In 2010 Social Media Marketing will Mature or YOU will Fail

The Focus of Marketing

I’m a practitioner.  I live off my marketing skills.  Presently I work in a B2B environment marketing consulting & customized services to healthcare organizations.  I have completely embraced social media for professional networking.  But, I have not done so for marketing purposes, yet.

The main reason is that my target audience is not there.  A secondary reason is that I prioritize other tactics, as I simply do not have an unlimited budget.  Finally, because while there are good case studies on social media, the ROI is still unclear in my field, while the competing priorities are paying off dividends.  So while I’ve dabbled in it, I’ve relegated most of my social media use to professional networking.

Don’t get me wrong!  I love social media as a communication platform.  I do believe it is a disruptive technology.  But as a marketing strategist, I believe that it’s over hyped and that even those classified as “best in class” – in my opinion – are more “entertaining” and experimental (and rapidly becoming me too) than strategically centered marketing.

Take for example the Evian babies.  The most watched YouTube video for 2009.  Many marketers, including reputable marketing publications, point to that as “best in class” in social media.  I’m sure it won many awards.  It generated tons of exposure and impressions.  They are cute.  It’s entertaining.  But did it sell more water? 

It is that type of pseudo-marketing the Zyman killed at Coca-Cola.  Marketing is not about ENTERTAINMENT.  It’s about “selling more stuff to more people more often for more money more efficiently.”

The 2009 Financial Hangover

Kotler calls the fall out of the 2008-2009 world crisis the “New Normal,” turbulent market conditions punctuated by unpredictable uncertainty (I’m currently writing this book review for publication which I’ll post here in the next 60 days).  This has caused us to be fiscally paranoid.  2010 will bring continued scrutiny on our marketing budgets.

Data, analytics and results will be critical for any marketer wanting to keep his/her budget or job.  A couple of key questions to consider:

§         Is your segment still accurate?

§         Are you moving your segment along the buying continuum?

§         Are your meeting your reach & frequency requirements?

§         Are you making data-based decisions and trade-offs?

There are entire books on marketing analytics, but these questions are a good start.  Unless your social media plans deliver on your key metrics, you should eliminate them.  The period of experimentation is over.  Your social media needs to produce hard results or you should seek other tactics to meet your objectives. 

There are hundreds of companies doing social media right, I just see more abuse than not.

Social Media will Grow Up

Case study on “how not to”: The over hype reminds me of the year 1999.  The internet was HOT.  Web pages were the “new, new thing.”  While working on a billion dollar brand, we rushed to partner with a company to build semi-custom web sites for our customers.  We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for 3-year services for a number of websites.  At first the program seemed like a success, with hundreds of highly valued customers signing on and our company seen as progressive and value-add.  After 9 months, maybe a dozen of our sites were maintained, updated or marginally utilized.  We bought the over hype!  We jumped too fast, we did not build a solid strategy, and we failed in this initiative.  But we grew up and so will social media.

As I was writing this blog, I received a great e-mail from Marketing Profs.  It’s right on with their observations and it also illustrates nicely how social media is growing up.  Based on a survey of over 5,000 marketers, here are their top line observations:

1.      Social media strategy is more important than tactics/gimmicks.

2.      It’s not a one size fits all game.

3.      Map your social media plans to your strategy.

4.      All media is becoming social.

I would recommend you look into their blog.  I have added it to my blogroll if you’re interested.

It takes discipline to do social media right.  BUT THAT’S NOT DIFFERENT THAN ANYTHING ELSE YOU SHOULD BE ALREADY DOING.  2010 will not be a year of experimentation.  Social media will grow up and you should position your company to leverage this incredible marketing tool, if it makes strategic sense.  Just don’t buy the over hype or do so at your own risk.

Good marketing!



Marketing & PR: Play together or DIE!

The merging of 2 traditional functions: PR & marketing

 Traditional organizations have a silo infrastructure.  As mentioned in a previous post, this has been the result of a historical & patriarchal military mentality.  Social media has shattered this foundation.  For marketeers, this means an evolution of functions, skills and intra-departmental influence – or failure. 

VP of Marketing + VP of PR = 2 Many Generals?

 How did we get here?  Traditionally, organizations seeking expertise in these areas hired top talent to lead their respected teams.  As a matter of fact, industries we’re built around these separate functions – further creating silos.

  • Marketing – largely affiliated with advertising.  Primary customer was the buyer.  Major agencies: BBDO, Ogilvy, Saatchi & Saatchi, etc… In any organization, you’re likely to find a VP of marketing or CMO, which we’ll refer to as a general.

 1 too many

  • Public Relations – largely responsible for handling the media, crisis or Wall Street.  Primary customer was the media (TV, newspapers, etc.).  Major agencies: Ketchum, Ruder Finn, MRB, etc…  Mirroring the marketing function, you’re likely to find a VP of PR, which we’ll also refer to as a general.


This type of model worked for years – until recently.  The internet and social media demand a coordinated effort and 2 generals on a topic/brand/position is one too many.

Speed and communication platforms: the web & social media

When I began my marketing career, we still wrote memos.  We used company stationary and personally signed important client facing documents.  We typically relied on 5 mailing days for the communication to hit, depending on the location of the recipient.  This was still true through 1998 or so…

Unless your crisis was front-page news or TV worthy, we typically had days to “strategize” on a response.  The generals (VP’s) of marketing and PR would unite their teams.  Then the two generals would meet, usually with a higher up, to make a final recommendation.  That’s how we used to make our moves – and it used to work very well.

Until two major developments

The internet provides a real time mass communication vehicle for any company or person.  I won’t bore you with this point, except to say that before that, it was previously very difficult to achieve critical mass.

Social media has changed the speed of business at a dazzling speed.  I won’t bore you with this either, except to say that this type of rapid communication is both opportunistic and frightening for marketers. 

Yes, our world will never be the same, but the relevant marketeer will learn how to leverage these platforms to grow her/his business.  S/he will also realize that we need to merge the functions of PR and marketing, or at least synchronize them.  S/he will realize that the world has changed, and even in B2B industrials, the marketing world will never be the same.

Traditional marketing was outbound – new marketing needs to be inbound and conversational.  Traditional PR is boring and ineffective. -new PR creates genuine content and adds relevance to the brand.  Traditionally both functions have lived in silos – new organizations are merging both. 

Why do BOTH of these functions need to be aligned?

*  Your positioning and messaging will be clear to your client

*  Your budget will be optimized

*  The speed of business demands this – NOW

*  Your clients and competitors are empowered to mass communication in an instant

*  You will have a higher likelihood of breaking through the clutter

*  Because is you don’t, ultimately you will fail as a marketeer!

Change the world or at least change YOUR world

The easiest way for organization to disrupt the silo mentality and leverage these new mediums will be to organize marketing and PR into one department.  If you’re small and nimble, seriously consider this.  However, for the majority of us, the political battles and ingrained silo mentality, this will take years – but rest assured that competition will eventually make us all do it.

So if you cannot change your organization, here are a few recommendations to help you leverage synergies between these traditional silos.

1.      Align on strategy – it all starts with the multi-year business plan and your key strategies for the operating year.  Make everyone part of the development processes, not simply the executers.

2.      Align on tactics – for all your major initiatives, make sure everyone understands their expected contribution and objectives, including metrics.  Create synergies between silos.

3.      Align on key communication points – all communication should be coordinated under the same positioning, regardless of the audience.

4.      Create operating rhythms – communicate, communicate, communicate.

5.      Foster trust and responsibility – leverage expertise and coordinate work, don’t do someone else’s job.

6.      Empower all to have a “stake in the game” – create true partnerships in good and bad.

7.      You don’t have to be the HERO – It’s not about you. Put the client and initiative ahead of your silos and don’t worry about which department is leading!  If you’re in marketing, give way to PR and vice versa, depending on the issue.

The provocative title “or DIE” is not an over exaggeration.  Clients demand simplicity. The market demands synergies.  Your competition is evolving on this path.  What are you going to do?

Good marketing!


For 2 additional blogs on this topic see:

To compete or NOT to compete? That is the marketing question.

Competition has been traditionally viewed as a zero-sum game.  Yet current market realities, as well as radical developments, are causing marketeers to reconsider this old thinking paradigm.  For marketeers searching for growth, competition should be viewed in a new light – may be even a source for growth. 

Marketing of old

corporate world and war - same basis
old world of marketing

The concept of corporate America has a strong correlation to the concept of war.  It’s evident from structure to jargon (for more on this topic see HBR: Blue Ocean Strategy).  This has served us well in a domestic, less transparent, mass market and TV/radio post WWII world.  Unfortunately, it has had unintended consequences for marketeers:

  • Product focused – either low price (efficiency) or superior product (engineering),
  • Structure – Internally focused, silos, top down, patriarchic,
  • Competitively paranoid – causing “me too” thinking, losing focus of the client or pricing wars,
  • There are many other examples…. (add more to this blog)


Yet the customer could care less about all of these fantasy games.  For them, it’s all about the benefits we can bring to them, regardless of how we get there – and yes, even at a premium if we create the appropriate value proposition.

Marketing today

One of the market trends we all face next year is the lack of resources – for our product and our customers.  Yet customers seek more value and the innovators will reap their rewards.  Those who figure out how to do BOTH will generate profits in 2010.

Another major change: global markets have antiquated the “not made here” mentality.  

Additionally: the proliferation of electronic media has made every brand and consumer transparent. 

Thus, the three aforementioned developments are primary drivers of our reality today.  Take the time now to consider your industry changes and innovations.  In doing so, consider part of your offering and value proposition, products or services you might have previously seen as competition. 

As a matter of fact, examine all relevant players in your offerings:

  • Suppliers,
  • Substitutes,
  • Complementors, and
  • Traditional competitors


Challenge yourself into thinking of all of these past rivals as potential partners in bringing customer benefits that are differentiated and value added.

5 Reasons Why

  1. Lack of capital- you will not have enough resources to develop what someone might already offer.
  2. Resource allocation – invest only in what makes you u n i q u e, outsource the rest, even to competition.
  3. Brand amplification – leverage someone’s brand to give you instant credibility, recognition and differentiation.
  4. Focus – keep your organization aligned, not chasing different frontiers (see my previous blog).
  5. To better serve your customer!!! 


Change your thinking as you go into 2010, you’ll be better for it.

Good marketing!

Marketing’s “dirty little secret” – DISCIPLINE!

As we turn into the last month of the year, marketeers are busy finishing lose ends on current projects and beginning 2010 initiatives.  No doubt next year’s goals and objectives include a key word – “GROWTH.”  But, strategically speaking, there’s a “good” way to grow and then there’s a “bad” way to grow.  For the Marketeer, this usually leads to the everlasting balance between growth & discipline.

A “good” way to grow

Growth that is built on the strategic product positioning will lead to long-term growth.  But that is the KEY; it must be built on the positioning.  The trick then is to layer strategies and tactics that build on this positioning. This is really the idea behind value chains. 

A good way to grow can also be found in separate branding.  A brand stands for something or someone… if you want to grow beyond that, build another brand with a different positioning.  But be very, very clear in your messaging, this is a completely separate product. 

Yet another path to grow is through stronger communication of your differentiation.  Another way to think about this is focus.  Watch Growth through Focus by Al Ries (part 1 & part 2) – worth 15 minutes of your time. 

A “bad” way to grow

Unfortunately we see many more examples of companies attempting to grow the “wrong” or “bad way,” which highly correlates to the failure rates of businesses.  There are many failures to point to, but in my experience I’ve noticed a few mishaps reoccur:

  • The brand position is overstretched to the point that it becomes meaningless or confusing – can you say line extensions?
  • Core competencies are confused with strategy, particularly in companies led by operationally focused leaders.
  • Miscalculations of brand equity lead to brand dilution.
  • Pricing, rebates, bundling – same offense. 

The examples are endless.  Yet for marketeers, these maybe the “dirty little secrets.”  Because in our efforts to grow our businesses, we turn to these short-term activities to make our number – but in the process we DIRTY our brandsInterestingly enough, once you head down this path, it’s addicting, furthering the potential to corrupt your brand.   

7 Considerations for Marketeers

So what is a Marketeer to do when challenged to grow.  I’d say that the first word that should come to your head should be DISCIPLINE. 

Translate the growth challenge into a rallying cry for DISCIPLINED GROWTH by:

1.      Building longer & deeper value chains based on your current positioning. 

2.      Fiercely guarding the strategic positioning of your brand, fending off short-term thinkers in your organization.

3.      Develop separate or related branding schemes that capitalize on your brand but do not dilute it.

4.      Reinforce your product’s differentiation in a deeper, stronger way. 

5.      Fine tune segmentation, less is more in this case. 

6.      Acquire products or build partnerships that have equity in the space you’re attempting to penetrate.

7.      Have the courage to say “no” to strategies and tactics that will yield a short-term win, but a long-term disaster. 

Yes, I know, this is easier said than done, that is why I call it D I S C I P L I N E, because it requires sacrifice and trade-offs.  After 17 years of experience, I also know we all have done it at one point or another, hence, it is “the dirty little secret.”

Good marketing!