards user centric models, drawing on new forms of insight and market intelligence. Businesses such as Southwest Airlines and Proctor and Gamble are moving to customer centric models. But where is marketing? Are marketing professionals “getting it?” Did we not all read the “The Cluetrain Manifesto” like five years ago - and yet most marketing is still backwards facing. Still forcing industry jargon and internal formulated groupings of products and features into the market based on company agendas and available technology.

The customer is always right.
It seems a tired line from sales or customer service thinking of years ago. I don’t think managers that said it really meant it at a level beyond getting through the customer dissatisfaction of that particular moment.

The customer is always right.
In the beginning of the purchase process as people (not yet customers) are in the “problem recognition” phase they are only beginning to realize their needs. As they enter the “search for information” phase, they often find themselves making compromises based upon what is available. There is nearly always a gap – some level of disconnect between the customers needs and what is available. This is why some 80% of all products fail. Marketing needs to become customer facing. Allowing people to shop and buy in the same way the determine their needs will allow us as marketers to provide better information the those charged with developing new products. That is consumer faced marketing.