What Marketers Can Learn From David Bowie
Multi-faceted artist, musician and businessman David Bowie was a true innovator and legend. Columnist Mary Wallace explains what his accomplishments can teach marketers.
The news came over the radio early on a Monday morning last month. David Bowie had died after an 18-month battle with cancer. I was devastated.
Bowie was my music idol. Just ask my college roommate, who had to live through our freshman year in a room where Bowie posters covered every available wall space.
To the world, Bowie was much more. He was a driving force in shaping music, fashion and videos. A creative genius, he was constantly trying new things. Yet at the same time, he maintained a sound grip on his business. Looking at his life and career, we marketers can learn so much!
Tell A Story
Put aside the spangly jumpsuits, platform boots and eyepatch, the catchy, unexpected riffs and complex, layered musical arrangements, the mad personas, the glam rock edginess. At the heart of it, David Bowie was a storyteller — a brilliant, kooky, highly original storyteller.
Storytelling, one of the main components of a content marketing strategy, breathes life into your brand. It gives your products and services an identity with which your buyers can form a personal connection.
An old adage attributed to Carl W. Buehner says, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” And what’s the best way to make people feel? By telling a compelling story.
As marketers, we need to educate our prospects. We need to tell a good story and build a connection.
Our stories need to be about people, have a clear meaning and stir emotions. They have to engage and convert.
Businesses that tell a good story have an advantage. And because brands are now publishers, and the channels for distributing publications are ubiquitous thanks to social media, it’s in the hands of marketers to tell a good story that engages, converts and drives business.
A master of transformation, Bowie pioneered many changes in the music world. Many times he reinvented himself to take full advantage of what the current era had to offer: moon landings, disco, video.
For example, his 1983 “Let’s Dance” album’s sound and look influenced a new generation of musicians — ones for whom he had paved the way.
Marketers, too, must embrace change — both in terms of their role within the organization and the tools they use to do their jobs. The changes — and the velocity at which those changes are happening — are driven by buyers being in the driver’s seat and the advancement of the technology they use to steer their purchases.
The good news is that the majority of us know change is here. According to the Digital Roadblock report from Adobe, 64 percent of marketers expect their role to change in the next 12 months. Unfortunately, only 14 percent say they know how to go about reinventing themselves.
Allie Kline, the chief marketing officer of AOL, offered this advice at the Direct Marketing Association’s conference, according to 1to1 Media:
[blockquote] Marketers need to learn how to fail fast. You have to set a goal that is an acquisition goal and elimination goal… You have to be OK with throwing it away.[/blockquote]
Marketers need to update their skills to make the most of the fast-moving digital environment that includes email, big data, social media and mobile. Understanding new buying behaviors, changes in the buying process and how customers engage is a must.
It’s essential for marketers to harness the power of the tools in the martech stack and learn how they improve engagement. Continuing to market with the same tools and techniques used five years ago makes marketers and their companies obsolete.
Manage Your Business
An artist first, Bowie understood business. He was the first to float a celebrity bond based on future income for past albums.
No, marketers can’t float bonds, but we have a direct impact on sales and market share, so we must maintain a laser focus on the business. Are the leads we’ve generated producing revenue? Is the pipeline of qualified leads growing? How quickly are leads moving through the buying cycle?
Yes, innovation is important. But if it’s not producing business results, marketers need to throw it away and try something different.
Only by focusing on business will CMOs obtain and retain their seat at the boardroom table. And with the evolution of marketing technology, the metrics that show marketing’s impact on the business are much simpler and more quantifiable.
Creating strong alliances with sales is another key to marketing’s impact on business success. In fact, companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve a 20-percent annual growth rate (See the PDF here), according to the Aberdeen Group. Companies with poor sales and marketing alignment have a four-percent revenue decline.
In Madison Square Garden at his 50th birthday concert, Bowie famously said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” Boring he never was.
With an incredible eye for managing his brand and business, Bowie’s legend lives on. For marketers, listening to and harnessing what he showed us will help us drive engagement and grow a thriving business.