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From selling to telling to talking

December 3, 2008

The goal of early adverting was to inform consumers (who we’ll call people) about the stuff or service offered.

“We have this thing for this amount of money”, the ads basically said. They were non-emotional messages that merely told people about the things.

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Somewhere around the 1950’s, that changed. Because telling people about something “Apples, 25 cents”, made the assumption that people were in the market for apples at that moment. That might work in store, but people were driving home from work, and billboards were a way to tell them something, but that something needed to be memorable. So we went to brand. The coolness factor.

In ads for the Apple computer, the price doesn’t even come up. It’s more about the cool factor. None of this is news of course. But what is news is the new evolution of marketing.


On epic levels, people are sharing opinions about apples and Apples. They are talking about heirloom apples, and things about the Apple that the company can’t control. When people like the ads for the Apple, they share. When they don’t, they share their opinion about why they don’t. Motrin got a good dose of that medicine a few week’s ago when mom’s shared what they didn’t like about a Motrin ad.

So now we have this place, lets call it the world wide web, and on this place we have platforms like YouTube, MySpace and Facebook that contain vibrant communities of people talking about things that are interesting, funny, seemingly meaningless, and altogether meaningful.

And marketers want in. Because for a long time now, they have understood that telling can be selling. The only different now is that the feedback is immediate. And for the most part, that feedback won’t be sales.

But this is clearly not about selling. Yes, all marketing is about selling, to a certain degree. But so is product development, package design and price. That’s why it’s called the sales and marketing departments. But social media isn’t always about selling, just like regular advertising isn’t. (Someone might tell you all marketing should ask for the order. That’s akin to placing sales people at the front of the store asking people who walk in what they plan to buy. We don’t always want to be pitched because we’re not always in the market to buy.)

That’s why asking for the order all the time is as worst annoying, and at best boring.

But things have changed. There are countless platforms available for marketers to engage with, and listen to customers. And a little conversation back might be the thing that turns them into a repeat customer, or even a loyal one. That’s what Apple has. And that’s what all brands can shoot for. If they set the right goals.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Alan permalink
    December 3, 2008 12:58 pm

    Nice post thanks for sharing

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