A little Pre-flight Planning, and Ranting

by Chris Kenton on March 6, 2008

–I’ve got an 11 hour flight to Tokyo today, for which I’ve planned about 50 hours of work. I’ve got a powerpoint to finish, a report to write, a functional spec to update, a new pilot to plan, half a dozen studies to read, and a book to review. I do this everytime I fly, and then wind up getting 2 or 3 hours of actual work done. But hey, I like my delusions. They make me feel productive.

Two things I’m planning to find time to read over the next week are Jeremiah Owyang’s new report on Online Community Best Practices, and Jonathan Knowles’s latest book Vulcans Earthlings and Marketing ROI. I can’t think of two better people to fill my brain for the next week. Jeremiah is without a doubt the leading analyst on Social Media–the guy is incredibly prolific and engaged. Jonathan owns a lonely but critical and fascinating corner at the intersection of branding and finance–he’s the guy you want at your side when you’re sitting in the boardroom justifying your marketing budget.

To wrap up the week, I want to point out an article over at MediaPost, on the ways agencies are missing hte social media boat. I don’t have time for a full-throated rant, but I think this article is deserving of one. Few people would argue that most agencies don’t get social media. There are a few reasons for this, of which the most compelling to me is the fact that agencies have evolved in a marketing bubble–a world in which media was owned by the few who could afford it. Agencies never evolved to engage with customers because media didn’t work that way; agencies evolved to leverage mass media to deliver their story, either by manipulating the story through PR, or by attaching their message to the media story with advertising. Customer engagement is not in the agency DNA, so it will take a while for agencies to get it.

However, to measure the degree to which agencies "get it" by the number of blog posts they write, or the size and activity of their Facebook groups is absurd. There are plenty of agencies that are good at leveraging the vehicle of social media, but still don’t get the concept. Edelman has exemplified that truth many times over–using the technical medium of social media to deliver old school manipulative campaigns.

This article exemplifies myopic marketing thinking–suggesting that the form of Social Media is the same as the social word-of-mouth imperative that underlies it. This is the same mindset that rewrites marketing fundamentals with each new trend. The Internet: marketing is all about…. Experience. Your brand is… Experience. The dotcom crash: marketing is all about…. ROI. Marketing is lead generation with numbers you can track to the bottom line. Web 2.0: marketing is all about… Community. Word of mouth.

C’mon people. These are trees in a big forest. So much of the value of marketing is in the long history of what we’ve learned over one hundred years of marketing evolution. The next new thing is not a definition of new fundamentals. It’s just another wrinkle. So don’t get caught up in judging marketer’s worth by the number of Facebook friends they have, or blog posts they write. What matters is how they’re connecting with their market communities, and if a lot of that happens off the Web 2.0 screen, that doesn’t make it any less valid–just like a lot of public puffery and dizzy connections doesn’t make you a social media expert.

Just saying.

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