Organizations, like people, are complex entities structured and determined by the environment in which they develop. Most of them today follow the guidelines of traditional marketing. These guidelines are the old marketing paradigms. That notion seeks to generate demand by offering more of the same at a more competitive price. The result leads to the stagnation of brands, the lack of innovation, and, fundamentally, not listening to the customer as the main link in the chain of brand equity.
But… what is a paradigm?
“Paradigms offer acceptable models with which we can approach problem-solving” (Braidot, 1997). But when some radical change occurs, these paradigms can prevent the development and acceptance of new ideas. For this reason, the first challenge for any brand that intends to be innovative is to fight against the old models embedded in the organizational culture.
For his part, the English philosopher Simon Sinek intends to break down certain paradigms that prevent organizations from advancing along the path of innovation. Sinek argues that a widespread mistake when talking about innovation is to confuse the term with novelty. Unlike innovations, novelties are easily matched and even surpassed by the competition. So something new does not imply that it is innovative.
In this sense, it is what most companies have been doing in recent decades. They add new attributes and functionalities to their products and services without breaking paradigms or skipping pre-established patterns. In the same way, they seek to focus on the sale, profitability, or safety of what is already known to replicate the same formulas repeatedly.
Below we will explain these old marketing paradigms and what we can do to overcome them.
What are the old marketing paradigms? The golden circle.
According to Sinek, all organizations and individuals know what they do. Many know how they do it, but only a few know why. The hierarchical relationship between these three questions forms what the author calls the golden circle. The relevance of this innovative concept leads to rethinking a whole way of seeing organizations and their business models.
For example, it was knowing why what led Apple to be one of the most innovative and successful companies in the world. The answer to that question sums up its whole reason for being. That is thinking differently and challenging the status quo in everything it does. We can link that to how people and organizations think and act. We can also connect it to specific parameters that delimit communication and interaction with the world.
For a large majority, that communication goes from the most defined to the most diffuse. From the plausible outer shell to the amorphous forms in which specific models transform their reason for being. But, as Sinek says, those inspired people and companies who manage to overcome these barriers and make a significant leap communicate from the inside out, from deep self-knowledge.
The first paradigm
In the first place, one of the best-known traditional marketing paradigms is seeking to rationalize customers’ purchase decisions. It achieves this through linear communication limited to listing the attributes and virtues of the products and services offered. Likewise, it manages to exalt how different and better they are compared to the competition and hopes that the audience accepts it without further ado because it is what is supposed to happen.
On the other hand, advances in recent decades in neuroscience, neuropsychology, and positive psychology have unleashed a revolution in marketing. These advances began to break down those old marketing paradigms, giving rise to neuromarketing. That new discipline seeks to respond to the reason for certain behaviors in customers and organizations.
These advances facilitate the understanding of the human brain and mind in decision-making. Likewise, the most evolved part of the brain, the rational part, rarely takes action regarding consumption. Therefore, a product’s or service’s attributes and benefits are not decisive in purchasing.
Apple’s success and communication show that people don’t buy what a company does; they buy why it does it. That creates a link between the brand and the consumer at a much deeper level. That bond goes beyond rationality and established models. The purchase decision thus becomes an act of faith. The goal is not to sell to people what a company has. The goal is to sell to people who share the same beliefs. So the key is not in the product and its benefits but in the brand’s beliefs and values that it represents.
The second paradigm
Another of the old marketing paradigms we must try to break down is the famous 4P model. This model has served traditional marketing for decades as a roadmap for developing any plan, campaign, or launch. The notions of product, price, place, and promotion make noise in an empty box in the face of the new millennium marketing challenges. Therefore, recycling and adapting these concepts to current market demands is necessary.
Questioning the 4Ps of marketing
As mentioned, thinking about the product is a poor starting point. Most companies start their marketing plans outside-in of Sinek’s golden circle. They put all their efforts into the product, into its benefits, into enriching the USP, and they forget the important thing: why they do it. At the same time, they are permanently attentive to the competition. This strategy automatically leads us to think of positioning by price and an absurd war that takes the focus off the ultimate goal: the consumer.
As for the square, it is vital to know how within the golden circle. Given the great competition and proliferation of increasingly innovative products and services, it is valid to bring up the principle of divergence. To differentiate yourself in saturated markets, you have to sub-segment. That is to go to niches where there is room to innovate and break through to new markets. The “how” will be the roadmap that will guide the reason for being of the company and will lead brands to connect with customers more effectively. It is your differential value, your unique selling proposition. Knowing how to be in the exact place with the particular assortment at the precise time is crucial.
Finally, to talk about promotion, you must understand that the business is to contact and influence the audience rather than the channels used in this globalized and hyper-connected world. That is because these channels will quickly go out of fashion, and others will replace them. Radio, television, and Facebook could soon be obsolete channels for communication.
The third marketing paradigm
Another of the old marketing paradigm is related to communication. Today, customers want first-person experiences and aren’t in the mood to wait for answers. People want to speak and want someone to listen. Desire, freedom, identity, and emotions are intrinsic values of the new generations. Companies build demands around them that they must keep their promise. The audience is increasingly skeptical of a discursive apparatus that tells them what to think or how to live. Whether a political or advertising speech, the message is crossed by a language that is losing effectiveness.
For this reason, people no longer believe in brands, politicians, or organizations. They seek to relate to their peers by exchanging ideas, anecdotes, and advice. They even purchase goods and services in collaborative communities with similar values and beliefs. It does not surprise the exponential growth that TripAdvisor has had in recent years. The collaborative tourism social network owes its success to the fact that it empowers users to share their opinions, photos, and anecdotes, to make the best decision regarding their trips. Therefore, communication no longer goes through a two-way channel with a single interlocutor but moves through multiple increasingly personalized channels. That is the personalization of communication.
Disassociate yourself from the old marketing models that said you had to come screaming with great frequency and coverage to launch a product. To break with this paradigm, the customer must be the center. People no longer want brands to tell them what to do. They are the ones who wish to speak and want someone to listen. Therefore, looking for more innovative ways to generate value is necessary.
How to escape the old marketing paradigms?
The problem with these paradigms is that people and organizations see their behavior affected by assumptions or perceived truths often based on false or incomplete information. That affects the decision-making process, so they make decisions based on what they believe to be known.
Sinek believes that even with the best knowledge, the most information, the best advice, and the best technology, sometimes things turn out differently than you expect. That is due to the trap that specific patterns play in the minds of people or organizations. Those patterns force them to seek solutions to a problem that started from the beginning based on a faulty assumption. If we ask most companies today why their customers are their customers, they would surely respond to topics such as the highest quality of their products, benefits, best price, or service level. That shows they have no idea why their customers are. Therefore, they make decisions based on partial or false assumptions of what drives their business.
To put it differently, to escape the old marketing paradigms, you have to ask why. Why we do what we do, and why we make our decisions. Similarly, ask ourselves what kind of organization we want to be and where our values lie.
Manipulate or inspire. That is the question of creating new marketing paradigms.
Consistent with the discussion above, there are two ways to influence behavior: manipulation and inspiration. The first goes directly to the brain’s neocortex or rational part. This form captures attention in many ways, whether through fear, promotion, low prices, aspirational messages, or promising innovations. The second way targets the most emotional part of the brain, the limbic part. It is responsible for feelings such as trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for human behavior and decision-making and has no ability for speech.
In other words, people can understand complex information like features, benefits, formulas, and numbers when communication happens from outside. But that is different from what explains consumer behavior. When communication occurs from the inside out, a part of the brain that controls behavior makes a direct connection. That allows people to streamline their speech. More precisely, it leads to confronting what is said and what is done in tangible things, thus leading to automated decisions.
In conclusion, to better understand why customers make their decisions, it is necessary to delve into the psychological aspects that motivate them and those that brands carry in their image and language. But we will leave that for the following article.