It’s about the customer, not the channel


I’m writing this from about 34,000 feet above Iowa, heading back to Seattle from the iMedia Brand Summit in Florida. As usual, it was a fantastic conference. You can read more about what happened and what was said here, including a Q&A from a familiar round head.

I wanted to comment on a phrase I heard a few times throughout the conference, particularly by those promoting the mobile marketing opportunity. Mobile marketing, for the blissfully uninitiated, is the use of handheld and otherwise mobile channels for marketing – things like cell phones, Blackberry’s, PDAs, even iPods. The phrase used so often this past week was “triple play”, meant to represent 1) traditional media (TV, radio, print, outdoor, etc.), 2) online media (primarily the Internet and email), and 3) mobile media (defined above).

I get the definition, but still believe strongly that we’re doing ourselves and consumers a disservice when we define our marketing strategies based on channels. Twenty years ago, there was no true Internet. Ten years ago, I guess, we started making double plays. Now, we’re into triple plays. So what happens when a fourth significant marketing channel develops? Is that a quadruple play? (How many blades does that razor have, exactly?)

Smart brands and smart marketers know that a channel-based marketing focus misses the mark. Marketing doesn’t start with channels, it starts with a customer. It starts with his needs, her desires, his and her daily lives and how we are making it better, easier.

Yes, we are likely trying to reach them through some type of channel marketing strategy. But don’t think for a minute that consumers break their daily media consumption habits into channels. They don’t think in terms of “now is my 20 minutes of online channel time, then I’ll pay attention to my offline channels, then I’ll be on my cell phone. Hey, that’s a triple play!”

If the phrase “triple play” helps more marketers discover mobile devices as another means of reaching an increasingly decentralized consumer, that’s fine. But let’s not forget that people make purchase decisions much the same way as they always have. Based on need, emotional connection, relevance, instinct and impulse. These drivers transcend channels.