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Marketing is converging with or without us

May 21, 2009

Convergence marketing, one of the dumbest marketing-speak jargon terms is the notion that things should all work together. The people preaching it a decade ago were on crack. We lived in a different time then. Now, convergence might just be happening without us. And it starts with conversations (another marketing buzzword, but hang with me, that will be the last one).

When tied to social media, the “conversations” makes me want to puke. With respect to a brand using social media, I don’t think it’s about conversations. It’s about outcomes. But that’s a different post.

So, in order to prove that I can’t get enough of marketing buzzwords, I’ll say this:

Marketing is now about the convergence of conversations.

Marketing used to be about storytelling. A brand told people a story, and the interaction with the story was enjoyment (that’s one reason a lot of ads are funny). In the best case scenario, the interaction with the story was a water cooler conversation the next morning: “Did you see that Wassup ad?”.

“Wasssup”.

That’s what I mean about the conversations. People talked about the brand’s story. The difference now is that people are engaging with it. Interacting with it. That’s the new reality of the web. For the first time, real convergence is happening in marketing, but it’s not on purpose. Consider the life cycle of a TV spot posted on YouTube. It starts as a TV spot (or is built like one).

It then gets uploaded to YouTube. It then gets spread on Digg, Delicious, and Twitter. And while being spread, it gets commented on. “This commercial is awesome.” “I love the [brand]”. Etc.

The spot was meant for one medium but is being spread and talked about in other places — places that are generally referred to as Social Media Channels. An enterprising brand could then do a print ad that references all the chatter. That’s what I mean about convergence.

And yet, we have people trying to put it into a silo. This article is an example. It’s called Social Media Fails To Manifest As Marketing Medium, Report Likens Twitter To TiVo: More Hype Than Reality, and it would never count the above mentioned example because it happened in spite of the brand. The brand didn’t pay for it, or steer it, or control it, so it isn’t marketing. Even though it is. Here’s a quote from the story. (Emphasis mine)

“The report, “How People Use Social Media,” finds that social media is having a profound impact on the way people connect with each other, but that it’s not becoming a very meaningful way for people to connect with brands, or advertising promoting brands.

But let me ask you this: when’s the last time you saw: “Join our facebook page for recipes” on that package of food you just bought. How about the last time you saw a print ad that referenced the Twitter feed. Or a TV spot that asked people to comment in comments.

Recipe ideas, added by fans of the brand, would offer a compelling reason to make a purchase. Instead though, we’re left with this kind of sentence (emphasis mine):

Among other things, the study finds that less than 5% of social media users regularly turn to these social networks for “guidance on purchase decisions” in any of nine product and/or service categories (see table below), and that only 16% of social media users say they are more likely to buy from companies that advertise on social sites.

Well, yeah. Ads in social media interrupt the conversations. They don’t add to it, they attempt to monetize it. And that might be an adequate business model for Twitter, but advertising on a social network isn’t the same thing as engaging on a social network.

The problem with the latter is that it demands a bigger picture look at the brand’s overall conversation. From the stuff printed on the package, to the stuff printed on the print ads, it’s all part of the same story. And if it all worked together, it would help push people (call them your best customers) into repeating, or even mashing-up the story.

When that happens, you’ll be experiencing the convergence of conversations. But you can just call it people talking about your product in places they like to talk.

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