Is this just the natural evolution of Marketing or is this a complete revolution?
It doesn't matter anymore. If this is an evolution, we have evolved. If this is a revolution, the revolution is over. The Internet is (clearly) not a fad. Online marketing and advertising is (clearly) not a fad. Social Media is (clearly) not a fad. People are connected - to one another and to more information than they ever have been before. They're able to create content and share their thoughts and opinions from anywhere and everywhere. With all of this connectivity, mobile (smartphones, tablets, etc...) also makes them highly untethered. These digital marketing channels are no longer some kind of destination. They are ubiquitous.
What comes next? The dawn.
Welcome to a new dawn in Marketing. It's going to be a challenge, and this is going to scare a lot of Marketers (both on the brand and the agency side). The trick is in not seeing it as a challenge, but in being able to capitalize on the opportunity. This won't be an opportunity that will favor conversation over broadcasting. This is (and will be) a new dawn. When the Internet first became commercialized (nearly two decades ago), one of the most bandied around words was "convergence" - how the Internet and mass media broadcasting would fuse together into one platform. Marketing professionals shied away from that word and opted for "integrated." The challenge with integrated marketing solutions is that few agencies and brands are rarely able to deliver consistent results. On the agency side, some shops were above the line, while others were below the line. Some shops were hyper-creative, while other shops were hyper-analytical. In recent years, we've even seen an evolution to shops that focus on the consulting and strategy to other shops that go deep into a specific niche (i.e. affiliate marketing, experiential marketing or search engine marketing) to deliver results around a sliver of a sliver of the marketing pie.
While not every Marketing partner is going to be all things to all brands, the best shops will be the ones that may not be completely integrated (in terms of offering the full suite of services), but the ideal shop will know and understand what the revolution in marketing was all about and how to sell that brand narrative into this new dawn of marketing. It's important to remember that dawn is not daylight. It's just the beginning. The sun is cracking over the horizon while the moon slowly rests. It's a moment that can't be called "day" and certainly can't be called "night" either. It is something new. Much like Social Media took over a decade to take hold, this dawn in new Marketing may take some time until it turns into pure daylight.
Time to wake up.
Ambrose Bierce once said, "Dawn: When men of reason go to bed." While that quote makes me smile, it is time to wake up. Trying to place Social Media or any of the Digital Marketing initiatives into an experimental budget or just having a couple of people within the brand handling all of that is the same as ghettoizing it. It simply won't work. Our media channels are beginning to converge (just look at how many people share what they're thinking about during a television show or while reading a magazine article in places like Twitter, Facebook and Google + - all live and in real-time - while they're consuming more traditional channels of media). This is no longer about multi-platform activity, they're simply "in the media." Arianna Huffington from The Huffington Post likes to say that, "self-expression is the new entertainment." Think about that from a marketing and advertising perspective: more and more people are not only sharing how they feel, but they're more likely sharing a vision of what they hope other people think of them. Advertising and Marketing has historically been built on playing off of creating an image of what someone wants to be. So yes, we're heading into even murkier times as this convergence in Marketing takes hold. This new dawn of Marketing truly will be a convergence of traditional mass media, new media, a broadcasting mentality mixed with a more human approach and candor.
Dawn. I'm looking forward to the dawn.