All signs point to this one marketing mega-trend

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By Mark Schaefer

I’m not a great singer or athlete. I can’t dance (my kids pay me to stop) and I can’t repair a car to save my life. But one thing I can do is discern how trends are coming together, see where the world is going, and where we need to be next. Dwelling in a vision of the future is where I am most happy! For the last two years I’ve been doing research for a new book and it has been an illuminating experience. I can see where we’re going next and I’d like to talk about it today.

The ad agency with no ads

Here’s a little story that illustrates the marketing mega-trend of all mega-trends. One of the companies I feature in the forthcoming book is a remarkable ad agency called Giant Spoon. A few days ago, they were named breakout agency of the year by AdWeek magazine. Giant Spoon explains their business model this way: “We are an advertising agency that aspires to never make an ad.” Isn’t that very strange? An agency that doesn’t make ads was named ad agency of the year! The agency’s specialty is creating fun, immersive brand experiences — I first encountered them when I visited their re-creation of the Westworld set at SXSW.. This remarkable little news story points to a significant trend for all of us.

The end of the easy button

We are entering the post-advertising, post-loyalty era. For many businesses, it’s already here. For more than a century, advertising was the best way to get the word out about our products and services but today, consumers are increasingly unreachable. Even if they see your ad, they probably don’t believe it. In this new era, we must find new, more human-centered approaches to sharing our tales. Let’s dissect the Giant Spoon story and peel back the implications.

  • Giant Spoon is not interrupting anybody. Through their epic activations, they are organically appearing in the streets and neighborhoods already filled with their ideal customers.
  • People wait in line — some times for hours — to experience their activations.
  • The success comes from creating something so great that people want to share it. In essence, the customers do the work, they become the marketing department. And really, this is the only thing that works any more because people don’t trust companies, they only trust each other.
  • Tying a successful activation to more sales is virtually impossible. The farther we get from traditional advertising, the harder it is to measure.

The era of human-centered marketing

Not all marketing in the future is going to be as epic as re-creating a Westworld set, But in this example, we can see characteristics that will be the hallmarks of the new marketing era. Never intercept, never interrupt. Create authentic, meaningful experiences native to the customer’s culture and values. Deliver something so remarkable that the customers spread the word and do the marketing work for you. And measurement? Increasingly difficult … but that doesn’t mean you don’t do it. The marketing mega-trend driving all mega-trends is the human-centered marketing movement. Marketing will have to help people belong, believe, and find meaning. It will have to be on the customer’s terms and we will depend entirely on our customers for marketing success. I cannot over-emphasize how disruptive this is going to be for most companies. But I am 100 percent certain that this is the key to marketing success in the future. We simply will not have a choice about it. It’s time for a marketing revolution and it is already happening. This is the major theme of my new book Marketing Rebellion and I literally can’t wait for you to see it in January 2019.

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for {grow}, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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Originally published at on December 18, 2018.

Written by

Chieftain of the blog {grow}, strategy consultant, educator, podcaster, author of Return On Influence, The Content Code, and The Tao of Twitter.

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