(Idea) is dead. Long live (idea)!

Posted on August 14, 2009

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Lately I’ve been reading three statements that are very obviously old school marketing: They attempt to stir controversy by declaring something “dead.” Let’s examine these for a minute.

Social Media is Dead

As someone who’s been using social media for less than 3 months, I find this statement more than faintly ridiculous. If you define social media as Twitter, and Twitter alone, then recent studies showing teens abandoning Twitter might lead you to believe this. The truth is, social media came to life about fifteen years ago when the Internet exploded into our social consciousness, and it’s only grown stronger as broadband access has increased. Since then, communication tools have been in the hands of the masses. Suddenly, big PR and marketing firms don’t control the conversation any more. Declaring social media “dead” smells pretty strongly of sour grapes, then. Smart people know that social media is here to stay. Only the forms will change going forward. The faster you adjust to that, the better off you will be.

Brands are Dead

Two kinds of people say this: People who don’t understand brands, and people who try to use branding tools to con consumers out of money. Because social media is not dead, savvy consumers who catch on to the con can easily spread the word. Your brand is simple: Expectation + Experience = Relationship. You want the relationship to be positive because it’s easier to get a loyal customer to make a purchase than it is to reach new customers. That’s why Hollywood loves to make movies like G.I. Joe. G.I. Joe fans exist and they’re more likely to buy tickets for a branded movie than for a generic action movie. Repeat business and referrals are part of branding. What’s dead is meaningless branding. You have to have a worthwhile product or service. You have to have content. You also have to understand that the people who control your brand are the people who deliver it to your consumers. I use Firestone for auto service and tires because the people in the shops have always treated me with courtesy and respect, and they’ve always demonstrated expertise without pressuring me to buy. Their demonstrated concern for the safety of everyone who rides in my car is worth more to me than any coupon I get in the mail.

Marketing is Dead

For the last decade or so, businesses have demanded measurable results from their marketing efforts. If they’re going to spend money on marketing, they want to be able to tie that back into an asset on the P&L sheets. As a result, marketers have developed metrics and processes that demonstrate fiscal responsibility. In some senses, social media can be the will-o-wisp that lure you off the safe path of fiscally responsible marketing. Advertisements and commercials get your word out to the masses. They trigger interest. You need to be aware that consumers are growing to expect their interest to be returned. They want to be engaged by your company, and that’s more true the younger your consumers are. The traditional marketing campaign needs to be updated to include conversation. Getting your customer experts involved with R&D and marketing may require some structure changes (start by inviting product experts within your customer service team to R&D and marketing meetings), but that doesn’t remove the need for marketing.

Someone who tells you social media is dead is having trouble adjusting to change. Someone who tells you branding is dead is either confused or has been burned by irresponsible branding. Anyone who tells you traditional marketing is dead is a snakeoil salesman.

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Posted in: Marketing