One of the ways I have "monetized" this blog and other efforts in the social space has been the privilege of getting out and speaking to folks in the marketing field from a variety of perspectives. The refreshing part for me is that many marketers who I talk to are expressing the desire to move away from gimmicks, and traditional campaign thinking to solutions that offer more long term value and builds relationships.
There are a great deal of hurdles that marketers who want to do less subservient chickens and more Nike+'s will face. This post isn't meant to be negative—it's a reality check. If marketers on both the client and agency side really want to extend their influence, we'll need to ween ourselves from the impulse to spin the "Wheel of Marketing Misfortune". It won't be as easy as it sounds. So here's where we need to get to work:
The Microsite is actually a great thing. It allows us to quickly launch an initiative that can link out to and be linked to from other sources and allows marketers to bypass slower moving large scale site efforts. But increasingly, microsites are being cranked out by the thousands. Many of them are sold as "high-engagement" vehicles when in reality they become souless, glossy artifacts that come off as traditional promotions in a digital shell. Microsites as a format are not inherently bad, but we really need to think about why users will want to spend some time there, and even more importantly, why they would come back.
Let's be honest with ourselves. Marketers are severely addicted to the idea of "viral", and will do whatever it takes to make something reach this level of marketing nirvana. The problem with viral is that it's a crap shoot and all of the time spent chasing the "viral dragon" could be invested in improving the customer experience, which ironically is what creates authentic word of mouth in the first place. Again, viral is not a bad thing—but it's tricky business and marketers need to clearly identify the need for buzz before pursuing it at all costs
We need to think of Flash the same we think about incredibly powerful mediums such as television and radio. When done well, television can inspire and motivate us—when done awfully it comes off as annoying and makes us want to flip channels. I think Flash is a wonderful technology and tool, but like any powerful tool it gets abused way too much, often times at the expense of the end user. I've written about Flashturbation before and urge designers and marketers to use the technology responsibly. Think about what happened to airbrush artists who spent all of their time pushing that technology to it's limit. Where are they now?
Death By Big Idea
"The Big Idea" is still very much alive and well—but it's less relevant than it's ever been. Especially big ideas that start with a top down broadcast messages first. This is campaign thinking in it's finest and does not translate directly in a fragmented 2.0 world. Bud.TV for example was a "big idea" fueled by traditional thinking—what followed was a "big bang" launch, but not the engagement. Marketers are going to need to diversify how we think, which means supporting both big ideas and lots of "big-little ideas" that can thrive in the niches. That's one of the biggest challenges marketers now face. Thinking in niche—the internet thrives on it.
Let's get this straight. Peer recognition is important and we should celebrate when one of our own does something remarkable. But the awards industry is here to make money too—and many of us are all too happy to forget about putting customers first in the pursuit of praise. Agencies especially have to come to terms with this and should all talke a cue from what's arguably the #1 brand in existence right now. Google. We really need to think hard about how compatible awards are with being "Googly". Actually, they are—but one needs to come before the other.
Social Media Goldrush
The "social revolution" is real, transformational and not going away. However, we need to proceed with a little caution. Not every tactic requires "conversation". Marketers need an intimate understanding of how social networks actually function and what is has to do with their business and brands. Then, we need to try a few things and learn by doing. But there's gold in them thar hills—which means that everyone right now who is claiming to be an expert in this area could potentially steer you wrong. I am way more active than most when it comes to the social space and I would NOT consider myself an expert. Let's be smart about how we can take advantage of the behavioral shift in this area. We'll need to be better at establishing credibility before we can guide, and the last thing we need is snake oil salesman.
Because much of marketing is deeply rooted in quick hits that demonstrate short term spikes, we've gotten used to an intense industry to work in that risks burning many of us out. The industry is fast paced and more than happy to put fresh meat to work. This is something that is not sustainable, especially in the digital space where there is a shortage of talent who truly knows what they are doing. We'll need to overcome this somehow and it will take some time.
Shiny Object Syndrome
I've talked about BSOS (Bright and Shiney Object Syndrome), and most marketers are guilty of it. It stems from the addiction to always looking for the "next big thing" without gaining a deep understanding of what's on our plate at the moment. The result is a loss of credibility both in and outside of the industry. We'll need to do a better job balancing what's next with what's already here. The real risk here is creating initiatives that bomb because we missed the mark on where the customer's head was actually at in order to satisfy where our heads may be at.
We're turning the internet into Times Square. While we digital marketers claim to be cutting edge, we're not willing to turn down the lucrative ad banner business. Again, there's nothing wrong with it—but for aspiring designers who work in marketing and someday want to design the next You Tube, banner ads will most likely not help you get there.
If we're truly living in an "application economy", then marketing/ad campaigns are not the end all be all though they are still important. But the biggest shift powered by digital is that the average Joe/Jane has become the new storyteller and digital experiences are becoming more important to an empowered consumer who frankly has more options than ever before. Point in case, I recently ordered a replacement keyboard for my family's HP computer and was severely disappointed to see that HP had downgraded their industrial design. The original keyboard was stylish, finished with metalic silver and felt right to the touch. The new keyboard only comes in back and feels like plastic. HP's campaign "The Computer is personal again" now feels like a lie to me. If we get another PC, it will probably not be an HP—and no campaign can influence that. It's time for marketers to bring the product, the experience and the marketing together because the average consumer is no longer making distinctions between them. The future of marketing will take both storytellers + experience people to pull it off.
So that's the "Wheel of Marketing Misfortune" in a nutshell. There's no reason to sugercoat it. We're all smart people who want to make what we do better. Whether you're on the client or agency side—it's time to get to work.