Magazine article Marketing

Doubters Are Not Deniers: Amid the Social-Media Euphoria, Marketers Must Ask Some Basic Questions

Magazine article Marketing

Doubters Are Not Deniers: Amid the Social-Media Euphoria, Marketers Must Ask Some Basic Questions

Article excerpt

I was at business school between 1998 and 2000, during the frenzied inflation of the great dotcom bubble. Students packed the halls for the dotcom-related subjects, which then accounted for more than half of the MBA electives.

Occasionally, during one of those crammed lectures, a brave soul would ask a very basic question: how will these start-ups ever make money?

There was rarely a direct response. The question would be met instead by a pained silence and looks of something between sympathy and disdain: another lost fool who didn't 'get it'.

Should the questioner summon up the courage to persist, there would be an airy assertion that this was 'a new business model' - followed by the anecdote that the market valuation of Amazon.com already exceeded the entire GDP of Finland.

Times change, but our predilection for mass certainty built on thin evidence does not. In our industry it is a combination that has shifted to a new arena: social media.

'What's our social-media strategy?' has become an inevitable and urgent question in marketing meetings, with little quarter given to anyone who seeks to probe whether it's the right tool for this particular brand or situation.

And to be fair to those, usually more senior, marketers who do voice concerns, it isn't easy to be the Luddite in the room. Doubters can be made to feel like deniers, the misinformed and irresponsible fools who cannot see what is so transparently self-evident to everyone else.

For those who wearily persist in asking awkward questions, the 'everything-has-changed' brigade has garnered a cache of stories to bolster its cause.

They might point to the waiting lists achieved by Lancome, which seeded its DreamTone serum with influential bloggers to foment 'must-have' desire. Or to Ford, which loaned pre-launch Fiestas to 100 fashionable young drivers for six months, to earn the kind of buzz advertising can't. …

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