Marketing communication has evolved from the early one-way media (TV, print, radio) to two-way media (Internet) and now multi-way media (social, mobile). As the lines between these channels and media are blurring so quickly, it has created an identity crisis among many agencies.
Can a direct marketing agency be effective without digital and social media skills? Can a digital agency deliver the best work without direct marketing skills? Is social media just another word for PR, or is it in fact the ultimate one to one medium?
Traditional marketing and advertising thinking is no longer effective as consumer media habits continue to evolve. Branding is for all intents and purposes dead, as most consumers’ first impressions of a brand are what they find in search results or what they read from other people in reviews. As consumers circumvent traditional media approaches, they are gravitating towards those media/channels that provide easy access to information, advice and recommendations, plus allow them to socialize and be entertained at the same time. In the process, these consumers are building and refining their own trusted personal networks.
The opportunity for agencies and marketers alike is clear. Forget about continuing to structure your organization in silos like brand, direct, digital and social marketing, and start to think about People2People marketing. If you can integrate your marketing efforts and succeed in motivating customers not only to interact with you, but to share their personal networks with you, you will have created a powerful channel for your brand in the marketplace.
Those of you who are direct marketers will be disappointed to hear that targeting is dying too. As consumers change to pulling information as they want or need it, push marketing becomes less and less relevant no matter how “targeted” the marketer thinks it is. No longer can you just drop an email to your house file or run a banner campaign with the simple objective to sell more products or generate more leads. You have to become part of the conversation, where they are and when they want to have it. Also, keep in mind that conversations cannot be bought either, and if they are the community often quickly finds out and retaliates.
The new age of People2People agencies have to be experts in understanding consumer habits and expectations in this new media environment. They need to be the unbiased filter that prioritizes the media/channels and indentifies the ones that will yield the greatest ROI.
This new breed of agency will avoid the temptation to shout messages at consumers disrespectfully or target thousands of people multiple times (reach and frequency). Instead, they will embrace techniques that cultivate genuine and open dialogue with customers, where brands quietly listen and learn, and then respond with new features and product innovations that better match the needs of the consumer.
These agencies will be rewarded by clients who not only out perform their competitors, but also deliver industry leading financial results. You may be interested to know that in July 2009, a report by social platform provider Wetpaint and analyst firm Altimeter found that: “Companies deeply engaged in seven or more social channels (blogs, branded social websites, Facebook, Wikis, ratings and reviews etc.) significantly surpassed their peers in terms of both revenue and performance.
Future growth and success will be led by those agencies that embrace this new media environment and choose to become part of a new breed of People2People agencies. Those who remain siloed will continue to become less relevant over time and unable to deliver against evolving client expectations.