My most recent job has me thinking about marketing agencies and the shift in marketing that has even the CMO of Unilever (not exactly the brand I think of when one talks about the internet or social media) ranting and raving about the impact of social media on marketing.
As I said in an earlier post, I find that depending on who you ask and what type of marketing they do, they’ll tell you that their discipline is the best suited to be the social media answer to all the modern marketer’s woes. To me that’s not even the point. I think that if you’re having a discussion along the lines of social media you’re having the wrong the discussion–I’ll address this point later, but first a rant on agencies.
Seriously, ask a PR agency guy what type of agency he thinks ‘gets’ social media and he’ll give you a hundred reasons why PR has all the answers. They’re the ones that have honed the fine art of reaching influencers after all. Sure, I suppose it makes sense that a social media expert from a major PR agency would NEVER do something stupid like this. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Ask an ad guy and he’ll show you a bunch of commercials they created that they put on a YouTube channel that they convinced their client to pay a minimum of $500,000 for. People really want to watch TV commercials online, don’t they?! (Disclosure: I do this quite a bit actually, I particularly like the Nike ones. Wait…I’m in marketing, of course I think ads are cool. Nevermind.)
OK, rant over.
Marketers should be looking at how they’re engaging with customers. That is, the opportunity for a brand to establish and nurture a direct, lasting and loyal relationship with a customer in ways that haven’t been possible before. Social media to me is just one of the channels in which you can engage with a customer, albeit a very effective one.
On the brand side of the business, I look at all these disciplines as ways of meeting my business objectives. I use a mix of them because they all serve different purposes and when used correctly (by a brilliant marketer), at the right time, in the right ways, in the right mix, you win.
I’m not the first to say that the social web has changed the game dramatically for brands (especially media companies). You might even be so bold as to say that people are in control now–I don’t necessarily believe that to be the case entirely, but I do believe that the dynamics have shifted and there’s no turning back. More interestingly, the change seems to be accelerating (much like global warming).
So, what’s the right type of agency or marketer to deliver this?
In my opinion, it’s one that understands and can deliver a highly evolved offering of PR, advertising, search, direct marketing, content development, programming, events and community management, all integrated into a strategy that flows through the entire backbone of a business, and a deep ability to provide technology solutions to achieve all this.
More importantly, it’s a marketer that gets that all of this requires a fundamental change in the way a company operates, the way it handles customer service, product development, partnerships, etc., and transforms this understanding into engagement strategies and tactics that feed back into a companies business objectives.
Does an agency like this exist? Not that I know of.
Can it? I think so.