Ah, poor marketing.
It has definitely been a rough patch for marketing the last few years. From those predicting that [fashionable term X] is the “new” marketing (social media! engagement! community-building! customer experience! design! communications!) to those predicting its outright demise, there are a lot of people looking past marketing to whatever comes next.
For many of us, marketing is what we know. We’ve been practicing marketing so long, it is, to paraphrase Chicago (yes, I just did that), a “hard habit to break.”
So if you’ve been tearfully exclaiming, “I wish I knew how to quit you, marketing!” I come bearing hope. What follows is the first in a series of things you can do right now to break marketing’s hold on you. Quitting has to start somewhere. It might as well be here.
First, a short history:
In the beginning, communications were personal. I’m sure it all started when Og was sitting in the cave talking to Grog about his new stone arrowhead design, responding to Grog’s questions and telling stories about all of the animals he had killed with the new arrowhead (brand positioning: lighter design, so you can throw farther, kill bigger, and feed your clan better).
Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution, and all of the sudden we humans were creating goods and services that could be delivered to many more people at once than ever before. While this was fantastic, and made a lot of people a lot of money, the downside was that we could no longer communicate the benefits of the goods we were making to each person individually.
So we developed new ways of communicating to many people at once—mass communications. Along the way, the idea of marketing was born (fun fact: a telegraph was used for mass unsolicited spam as early as 1864!).
And all was awesome. For about 100 years or so.
I have a decent (and still growing) LP collection, and my turntable gets almost daily use. In fact, I often buy music on vinyl rather than downloading it or buying CDs.
One of my recent vinyl purchases was Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. Probably one of the greatest albums of all time, but it wasn’t until I heard it on LP that I really felt like I started to get it. There was something about listening to it in the way it would have been listened to when it came out in 1966. Pops, crackles, and Brian Wilson just felt right together.
But as I’ve made my way around music stores, I’ve noticed the number of brand new releases coming out on vinyl seems to be increasing. And I’ve also seen many bands going (on purpose) for a lower fidelity sound.
I remember the lead singer of a local group here in NC, The Love Language, was quoted on why he liked low fidelity in Spin Magazine a while back:
“I’m a real lo-fi junkie,” [Stuart McLamb] says. “I like the [Band’s] Big Pink philosophy — you should have a dog on the floor of a basement while you’re recording. That’s where the best stuff happens.”
A dog on the floor, man! Not some fancy studio in New York City run by rich guys in suits named Hunter and Cody. The places where the dog is invited is where the best stuff happens.
Where am I going with this? I believe that there is a lo-fi movement not only in music but in communications more broadly that continues to gain momentum. Communications that are too high fidelity may not be viewed as trustworthy anymore. Take this quote from the Wikipedia page for “Low fidelity”:
Ah, late December. The time when bloggers get lazy and start reposting their old crap rather than writing new material. We here at Dark Matter Matters are no exception. For the Dark Matter Matters top 10 posts of 2009, I’ve split the list into two categories. First we have 5 posts that were popular with readers, followed by 5 posts that were popular with, well, me.
Five posts popular with readers:
Five posts that hardly anyone read. Give them a chance, people:
So as we close out 2009, I just want to say thanks for everything.
I’m approaching one one year of writing this blog, and it sure has been a lot of fun. I still can’t believe I’ve written over 100 posts. What has made it the most fun for me is getting to meet lots of new people, while also becoming closer to people I already know.
I’m looking forward to 2010. I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about.
A key theme we’ve returned to over and over in this blog is the idea that the corporate model for communications is rapidly changing from one where communications leaders keep tight control of the message their company is putting out to a model where these same folks are instead the catalyst for the ensuring the brand message is delivered well– whether by them, by other employees, or by brand evangelists.
Control to catalyst.
It’s happening whether we like it or not. So it is a good time to heed my friend Tom Rabon‘s advice: “the train can’t run you over if you’re on it.”
How do you get on board? I keep coming back to the fabulous report by the Arthur W. Page Society, The Authentic Enterprise, which lays out this change in great detail. If you are in the communications field and haven’t read it, please do. It’ll help.
As formal communications channels like advertising and press releases become less relevant and things like social media and reputational capital become more relevant, marketing folks are simply going to have to make changes to where they put their money and effort if they want to continue to be successful.
A new study out today from The CMO Club and Hill & Knowlton (and reported on CMO.com) suggests Chief Marketing Officers are still running behind in moving their marketing dollars from the old model to the new one. According to the study, 84% of these folks spend less than 10% of their budgets on social media and non-traditional communications channels, and over 1/2 of them spend 5% or less.
That means they are still spending a lot of money on the old tools of the trade.
A quote from the CMO.com story:
The communications profession is in the midst of a revolutionary change (you might have noticed). In my mind, it boils down to a simple concept:
Old model = company has one voice
New model = company has many voices
Ah, the good old days. It used to be easy to go to the “official company spokesperson” to get the scoop on what “the company” was thinking. Now, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and a bunch of other stuff that probably hasn’t even been invented yet, and the blurring lines between people’s personal and work lives (damn you, Google!), it’s a lot harder for us communications folks to stay in control of how the corporate message comes out.
If you are the head of communications for your company, what should you do? Lock all the doors, scare the employees into online silence, and continue the status quo? This is what some companies are doing. There are very real concerns with how and when employees use social media tools in a work setting.
But ultimately, the shift toward a company of many voices rather than one voice is going to happen whether you like it or not. As Bob Dylan said, “You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.”
So rather than forcing yourself into a sucker’s choice of “Should I communicate my corporate story well or allow my employees to be using social media at work?” perhaps there is a better question: