If Marketing is doing its job, Marketing should be invisible to the consumer.
That sentence would have never made any semblance of sense in the days when mass media advertising ruled the Marketing landscape. As we transition out of one phase and into another (where Marketing platforms like Social Media, Customer Service, and more play a larger part in the Marketing ecosystem) and make a slight shift away from continuously (and obnoxiously) blasting and cramming these advertising messages into every waking moment of a consumer's life, perhaps the companies that will truly benefit from their Marketing expenditures will be the ones who make the Marketing seamless... nearly invisible to the consumer.
What would that look like?
For years, great thinkers like Seth Godin, Tom Peters and many others have pushed business leaders to build the Marketing into the actual brand, product or service. Essentially, make the brand so remarkable (unique or, as Godin calls it, a Purple Cow) that people talk about it, share it and become "loyal beyond reason" to it (to quote Kevin Roberts from his book, Lovemarks).
It's a lofty goal and pushes Marketing into many (nearly every) aspect of the business.
Maybe that is the big idea: if we start to better understand the Marketing aspect of it from the innovation stage (instead of the Marketing that we typically see - which is after the brand is ready for prime time), we can better market to consumers. All too often the brand differentiator happens at the post-production level and it becomes more about logos, colors and campaigns instead of the great story that this brand can really tell.
Maybe Social Media's true goal is to be the consumer's microscope.
One of the main reasons to get excited about Social Media is because it is driven by the consumers, what they publish, share and chat about. It's about the minutia and details of products and what they can do (and yes, this even includes the unboxing of products). Social Media is not an advertising platform that was created by a brand or publisher (like almost every other aspect of advertising as we know it today). It's somewhat humorous to realize that by all aspects, Social Media was forced on to brands. Brands (and we're generalizing here) never wanted transparency. Brands never wanted consumers publishing their perspectives about them to the world. Brands wanted to control the messaging and conversation (from the top down and back up again).
Marketing becomes invisible when marketers get out of the way.
When Chris Brogan shoots a video to review his new Eagle Creek Tarmac 22 carry-on luggage (more on that here: What A Social Media Case Study Can Look Like), he's not Marketing (as we have known Marketing to date). He's being helpful. He's telling a story, and he's making a very credible testimonial without expecting much in return. It's a generous act of appreciation that has value attached to it. In essence, it's what all Marketers have ever wanted, but when they could not get it, they decided to position their messages in between moments of interest for consumers instead (or in addition to).
Is it time for Marketing to get out of its own way? What do you think?