Circa 1994, as teen-aged engineering students we used an old railway foot-over bridge to cross over to a study centre in Dadar West (in Mumbai). On this bridge, we encountered a decrepit old man, slyly pushing a small card into the hands of passersby. His shifty eyes would seek out young and middle-aged men to hand out these cards. To our great consternation, he excluded curious youngsters like us; also excluded were women, children and doddering old men.
When we extended our hands for a card, the man simply growled and silently refused to give us one. After many frustrating days, we finally found a carelessly strewn crumpled card at the foot of the bridge. The card carried an advertisement for a doctor's clinic who, cryptically, specialised in curing men of 'gupt rog'. In those pre-internet days it took conversations with the more worldly wise among us to figure out that gupt rog was a euphemism used to describe a wide variety of unmentionable diseases and discussions on its causes were of course of the salacious kind.
With changing social mores, education and the internet, many of the physical gupt rog afflicting people are no longer gupt or unmentionables, but a different kind of gupt rog ails many of us marketers. And this rog typically reaches its peak around this time of the year.
With the onset of a brand new year, listicles and articles referring to 'the hottest new trends for 2019' or 'top 10 trends that will change marketing forever in 2019' inundate us. Wild predictions and future crystal ball gazing has never been new, but social media and a surfeit of online platforms make broadcasting these easier than ever before. Chasing vanity metrics or the hottest tech fad listed in such lists is probably a gupt rog that ails many and may be among the new unmentionables in marketing echo chambers.
Sample these common gupt rogs, for instance.
The vanity metric unmentionable
Many digital publishers armed with case studies claim massive performance improvements... a typical headline you may have encountered would read '200 per cent improvement in performance'. However, when you deep-dive, you may find that it refers to CTRs improving from 0.3 per cent to 0.6 per cent. Mathematically, of course, this is indeed a 200 per cent improvement, but zero-point-siz-percentage merely means six in one thousand clicked on the banner (a massive increase versus three in one thousand, right?)
And that's only clicks... when you chase it down with variables like viewability, page views, visits, bounce rates, form-fill rates, actual purchase and other realities, the funnel narrows to a straw.
Don't mistake me, am not dissing CTRs altogether, it is an important operational measure to track performance of media dollars, but overstating its importance and not looking at business results, is missing the woods for the trees... and falling for vanity metrics like '200 per cent improvement' is a gupt rog. Referring back to the story of the old man on the bridge, with his targeted approach (excluding women, children and old men), I wonder what his comparable conversions may have been?
The blockchain unmentionable
Blockchain, in many cases, is a solution in desperate search of a problem. Of course, I am not undermining its proven applications and potential opportunities; the real issue is with an approach many take concerning blockchain and of wanting a blockchain solution for something that may even not warrant one. Wanting to hop onto a technology without getting really behind its import is another gupt rog afflicting many.
The 'purpose' unmentionable
Societal branding and its ilk are not new concepts; Kotler wrote about it years ago in his textbook. Regretfully, when many agencies and marketers fail to find a differentiator or a powerful consumer insight, they start hunting down a 'purpose'. If the purpose is core to the brand, then of course it aids brand-building efforts, but supporting an unrelated new purpose is definitely a gupt rog. Remaining true to what your brand stands for is a brand management truism; driving business results and building the brand is the raison d'etre of marketers.
ALSO READ: Does every brand really need a higher purpose?
The content unmentionable
When did advertising become branded content? Almost everything now seems to be termed 'content'; whatever happened to good ol' fashioned advertising? Even Karan Johar makes his films to sell tickets, but when brands make a magnum opus without a business or brand goal, and cringe on hearing the word 'advertising', that definitely qualifies as a gupt rog.
As marketers, we earn our bread by finding customers to buy the 'thingamajig' the company makes or has to sell... and marketing needs to find more customers (new and old) or get them to pay more or get them to buy more or more often. We should endeavour to make this task simple because complicating it needlessly is definitely a gupt rog.
Heck, now even this article, with its own little list of unmentionables reads like one of the year-end articles I warned you to stay away from. Anyway, here's wishing you a gupt rog-free healthy and happy new year.
(The author is General Manager - Consumer Marketing, Ford India. His message to readers: "The opinions expressed in this post are my own and other such disclaimers.")
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