Monday, March 06, 2006
Marketing 2.0: The Line Between Good and Evil
I was surprised today to read this quote from Rubel:
"..."Internet word of mouth is extremely important," said Steve Rubel, a marketing expert and senior vice president at Edelman public relations. "You see what the most vocal consumers have to say about you and about your competitors -- and they're saying it without necessarily knowing you're watching them."
Lately, I've been following Edelman (and Rubel, to a lesser degree) with some interest. I think Edelman is on the right track - he understands why 2.0 models are hyperefficient to a degree many PR/ad guys don't; they just see them as amplifiers, or mechanisms to be gamed (viz, seeding communities with thinly veiled "advocates").
So I was surprised to read this quote. Maybe it sounds more evil than it really is.
Here's the point: transparency is the basis of trust, which is the building block of social capital/communities/networks/slashes transaction costs in markets, etc. You know the score.
If marketing 2.0 is just like marketing 1.0, but more evil, (trust me) it will fail miserably. Why? Market power has shifted irrevocably to consumers. Making "strategic" moves (read: myopic ones) which squander trust will lead to marketers and PR guys never understanding how value is created at the edge.
The trick, in fact, is the opposite: to let people know you're listening, and that you can take the pain of hearing some real-world criticism.
Or think about this quote from Edelman:
"...4) Stupid does not mean anti-corporate. Note that the #1 rated video on the site is the Ebay song.
6) Why not reinvent product placement by giving avid community members samples David Weinberger's immortal word swag so they can make videos that help to co create the brand reputation prior to brand launch?".
Again, I am struck hard by the (to put it more bluntly than I would like) sheer lack of imagination in Edelman's ideas. 2.0 offers enormous new space for radically disruptive media value propositions - and the best we get is "stupid is not anti-corporate"?
Come on. 2.0 is about the firm being unbundled. It is deeply anti "corporate" in it's essence. Yesterday's bureauracy is fast disappearing because 2.0 models are far more efficient (outsourcing, Innocentive, NineSigma, etc). Isn't the point for marketers to help firms adjust to a world where they can't exert total control the conversation anymore (a la Fox News/CNN/etc)?
Come on. Is brand co-creation really that, well, lame? Is it really just the new old thing - the new product placement? Funny, I thought it was about creativity and value flowing in both directions.
I could go on. Perhaps I'm making a mountain out of a molehill; perhaps I'm (really) wrong about all this. In fact, I hope I am.
The bigger point is this: I think, based on the very simple economics of attention scarcity, that marketing 2.0 must (must - not should) be less evil than 1.0 if it's to create, rather than destroy, value. Are these datapoints that tell us the PR end of marketing 2.0 is already on the wrong track?
In many cases the customer doesn't want to be watched by the corporation and makes comments anonymously. Should we trust their comments?
Don't you think sometimes people just want to talk without prejudice and not to get into trust issues?
Hmm, I actually had a different interpretation of Rubel's statement, when first reading it; I thought he was simply saying that it's possible with blogs to read people's opinions without having to directly contact them and ask point-blank what it is. I saw this as more of an innocent statement, like comparing reading a blog to reading an op-ed piece in a newspaper, in that you don't have to directly ask the person in question what their opinion is (a simplistic point, to be sure, but maybe something that a lot of PR professionals don't even understand yet). Now, that said, I definitely agree with everything else you mention in this entry.
Maybe you're asking the impossible. :-)
If you're right, (and I tend to believe you are), Edelman is talking to the organs of the corporation who's raisan d'etre - ie. to control the message to, and conversation with, the customer - has just disappeared. These are the organs that will be amputated if and when the corporation itself "gets" what you're saying.
Isn't the main message for corporations, to put together the wiring to enable the edge to talk to itself? But the main purpose of marketing is to encode centralized messages on top of someone else's value. Of course Edelman will tell those people to try to stick their messages on top of user-created value, because if he admitted that there's no need for messages at all, he's admitting they're exinct and they wouldn't listen to him anyway.
(BTW : on the subject of putting together the wiring to enable the edge to talk to itself, I reckon Microsoft are really smart today : http://spaces.msn.com/rayozzie/blog/cns!FB3017FBB9B2E142!285.entry?_c11_blogpart_blogpart=blogview&_c=blogpart#permalink )
Do you still think Edelman gets it?