Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate


Who knew that a line from "Cool Hand Luke" would be a title of one of my missives?  Certainly not me!  But, as you'll see, it's very fitting.

I was doing my typical email and media review this morning to get caught up when I came across this post by Robert Paterson.  It's a quick read but I'll excerpt the part that struck me most:

"I am repelled by the Corporate Voice.  It's the voice of many who use Social Media today who have co-opted the tools and still set out to manipulate.  Who are so obviously Narcissistic - pretending to have concern for me but in truth being concerned only about themselves.  ...  Voice is the key to engagement I think.  Not only the voice on the page but the actual voice.  I am acutely aware of the spoken corporate voice now."

Wow.  That woke me up more than the cafe faux lait I had this morning.  This post was about authenticity or the perceived lack thereof.  It makes one ask what is our brand and what does it stand for?  Do we believe in the solution we offer to our customers and prospects?  Do we know we can do better but are offering "good enough for government work" because we don't have the passion or drive?  Do we do "good enough for government work" because of disdain for our customers in the form of "They don't get it" or "They won't appreciate it."  Do we realize how disconnected we are from the brand message and how much cynicism it creates (see above post)?

Is it lack of authenticity or lack of knowledge?  Maybe we don't know how to use the channels that we've been given.  Maybe we're on Facebook, Twitter, etc., because someone else has told us to and our skepticism is showing through -- hence the Corporate Voice that Robert finds so repellent.  To Mitch Joel's point, we forget that our brand differentiators are not the flash videos and other whizzbangery but the unique features and/or benefits that give customers and prospects a warm fuzzy.

Maybe...  you know who you are...  the experts, in their passion for the media, don't remember that we've not all reached their level of expertise or belief and have to take a few steps back to manage expectations.  And...  you know who you are...  the marketers need to explain better their objectives or learn how to ask better questions of the experts to maximize success.  Here's a neat little JaffeJuice vlog (also here):

I like to say that there are three sides to every story: one side, the other side and the truth which is my takeaway here.  I think Robert is right when he suggests there's a certain artificiality going on but it's extreme to suggest that it's all about narcissism or WIIFM as opposed to not understanding which messages are best for which channels.

Robert's complaint is actually the symptom.  It's the strategy that's ailing.  In this heyday of ADD via social media, having the right content tweeted at the right time, posted in the right place, delivered via iPhone app, etc., we have forgotten our marketing fundamentals.  Good, solid marketing strategy is brand, product and channel agnostic.  The discipline you follow to do anything right in marketing is the same for a waffle and for a widget.  You don't "cut in line" or omit steps simply because it's for Twitter or Facebook.

Of course there are significant differences by channel.  Yes.  You're right.  But we should never talk about delivery or content variations if we don't know where we want to be vis a vis our competitive set: market share at the end of a specified time period, in terms of customers, in terms of prospects or whatever other metric you might have in mind.  If I don't know my reason for being generally, then it's a bit premature to map out my social media tactics/strategies which is where I think Robert's complaint actually belongs.  And, to Joseph Jaffe's point, we fail when we fail to articulate clearly what our strategies are and what our metrics are for success.  And, the social media experts fail when they don't understand our objectives clearly and/or are too eager to sell us the next bright flashy object.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not arguing for painfully long marketing strategy sessions with your agency where you are holed up in a windowless room for 3 days straight.  It is possible, though, to take a deep breath, assess your competitive environment and design your strategy based on fact and not hysteria.  At that point, you become authentic.

What's your take?  Please leave a note below or send me your thoughts!

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


1 comment:

  1. Parissa:

    I think the inability to communicate is bigger than what is going on via social media. I think the failure to communicate is societal in nature. That is why we have a class of civilizations East vs. West, a clash of generations, that is why we witness racism, anti semitism, etc. It is man kind. Shakespeare nailed it when he wrote about the different behavorial characteristics of mankind. I wish he were around now blogging.

    Now how is that for some deep thoughts.