What I was going to do for the rest of my life became crystal clear when I had my first marketing class in 1983 and heard Kotler’s definition: “Marketing is the human activity directed at satisfying human needs and wants through an exchange process”.  This intense moment of “intellectual enlightenment” unleashed a burning ambition on my part to work in advertising and become a facilitator of this “unparalleled human satisfaction process”.

Since then I’ve heard and read around another one hundred definitions of “marketing” but most are variations on Kotler. Last year Heidi Cohen did a very nice job in her blog by listing seventy two such definitions: http://heidicohen.com/marketing-definition/

Thirty years later we are living the most exciting development in marketing since Kotler wrote his book in 1980. Adaptive Marketing allows consumers to satisfy their individual needs in relation to a given brand.

The significance of adaptive marketing is that it hails the end of mass market, mass appeal products promoted in mass media.

The beauty of adaptive marketing is that consumers will be much less likely to switch brands, since by personalizing a product to a customer; it ceases to be a commodity, increases its relevance and optimizes the brand experience on the part of the consumer.

The bottom-line is less downward pressure on pricing, as consumers are prepared to pay more for personalized products and services.

So what are the fundamentals of adaptive marketing?

  1. Trust:  Consumers have to feel comfortable about sharing their personal data with companies who sell the products or services they need. This puts corporate reputation and CSR at the forefront of successful adaptive marketing.
  2. Information Processing: the collection and analysis of data regarding both actual and potential consumers is the key factor that enables companies to personalize their offering and to communicate it optimally throughout the brand’s touchpoints.
  3. Speed: To avoid potential brand switching, brands have to track and respond to their consumers very quickly. This means continuous interaction between brands and consumers and a constant consistent effort to meet in every new and relevant channel that becomes available.
  4. Positive Engagement: adaptive marketing is not the end of “push marketing” but requires a less invasive, more holistic approach. Once the brand has identified its potential consumers, it needs to make periodic, relevant and engaging recommendations to its target audience. At the same time the brand has to avoid alienating consumers by making unwelcome or untimely recommendations that turn people away.
  5. Transparency: Allow consumers to create their own products and share it with others. Crowd sourcing will become an ever increasing part of the way products and services are created. Clients and agencies need to tear down the boundaries both inside and outside their organizations, creating incentives and giving people the tools to join forces and collaborate.
  6. Price differentiation: fine tuning on the part of companies to deliver each adapted branded product or service at the right price is critical to the success of an adaptive marketing strategy.
  7. Rethinking media: just when marketers are getting to grips with “digital”, adaptive marketing is a permanent game changer requiring a 24/7 360º relationship between brands and people using media in a permanent, multidirectional dynamic.
  8. Leadership: the successful brands will be the ones with marketers and external partners, both agencies and consumers themselves, who dare the status quo and create new, audacious brand experiences.
  9. Experimentation: companies have to be willing to accept new media and technology and enforce permanent organizational change.
  10. Identity: throughout this process brands have to stay true to their personality. It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but in fact it makes brands even more like people. The capacity to constantly adapt whilst upholding their values will be the success formula for brands in the future.