There is still a strong (and growing) argument for the power of search, online social networks and how they beat traditional advertising to the sale.
In the past few months, I've been devouring business books on branding and traditional advertising. For some reason, I have always felt that some of the answers we're looking for in terms of the future of Marketing, Advertising and Communications could well be buried in its history (sorry for the Indiana Jones crypticism). Why were brands created? Which out of the first few advertising campaigns really worked? How is it that after all of this time, brands are more important than ever? How did branding and advertising evolve over time as technology and innovation continued to push on?
We live in the most branded generation ever.
In an era where we can skip and block ads, and find - with a few simple clicks - the cheapest price for whatever it is we're interested in, why are people still loyal to brands? Look at Twitter: prior to launching their advertising/marketing models last month, Twitter was an ad-free environment yet multiple studies came out saying that over 20% of all tweets had a mention of a brand within them. Left to our own devices, we love talking about brands, what we're buying, and the things we've watched on TV (and this includes the ads).
But, there's something more: The concept is old but the ability to do it is brand new.
The best time to get someone to buy something is when they are in need, and they know they are in need, and they are asking for help. Some would argue that the best advertising makes a consumer think they need something (even when they don't). Search engines, Twitter, Foursquare, status updates and other location-aware platforms are the true last mile of Marketing...
They help Marketers listen (and respond) to consumers at their point of need.
How many Marketing campaigns have really led with this truism as a core to the overall strategy? Listening tools (and social media monitoring tools) are all the rage these days. You won't see a Marketing proposal from a Digital Marketing agency that doesn't include "listening" as part of the overall program, but how many brands have really made the shift away from the more traditional branding initiatives into one where the focus is primarily targeted and spent on listening to their consumers at that point of need (and them helping them fulfill that need)? It's amazing to even think that we can actually do exactly that right now (yes, today).
There's a lot of lip-service being paid to these kinds of thought and Social Media, in general.
If things were pushing beyond basic lip-service, something tells me that Foursquare would have more brands pounding down their door while Google, Yahoo and Bing would be busy trying to install more phone lines instead of hiring outbound advertising sales reps to hit the pavement and close the big ad deals.
What will it take for brands to really make the move over to where their customers are (and asking for them)?