Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 5, 2009 9:24 AM

Marketing Is More Important Than You Think

Do you think that this is a Blog about technology? Others have said it's about New Media. Some have even suggested that it's about what's happening right now in the world of Social Media. The truth is that this Blog is about marketing.

It's about how your business connects in a world where everybody is connected. It's also about how your messages are created and spread. We no longer have the luxury of communicating to consumers as we see fit (mostly through the muscle of mass media), because now there are many online channels where thousands (actually millions... actually billions) of people are connected (and chatting) about your business or the industry you serve.

In fact, if you take a quick look over at Facebook's latest statistics, it is claiming that it has more than 300 million active users where more than 50% of those active users log on every single day to the online social network.

If that doesn't make your jaw drop, Facebook's fastest growing demographic is people 35 and older. In July of this year, it was announced that there are more grandparents on Facebook than high school students. You read that right - more grandparents than high school students on Facebook.

Sure, the average grandparent might be joining the online social network to creep on their kids, and to make sure that they're not posting too much information that is too personal or that might limit their employment opportunities when they get older. But once they're on, they're hooked. They're reconnecting with family and friends. Their sharing pictures, creating events (like high school and/or family reunions) and they're able to stay that much more connected to their real-life social connections.

What does all of this have to do with marketing and not technology? Everything.

If we are to believe the latest Wikipedia entry on the list of countries by population, Facebook would rank as the fourth-largest country, just slightly below the United States of America (which has about 308 million people). These online channels are no longer just a bunch of high school students who wear black, listen to Fall Out Boy and need to be removed from their computers in the basement with a spatula.

These online channels are who we are - all of us - as a society. It hasn't just changed the way we communicate either. It has changed who are as people.

Being connected - be it through an iPhone or netbook - is part of who we are and how we interact with one another. We use these channels to find out where we're going, what people thought about something before we buy it, and to validate ourselves in front of our peers (whether we like to admit it or not). Marketing always had a knack for getting consumers to think differently about the products and services we use. Now, these many online channels amplify that because it's not just brands screaming at us with television ads and billboards on the freeways, but we are - literally - marketing to one another as well.

Whether it is brands on Twitter speaking to individuals in a very human and real way, or people who list in their profiles on Facebook the brands they love and have affinity for, we live in the most branded generation ever.

As a business owner or active participant in your company's success, it's time we all got that much serious about marketing. Marketing Week in Canada happens next week with a two-day event (Nov. 11-12) in Toronto. Day 1 is Digital Day and Day 2 is Media Day. The event is highlighted by some of today's hottest thought leaders including author and cultural anthropologist Richard Florida (The Rise of the Creative Class, Who's Your City? and many more), David Weinberger (co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto and author of Everything is Miscellaneous), Terry O'Reilly (from the CBC's Age of Persuasion and a recently released book of the same title), Cathie Black (CEO of Hearst Publishing), Louise Clements (RVP, head of sales, Facebook Canada) and many, many more. The week-long Marketing summit will also feature The 10th Annual Media Innovation Awards and the 2009 Digital Marketing Awards.

It's important for you (and your business) to be there.

Unlike other industry conferences, this is a chance for you to really focus on the marketing side of your business. For two days, you can listen, learn, share and network with some of the best and brightest minds (and get away from the office). It's also the perfect place for you to move marketing higher up on the food chain of importance in your business. There's something to be said about this: very few people go to university with the intent of becoming a marketer. It's usually what happens as a back-up when law, engineering or business school doesn't work out.

Marketers aren't generally perceived in the most positive light. Some of this we've brought on ourselves, and some of it is just a symptom of our society.

In the end, marketing is becoming a more important function of the enterprise, and if we're going to change perceptions, the only way to do it is through education and leadership. That's what this Blog is really about and that's what next week's celebration of Marketing is about as well.

How do you feel about how Marketers have been marketing "marketing"?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post the article here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

- Montreal Gazette - Marketing might be more important than you think.
-
Vancouver Sun - Marketing is more important than you think.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Sarah Worsham
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for the article, Mitch.

    First of all, I think marketing has always been related to technology because technology dictates the channels we have to our audience. Recently there have been a lot of technology changes in our channels (social media), which have opened up those channels to a wider audience and also allowed for a network of communications (between customers, between customers and the company, between companies, etc.).

    Because technology change in marketing was relatively slow over the previous 50 years, marketers were able to apply "tried-and-true" methodologies to reach their audience. I think this lead to a lot of laziness and the perception that marketing is "easy". Now, marketing requires a much deeper understanding of the message, the audience, the channel, the business, etc.

    Marketers need to understand business, technology and psychology. It's a much more difficult environment to succeed in, but it's more more interesting and challenging. The good marketers, who continue to learn and advance the science, will eventually rise to the top (if they haven't already) and hopefully change some of the perceptions of marketers.

    Thank you so much for your post.

    Reply
  • Posted by Laura Click
    Mitch Joel

    Fantastic post! You're right - marketing is more important than ever. Those that refuse to understand social media as part of the marketing mix will be left in the dust. Participation, HUMAN participation, is key.

    Just like any other industry, marketers often get a bad reputation because of a few bad eggs. In the social media world, the "get rich quick" schemers often refer to themselves as marketers. I think people use the term loosely and it brings the industry down. This is no different than attorneys. People assume all attorneys are slimeballs just because SOME are unethical or heartless.

    What can marketers do about it? I think you're right - education and leadership is important to improve that overall image.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ivan E Nunez
    Mitch Joel

    "Marketers aren't generally perceived in the most positive light." Deservedly so. Traditional marketing tries to control the message. It manipulates reality. The Web changed all that and social media has made it possible for everyone to have a voice. We cannot continue to practice marketing as strategies to spread our message. The new marketing is about listening and responding; it's about collaboration and dialogue.

    We cannot be successful marketers in social media if we insist in seeing Facebook, YouTube, Twitter as "channels" to "push" our message. They are not! These are places were conversations are taking place, ideas are exchanged, relationships are formed. The new marketing must be about conversation.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kyle McGuffin
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks Mitch, I completely agree with your perspective. I have always been on the sales side having to work with marketing to develop campaigns. Now not only what we say but how we position our products or solutions are key in this global economy. Access is not the challenge. Quality and Value of the content is King!

    Reply
  • Posted by Matt
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch - your posts are always very insightful, but this struck a particular cord in me.

    I have read many post on social media and marketing, but I think this is most straight forward and concise I have read in a while.

    Statistics from Nielson clearly depict that network audiences are shrinking. Newspaper have suffered a tremendous loss of readership, nearly 10.6% this year alone. Thus, it is clear that "traditional media" is falling off a cliff, but at the same rate, new media is being adopted and engaged faster than ever.

    Point being, the consumer's demands have changed. The consumer no longer wants the one-way street of being force to swallow the message the marketer wants them to take away from an ad. The consumer will change the channel, resent them or just ignore them. Nevertheless, the evolution of new media has transformed marketing from a one-way street to a major highway with consumer interaction controlling the dialogue.

    Thanks for framing such a great argument!

    Reply
  • Posted by Eric Blais
    Mitch Joel

    Nice post and rallying call for the marketing community. Not sure I agree with your assessment that 'very few people go to university with the intent of becoming a marketer. It's usually what happens as a back-up when law, engineering or business school doesn't work out.' I thought business schools taught marketing.

    Reply
  • Posted by Josh Kilen
    Mitch Joel

    Branding and marketing are simply crafting a company's soul/identity/Pneuma and then communicating that effectively to people who need and want that value. Technology only makes the communication more effective, but it doesn't teach you how to communicate. Another way of looking at this, a computer makes it more efficient to design logos, colors, and write your company's stories but the basic skills of design and storytelling are still vital.

    Sometimes we get so lost in the communications media that we forget the basics of the communication itself. Essentially, two people, one "created" and one real, having a conversation about value. I wish we would focus more on the essential nature rather than get lost in the tips and tricks.

    Reply
  • A wonderful irony of the social media revolution and its impact on marketing is that in a very real sense, we've come full circle back to the old fashioned principles of relationship, authenticity, and handshake agreements that existed 100 years ago. For the first time in a long time, the ones who are doing it right -- those who give value and who are genuine without hype -- are rising to the top quickly. Hallelujah!

    Reply
  • Posted by Grant
    Mitch Joel

    I think that social marketing has offered us another mode of communication; just like texting and whatever comes next. The more choices the better.

    Reply
  • Posted by Robert Phillips
    Mitch Joel

    Thank you very much for the post Mitch. I never read a post like this describing the importance of marketing through social media. I admit that with the advent of social media or social networking websites the face of internet marketing changed significantly. As you said it also proved that maximum numbers of people are involved in social media these days. So, it has become necessary for every business to concentrate on marketing to market their products and services in online.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rita Ferrari
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    I agree that we need to change the sometimes very negative impressions of marketing and marketers. However, I believe its much more than simply a function of doing a bad job of 'marketing marketing'. I believe we need to take a good hard look at HOW we are marketing. Period.

    There have been many days when I feel like an 'unmarketer'. First, on too many occasions, I've seen companies spend money on marketing campaigns when they should have taken the dollars and spent them on improving their product. A brand is not simply the logo and creative that surrounds it but more importantly, the brand is first and foremost your customers' experience with your product/service. As Jeff Jarvis says 'your product is your ad' and 'you need to spend your first dollar on the quality of your product or service.'

    My experience is that the few marketers who do suggest this approach are often looked at like they've just grown an extra head. Short term gains in sales, traffic, viewers/listeners...whatever, inevitably trump product fixes with a response akin to "Why in God's name would you marketers be worrying about the product?! That is someone else's job. Besides, we're working on it. Your job it to just tell people about it and get consumers to buy it. Now."

    As advocates for our customers, it IS our job as marketers to help our companies/organizations improve our products and be responsive to customers' needs and feedback. In fact, I'd go one step further and say it is everyone's job within an organization to do so. However, should someone in their infinite wisdom ask for a marketing plan before the product is ready for its debut, it behooves marketers to say 'take my marketing budget and spend it on improving the product first'.

    Second, once the product is ready for primetime, it still does not mean money should be spent on marketing. It should however go towards optimizing customer service and customer relationships. And this is where Web 2.0 and its social media technologies come into play. Social media provides an amazing opportunity to develop those customer relationships, engage in conversations that your customers are already having about your product or brand and find out what if any changes or ideas customers have for your product. But back to that just a sec...

    Today, when developing a marketing communications plan, too often the tendency is still for marketers and their ad agencies to come up with THE great creative idea/strategy - usually always a TV ad execution (very sexy!)- and THEN a media plan is developed to support the creative. I never understood this.

    When developing a marcom plan, one of the first things marketers and their agencies should be doing is figuring out where their customers are, devising a platform-agnostic contact plan (ie. media plan) based on that information, THEN developing the creative idea to leverage the unique benefits of each medium, reaching customers where they are.

    Back to our Web 2.0 world. Social media technologies (Facebook, Twitter etc.) are simply tools with there own unique benefits. However, if your customers aren’t engaging on Twitter or FB, why develop a FB fan page simply because someone says ‘We need to be on FB. Everyone else (i.e. our competition) is.�?

    “In the end, marketing is becoming a more important function of the enterprise, and if we're going to change perceptions, the only way to do it is through education and leadership.�

    While I agree with your closing statement, I don’t think ‘education and leadership’ is enough to change perceptions. It’s even harder than that. We have to start doing is what’s right. Not what is sexy, what will win us a prestigious ad award or what is simply the latest, greatest technology. We have to do what’s right for our customers. And that means reaching out to them on their turf and on their terms. Listening to their conversations. Responding to their needs. Developing great relationships. And ultimately building great products that consumers want and love. If we happen to win a few marketing awards in the process…BONUS!

    Reply
Add a Comment

Please complete all the fields below, including the spam filter (to prove you're not a robot).

  1. Fill in your email address to have your Gravatar photo included with your comment.
  2. Please type the word pixels here:
TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://www.twistimage.com/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/1790