The Future of Marketing, Yale-Style

Based on what I heard from all the presentations at the Yale School of Management’s recent Customer Insights Conference 2016, if someone were to ask me the buzzwords that will define the future of marketing, my answer would look something like this: Purpose, Customer Valuation, Enrichment, Fans First and Making Things Easy.

For the annual event on the New Haven campus, global thought leaders from the world of academia presented new theories on customer behavior that they had developed and tested, and then had them validated by global thought leaders from the world of business and marketing. Think “ideas test kitchen” sprinkled with real marketplace experience.

Follow these marketing concepts to the letter and you’ll radically improve your chances of having as strong a global brand as the leaders who presented them.

PURPOSE. Johnson & Johnson CMO Alison Lewis said tapping into your brand’s DNA will bring more meaningful solutions and experiences for consumers. That is in contrast to a seductively easy and ineffective list of product features and attributes, which put you in a commodity-style battle with other brands. If you start to communicate with purpose, now your brand means something.  In baby care, J&J took the time to gather customer insights on what using the product means to their consumers.  They found that bathing time was also a bonding, playing and soothing time, so much more than getting clean. J&J created a new global marketing campaign that focuses on the impact of bath time and bedtime on infant development

Studies found that stimulating a baby’s senses, for example a massage during a bath time, can be beneficial to a baby’s development and overall positive expression, such as smiling.  J&J’s higher purpose was to help parents understand the benefits of this.

CUSTOMER VALUATION.  Do you know what your customer is worth?  Do you know which customers are worth the most?  Do you know which customers are wasting your money? These questions, posed by Wharton School Marketing Professor Pete Fader, are as relevant as any “purpose”-oriented approach. From Fader’s way of thinking, not all customers are created equal, and you’ll be better off fine-tuning your focus on a select group rather than trying to be all things to all people.  Take one look at his paper, “Valuing Subscription-Based Businesses Using Publicly Disclosed Customer Data,” and you’ll see how to find customers that are valuable, and learn a lot about their tendencies to understand what purpose your product serves in their lives.

ENRICHMENT.  Kirsten Lynch, CMO at Vail Resorts, said the company explores every detail of guest behavior in order to create luxury ski vacations of a lifetime.  For example, Vail will study guest experiences as they relate vertical feet, trails run, and types of terrain to help tailor future visits – personalizing recommendations with similar characteristics. Lynch said she is very careful on how she approaches new visitors and meticulously profiles top visitors, creates consumer models and finds the most appropriate medium to reach them.

One data-driven study of Vail’s visitor preferences led to more enrichments, as the Epic Summer Discoveries campaign attests.

FANS FIRST. The entire world of marketing changes when you take a ‘fans first” approach, according to Ross Martin, Executive Vice President, Marketing Strategy and Engagement at Viacom Media Networks.  The key is to elevate it to a belief system. When you believe that, it creates an entire operating system that puts the old axiom of building awareness to rest and quickly turns into building experiences. Martin, quoting Elie Wiesel, said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference,” and marketers battle indifference every day without even realizing it.  As a “fans first” example, Martin recalled the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan who requested permission to emboss the TMNT logo on his wedding cufflinks.  While some companies would simply move on, Viacom took the opportunity to create a fan experience and share it with other fans: They paid for the wedding, sent a film crew, and developed memorable experiences like turning the ties into TMNT themed bandannas, wedding cakes, special guests and, of course, the cufflinks.

STAYING TRUE TO BRAND.  This was the mantra of Simon Lowden, President of Pepsico’s Global Snacks Group. As an example, he cited the sports tradition of a Gatorade victory shower for the coach. To help consumers celebrate their own victories, Gatorade partnered with Snapchat to create a lens that gave them the chance to share their own celebration. The Gatorade Dunk Frame generated 165 million views.

Similarly, Lay’s Potato Chips understood that when people eat their chips they smile.  Staying true to that understanding, they created smile bags in overseas markets which Lowden said drove a noticeable increase in sales but didn’t cost the company a single media or marketing dollar.

MAKING THINGS EASY. Zoe Chance, Assistant Professor at Yale SOM, explained the influential power of making things easy, sharing some eye-opening studies on how by moving along the continuum of hard to easy we can influence people to a desired outcome.  For example, millennials have found it extremely easy to tweet their most impulsive thoughts.  But how can a marketer take advantage of that? Easy.  Domino’s Pizza lets people tweet to order.

Robert O'Mara
Managing Director, Strategy and Development