Vodafone’s outgoing director of brand marketing, Daryl Fielding, said the one-to-many broadcast model currently seen as the norm was, in fact, an anomaly in the wider history of marketing.
Speaking at the ISBA conference, Fielding said: "Most of us have grown up in an era where [marketing] was relatively straightforward.
"It was supply side - you figured out what a product did and presented that in a compelling and entertaining way to a public who welcomed it."
She added: "But once we move forward a few decades, we will recognise that as a period in marketing that was very different."
As an alternative, Fielding harked back to a different kind of model – that of a general store in the American Midwest.
She said: "Everyone would know the proprietor of that business. Companies these days have got transparent walls. [Customers] will know if you are dishonest, and they will rumble you."
Fielding added that the modern general store model would require a diverse, multi-channel approach that focuses on building relationships with prospective customers.
She said: "The communication would have been very diverse – sponsoring a fete, hosting an event, chatting about products or having someone with a sandwich board walking up and down the street."
Stop chasing paradigms
Fielding also slammed the industry’s tendency to chase after a new "universal paradigm" – one theme or idea that defines where marketing is going as a discipline.
She said: "It is all about storytelling, then it’s all about data, then it’s content. I would just like us to get over the notion that it’s about any one thing."
Marketers must embrace the fact that their discipline has become extremely complicated, with an endless number of customer touchpoints, according to Fielding. With that comes a certain loss of control, at least in the traditional sense.
She introduced the idea of ‘VUCA’, a military term which stands for ‘volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity’ in any given situation.
Fielding pointed to the shake-up in the telecoms market as an example of VUCA, with the proposed merger between O2 and Three, and BT's acquisition of EE.
She said: "We have to be structured and organised, and capable of dealing with a highly complex marketing universe where we don’t always know how things are going to land.
"That’s going to continue for the foreseeable future."