Who Killed Bowling?
Bowling wasn’t just the focus of the 1998 movie “The Big Lebowski”. Over the course of many years it was also the be-all-and-end-all in communications. The emphasis here is on “was”. Back then, many people referred to it as “integrated overall communication”. In other words, measures that were integrated with respect to form, content and time. Brands talked about their products and their characteristics, and the campaigns were quasi bowling balls that were rolled towards the middle of target groups, hoping to “hit” as many of them as possible.
Hit the target as accurately as possible – what the marketers of yesterday, today and tomorrow all want. But slowly, more and more killers crept into this perfected bowling system. We all love brands – many of them. And we also hate brands – a few. Somehow, we perceive thousands of brands every day, though they will never make it onto our list of the best. They remain meaningless to us. That’s always been the case. Correct. But because of extreme changes in media usage behavior and the increase in channels of recent years, classic target-group marketing using that traditional bowling approach has become a thing of the past.
“If we were able to talk figuratively of bowling in marketing back then, we can see that we have now arrived in the pinball age.”
Pinball is in!
If we were able to talk figuratively of bowling in marketing back then, we can see that we have now clearly arrived in the pinball age. We no longer roll just one ball in a bid to hit the target-group pins (or potentially miss them completely). Quite the contrary: In order to be perceived, we must have multiple balls in play simultaneously. Simple marketing communication was yesterday. Today, interaction is what leads to brand success.
In the process, the target group becomes the core and central point of reference for integrated communication. Only through a collective approach can visions, enthusiasm and relationships be built. However, is everybody really well prepared for pinball? Here is a checklist of three questions:
More and more, the target group is becoming a communication partner on an equal footing. The group has a voice, discussing and deciding whether it likes something or not. Is this something you are open to?
Pinball is taking the place of bowling. Integrated omni-channel strategies are replacing one-way communication. Everything is becoming more complex, while marketing departments remain the same size. Are you willing to trust channel management to someone outside your organization?
Bowling is slow. Decisions are a long time coming. Media plans are often locked in stone a whole year in advance. Pinball is fast. Decisions are immediate and the media plans of the past are replaced by a self-fertilizing system of paid, owned and earned media. Is this something your organization is prepared for?
Time is NOW:
Your task as a brand manager is to enable your target groups to embark on their own customer journey to the benefit of your brand. This marks a change process in your marketing- and possibly even your corporate culture, one that is not easy and takes some time. But only those who take these new paths will meet with long-term success.
The Big Lebowski – a cult classic. Only now, it isn’t rented out at video stores, bought as a DVD or aired late night on TV. Does that mean fewer people get to see the film? No. Far from it. Today, however, it is solely the consumer who determines how and when s/he will consume the movie. Metaphorically, even “the Dude” is playing pinball today. Follow his example. Right now!