Posted by: Tim | March 18, 2010

Marketing and Social Media

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you cannot get them across, your ideas will not get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca

“Social Media puts the “public” into PR and the “market” into marketing.” – Chris Brogan

There is something unique that draws me to marketing.  Maybe it’s because I’m a TV junkie or the point of marketing is to draw people in and I’m just susceptible or maybe they’re really good at their jobs, but I find myself intrigued.  It must be a wonderful and amazing time to be involved in this field, though I am sure that every generation has said that same thing.  The advent of radio was a great time, the advent of television and of real commercials and the of the internet were all great and amazing times as well.  And today, it is social media that makes this field so interesting.  So let’s take a little look at marketing, current trends and a little of my fascination with social media.

Let me clarify what I mean when I say marketing.  Marketing can be selling a product or promoting a movie, television show, book, person, thought, idea, etc. because promoting something is a form of selling.  Money doesn’t have to change hands, but the idea is to try to convince you that this item is worth your time.  Marketing has been around for a long time.  People standing outside of shops and theaters trying to entice people to come in and spend money is an early example of marketing.  In the mid 1400s, Gutenberg’s movable type led to the ability to produce fliers and brochures.  The 1800s saw the first paid advertisement in a newspaper, the earliest recorded use of the telegraph for unsolicited messages, the first billboard rentals and the first examples of trademarks as branding.  The early 1900s gave us radio advertisements and the mid 1900s gave us television advertisements.  Late in the 20th century with the proliferation of computers, all kinds of internet based advertisements arose, such as database marketing, relationship marketing, spam, guerrilla marketing and viral marketing.  Today we have the beginnings of social media marketing with MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.  It is a field that continues to evolve and develop new methods yet it has not let go of the old methods.

I could discuss all the various forms of marketing, but that would be an entire posting, so I won’t bore you with that.  Instead let’s look at the general concept of advertisements (like TV/radio ads and magazine ads).  The point of advertisements is to “sell” something, whether it is a product, idea, person or company.  Images, music and words are all used and crafted to achieve this goal.  Various trends emerge in advertising.  Some are persistent trends.  “Sex sells” is an example of a persistent trend in advertisements because sex intrigues people, brings out emotions, draws people’s attention and is something that will always be part of life.  What sells a car better than phallic imagery?  And I don’t know about you, but for me, half naked people make me think toilet paper.

Volvo Ad & Renova Toilet Paper Ad

However, there are other trends in advertising that aren’t as persistent as sex.  Absurdity and cuteness seem to be current trends (i.e. sock monkeys driving a car and talking babies).  Advertisements specifically focused on appealing to geeks and women appear to sliding slowly toward the forefront.  Trends come and go (and sometimes come back again) as society changes, as people’s interests change and as various other influences change and fluctuate.  For instance, when trying to sell your product to teenagers, an ad that worked for teens in the 60s, may not be as effective for teens in 2010 since their interests, how they interpret things and what gets their attention are likely different.  So companies have to change how they present the same message to deal with this change.

Changes and fluctuation are not the only things that need to be taken into consideration.  You have to consider your target market, too, and realize that not everyone responds the same way.  If your target market is more specific (eg. White, Middle-Class, Suburban Women between 25-40), your task a bit easier, than if your target is more generalized (eg. Men between 18-35) because it’s a narrower focus and the audience is less varied.  People see and interpret things differently depending on their education, their income, how they were raised, their gender, age, area of the country and the list continues.  For instance, I can sit on my couch with a friend and we can watch the exact same commercial, at the exact same time on the exact same TV and we may react completely differently to it.  These two Old Spice commercials are a good example of this concept.  I think they are absurdly brilliant, but I know others who think they’re just asinine.


What’s your opinion on these ads or other ads containing absurdity?

Of course it’s not possible to tailor advertisements to each individual, but finding the gimmick that hooks the most people is a talent.  Putting images, music and words together to sell something is hard work and, in my opinion, an art form.

The internet is a big deal in marketing because it’s everywhere; people are online all the time and it allows ads to be tailored more precisely.  The internet also led to the newest marketing tool: social media.  Blogs, Facebook, podcasts and Twitter are being used for marketing.  You can find companies, television/movie actors, directors, authors, musicians, scientists, and astronauts on social networks.  Companies and celebrities used to seem so out of reach but now are seemingly conversing with you, responding to your questions, and sharing things with you.  Fans and followers can now feel more part of the action.  They are drawn in and given a sense of involvement which helps them feel like their voice might actually be heard and be important.  Prizes and awards are occasionally offered up to fans on these social networks, which further gives people a sense of inclusion like they are part of a special club.  Social media can be an extension of our voyeuristic society obsessed with reality shows.  People are giving you more access to themselves and what they do both professionally and privately.  Fictional characters from shows are stepping out of television and appearing online so people can interact with them.  People without huge marketing budgets are using social media to promote themselves and their projects for just the cost of their time.  Companies, like Comcast, monitor social networks for keywords so they can address complaints or help sell their products.  There are people harnessing social media for outreach, to share & promote their ideas and to help find like minded people.

Social media is a whole new outlet for communicating, sharing and getting involved.  There were two social media instances that really got me thinking about this blog posting.  One was a tweet by ZacharyLevi from “Chuck”, that he was live Ustreaming from his phone.  Being curious, I clicked on the link and there was Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski and Brandon Routh all walking on the studio lot headed to their trailers.  They were just talking and goofing off and promoting that night’s episode. It was brilliant, unique and made me feel more of an attachment to the show and its actors.  The second was a Facebook group devoted to getting Betty White to host SNL.  It was started by some guy and then the group grew and grew and grew until the news was reporting about it,  TV shows were talking about it and Betty White was responding about the group.  It shows the potential marketing power social media can have because…it worked.

I am not saying social media is right for everyone or every company because it does take time and resources.  You do not want to be on Twitter and Facebook if you are not actively monitoring it.   I don’t really want to get into who shouldn’t use social media or the potential downsides to it (which there are), but I will direct you towards a blog posting by Marijean.  She briefly discusses an experience she had that shows the problem with being on Facebook and Twitter but not actively paying attention to the accounts, so check it out.

I know there is a ton I am leaving out or glossing over, but I could probably talk about this for hours.  I find it wonderful, amazing and mind-blowing and I can’t even imagine what else is possible with social media or where marketing will go to next.

Check out some of the awesome people I follow on Twitter: Twitter List

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