There is no shortage of commentary and reports on the success, or lack thereof, of social media as a viable, effective marketing component. The analysis is premature. I find it troublesome that people are evaluating social outcomes when there are so few setting appropriate strategy, plan, and execution.
Let’s start with a few points:
• Just about every brand has a Facebook presence and is branching out to utilize other platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and many others.
• Social participation is table stakes and far too many brands simply treat their social presence as table stakes.
• Brands lack an understanding of what their audience wants from then in the way of content and social engagement.
• Most brands lack differentiation and creativity in their social presence.
The point is that is everyone is in on social marketing. There is no value added for brands in their social presence. That is, unless they have a unique offering for their audience with their content, creativity, and presence on social channels. Social marketing has quickly become commoditized.
But let’s put social media and social marketing aside for a minute and look at marketing evolution and the new consumer. I would say the earliest days of marketing started with the door to door salesman. The salesman would look to add a personal touch to the product or service he represented. The main challenge with this approach was scalability. The next phase was likely advertisement in newspapers. This was a chance for brands to get in front of a larger audience. This approach of advertisement was then broadened in the early days of radio and later television. Brands sponsored programs to help connect with their target market and build imaging around programs.
Today brand image and style remain extremely important. But more and more consumers feel that they are manipulated by advertising. Many feel that the ads are merely a façade for brands and what they stand for.
The new consumer wants to feel that brands stand for something that they themselves value. The new consumer is looking for greater brand transparency and truthfulness. And if a consumer thinks a brand has done an injustice, they will call them out in public space. The consumer opinion and influence is stronger than ever and they are pickier than ever because they now know they hold power. It is tougher and tougher for brands to capture consumer preference.
The new consumer is powerful and thus a new marketing approach is required. The new marketing approach must have the following elements:
• Complete understanding and empathy for their target audience.
• Brand commitment to their target audience to deliver not only an outstanding product/service but also a strong and engaging ongoing user experience.
• A publisher mentality – brand delivery of valuable content to their audience to reinforce who they are, what they stand for, while having complete understanding of the audience’s wants, needs, and desires.
• Creativity that allows the brand to stand out in saturated marketing channels.
• Listening – the new consumer is very social. Listening to them allows brands to shape their products/services closer to user-perceived perfection. Listening also allows brands to address problems immediately before a PR nightmare occurs. It also provides an opportunity to amplify positive feedback.
Many say the CMO position is dead. I disagree … it is more important than ever. Maybe too many CMOs are stuck in a legacy minded approach to marketing and are not attuned to the power of the new consumer.
Yes … I am a social media enthusiast, but not because it is a shiny new object. The reason I got involved in social media 5+ years ago was because I saw a dramatic change in consumer behavior and action. Consumers rallied worthy products and harassed ones with nothing more than marketing charades. This led me to social marketing. I am not sure how long social marketing will be in vogue, but I am most certain that adapting to consumer behavior will always be imperative.
So as you plan your marketing strategy, don’t be enticed by hype. Be completely driven by the consumer. Understand how your competition is attempting to win customers. Use the channels where your audience goes and produce a most dramatic presence in a creative way. Be bold and stick out way beyond commodized marketing.
Rather than be driven by reports and so called experts, be led by the new consumer. And most importantly, WOW the hell out of them. Be true, honest, transparent, content driven, engaging, and amazingly creative and different. That’s how you drive brand preference.
Make It Happen,