I’m out on vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!
Marketing is supposed to be all about relationships. Based on this belief, it stands to reason that marketers would want to use media that has as its distinguishing feature being part of the connective tissue that holds people together. Thus the enthusiasm for social media and its ilk.
Lots of different vehicles these days are put under the heading of “social media.” Pretty much anything that can facilitate two-way communications between two or more people could be classified as “social media.” Depending on whom you ask email would technically fall into the category of social media. Depending on who else you might ask, so would the telephone or CB radio.
But the kinds of things that have the interests peaked of those who work at the bleeding edge of marketing are tools and technologies that atomizes our expressions, globalizes their reach, and localizes their targetability all at the same time.
We’ve got Twitter to micro-blog every crumb that falls from the buttered toast of our lives. We’ve got Facebook to broadcast the expression of those crumbs to the Etherverse via TwitterSync. And soon to follow will be marketers using the likes of Loopt or Google Latitude to find us where we are when brushing those crumbs from the fronts of our shirts and send us location-based messages on where to buy the bread, where to buy the butter, where to buy the knife with which to spread that butter, and perhaps where to buy the cleaning agents that can clean the shirts from which we are brushing the aforementioned crumbs.
Twitter is awfully interesting. I twitter sometimes not at all and sometimes several times a day. Most of the time, posts I read are not here or there in terms of their relevance to my life. They rarely offer a depth of insight on a given subject. But they are sometimes interesting, funny or just downright cute (one fellow I follow posts only things his kids say). Every once in a while there is a link to an article or a video or some other bit of bytes that lead me to that depth and insight Twitter, due to its character constraints, lacks.
Will Twitter hurt how we think and, thus, act, which in turn will change how we market to one another? Maybe. The structure of our language –even our syntax – dictates how we think, it forms the way we conceptualize; the means by which we articulate the world and what is in it informs what it is we think is in the world.
My concern is that the diminishment of formal structure – be it due to a lack of familiarity, willful rejection of it because of some belief that it is authoritarian or elitist, or a restriction of the characters we can write with — will lead to structure’s eradication for the sake of utility. Utility only and always without at least knowing what formal structure needs to be violated in order to achieve it leads to homogenizing, standardizing and monotonizing.
In an environment where infosnacking and reflex replaces deliberation and practiced experience, how we define intelligence and reason will become unrecognizable.
How can something like this be tamed for marketing?
Facebook, MySpace, et al
Marketers are drawn to social networks as an adverting vehicle for the same reasons they are drawn to any media vehicle: the size of its audiences and the popularity it enjoys. That does not, however, always translate into viability as a means for delivering advertising. Toilet paper, after all, is also rather popular. Certainly everyone I know uses it. But I have yet to see ads on it. This is not to equate delivery systems, but rather to demonstrate that widespread use is not a sufficient condition for carrying an ad message. There are reasons why social networking properties should be approached with care:
- Social networking is just a communication format, not a media vehicle; per se. Social networking is the first decade of the 21st century’s email. Aside from being a domain, do any of the free online email providers, even Gmail, really have a brand? Do any of them offer any specific value to marketers looking to advertising that can’t be had anywhere else? Not really. What they offer is scale (the audiences are huge) and some targetability. Certainly the kind of information available about users will lend itself to greater levels of targetability, but as we’ve already seen, the community is going to police itself against that targetability going too far.
- The relationship aura an advertiser might hope to benefit from doesn’t always really exist there. It’s a place where people allow others to be connected to them, but they don’t really have relationships there. While expanding the number of “relationships” we have, it degrades their quality for the sake of quantity. Like slicing a peach, with every cut, you lose some juice.
- Advertisers will have to compete with the brand of ‘Me’ in a social networking environment. Social networking is really a platform for self-branding. People are opening their kimonos to show off their rock-hard abs or their gorgeous breasts or the funny image they shaved in their back hair. It is an opportunity for a kind of narcissism that doesn’t ostensibly put us at physical risk. A Facebook page is like driving down the street with the radio turned up loud and the windows down; it is wearing a concert T-shirt; it is a way of advertising who we want others to think we are.
- People in marketing and advertising always like to think that the general population likes what we do as much as we do. The general population’s relationship with advertising is at best one of managed hostility, regardless of what one might say about it when the advertising message coming to him or her has been sent by their “BFF” (Best Friend Forever). Will an ensuing deluge of advertising — whether or not it was endorsed by the Lil’ Green Patch friend of a friend — be accepted?
Location Based Services & Targeting
There are as lot of GPS-type applications out there now that, with the growing popularity of smartphones, is experiencing their own surge in popularity. This has the marketing community talking about whether apps like Loopt, Google Latitude, Navteq and others can be used to serve advertising to people based on where they are.
First of all, aside from helicopter parents who might want to know what their kids are doing at every second, are these tools even valuable? Knowing my friends are near is quaint, but, if I’ve already mediated my relationship with them to the point where I’m only communicating with them by posting a note to their Facebook wall, which in turn sends an email to them to tell him or her to go to their Facebook page to read the note I left on their wall, am I REALLY going to make the effort to see them and have a beer, physically, even if they are a few blocks away?
Second, the long-held belief in advertising has been that location somehow makes advertising
a) more meaningful
b) more relevant and thus
c) more effective
But does it? Just because I’m near a McDonald’s doesn’t mean that I’m ready to eat there. Knowing where stores are is valuable, but that’s search addressable more than it is advertising. I think we in advertising and marketing overvalue the tricks of targeting. Most people have a relationship with advertising that is on average one of managed hostility. I don’t know that “adver-stalking” would endear a brand to a potential consumer. I suppose it could operate on an opt-in basis and entice purchase or trial with incentives. But I have my doubts about a marketing application.
What’s the solution to all of the above? Marketers’ least favorite form of advertising due to its lack of forced reach and potential glamour, but it is among the most effective: “Pull” advertising.
It’s what search is, yellow pages used to be, and what widgets are becoming. You approach the opportunity as one where the audience you are trying to reach reaches out to you instead of you reaching out to them, then you’ve got something here.
VP, Director of Online Media