This time of year drives me crazy sometimes. When the end of the year rolls around you have all sorts of predictions about what will be hot in 2007. Often the predictions are rehashed predictions from the previous year ("no, really, <insert technology here> will really take off next year"). Sometimes those predictions are accurate and come to fruition.
One such prediction was made by Reg Lascaris, President of the Africa, Middle East and Mediterranean region of the TBWA global advertising group and founding partner of TBWA Hunt Lascaris, South Africa. He was quoted in a recent edition of the Weekend Argus as saying that digital media and a conversation with customers will replace command and control (or as Dave Duarte puts it, "megaphone tactics") marketing. On the one hand he is absolutely correct. Digital media is becoming (and in some parts of the world already has become) a significant medium as broadband becomes more prevalent. In addition, customers are growing weary of being on the receiving end of whatever it is marketers feel they should know about and want to be part of a conversation about the products and services being marketed to them. This is not, however, anything new. Way back in 1999 or 2000 there was a book called "The Cluetrain Manifesto" which started with the notion that markets are conversations. This book should be required reading for everyone involved in marketing (my brother is a marketing and communications student and he had to read this book for his course).
The notion that markets are conversations is the philosophical foundation of social media in general and publishing platforms like blogs in particular. You just have to look at blogs like GM’s Fastlane blog (this has been cited as an example so many times it has become a cliche) as examples of how customers want to talk back to the companies that make the things they are passionate about and perhaps even get involved in how those products and services are designed. The customer’s voice is a loud voice and anyone who doesn’t listen is sunk. Once again, these are not new concepts but they sound more impressive when they are part of a prediction about the year ahead.
According to Dave, the Weekend Argus article made a few important points:
1. Dialogue over Monologue
Weve been saying this over and over again, and it seems that the mainstream may be catching the ClueTrain, at last: Telling aint selling! Listening and responding according to what your customer tells you is the way forward.
2. There is no alternative
Digital media is no-longer on the fringe – and advertising budgets must start to reflect this. More than 50% of media spend should be allocated to digital (cellular and online).
3. Media in the Middle
Because media is becoming increasingly fragmented, agencies need to provide an integration and connection service between client and the server (of media). Thus agencies will help clients make sense of the micro-media fragments that are populating our universe.
Don’t get me wrong, my sarcasm is not aimed at the content of the predictions. I believe they are totally correct. What rubs me the wrong way is when someone leaps up onto a soapbox and makes bold predictions about world-changing technologies/trends as if he/she invented them. The notion of a market as a conversation is as old as trade. If anything, we have probably tended to move away from the idea of a market as a conversation as our markets have increased in size and mass marketing came to the fore. The big advantage of the Web now is that it enables us to revert back to conversational marketing because we can reach both a large audience and individuals through the same medium. Basically, we have come so far, technologically, that we can now go back to the way things were done back in the day when a market was a bunch of stalls along a muddy street.
On the other hand, I applaud the fact that someone as influential as Reg Lascaris has joined the stream of personalities promoting the social Web/new media/Web 2.0 movement. Dave says it well:
OK¦ this might not be anything new for long-time readers of this blog, but I get a warm cushy feeling to have these ideas affirmed by someone like Reg, who is widely known and respected throughout the SA marketing industry. Were at that nexus point, and things are about to tip onto the geekier side of marketing;)