That was the message given in a piece published yesterday in Advertising Age titled, Conversations Need To Yield Actions Measured In Dollars, by Jonathan Salem Baskin (who runs Baskin Associates, Blogs at Dim Bulb and is about to release his latest book, Branding Only Works On Cattle).
"At some point, doesn't this need to communicate everything anywhere need to translate into doing something somewhere?... This truth was obvious in the pre-internet Dark Ages of branding and marketing. Then we dreamt up creative pitches - equating dishwashers or floor polish with sex or social status (or both) - and consumers blithely obeyed our commands to buy. Our technologies were less machinery than mnemonic; our creative was more about consuming than, well, more creating. The best brands were the ones that sold stuff the best."
Baskin is spot on. If you're engaged in any form of media, there should be one end-game in sight: sales. I would argue that any company venturing down these new paths and not looking at its overall impact on sales and business growth does not have their business head screwed on right. If you're involved in any kind of online social channel, and it's not helping you push your business strategy forward, why waste the time (both yours and your consumers)?
Where my opinion on the new media space may be different from Baskin's is that I think customers are doing more and more every day. I think a peer review on a website is just as "physical" as going down to a retail operation and asking a sales clerk for their opinion. Based on the research I'm seeing, those peer reviews are more real than almost anything that comes out of any sales person - and it is converting to big-time sales. Technology is actually not about technology at all. We have a situation now where the technology has done one major thing: facilitated people to share information. In doing so, we're not just Zombie Buying Bots, but informed individuals who are writing reviews, commenting on products, rating them, sharing them and helping major corporations build major loyalty (and sales). This facilitation has also equalized all voices - the individual consumer has the same global audience as the powerful corporate brand with their big ad and PR budgets.
If by "sold stuff best" Baskin means manipulation, screaming at consumers, interrupting their every waking moment with stories about how elves are baking their cookies in trees, and by spending a lot to make sure they "looked" like the best... then, yes, branding and marketing should change.
"We could have wasted consumers' time in the old days but chose not to. The hard part then, as now, was getting them to do things that mattered to the bottom line. Conversations, whether one-way or ubiquitous, need to yield the immediacy of actions that are measured in dollars."
I don't think one channel is going to provide the one answer. I am known for saying that everything is "with" not "instead of." It's not just about listening to what the Blogs are saying or following-up on a whole bunch of Twitter tweets, it's about working the digital channel effectively - having a website that converts visitors (and you know this because you are using real insights from your web analytics package, and testing different pages against conversion). It's about having a strong Search Engine Optimization strategy in place, and balancing it against a strong Search Engine Marketing program. It's about understanding your users and collecting proper information about them while using email marketing with dynamic (and personalized) offers. It's about your online advertising appearing on the right websites with the best message. It's about empowering your consumers to share what they love about you, and it's also about listening to the many conversations (good, negative or neutral) - these are some of best (and free) focus groups you could ask for. It is also about social media. It is about understanding where your consumers congregate, the types of communities they take part in and, most importantly, what they feel comfortable saying about your brand out loud (and where you fit into these conversations).
The Digital Marketing channel is not traditional advertising. Baskin ends by asking if, "turn on, tune in, drop out" could be the "new new-media mantra?"
It's probably more like, "search, dig in and decide."
You can read his full thoughts over here - Advertising Age - Conversations Need To Yield Actions Measured In Dollars.
(hat tip to Michael).