Monthly Archives: July 2008

Marketing isn’t communication

Pretty much every social media blogger and podcaster I come across today writes as if marketing and communications were the same thing. Communication certainly has an important role to play in marketing but it isn’t the same thing as marketing.

Marketing is the practice of identifying people’s unmet, or unconscious, needs and fulfilling those needs profitably through appropriate goods or services. It creates tangible value that people are willing to pay for. Fundamentally, it has nothing to do with communication.

Defined in this way, there is nothing bad, unethical or manipulative about it. What could be wrong with understanding people’s needs and fulfilling them, at a price they are ready to pay? We do that every day in our personal relationships. We may not get paid in money, but we certainly are rewarded for it. It’s the same thing that a local store owner will do every day to keep his customers happy and loyal. Understand who they are and provide them with what they need. No one has a problem with that. Certainly his customers don’t.

Why does it matter? Because it’s this confusion that has turned marketing into a dirty word. And stops people from thinking about the true nature of marketing and how to do it well. Marketing can be done poorly. But poor marketing has nothing to with exaggerating the truth, playing to people’s insecurities and fears, dominating the conversation and knocking people over the head with 1000+ GRP TV media plans. Those are the sins of bad communication, not bad marketing.

Recently I heard a podcast suggest that companies should already be thinking about consumer needs at the early stages of product development. That this is what good marketing ought to be about. Excuse me? This is what good marketing has always been about. This isn’t new. Except, apparently, for those social media podcasters and bloggers who believe that marketing and communication are the same thing.

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On the death of the 30-second spot and other myths

So there’s this video going around the internet called, “Where the Hell is Matt.” A guy doing a wonderful crazy dance all over the world. He seems to be dancing non-stop, from Toronto to Timbuktu, inspiring the locals to join in, backed by a soundtrack for a SiSoMo (Sight Sound and Motion) experience that could rekindle your belief in the human race. I Googled Matt’s profile. Learned that Stride Gum sponsored his video.

Stride Gum? Never heard of it. I linked to the Stride Gum web site, where there was a whole bunch of online content. Then something funny happened. I didn’t have a lot of time. So I went first to a couple of Stride Gum TV spots posted on the site. Intuitively I knew those would be the QUICKEST way to get what Stride Gum is all about.

Those spots were good! Funny, entertaining, 30-second stories all built around the drama of the product. Stride Gum has cool flavors, and the taste lasts so long, Stride has to send out swat teams to force non-stop chewers to spit out the gum, so Stride can stay in business. Thanks for letting me know, 30-second spot! I must try some Stride Gum when I’m next in the States.

So here’s the point. 30-second spots aren’t inherently EVIL. In fact, they have one undeniable virtue. Their creators have fine-tuned the art of getting across a product or brand story in an incredibly short amount of time. And in the best examples of the craft, they tell that story in a way that delights, entertains and rewards viewers for their 30-second investment. No offense to the public relations profession, but show me a PR writer who can do that! The 30-second spot still works incredibly well, when it’s well done, well integrated into a bigger whole, and when I decide, though connections I initiate, the terms on which I want to watch.

Many have said it – Kevin Roberts and Shel Holtz among others — and to them I add my voice. We’re living in the communications age of and-and, not either-or. The “cool” viral video of Matt’s inspired global dance, hand in hand with the “traditional” 30-second, product-focused spot. Only now I’m invited, not forced, to watch it. The 30-second spot isn’t dead. It just needed to find a better way to socialize.

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The “Conversation” curfuffle

Brian Oberkirch recently blogged about how overused, and misused, the concept of online conversation has become. LikeItMatters, “A little less conversation,” July 9th, 2008 I wouldn’t get so hung up on this. I can understand that it feels like the word has been bandied about to death in the fishbowl of the social media, online pundit-o-sphere. But there’s a much bigger world out there populated by brand managers, marketing directors and communications officers who don’t have an inkling about any of this. Of course conversation without context is meaningless. But if “conversation” is the catchword that gets the CMO’s of traditional “command and control” (another catch phrase everyone may be sick of) old school, mass marketing organizations to begin recognizing that something is happening out there that may require them to think differently about how they communicate, then please — keep using the “C” word. Shout it from the mountain tops! The fact that many of the social-media aware are fed up with it is a probably a positive sign that it’s finally making its way beyond the fishbowl.

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