Thursday, December 17, 2009

The rumours of marketing's death have been greatly exaggerated

Social media people seem to take great glee in pronouncing the doom of advertising as we know it. Blogs like Post Advertising are built around the idea, and Guy Kawasaki was grimly checking for advertising's pulse over three years ago.

Today I received the latest obituary from Jason, our digital chief, via socialmediatoday:

2010: The Year Marketing Dies...

But inflammatory headline and "obvious death of mainstream media is obvious" statistics aside, the effing article actually gets around to something I can use:

"Of course, if marketing burns to the ground in 2010, a new and more powerful marketing will rise from the ashes."

Thank you. Not just for telling me that I have a future, but also for giving credit to human nature.

As long as we have somewhat of a market economy, there will be marketing. "Advertising", "Integrated Marketing Communications", "Branding", "Social Media"... call it what you will. If someone has something to sell on a large scale — whether it's goods, services, or ideas — then someone needs to figure out how to reach, inform, and persuade their target audiences.

For that reason, the socialmediatoday article made some good sense. And since they are heralding the new era of interaction, I'll interact with the part I like:

The role of the new marketer:

• Won't be simply to focus on outbound messaging but to consult with sales, customer service, and human resources on how the brand must be communicated in every consumer interaction, every tweet, and every touchpoint,

QFT. As consumers become emboldened by their powers of mass communication, they expect their brands to be there with them. The days of one-way advertising are over. Today it's a nonstop, realtime focus group that everyone gets to observe, moderate and attend.

Won't be merely to imagine creative messages but to fashion programs that are seamless with the actual product and service experience,

Not sure about this one. Do consumers always experience products, or do they sometimes really experience brands? When you get into consumer products, I would argue that people are still swayed by status symbols that do not represent true value for money or even decent performance. It's all about membership, and a strong brand can actually shape that identity — especially if a celebrity is involved.

• Won't be to plan bursts of communication on a yearlong calendar but to respond to and be part of the ever-changing dialog with consumers,

This. Things happen too fast for the traditional approach. We see this now with big TV productions, where the need for advance planning and commitment to production details clashes with the need to react to today's headlines. Everything needs to get more agile.

• Won't be to count friends, page visits, eyeballs, readers, or viewers but to measure changes in consumer attitude and intent,

This is the big ROI question, and it's one we haven't been able to adequately answer yet. Fortunately, most of our clients are looking for just such attitude and behaviour changes rather than sales. Perhaps that's why we're not as scared as some others. When we can manage expectations honestly, social media works for our clients.

• Won't be merely to talk at consumers but to listen and engage one to one,

This is the biggest change in the way people consume media. It has become more and more personal. However, I would argue that smart advertisers have always listened to consumers, through market research, and have used their intuitive abilities of empathy and persuasion to create engaging ads. The media may change, but what goes behind the messages stays the same. It's just more immediate, and in some ways more exact. When you see someone starting a 10-member Facebook Group about how much you suck, though, it can also trick you into making a mountain out of a molehill.

• Won't be to build campaigns but relationships,

This has always been the point of branding, even in analogue days.

• Won't be to create impressions but experiences

20 GOTO 10

• Won't be buy media but to earn it.

This is the biggest change of all. When I started this blog last spring, one of the first issues I addressed was the idea that social media should "brand, not sell". I still believe that, and have been testifying this gospel to clients at every opportunity.

One of the toughest hurdles we face, with our clients as well as our own processes, is the fuzzy convergence of advertising, PR, and media in the new Internet. When you create a great viral, for example, you are practicing advertising. But your engagement strategy is more like PR or Media Relations (except that you're talking to unpredictable bloggers like me rather than news editors). And then there are ways to buy your way in as well.

But the bottom line is that great insights, and great ideas, are still as influential as ever. The barriers to entry may have been lowered in terms of access to readers and viewers, but the more choices people have to ignore you, the more the power of breakthrough creative remains key.

In other words, "I'm not quite dead yet..."

1 comment:

  1. Experts have talked about this before. How many times have you read about the importance of ‘adding value’ for your audience? How many times have you read about ‘building trust’ with your readers/prospects?
    Many, many times. You know it well. Every marketing guru has spoken about this topic. I’m sick of hearing it. But it STILL bears repeating.