Experiences Define Success in 7th Era of Marketing

January 22, 2015

Marketers need to move a step beyond traditional relationship marketing to a model that emphasizes the creation and management of valuable customer experiences, write coauthors Carla Johnson and Robert Rose in their new book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. Johnson, a marketing consultant who serves as vice president of thought leadership for the Business Marketing Association, spoke with Buzz about the changes she sees in the industry and the need for not a codified set of best practices but an evolving set of better practices.

Q.This book stems from trends you noticed while working as a consultant. What did you learn from clients?

A. Companies that succeed have different perspectives on how marketing works within their organizations, what its role is, and how [marketers] can lead strategic direction. Marketing really is the frontline connection with customers and the marketplace. [Successful companies] look at how marketers bring that back into their organizations and work collaboratively with IT, product development, and HR.

Marketing is no longer about a product or service, though you’ll get back to that when you get close to an actual sale. It is much more about solving customers’ problems. There was a marketing professor named Theodore Levitt in the 1960s who talked about how customers don’t care about a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole. Years later we’re still trying to help marketers talk about a quarter-inch hole.

Q.And this is part of the thinking that differentiates the 7th era?

A. Yes. You need to know your brand purpose to understand the difference that you’re making in the lives of your customers. Once you understand that, you can understand what kind of experience to create. Those experiences can be going out into the customer’s world to solve a problem, or about the models that you use to create your own business. Aon does this. They’ve gone from purely transactional types of relationships with customers to a very consultative relationship, answering questions and solving problems. They are a peer rather than a vendor.

Q. What are the core opportunities of this new era?

A. This is where marketing is going and where customers are going. So one big opportunity is to just keep pace with how the profession is changing. Another is to have more relevant and deeper relationships with customers and be able to build systems of engagement in order to create experiences.

The role of marketing within an organization is going to expand. Marketers have an opportunity to drive growth within their organizations and with customers. They’ll be able to be much more innovative about how to solve customer problems. And they’ll be the group within an organization that unifies all others. If you look at companies that are most successful, marketing has been able to break down silos and work with people across the organization.

Q. The book explores a process for creating content-driven experiences. What is the content creation management process you describe?

A. It’s actually a framework. The book gives marketers a big idea of what the process can look like and then how they can tailor it to their own environments. They need to be able to scale content creation from an enterprise level to make sure that content is consistent and relevant and speaks to the buyer journey and buyer personas.

Q. You talk about this as an evolving process, as developing better practices rather than best practices. How do you want marketers to use the book?

A. I’d like them to understand how significantly marketing is changing. As marketers, they have an opportunity to be strategic drivers within their organizations. I want them to understand how they can make a difference. There are a lot of tactics they can apply within 90 days. They don’t have to get the entire enterprise on board. One person can be a committed citizen to make a difference.

Visit the Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing website for more information. The book is slated for release in February, and a free download of the introduction is available now.


"Experiences Define Success in 7th Era of Marketing." BMA Buzz. 1/22/15.