there is no new

There is no new

Innovation and keeping a level head

There is always the next big thing. But most new big things are built on old things (often literally). That is how inventions work. Whilst this article focuses on marketing innovations and communication strategies, if you are someone who gets easily distracted by shiny and new, these are the words for you. This article is not saying that there are no new inventions. It is about how the strategies that work for new platforms and technologies are fundamentally the same as old tech and platforms.

Marketing truths, now and forever

If you never, ever read anything else on marketing, you should know these truths:

  • What your clients and prospects think and say about you matters more than what you say in copy
  • Keeping customers and rewarding loyalty is better than chasing new business
  • A tidy data house pays ten-fold in the future
  • Cutting out meaningless words and phrases makes your marketing authentic and impactful
  • It is always about the benefit to the client (rather than to you)
  • We (as consumers) trust the opinions of friends and family over others
  • Purchases are emotionally driven

At least according to yours truly. These are based on 10 years of experience of working with different companies, associations and charities across a range of sectors. But these are my truths, with only business performance as evidence (and we all know there is always more than one version of the truth out there).

New technology and existing principals

Social Media

An incredibly powerful tool when used well, social media can transform marketing. Social media relies on concepts which have been around for years, hence it’s not being new. There are a few key principals when it comes to social media:

  • The users drive the success
  • Content must stand out
  • Engagement drives performance

None of these principles are unique to social media or new in terms of marketing communication.

The core difference in social media is a platform where the users are the product. To be successful (in terms of ROI) on social media you should:

  • Have copy and/or images that stood out against the noise
  • Tell a story and engage your audience
  • Define and refine your audience
  • Test your ad copy and image/video set
  • Double down on efforts that return positive ROI
  • Monitor performance in terms of revenue not just the lowest cost ad

Again these are not new ways of approaching an advertising channel. The first advert, according to a through Google Search, is in the British Museum. In 3000 BC an enterprising chap called Hapu living in the city of Thebes, offered a reward for the return of his slave. In this reward, he happens to mention that his store makes the most amazing rugs that are bespoke to the clients’ requirements. In this advert, he has covered the main elements you’d expect to see in modern social media content (see above).

Social media has turbo-charged connection and sharing of information. But the concept of sharing ideas, connecting with like-minded individuals and sourcing entertainment is not new.

I write about social media in this slightly controversial way because many business owners are terrified of it and it is because they don’t know what to do. But, in understanding that the platform runs off values that they are already familiar with they are able to separate the challenges around the platform (the technology bit) and focus on the part they can get to grips with and actually ads the most value to their business (the communication bit).

The platform challenges can be overcome with training and practice. What they should do on it, well that’s not new.


Technology has only increased the number of influencers we are exposed to. It has also meant that ‘becoming an influencer’ is now a very real career aspiration. Previously reputation would be built, then influenced leveraged. Now the career starts with wanting to become an influencer and the work is building the audience.

The first influencers

Pope Francis dubbed Virgin Mary “the first ‘influencer” and in the purest sense religious leaders were influencers. They changed behaviour and set trends that would expand beyond their physical reach.

Celebrities have been used as influencers but even pre-social media brands had started to understand that popular teenagers could influence their peers*. Using influencers has always been about leveraging wider networks and associating personal attributes and values of the influencer to the brand.

If you are interested in the full history of influencers then Gatsby has created this handy infographic:

Gatsby - history of the influencer

You can see from the above that we are back to anyone being able to be an influencer. Just as we were at the start. Again, an example of the principals being old, and the means being new.

The right influencer

The ‘secret’ behind influencers has been about identifying the right person.

The only question you need to ask in identifying the right influencer is:

Who is close enough (physically or virtually) and trusted enough to my target audience (and only your target audience)

Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point explains this further

“There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them”

You don’t want your products to end up (visibly) in the hands of someone who doesn’t align to your values. Burberry had an exceptionally rough patch when their products where adopted by the wrong kind of influencers which meant the popularity increased dramatically for an unintended audience. It took years for the company to re-establish its reputation as a luxury brand rather than an item that got you banned from nightclubs.

You can read more about the consequences for the brand and how they re-invented themselves here:

Big Data

Is all about understanding your audience and making informed decisions, this is not new. However, the scale and complexity of big data is certainly new. Apparently we now create more data in two days than we have done for the previous two thousand years. We just can’t help creating data touchpoint through our transactions, social media and tv choices.

But the truth of data, now and forever, is that it needs to be organised and it needs to have a purpose. GDPR was supposed to stop us hoarding data like we thought there might be a data pandemic in the future. This hasn’t really happened apart from some companies adding a cookie pop-up and canning off some old email addresses.

Admittedly, arguing that big data is not new is more challenging than other marketing concepts as it is so strongly tied to AI which is new. Intelligence = not new, our no longer being in control of it = new. But that is more of a dystopian Black Mirror article than a marketing one.

The principals/ethos of small data should be followed to use big data successfully in terms of marketing strategy;

  • Start with your audience
  • Segment, personalise, test and control
  • Remember data represents real people and their actions
  • Data should serve a clear purpose and be used meaningfully

The actual techniques (the technology and processes) are obviously totally different. Systems, checks, security, analytics and protocols have to be more advanced. Teams need to be experience and numerous. Vargas and Solar from the Data Science and Management Journal explain:

new methodologies, algorithms and tools for querying, deploying and programming data management functions have to be provided in scalable and elastic architectures that can cope with the characteristics of Big Data aware systems

Why there is no new

Because we are human and for the moment, a physical being is responsible for the majority of our purchasing decisons. How we gather information, compare and make buying decisions has changed in terms of platforms, but the fundamentals of emotional decision making remain. We still, despite the world of online influencers, trust our friends and family most when it comes to recommendations. Even to the point that we will ignore an online 3-star review and book the restaurant anyway.

We, as humans, just haven’t changed that much. We want to feel good about what we buy, we want to feel special and we want to trust in the exchange we are making. Anything else can make us feel a bit icky about the exchange and we are likely to look for an alternative.

So, whilst the technology is rapidly changing and the volume of information we are provided with is certainly growing, the foundations of marketing and selling to others has not changed. There is no new.

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

*I’ve trawled the interweb and cannot find the examples I was looking for. But I read, many years ago, that one US trainer brand had figured out that if the cool kids in the school wore their shoes the rest of the school would follow. So, for the small cost of sending out one free pair they were able to influence hundreds of other children. 

About Good Words Online

This blog was designed to be a home for all the content I’ve created over the years. It is a mix of book reviews, personal reflections and business learnings. There is no definitive way to live or work, we all make our own choices. I in no way think I am right about any particular subject. This is simply about sharing what I’ve learnt and creating an online reminder for myself.

The name, good words, has no religious references. We can’t be good all the time. Each of us will make mistakes. All we can do is try to learn from them and try and attempt to be a little better next time.

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