PR is the new marketing and customer service is the new marketing and Paul The Octopus is the new marketing and purple is the new black (thanks to Justin Bieber). Fads, they come and go, but back when I was a young 'un, we talked about something called the 4Ps.
The serious eyebrows discussions were all about the 5th P (people) and then service marketing got greedy and decided they needed 7 Ps and it all got a bit silly. We talked about ‘service-scaping’ (I love that term) and how speeding up the music in the supermarket makes you shop faster (yes it does) and how the screaming kid on the plane makes you hate the airline (yes it does). To squish it into the marketing mix ‘P’ speak this was called ‘physical evidence’ or:
"the environment in which the service is assembled and in which the seller and customer interact, combined with tangible commodities that facilitate performance or communication of the service" (Booms and Bitner, 1981).
Now the wheel reinventers are talking about ‘service design’ and ‘active listening’ and ‘customer touchpoints’ as if they’d found water on Mars.
“Something something Apple Store,” they say, and (here’s the best bit) “ARCHETYPES!”
Then they show you a wizzy PowerPoint slide of the Apple Store in New York and say ‘archetypes’ some more.
When I pointed out to a recent peddler of such snake oil that a) this stuff isn’t new and b) it’s a marketing thing, he got quite upset, told me that I was wrong and that it was all ‘very different’ although he couldn’t tell me how. I used to work for large retailer and I used to love watching videos of poor victims (I mean customers) wandering around in the store being brainwashed (I mean assisted) by propaganda (I mean trade communications) from the Giant Head (I just made that bit up).
Yes marketing has wandered off course and the marketing mix in most organisations has been hijacked by the big sexy old ‘Promotion’ P (hey baby want to be on TV?) but the theory hasn’t changed.
Much of the community and referral techniques we see in loyalty and social media are just Claude C.Hopkins “Scientific Advertising” theories from 1923 that have been microchipped up. Consumer psychology, focus groups, market research, attribute modelling and demographic profiling? How can this stuff be considered new and ‘not a marketing thing”?
Paco Underhill Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping is great little book and Vance Packard The Hidden Persuaders from 1957 is a bit more tinfoil helmet but equally awesome. Archetypes are a Jungian thing and come from Greek times so you can’t claim that one. Jack Trout Differentiate or Die-Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition is the book I always seem to go back to and Philip Kotler keeps knocking out solid meaty marketing theory. In the new kids club, Brian Solis is a lone voice of sanity in the wilderness and he writes fresh and clean like a newly pressed lawn on a freshly mown shirt.
I’m all for a bit for a bit of smoke and mirrors but if you want to rehash Madonna shoulder pads as the latest fashion, pretending that you’ve never heard of Madonna and you thought of it yourself just makes you look thick.
If any Service Designers head this way they will be told to get off my lawn. It's a marketing thing and the Ps were here first.