The Vaporization of Marketing

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Was your company blogging ten years ago? If not then why? Google made it easy for you and now you’ve lost ten years of priceless link juice. Given the fragmentation of media in the last ten years, it’s clear now just how relatively little work you actually had to do back then. But that’s in the past. Still, I have bad news for you: what you have to do now is far harder than it was ten years ago. Let me explain.

CONTENT FRAGMENTATION AND SOCIAL DISTORTION

As the Web expands and proliferates novel media, messaging becomes increasingly diffuse and fragmented. The Web creates new opportunities and destroys old standards. It disrupts communication patterns, rattles social structures and ruptures attention spans. Ten years ago, you could leverage your audience-building skills for acquiring and retaining customers. You could even have learned and mastered a skill which traditional marketing didn’t really demand: conversational aptitude.

But now the honor of your presence demands you to be at many different places at once. You not only need to know how to create captivating content but you also need to know how to converse and lead with such conviction and remarkability that it could almost require you to be loved.

The choices open to you grow. Where to begin? Where to be? Twitter? Facebook? Blogs? Youtube? Foursquare? Gowalla? Flickr? The dozens of other places yet to come along? And if you show up and listen and play, will you be good at it? If you’re not good at it, you’re not going to achieve anything.

Here’s the biggest challenge for companies struggling to “figure out” social media: the convergence of Strategy and Practice becomes increasingly elusive as the Web mercilessly evolves.

What do I mean? Strategy and vision are essential parts of ultimately getting business done. But strategy without planning and mechanics and process worked out, nothing gets done: the going concern becomes aimless and bankrupt. Much of the daily work that has to be accomplished online has to be done manually and personally. Furthermore, the work has to stand out so it can be kindly remarked from one person to another.

Much of this work may not fit into any strategic category; as a consequence, the strategic directives can easily diffuse and lose their trajectories. Once that happens, it’s easy to lose balance and focus and clarity.

THE VANISHING POINT. BTW, JUST WHAT IS THE POINT?

The one question every executive asks every time a marketing or PR agency or internal manager tries to push social media is this: What on earth is the point?

Many of us who live in the echo chamber have answers. Or statements we think are answers. The truth is, however, that this is a vital question. The whole enterprise depends on it.

There’s no doubt: the Web is the place to be; and companies need the skills and confidence to incorporate all media into their day-to-day routine. But the vaporization of the Web creates a situation where:

  • so many choices have to be made;
  • conversations need to be quality and sincere;
  • attention spans are short;
  • messages are now real-time;
  • traditional Search is being disrupted;
  • new technologies are emerging which don’t necessarily communicate well with other
  • the prospect of walled gardens is rearing its head

Contrary to Social Media evangelist claims, the Web is becoming a mess. Messaging is being liquified, subject to evaporation – and worse: your message can be easily replaced with someone else’s within seconds.

Marketers used to have a landscape they could map out. They could harvest farms of attention. They could plant their feet on the ground and develop real estate which they could mostly control.

But the new landscape isn’t on land. It’s vaporizing. The vaporization of marketing will get worse. Not every business will figure out the point of being online, let alone be able to cultivate a captivated audience and converse real-time. Most will just be talking to themselves and an imaginary audience.

That’s what happened to Pharma giant GSK because they had too many meetings and consults and fears on how to do something as simple as running a blog. Mind you: this is a company with over $40 Billion in assets and which employs some of the smartest people in the world. From an investor’s perspective that’s managerial irresponsibility, indicative of severe creative anemia.

What’s the point? isn’t something you ask and answer once and then move on. No: it’s a daily question. It’s no different than asking What’s the point of our business?

The problem is this: there isn’t a point. Or one single point I should say. There are many points. All kinds of purposes and opportunities and needs. A thousand points of light flashing and fading and distracting.

This is only good news for marketers who have creativity, muscle, chutzpah, intelligence, pliancy and permission. For the rest, it’s a disaster waiting to happen – no matter if you play or not. The Vaporizing Web is Scylla and Charybdis for businesses.

HOW TO HANDLE THE VAPORIZATION OF MARKETING

What to do? You can read a million how-to posts, hire big agencies who know how to price and bill, attend overpriced conferences or have tons of meetings littered with streams of buzzword-stuffed PowerPoint presentations. But I’ll give you one simple answer:

Don’t take it so seriously! If you do, you’ll vanish into a mushroom cloud. 🙂

A sense of humor and a style of lightness are enduring qualities of successful long-run presence, especially online. Once operations become chores and jobs they cease to be useful. The Web is the end of the assembly-line.

If your business doesn’t know how to have fun and to be spontaneous and swift, it probably won’t survive this century. Capitalism is destructively creative. It’s also creatively destructive. The Age of the Farmer is coming to its close. It’s Hunting time now. Prepare yourself for war.

You’ve been warned and advised. Questions? Call me: 484-372-0451 or Skype: Phil.J.Baumann or Twitter: @PhilBaumann.

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Marketing Is Technology – Insight for the Perplexed

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This post is the first in a series focused on revealing the essence of Technology.  These aim of these posts is to spark inquire into the nature of Technology and to provide some fresh insight for Marketers, PR professionals, technologists, bloggers, doctors, nurses and everyone else. It’s important that we understand the essence of Technology; to understand our relationship with it; how it influences our perceptions and feelings and actions; and how and why it’s critical to all of us to re-frame what we see and do in terms of a panning-out from our accustomed ways and habits. You can get these posts delivered to you by subscribing here. I’ve also started the blog Technescan: Revealing the Essence of Technology – you can subscribe to TechneScan’s Posterous here and follow @TechneScan on Twitter.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS MARKETING?

What is Marketing? Is it an Art? Is it a Science? It’s possible to attribute characteristics of Art and Science to Marketing of course. In its essence, though, Marketing is neither an art nor a science. Rather, it is part of the domain of Technology.  And we must understand Technology before we can understand Marketing. Let me provide the first installment of what I mean.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS TECHNOLOGY?

The essence of Technology is not just tools and gadgets. That may be how most people view Technology but that’s an incomplete understanding of Technology. A definition of Technology is very difficult without understanding its essence. Define Life – it’s not easy: and yet, like obscenity, we know it when we see it. Similarly, Technology is a difficult thing to define. The difference, however, is that we don’t always see or recognize things as Technology.

The root word of Technology is Techne. The ancient Greeks’ conception of Techne was not just tools or craft (in the sense that we conceive). Techne for the Greeks was a way of knowing and being – a way of understanding our relationship with the world around us. For them Art and Technique were bound up together into a way of interacting with the larger environment. It is this angle that can rescue us from our narrow conception of Technology which will reveal deeper insights into its essence. NOTE: This is a much harder task than one may think at first. You can read the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s works on the matter: but it’s very heady stuff.

Examples of Technology include but are not limited to: Culture, Law, the Internet, Capitalism, Democracy, Reading, Writing, Twitter, Politics, Civilization and Humanity. Think about the world you live in – the one which influenced your personal and professional history: it’s utterly bound up within the contexts and influences of Technology. Kevin Kelly is right to assert that Technology is the Seventh Kingdom of Life.

When we do things with Technology – say build telecommunications networks or cars or medical devices – the effect of our use is something beyond our initial perception of the technology. Technology offers us a new view of things: it reveals what was hidden to us before. Twitter, for example, has revealed a social construct which always existed but we just never realized. We didn’t know how much we could learn about each other in just a few bursts of 140 characters; nor did we know how far we would adopt Twitter and incorporate it into our daily communication and news gathering and sharing behaviors. If you were told four years ago that millions of people would be messaging each other en masse in 140 characters, you just wouldn’t believe it.

Thus: Technology is a Revealing influence.

MARKETING IS A REVEALING

So what does all this esoteric babble have to do with Marketing? Well, when marketers seek to solve problems such as getting the word out (WOM) or Branding or positioning or distribution, they are enframing their solutions within a Technological context. What technique shall we employ here? What metrics will we measure our success or failure? How can we engage our base? These are technological frameworks.

Oh yes, many professionals will respond: Well, what we’re doing is a human activity – we’re reaching out to humans and we engage in person-to-person communication. And this position is becoming increasingly popular in light of the emergence of a two-way Web. But even here, marketers who are just awakening to the conversational nature of modern Marketing are asking themselves technological questions: How can we properly use social media to reach and engage our customers?

How is a part of Techne. And that’s not to say that Marketing can’t be Human – it should be. But Marketers can easily confuse a Technological engraming for a human one.

So Marketers need to ask themselves what their efforts reveal. They also need to pan back from their day-to-day operations and re-frame what they’re looking at, so that they can reveal the essence of what they’re doing.

HOW MARKETERS CAN GET UNSTUCK

…if you’re not present, you can’t persuade.

Marketers often get stuck in certain ways of thinking and often over-focus on tools and tactics and techniques and algorithms. This explains why so many traditional marketers are struggling with “Social Media” and the shiny new social software and gadgets that continue to pop up. Even those who understand the need to dovetail traditional efforts with conversational ones maye risk forgetting the role Technology plays within the context of person-to-person communication.

If Marketers understand just how big Technology is, what it is in its essence, how it influences our daily perceptions and conceptions of the world around them, and what it might reveal, then they will find themselves with freshened perspectives and important insights into the essence of Marketing.

Marketing, just like Technology, is about Presence. Some marketers believe “all Marketing is Persuasion”. The fault in that mantra is simple: if you’re not present, you can’t persuade.

Technology reveals what is present in our world. Marketing reveals what is present in an organization’s or individual’s realm of possibilities. If you don’t understand Technology, you aren’t realizing the potential of Marketing in its fullest and most human form. After all, that’s the proper goal of Marketing: to transcend technique towards sincere human relationship.

Confused yet?

It’s OK if you’re confused by this. It’s a completely new way to view the world. That’s why I’m devoting a series (and a blog) to this topic. I hope you follow along, contribute in the comments and even contact me (Phil /at/ PhilBaumann /dot/ com or on Twitter or by phone – 484-3726-0451.)

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