It's Official: Business Week Calls Advertising A “Conversation”

Despite the belated timing for such a proclamation, I appreciate Business Week’s validation of conversational marketing in Ted Shelton’s January 18, 2008, Viewpoint column:

“Dove and a growing number of brands are finding that the kind of marketing the 20th century perfected is becoming less effective in the 21st. A recent McKinsey report predicts that, ‘Traditional TV advertising will be one-third as effective in 2010 as it was in 1990.’ Other advertising media aren’t working as well as they once did either. Not as many people are dialing the 800 number, clicking the banner ad, or remembering the tagline, regardless of whether it’s a radio spot on a CBS broadcast, an ad in The New York Times, or even a banner on Yahoo!. In fact, marketing that seeks to control has become an annoyance in a media environment of virtually unlimited choice. In a 2006 study, researchers found that only 53% of consumers said they believed ads were a good way to learn about new products. That was down from a 78% response in 2002….

Shelton goes on to argue that advertising can and will change (and I agree), but his notion that conversational marketing is limited to consumers, experts and competitors literally talking about brands and commercial services misses the broader implications of the internet — brands need to join their customers in whatever conversation those customers are having, not just the ones about buying stuff.

“Before you entirely discard the notion of advertising, however, it is worth noting that it can and will change. Companies will recognize that there is a conversation going on in the marketplace that they should join, not dominate. Consumers, experts, and competitors are all talking about your company, its products, and the competition’s products. Joining that conversation means providing information, answering questions, and responding to concerns instead of just broadcasting one-way messages. Participating allows a company to correct misinformation, offer insights, develop a reputation, and create a relationship with the most influential people in a given market.

“Once a company has become a part of the conversation, conventional one-way advertising can serve a meaningful purpose. It can draw attention to the conversation and to the company’s participation. It can alert a market to change. It can be a form of information that is valuable again—information about where and when the market is operating and how to engage with it.”

I’ll make sure Shelton gets an invitation to our next Conversational Marketing Summit!

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