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Marketing 2.0: brands need to be, not just act, like people

Ian Delaney asked me for a view on  a white paper from Text 100 / Squiz on Communications 2.0.

Ian says:

I know the paper wasn’t really intended for public consumption but I find this a little disturbing. They’re talking about the Web 2.0 era or attitude purely as a way to flog more stuff.... For me, one of the key advantages of this brave new world for companies is that it gives them the chance to be better and make better stuff.

I wrote so much on the comment I figured it was more of  a post, so here it is:

The paper starts off well (after I'd gone through registration - not very networks-friendly or web 2.0 in itself) by echoing "web 2.0 is an attitude" and has a great deal of sound advice in it.

I understand why the selling thing might stick in Ian's throat, and I think he's right that "be better" and "make better stuff" should come first, but ultimately companies are going to need to sell stuff.

The difference in attitude is this: you will be successful in networks the more useful you are to them. Selling is one, but not the only, way that you will be more successful. The activity of selling stuff will most likely benefit from being well connected, a good network citizen, as it were, but its something that follows from not leads the conversation or the motivation for it.

Let me borrow from the brilliant "Is your brand a party animal?" analogy by Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown. Imagine a brand as the host of party this time...

After a moment of self-realisation - and some counselling - you've stopped shouting "buy my stuff" at people the moment they arrive at your party. That's good. But they'll leave if the moment you've taken their coat and given them a drink if you say "Anyway, what about buying some of my stuff".

They'll realise that you're a fake, you're marketer in blogger's clothing, and they'll go somewhere more interesting. You've got to carry on being being genuinely useful and human with your visitors, and the only way to keep that up is to genuinely *want" to be more human and useful.

Then at some point people will buy your stuff. It's over there in the corner by the way, thanks for noticing. Let me know how you get on with it, by the way. Cheers.

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Nigel's analogy works well for brands as guests at a party where it would be inappropriate to start flogging things. However, there are times when a host is expected to sell - imagine the disappointment of attending an Anne Summers party and the host not getting down to business! Provided the purpose is clearly sign-posted, blogging to sell may be appropriate. But as any good sales person knows, listening to customers is much more important than simply talking at them.

Antony, you are an infinitely more patient person than I if you can take this kind of time and effort to explain to people how to be, er, people. I'm reminded of the Hugh MacLeod cartoon which reads something like, "Don't try to sell a meteor to a dinosaur. It just frustrates you and confuses the dinosaur."

Heather: to stretch the analogy, if people turn up at your shop that's fair enough.

Jackie: it's a living ;-)

Thanks for the thoughts.

"ultimately companies are going to need to sell stuff"

You are right, of course, and maybe I've been reading too much Seth Godin ;)

Who is very inspirational, but doesn't always sell stuff ;-)

But Brands are part of Corporations which, I also read, are effectively required to be psychotic :)

I think what social media does is make the behaviour of the Brand (or any entity really) observable to all in the network, ie changing the Game Theory - so it is far more difficult to carry out a large number of one to one "cheat" transactions.

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