About a month ago, I had a conversation with a friend who doesn’t work in the same industry as I do about a phrase that she noticed is quite pervasive amongst the social media set.
“They don’t get it.”
This is used to explain the ineptitude and shortcomings of my brethren in marketing who work at brands, enterprises and agencies or all shapes and sizes, and pertains to their lack of understanding about social media and engagement marketing.
As an outsider, that phrase just sounded condescending, at best, and arrogant and obnoxious at worst, to her.
I tried to explain, as earnestly as possible, the context in which I’ve used that phrase to describe these small minded people. I’m sorry, I mean marketers. There are, after all, so many examples of marketers at brands and agencies that don’t get this new world of transparency and authenticity. Truth is, even when they try, most attempts at engagement marketing by seasoned marketers are true fuck ups and one can only conclude that they just don’t get it. Right?!
I mean, they just don’t seem to get that the world has changed. They’re obviously just freaked out and desperate to hold on to their old ways of doing business in the same ways that Conservatives talk nostalgically about the good old days of oppression and slavery (well, you get my point).
After awhile though I started listening to what she was saying (usually a good idea in a conversation). It wasn’t whether or not people get it, rather, this industry that I work in seems to be really caught up in its own bullshit. That got me thinking. Maybe I’m living too much in my little bubble of get-it-ness and I’m missing something.
A couple of weeks after this conversation I met a guy who works at one of these ‘don’t get it’ big agencies. This guy is a classic ad guy. Knows the traditional ad business inside and out. He seems to be really good at his job and he immediately earned my respect.
We had a conversation about the transformation of the ad industry. We talked about their existing business and the fact that doing 30 second spots for TV remains their bread and butter.
Wait, hadn’t he and his Mad Men friends heard about what we in the social media industry know to be Gospel? Isn’t TV dead? Aren’t million dollar ad campaigns dead? Isn’t it all about the social web? Ugh, another guy who doesn’t get it.
But here’s the thing, I think he does.
The fact is that any big brand (the ones that my industry cohorts bitch about) are faced with a reality of today’s business. Would you throw away millions of dollars that roll in the door today to jump on a bandwagon that, yes, will become THE way of marketing in the near future but isn’t quite there today? Any executive worth anything would not say yes to that. If they do, they’re idiots.
Rather, wouldn’t you just send your best and brightest out there to learn and experiment as much as they can with these new methods, knowing full well that you’ve got to very quickly develop an expertise in this new approach to marketing?
The measure of that executive is how quickly they understand and act on the balance of allocating resources between maintaining your existing business and ensuring that the company is ready to move in a new direction when the market conditions are right.
This is exactly what my new friend appears to be doing.
So, when I was asked tonight whether I thought he ‘gets it,’ I had to think about it for a second. My answer now is, yes, he does.
More importantly, I think I finally get it too.