In a meeting earlier this week a client was discussing what classes of trade they have distribution in and I mentioned that there’s no longer such a thing as a class of trade. For those of you under the age of thirty, product distribution used to be contained to what we called grocery stores, drug stores or mass merchandisers. Today, these types of stores are one and the same. Food products were sold primarily in grocery, health products were sold primarily in drug and household staples, mostly dry goods, were sold in discount stores. Today, Wal-Mart makes up about 40% of all product sales in almost every product category. Drug stores sell milk and grocery stores sell prescription drugs. The concept of selling through a single class of trade no longer exists. Why? Because consumers want convenience. Whether it’s a quick stop into a convenience store for coffee and breakfast while they’re gassing up or to have one destination for their once-a-week major shopping trip (if that even exists anymore). They don’t want to go to a drug store for their prescriptions, a food store for their groceries and a discount store for paper goods.
I call this blur. Blur refers to the blurring of the lines of delineation that historically existed to differentiate different “channels”. Blur is not only a retail channel phenomenon; it is a reality in the marketing world as well. Today, everything is everything. In my Integrated Marketing class I refer to video and audio as communication techniques, I hate to call them TV and radio. Why? Because TV and Radio are terms that reflect an archaic distribution AND consumption system that no longer dominates. Most of the students in my class don’t listen to traditional radio, but they are exposed to a lot of audio content. The same is true in video.
Even within traditional media concepts like dayparts in TV are blurred. Many cable networks air the same programs in daytime that they do in Prime. Many people DVR whatever they want and time-shift the viewing to their convenience, yet we still plan TV based on old reach curves and buy daypart ratings numbers.
Last year I recall speaking with a client who considered Social Media PR and not advertising. We said it’s neither and it’s both. The line between PR and advertising has blurred dramatically. Is Content Marketing advertising or PR? Is Native advertising or PR? The answer lies in redefining what we do not as advertising or PR but as marketing. And if it’s smart to do PR and advertising for your brand it doesn’t really matter if there’s a line. It only matters that it gets done right. But doing it together, in an integrated manner, where paid promotion of Tweets/Posts and DJ endorsements and product integrations and content all magnify the messaging to a brand’s business advantage.