The $500bn global marketing industry is driven by metrics. TVRs, GRs, OTS, TGI, ABC, BARB, CPC, CPA, PI, CPM, frequency, benchmarking, response, reach, hits – the range of measurement systems has exploded as the complexity of marketing continues to increase. Which has led to a gaming mentality among some parts of the industry, where almost any activity can be shown to be successful. If it looks like a campaign isn’t working it doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. It means you’re standing in the wrong spot.
However, in the share-and-compare world of personal media, social networks and communities, it’s simply not possible to game the system. If you’ve created a Facebook page, or an online forum, or an all singing-and-dancing app fest with mobile bells and whistles simply begging to be API’d and distributed around the widget world, no level of metric analysis will demonstrate success if no one joins in the fun. Any figures you try and flaunt to justify the activity will be drowned out by the sound of silence as the wind whistles through your Twitter feed, swinging the doors on the hinges of your silent social experience.
No level of metrics will disguise the fact that No One Is In There. And should you try and lay a little Astroturf or sock up a few puppets, you are likely to discover that your conversational marketing takes on all the allure of a bowl of plastic fruit. Now whether this is of any significance depends upon your viewpoint of where the marketing world is headed. I chaired a little social gathering down at the IPA a couple of weeks ago where Mark Earls put the case for a connected, networked world being a sea change for every part of the communications industry. While others declared social to be a welcome new ingredient to the already murky marketing soup – but no more than that.
Just DM and WOM for a new era. So if you’re with the Herdmeister then the fact that the game is up should probably be of concern to you. However, if you’re betting on the broth then the game is still very much on – with maybe only a few upgrades and tweaks required.
Either way, there can no longer be much doubt about the influence of social media and the like. I recently was courted by a large financial institution with some completely unintelligible charts that the company assured me confirmed a sunny future outlook for my pension pot. And then I found this. When I asked the company in question to explain, the silence was deafening – and the marketing game was over. I don’t think I’m alone. As Facebook becomes the fifth most populated populus on the planet, linking everyone with an opinion about the tiniest product choice to everyone else with a view, the sharing-and-comparing of decisive commercial opinion looks set to continue.
What’s the answer? Well it’s a concept that has become so widely abused that just mentioning it immediately sucks the life from any communication – quite possibly including this one. Especially when used by people who have clearly only a faint recollection of its actual meaning. However, it’s something that we all respond to but it cannot be gamed. Yes – passion.
It’s why I thought this post from the splendidly named Freddie Laker about the marketing paradox was so spot on. “The ‘techies’ have done a great job of continuing to innovate and evolve the medium. Now it’s time for marketers to show the same passion for innovation and evolve with the medium, rethink our approaches and be respectful of the most intimate of digital touch points.” It’s true! The marketing industry has become so devoid of any real passion that the technology industry is now setting the pace. The nerds are more creative than the creatives! The engineers are more inspiring than the art directors!
If genuine passion becomes the main engine behind marketing success in the future, the game has changed outright. Because however many metrics you throw at campaigns lacking this special sauce, none will stick. All you’ll be doing is measuring an empty room in a different way.
However, if a company, brand or corporation can locate the fruits of passion in their organisation – however unlikely – they will immediately be players. With the web just sitting there waiting to hear about such projects and transmit the good news to a connected world where peer-to-peer will be the only yardstick that anyone cares about. So the challenge is set. But only passionate people need apply. Marketing is no longer a game.