As the calendar turns to 2015 most people have spent the last few weeks talking about how many amazing things happened in 2014 and marveling about how much things have changed. While the world is moving at a faster pace I am struck by how little optimization and marketing have failed to change since I came on the scene 12 years ago. While there are amazing bells and whistles and so much smoke being blown, very little has really changed about what marketers are really doing, which is a shame considering how poor most marketers have continued to be at their job.
In the past few years there has been an inundation of technology and talk about advanced marketing techniques, big data has spammed everyone to death, and so many people are promising amazing new techniques yet it is just the same old tired crap with a new shade of paint. Marketers have had access to many of these same tactics from well before I joined. Its not like BI and statistical techniques were invented in this century. In the world of online optimization there has been almost no real improvements despite the fact that the marketplace has been spammed with so many new tools and so much new attention. When I started I was working with Offermatica, which became Test&Target, which is now Target. The top “personalization” tool was Touch Clarity. Its biggest competitors are now things like monetate and optimizely, two tools that didn’t exist. Its main competitor optimost is now essentially non existent. There are now a thousand smaller tools like VWO and unbounce and even midway tools like conductrics that provide in many ways the best of both worlds. So new names on the building, but what has really changed?
In terms of data the companies come and go but you still have the same data tools that were there when I started. Now its called Google Analytics instead of urchin, or Adobe Marketing Suite instead of Omniture, but its still the same crap. People talk about all these new acquisition channels like Facebook (friendster 3.0?), mobile, twitter, social, SEO, and SEM strategies as if they aren’t the exact same discussions with a slightly different flavor that was going on long before. Yes there are many more tools to do attribution but still no way for it to really matter or be of value. Yes there are a thousand tools promising targeting of users and yet there is a near certainty that people will go with their gut and not have the discipline to get any real value from these tools; along with a near certainty of them convincing themselves and others that they are getting value. If you are just having the same discussion or thinking in terms of how to take an old strategy to a new medium, then you are not changing, you are forcing the world to stop advancing for the sake of your own cognitive dissonance. Either you treat a new tool and medium as a way to change or challenge what you know or think or you are the problem. The world gets stuck waiting for those that shouldn’t to get caught up with those who should.
I honestly had more features when I first started with an IBM netezza system for data and Offermatica back at version 13 then there exists today, not that it really mattered. Nothing matters about the tools, anyone can fail with any tool, what matters is how you change the way you think in relation to the tools. Yes we have brought the tools to the masses, in the same way that Europeans discovered America and its thousands of inhabitants, and apparently with as much damage to the landscape. So much time is wasted on trying to “improve the customer experience” or “talk to the customer” or “create a 1 on 1 connection” as if those things have any real meaning. I could walk up to 10 different marketers and ask them to really define that term and there is near a 100% chance I either get pure BS or a completely different answer from all of them. If you are still thinking in the same terms then no matter what you do you are going to get stuck with the same results. And don’t get me started on qualitative research, marketing coherts, personas or the same old tired design and UX BS. If it matters, the results will tell you, if it doesn’t, then you are wasting time and resources. That stuff has been around for a really long time and if this is the best it can produce then it obviously is a waste of time.
To make it even worse the market being inundated with the same tired posturing means that anyone new is most likely going to fall for the cotton candy advice they read or hear and that sounds good, and will never know how useless most of it is. Without the ability to really differentiate or think about things in a way that is focused on results all we really get is a negative feedback look that continues to propagate more useless BS and continue the cycle.
I think it is time that people stop talking about how much has changed and instead focused on how little has really changed. I issue a challenge to everyone to give themselves one more new year’s resolution:
I will stop being a “marketer”, I will instead focus on results and efficiency and forget titles, popular opinion, and past BS.
Just look at tools and channels and all of that with a new light. Stop trying to be the same old tired useless BS and instead of trying to copy everyone else just look at things in a new light. Challenge assumptions and “best practices”. Challenge talking heads and just try and see if the things you were doing or the things you believe get better results then other ways of tackling the same problem. Purposely break your own habits and your own perceptions and see just what you can do with each tool and each opportunity. Hell, look for new problems and try to focus your energy on getting the best results from those.
Don’t confuse action with movement and don’t confuse time passing with advancement. The technology may have more flashy buttons and new names and may get faster but the people using it who refuse to change alongside it or who allow others to convince them that they have changed when they are just rearrange deck chairs are the real challenge and the real problem. Either be different or stop pretending anything has really changed.