The rapid growth (and destruction) and growth of marketing
-relevant text ads
Is there a pattern here? Marketing had an arc, one that started with personal, local interactions between real people and rapidly morphed into very corporate anonymous actions aimed at the unwilling masses. Charlie the Tuna is humorous, but he only existed to sell tuna, not to improve our lives.
Mass marketing created an angry, selfish beast, a hungry one, one that demanded to be fed. So marketers fed it, they fed it with any ads they could find. And when they couldn't find ads, they spammed us. All in the name of commerce, all because they're doing their job.
If this blog had existed twenty years ago, every single marketer reading it would have been a mass marketer, a direct marketer or a spammer. All day, every day. In the last ten years, the arc switched its trajectory and the selfish nature of marketing started to unravel.
The web led to permission marketing, which throws a monkey wrench into the selfish rationalization of marketers. Ads that went to people who wanted them outperformed (50:1) ads aimed at strangers. Suddenly, respect becomes profitable.
Wait! What about reaching new people? What about growth? Enter the ideavirus. Viral marketing, remarkable products, word of mouth online... all of these tactics are part of the same strategy: ideas that spread, win. If the internet is a giant meme machine, spreading ideas further and faster than ever before, the winners are those organizations that make things worth talking about. A purple cow isn't a fancy gimmick, or something you slap on to last year's item. A purple cow is a remarkable story, a story that spreads.
Social media's growth in the last three years, though, gives marketers an inkling that there may be something else going on. Sure, they can run
spam ads on Facebook, but they don't work. Social media, it turns out, isn't about aggregating audiences so you can yell at them about the junk you want to sell. Social media, in fact, is a basic human need, revealed digitally online. We want to be connected, to make a difference, to matter, to be missed. We want to belong, and yes, we want to be led.
My new book is called Tribes and it comes out today. I started to write a leadership book but discovered that I was actually writing a marketing book. (Either that, or I started to write a marketing book and ended up writing about leadership, I can't remember). Either way, what I discovered in writing it is this: The next frontier of marketing is in leading groups of people who are working together to get somewhere.
As someone who was buying millions of dollars of magazine ads just 24 years ago, this is a lot of change to swallow. And it's also the biggest opportunity for good/meaning/success that I can imagine. More details are here.
Things have changed, far more dramatically than most people realize. Not just what marketers buy, but what the media does all day, and what marketers build, and what we get paid to do and what and where we pay attention...
Here's the wager: A year from now, 10/16/09, will you be leading a tribe of people? Will you be creating stories, connecting people, giving them a platform and making things better for people who care about each other? I'm betting you will.