Marketing Revolution: The Art of Conversation Laced within Authenticity

While I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in multiple mediums as a marketer: television, OOH, guerilla, print, direct mail, database CRM, online media, radio, nothing has prepared me for this radical shift that has necessitated the move towards reinventing marketing from a model of selling to a model of listening.

The democratization of media has provided increasingly more tools at the hands of consumers and has given them more power than ever before. The consumers, in essence, have become the marketers and, in many ways, continue to elude their pursuers given the increasing media fragmentation. However, at the same time, these tools have allowed their very needs and behaviours to become more transparent –> an advantage that needs to be leveraged. The definition of conversational marketing in Wikipedia asserts a more complacent, acquiescing relationship that marketers should attempt to create with consumers if they are to succeed in turning consumers to advocates. The sweet spot is being able to effectively develop a relationship with the consumer who is an influencer. This can be a dangerous path if not dealt with care and caution. My scribd friend Tizio, who is part of a blogger network, puts it this way, “In my opinion, the great revolution in marketing isn’t the technology, the creativity or the WOM. The real revolution is to speak the truth. Engage discussions and don’t be misleading.”

Many marketers have yet to ascribe to this belief, let alone understand its true impact. The reality of digital media is that the shift of power to the consumer is not the only factor that companies must contend. Time, place and speed of information can seriously cripple a brand if a company does not enlist in strategies to respond, research and proactively manage the messages. A must-read is HD Marketing 2010:Sharpening the Conversation. Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO and founder of Denuo, said it this way: “time is compressed and often a victim of arbitrage. Place doesn’t matter. People can blog or access content from anywhere. Area has shifted to digital focus: content can be anything or come from anywhere. Speed of marketing, in process and execution, is critical.”

My recent experiences have brought to light the importance of integrating blogging strategies, interactive community sites, testing emerging mediums, and including flexibility for iteration; and most importantly incorporating data insights (ie behavioural and verbal) and measurement criteria to gain increased understanding of the market.

Engagement and Advocacy must supersede Awareness and Eyeballs from the onset. I’ve said this before: Deal with the consumer in their space and on their terms….and they will come.

The problem with social networks

Every social application has a lifecycle. There is a honeymoon period where excitement is present, activity is abundant, where I come back time and time again to see if someone’s noticed me and has added me as a friend. Suddenly, it becomes an obsession — wow, I’m connecting with my gal pal from kindergarten…and, OK, I’ll add the snobby cheerleader who didn’t say boo to me once in high school…but hey if she wants to be my friend, cool….and as long as I’m on here, I might as well fill it with all my stuff: my pics, my videos, my communication with all my pals. OK, after the honeymoon period there are are all these crazy applications that my newfound friends want me to be a part of. Some of them are really funny. I can decorate pics, spend way too much money on those “it’s-only-a-dollar” virtual gifts, declare my BFFs to the entire world, hug and poke and superpoke and twitter and update my mood… and be part of groups I probably will never visit again…. ..and….now…it….gets….way….tooo……boring.

This video below sums it all up! I found it on called “Social Network Wars”. After awhile, the sizzle is gone. The reach that these social web apps is misleading. They may have the numbers but the time spent is dwindling. Now the proactive user is now reactive and only visits on the odd occasion that they get an email. Maybe it’s because I have a FB account, a MySpace, a Twitter, a Friendster…and a new Ning site I just created. Don’t forget, I have a life too in the real world……

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod

Who says you can’t monetize social networks

You kinda wonder why social networks came to exist in the first place. These were havens/escapes for users who were tired of being bombarded by advertisers who held them handcuffed to the content in exchange for viewing their beacons of intrusive ads and even occasionally clicking on them (please oh please!) to get them to come to their site. Does anybody remember when the internet first emerged and advertising was a no-no. Eventually as with everything else, advertisers went where the masses were congregating and advertising became a necessary evil in order for users to access to the much-needed content.

Now social networks is the new norm, yet another opportunity for marketers –> but somehow the rules have changed. In this space, it’s about influence. it’s not about banner clicks. Playing in this space as an advertiser means you have to tread cautiously. I’ve talked about the “establishment” in previous posts and it’s clearly about learning to adjust in an arena that is dictated by its inhabitants. Big brands can damage their reputations if they fail to be authentic or try to sell themselves in a space where selling is not allowed. It’s also about attempting to and genuinely wanting to create relationships with the users in this space and willing to be open to discussion and criticism in order to grow the brand.

It’ll be interesting to see how the MySpace Plus 3 Major Music lables deal pans out. It almost defeats the purpose for the existence of social networks. And yet it is providing an avenue for labels to make money at a time where CD sales are declining , illegal downloading and file sharing is rampant and the music business is desparately finding ways to stay afloat. On the flip side, the advantage for many of the independent artists who currently have MySpace pages is enormous if they could benefit as well.

But again, will the million of users on MySpace perceive this as yet another imposition by big brands trying to infringe on their time? These users need to be the forefront of this. Strength in numbers dictate that users can change the way they are being marketed to ie creating demand for products they care about as opposed to having that demand pushed on them by advertisers.

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