"Here’s the thing about many social media agencies: they often find themselves in the position of having to polish a turd. You pay them to get the word out about something, but you might not have an actual thing (a “social object” if you will) to talk about. The internet likes to talk about things - cool things, new things, awesome things, shiny things, fun things. Social media agencies don’t make things. They talk about things"
Go ahead and read the rest of the article. I found it to be a shallow industry perspective and poor use of earned media in my opinion. Essentially it was an advertisement for the firm who's CEO wrote it. That said, it does underscore a huge challenge any business will face and I think it goes beyond the notion that having a great product leads to great marketing. Well of course it does, but if we're going to define business through a marketing lens, we are forgetting the relationship between two essential constructs.
Products that sell themselves are a myth. We only have to look to Apple for the truth in this. Of course they create solid products through offering up a desirable experience, but they also have some of the most well integrated and executed marketing initiatives on the planet. What should a campaign be like when the product itself is no Apple? When Domino's Pizza realized that their product was not all it could be, they launched a truthful campaign admitting that they could and would do better. Results? The campaign along with menu change increased sales.
Back to Apple. It does marketing. Lots of it. It also builds ecosystems. These are iTunes, the App store and what they are attempting with mobile me. But you don't have to be a software company to build a business ecosystem. Starbucks (Edelman client) is doing this with mobile payments, Nike does this with Nike+ and American Express does this in the B2B world with Open Forum. Ecosystems are systems, not messages meaning that they are complex and go beyond telling a story. The really good ones though, empower stakeholders ranging from customers to employees to tell their own stories.
CEOs, CMOs & Agency Partners Unite
Good agency partners will challenge their clients to do the right thing, which in this economy is to integrate campaign and ecosystem initiatives. However all agencies react to market demand. When a CMO with a limited lifespan forces them to get quick results—they often create significant demand for "viral marketing"—quick hits which can lead to short term results which can validate their existance. But the businesses which succeed in the long run (and the CEO's driving them), understand that it's the coordination of a good product and service, combined with an integration of ecosystems, support and marketing initiatives which will result in long term value for not ony customers but all stakeholders. My advice to business and agency alike? Take a pass on spinning the wheel of marketing misfortune and work on integrating these efforts today.