Seth Godin’s predictions about printed newspapers and traditional advertising do an interesting thing. By declaring that these business models have lost their relevance (forget about whether or not the exact dates are right), he forces you to think past the distraction of collapsing quarterly revenues. We all know how it will end, eventually. So start thinking about _why_ these models have lost their ability to support businesses: They’re not working for consumers. Focus on them and the rest will work itself out.
“Prediction: there will be no significant newspapers printed on newsprint in the US by 2012. So, you’ve got two and a half years before the newspaper industry is going to be doing something else with the news and the ads, or not be there at all. Does that change what you do today if you work in this business?”
“Not powder or chemicals or rubber or steel or silicon or talk or installations or even sugary water. What marketers sell is hope. The reason is simple: people need more. We run out. We need it replenished. Hope is almost always in short supply.”
Exactly. Watch how Mad Men’s Don Draper sells the Kodak client on his idea to help them sell the Carousel — give your customers hope that the new thing will soothe the ache of nostalgia:
I agree with Godin that traditional advertising doesn’t and won’t work in Facebook or Twitter. Operative word: traditional. But I don’t agree that Twitter and Facebook — just because they’re designed for connecting communities rather than distributing traditional media content — won’t devise native experiences that will work well for their communities and for brand marketers at the same time.
Brand marketing doesn’t need to operate like “traditional advertising.” For example, with its OPEN Forum blog, American Express is using marketing dollars to create a credible small business publication, replete with editorial contributions from the leading names in business advice. Based on repeat visitor rates and links from other sites that recommend it to their readers, the SMB community is finding value in the OPEN Forum blog even though its content is funded by ad dollars. And because the contributors to the site, such as Guy Kawasaki and Anita Campbell, are given license to create real, editorial content (they wouldn’t participate otherwise), they’re alerting their Twitter followers each time they post something new. They are not paid to post these stories to Twitter; they’re doing it because they always Twitter new stuff they publish, whether the content appears on their own sites or at someone else’s publication.
I’d argue that American Express is using Twitter for brand marketing right now, and it’s working as well for Guy’s and Anita’s followers as it is for American Express.
Certain applications within Facebook, like Graffiti, have done the same: Developing ad-supported experiences that allow brands to enter the conversation without spoiling the conversation. Here are some exmples.
(Disclosure of sorts: Seth Godin is not officially affiliated with FM, unless you count our informal Seth Godin Fan Club. He is, however, a sometime contributor to the OPEN Forum site, the content of which FM manages.)
“The juxtaposition of the third sentence with the second just highlighted the inanity of the entire enterprise. It’s a high-quality network, but 500 people a day are being asked to join, and it’s okay to spam people but do I want to join anyway?”
“The end result of spam (email spam, blog spam, Twitter spam, Squidoo spam, comment spam, phone spam, politician spam) is that it eats away at your brand. If you don’t have a brand, you might make some short term cash but it gets tiresome creating annoyance everywhere you go. If you do have a brand, a brand like Forbes, say, you don’t notice the brand erosion… until it’s too late.”
Needless to say, brand marketers don’t want to be associated with distressed brands — so what’s the point of this approach?
“Sure, 1% of your customers blog or post or just plain talk. They’re louder than ever before. But the other 99% represent a real opportunity for you. Figure out how to get them out there. Cajole them to go to a caucus.”
I know it worked for Obama yesterday — get of them to caucus — but that might be the harder path, getting your quiet fans to alter their personalities so they become talkative fans. An alternative suggestion: Find talkative folks, and see if you can deliver a noteworthy experience with your brand.
“Word of mouth is a decaying function. A marketer does something and a consumer tells five or ten friends. And that’s it. It amplifies the marketing action and then fades, usually quickly. A lousy flight on United Airlines is word of mouth. A great meal at Momofuku is word of mouth.
“Viral marketing is a compounding function. A marketer does something and then a consumer tells five or ten people. Then then they tell five or ten people. And it repeats. And grows and grows. Like a virus spreading through a population. The marketer doesn’t have to actually do anything else. (They can help by making it easier for the word to spread, but in the classic examples, the marketer is out of the loop.) The Mona Lisa is an ideavirus.”