Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Marketers On Collision Course with Consumers?

Are marketing professionals putting the future success of their brands and agencies at risk? Two articles that I read today left me wondering the answer to that question.

The Financial Times covered a report from The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising that stated, "two-thirds of advertising agencies are not prepared for the industry changes prompted by social networks and new forms of digital media." Failing to attack the challenges and opportunities of Social Media could come at a steep cost to agencies. The report calculated that ad agencies face growth of "just 1.2 per cent a year by 2016 if the industry fails to tackle the changes to the media created by sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter."

If you're like me, you might be wondering how it is even possible that marketing professionals could be missing out on the most important consumer trend since the adoption of the Internet. The second article may provide a clue.

A MediaPost article, entitled "Back To Basics For Marketers," shares findings from an annual survey conducted by The Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) and Anderson Analytics. Among the insights gained in the study are--prepare yourself--that marketers "are 'sick' of hearing about Web 2.0 and related buzzwords such as blogs and social networking."

Among a list of the most important marketing concepts, Word of Mouth was ranked 11th, SNS (Social Network Sites) was 19th, Web 2.0 was 33rd, and blogging was 39th. Most of these Social Media concepts were ranked lower than such pressing marketing concepts as Alternative Energy (12th), Green Marketing (15th), and Credit Availability (23rd). Conversely, asked what terms they were most tired of hearing, marketers' top four choices were Web 2.0, Social Networking, Social Media, and Blogging.

I find it shocking and disappointing that a group of people whose livelihoods require they remain in tune to consumer patterns, media habits, and communication trends would find Social Media tiresome. If they're "sick" of this concept, they may want to find an antidote quickly, because Social Media is just getting started! In 2008, Twitter grew 752%, Facebook has increased its traffic 116%, and other Web 2.0 sites have seen surging growth (for example, Ning is up 270% and LinkedIn up 114%).

Because it is impossible for me to fathom how marketers could be "sick" of this powerful and exciting shift in consumer behavior, I began to consider potential causes for this Social Media ailment. Perhaps it is that senior marketers (i.e., older folks) don't "get" and are wary of the ways Social Media is altering their industry.

I might sound like I am being irreverent, but I'm not. It's no secret that Social Media demographics have skewed young (and broadened considerably in 2008). But the marketers surveyed are likely an older bunch; no age demographics were shared about MENG, but its members "must have held a position of Vice President or higher before joining (and) pass a screening process including a minimum base salary of $160K." I could be wrong, but I don't think there are a lot of six-figure VPs in the 14 -to-34 age bracket so active in Social Media.

Another possible cause of this Social Media apathy could be fatigue and a wish for stability. We all like to claim that we embrace change, but standing on constantly shifting ground can get exhausting. With print down, television slipping, banner ads failing, ad-zapping technology on the rise, the demand for Marketing ROI growing, and Social Media evolving at a rapid pace, there's no doubt the discipline of marketing requires constant vigilance to stay informed, relevant, and successful. It used to be that a marketing mistake meant spending bucks on a campaign that failed to capture the attention of consumers; nowadays, marketing mistakes result in public shaming and brand damage control (see Motrin's recent Mommy Blogger blowup).

Whatever the reason for their Social Media burnout, marketers would be well advised to get re-energized on the subject because expertise is lacking as consumer usage is exploding. In an ironic twist within the MediaPost article, it is revealed that this same group of marketers admit they are Social Media neophytes: "A social media study MENG released on November 6, 2008 (showed that) 67% of executive marketers consider themselves beginners when it comes to using social media for marketing purposes."

The combination of surging Social Media adoption, Social Media inexperience, and Social Media exhaustion is a dangerous one for brands. In 2009, a shakeout will occur in Social Media sites and tools (accelerated by the weak economy), but Social Media engagement will only continue to swell in the years to come, aided by new concepts, tools, and sites that make it easier for consumers to share, obtain, and filter information, opinions, and experiences.

I hope if you're reading this, you aren't tired of Social Media. After all, we're just in third mile of the marathon and the winners in 2012 will be the ones who keep up the pace in 2009!

1 comment:

Ardath Albee said...

Great post! I find it interesting that it comes down to age and wonder if that's just due to the group surveyed. As a 48 year old marketer who blogs, participates on Twitter and LinkedIn and publishes two websites, I disagree. I think it comes down to curiosity and stretching to keep evolving your skills and knowledge.

What I do see often from my clients is that they are stymied in how to integrate social media into their marketing mix. It's a bit of a conundrum for B2B marketers with complex sales. But, gosh it's a thrill to pull all the facets together and see what's possible.

I do agree that this is a change that will have to be embraced, so marketers need to start thinking about how to evolve themselves. Let's help them.