We won’t make that mistake again


The Huchesontown flats in the Gorbals district of Glasgow. Designed by Sir Basil Spence and demolished by explosives – having become as bad to live in as the slums they replaced. Image courtesy of DebbieOD.

This post is from 2007 on the cusp of the social revolution

Here is a naïve hope for the future.

That our personal and intimate involvement in the social media revolution will stop us making the mistakes of the past when it comes to applying the many and varied techniques, tools and applications of web 2.0 and beyond to our clients’ brands.

One of the chief problems that faces marketing communications, of any discipline is that its practitioners are rarely on the receiving end of the material they produce. As a result they tend to lack a personal sense of what a piece of communication feels like and the context in which it appears. Much like the architects of mid century social housing.
One obviously assumes it’s the case with out-bound telemarketers otherwise why don’t they all go and jump off a cliff of shame somewhere?
It certainly seems the case with DM. Its practitioners are rather isolated from the experience of being on the receiving end of their activities. Sure they get the seed mailings but its all rather hypothetical. And what is more their work (being so direct) is rarely held up to public scrutiny. No doubt some bright spark at the Carphone Warehouse thought that sending me a mailing with 7 ‘personalised’ uses of my name was a brilliant wheeze when they could never know whether that was an appropriate approach (it wasn’t, it was crass) or that some arse had entered my name wrongly into their database. CRM fantasies always seem better in the boardroom than they do on the doormat.
It is less the case with moving image advertising since most people that make ads for TV, consume their own advertising in the breaks they themselves watch. Maybe this is why daytime TV advertising is so bad – the people that make it are at work scrutinising the cost per response, not watching the breaks and feeling the pain.
Bizarrely it should never have been the case with old school interruptive online advertising. Surely the people making all those pop ups were aware of how much we disliked them since they were very personally involved in the online experience of the time. I guess the lure of the fast buck led to much turning of blind eyes in the pre web 2.0 world.
So here is the naïve hope.
That because we are all intimately involved on a very personal basis with the social media revolution – writing blogs, reading blogs, Twittering, joining Facebook groups, playing MMORGs and the like that we will think twice about the way that we encourage brands to use these tools, applications, techniques and worlds. That we are enthusiastic when the approach is appropriate and cautious when our clinets brands or activities would be unwelcome.
Because we ourselves actually understand the context of communication, not from research, but from personal experience.

2012 update – guess no one bothered with this advice then

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4 Replies to “We won’t make that mistake again”

  1. Naive perhaps because I sense the we to whom you refer are not they in marketing departments eager to see their brands exploit these new fangled web 2.0 things that they’ve been reading about – but sure as hell haven’t actually used.

  2. Apologies to Richard for hijacking his blog to have this rant, particularly when he has always praised us as clients. But I cannot let John’s comment pass.
    The fact that I am reading this blog shows that I am engaged in this ‘new fangled web 2.0 thing’. I make it part of my job and responsibility to hopefully spot or at least engage in trends. As I hope any other ‘client’ would do. How can we write good briefs to, or evaluate the proposals from our agencies (planners included) if we isolate ourselves.
    Our website is undergoing a major transformation, to launch this autumn. The question I constantly get asked ‘Will the site have a blog?’. Why? What would it be there to achieve? Who would write it? A marketing manager? Does a customer care? I doubt it. But, our site will host a blog. It will host several in fact but these will be written by: a National Park Ranger, the guy who maintains the mountain bike trails, the man who feeds the Red Kites. I hope our customers will want to read what these people have to say, it will add to the sites visitors understanding and appreciation of Wales.
    Web 2.0 does have its place as part of the marketing mix but we (clients and agencies) need to ask its purpose first and foremost.
    Regarding the DM comment from Richard. A question that helps when evaluating work or to ease the guilt of being a mass mailer is ‘would I like to receive this?’ makes the work a lot better and gives greater job satisfaction if you can honestly say yes.

  3. Hannah,
    Look forward to the WTB blogs – I think one thing we have learned is that they have to be individualised and persoanal for them to have authenticity. Companies can’t have blogs but people within companies – or indeed countries – can.
    On the DM front I wish your criteria was in universal use but I think the ‘what is the CPR on that and how can we further nail it to the floor’ is the usual practice.

  4. One of the dangers, in my opinion, is that we can overstate the importance of blogs. Simply because we use them more than the majority of the public. I think that blogs will evolve into two sets: mini-websites (e.g. Boing Boing \ Londonist) and personal blogs (someone’s facebook blog \ this one!).
    Corporate blogs will always seem to be masquerading as personal blogs. If the brand doesn’t have enough of a ‘personality’ then the effort being expended in creating the blog will ultimately be wasted.
    In the future, independent blogs will probably be an important part of any brand activity – but I suspect interest in blogs created by companies will fade as people hunt for genuine opinions. Blogs will become another marketing \ online PR opportunity which will be treated slightly differently from current web media.

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