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Today Marketing or Tomorrow Marketing

by Randall Craig on June 26, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Marketing, Strategy

Tagged as: , , ,

Think what it was like to be Lewis Downing Jr:  Back in the mid-late 1800’s, he was the President of the Abbot-Downing Company, one of America’s most celebrated stagecoach manufacturers.  He was at the top of his game, literally opening up the west with his vehicles.  Lewis Downing Jr. supported an entire industry, from wagon wheel makers and other supplier companies, to stagecoach stations and an entire service sector.

While this is an interesting historical footnote, stagecoaches and wagon wheels are little more than curiosities.  Fast forward 100 years, though: will people be thinking the same about our work?

The challenge today is that 10 years has become the new 100 years, and our work is becoming a footnote far faster than ever before.   Think about what you grew up with, and is no longer around:

  • Telex machines (replaced by Fax machines)
  • Fax machines (replaced by email)
  • Dial telephones, and for some, even landline “home” phones (replaced first by push-button phones, and then by cellphones)
  • “Tube” TVs (replaced by flatscreen TVs)
  • Walkmans (replaced by iPods, and then replaced by Smartphones)
  • VCRs (replaced by DVDs, which are being replaced by downloads)
  • Records (replaced by CDs, and are now being replaced by iTunes and streaming services)
  • TV antennas (replaced by Cable TV, which is now being replaced by streaming services)
  • Retail bookstores and ‘record’ stores (replaced by iTunes and Amazon)

While the increasing speed of change is not new, how we market around it is.  Today, marketers have two key responsibilities: the ‘today’ marketing of today’s products and services, and the ‘today’ discovery of tomorrow’s products and services. Unfortunately, because of the very real pressure to drive current quarter sales, most marketers focus exclusively on the today.  Tomorrow is someone else’s problem.

Yet it need not be, and here’s why:  the two activities of today marketing and tomorrow marketing are intrinsically connected:  Yes, Competitive intelligence, Market research, and Social Media monitoring are important activities for today marketing.  But these same three items provide important clues for tomorrow marketing, and need to be equally viewed through the tomorrow lens.  Social Media particularly can act as a forum to discover nascent needs, test drive product or service ideas, test drive marketing positioning and creative.

Lewis Downing Jr. and the Abbot-Downing Company may have done a great job of today marketing, but could not make the transition from horse-drawn carriages to the horseless variety.  Sony developed the wildly successful Walkman, but it wasn’t them who developed the iPod: it was Apple.  One key  reason Abbot-Downing, Sony, and so many others fail is because they don’t listen to the signals.  In other words, they neglect the important job of tomorrow marketing.

This week’s action item:  Looking at your marketing plan for the year, what percentage of your time and budget are focused on today marketing vs tomorrow marketing?  Are you satisfied with the mix?  If not, this week make a change: tomorrow will only take care of itself if you take care of tomorrow today.

Marketing Insight:  Tomorrow Marketing provides important insights that can be used well beyond the marketing department.  It provides the seeds of ideas (and a reality check) for Research and Development, and is a critical input to the strategic planning process.

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Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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