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Prediction #3: Marketers regain sense of control

Note:  this is the third and final prediction in a series of predictions I’m making for 2012.  The first two can be read here:  Prediction #2: Favor tips towards credible media and Prediction #1: Social media slides down the pedestal.

Marketers are no longer in control of their brands.  Do you believe it?  I did.  But as in my first prediction, my thinking is changing. 

As I’ve spent nearly a year away from my day job in PR, I’ve found the distance has given me a new perspective.  Sometimes we need to step back to see things in perspective.  Geoff Livingston’s post (the photo credit also belongs to Geoff via Flickr), The Customer Is Not Your CMO, made it click in my mind:

“Companies that don’t understand and listen to their customers experience problems because not only are the ignoring their customer, but also the flaws in their offering. That’s because customer service is usually activated when people are pissed, not when they are happy.

What about the vast majority of happy customers who never call? How can customer service represent them.

Just like the army doesn’t want GI Joe managing a supply line, international troop deployment, and war strategy, I don’t want customer service driving marketing. While feedback can lead to innovation, overall I think the effect would be stymied, reactive products that don’t advance anywhere nearly as quickly as they currently do.”

Did Old Spice cede control?  How about Vitaminwater? Or Blendtec?  Skeptics will point to the likes of the Gap fiasco and say, look, marketing lost control.  It’s a popular mantra; don’t dare to think anything different.
The Gap didn’t lose control of their brand. They failed to 1) listen and 2) provide leadership. We’ve diagnosed a problem based on one or two symptoms when there are multiple symptoms that are interrelated.
Listening is little more than a 30-year-old principle, if not older – its savvy market research.  Marketing is the art and science of determining which ideas are worth pursuing, developing and leading.
Leadership in marketing – especially in social media – is the concept Seth Godin describes in his book Tribes
“Leadership isn’t difficult, but you’ve been trained for years to avoid it,” writes Godin. He draws a distinction between leadership and management which he defines as “manipulating recourses to get a known job done.”
Making widgets faster is a management problem.  Ensuring all widgets are precisely the same is a management problem.  Ensuring the supplies to make the widget are delivered on time is a management problem.
Change doesn’t come without leadership.  Leadership by virtue grants control. 
Old Spice did it differently.  Vitaminwater was unconventional. Blendtec still gets mileage out of an aging but unique concept. These companies are leading – and leading with marketing. 
Marketing hasn’t lost control; it needs to hone its leadership skills. 

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Prediction #2: Favor tips towards credible media

Note: this is the second of three predications I’m making for 2012.  The first one is out and can be...