Why marketing is missing the point in social

Unlearning marketing is a term that has surfaced recently, mainly pushed by the Adobe folks.

I can’t  agree more.  Marketing – as it was done before social media – is archaic and less and less relevant.

If you look at the words of marketing,  you clearly see it was built to address a flat market. The core notions of marketing, that current marketers are familiar with are:  “lists” and “segments”.

Marketers segment people into square boxes or folders, group
people with the same geo-socio-demo-attributes in rigid segments.

Marketers  buy lists, email to lists, manage lists.

All this was good before social media. But “social media” enables people to connect online and  make these connections  visible to brands, and to others.

The result is that people in marketers lists are  connected to each other too and that these lists are no longer  lists but  graphs.

And talking about segments, you can’t really segment a network. The proper technique to extract part of a graph/network is “clustering”. Segments have therefore become Clusters and the challenge for marketers has shifted from defining segments to identifying clusters.

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It may not sounds radical but the transformation is similar to traveling on a “flat world” versus on a globe.

Still most marketing executives we meet these days are not ready to question the practices and learning they built for a “flat world”. They frequently come to us with requests such as:  can you find us millenium’s,  wealthy single men 18-25  ?, people that match a specific persona? and can’t take the answer: “this is not how the market is organized in social”.

That’s for the geometry of the market … and  there is more to it:

  • These clusters are “conscious” i.e they know each other, they know they have power as a group and they know that marketers should know so the tolerance for “plain advertising messages” or lack of understanding of the nature of the social web is on the rise. ( for a definition on concious markets, see JF Noubel)
  • These clusters are also made of people with different positions & roles in the network. In this “networked market”   potential clients are connected one to each other in various social platforms and  belong to organic eco-systems with prescriptors, influencers , connectors …

How should people market to tribes? None really knows yet and It will take some time and a lot of failures before we unlearn “flat marketing” and invent how to market to a networked market. My take on this is that a better approach is to learn from  how “sales work” (“consultative selling”) and grow from there.

I’d like to end quoting Adobe’s CMO:

“Imagine getting rid of every marketing process, structure, and hierarchy. Imagine marketing was just invented. What could it look like if we started from scratch right now? No matter where you start, you end up in the same place: making a connection with a customer. Marketers may do it in all different ways, but the intent is the same. Only the means are different. Today, marketing is structured around the means, not the end result.”

Quote From B Rencher (Adobe)

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