“If you can harness social media marketing, you don’t have to pay for advertising any more.”
So said Sequoia Capital partner Mark Kvamme, citing examples from campaigns run on Funny or Die and AdMob as he presented to an audience of marketers at OMMA Global in San Francisco on St. Patrick's Day (GigaOm did a nice job of encapsulating his speech in Liz Gannes' post, "Sequoia's Kvamme: Social Media Marketing Can Replace Marketing")
HO-boy! I may need more than just a marketing minute to digest and dissect this one. Maybe just a marketing hour or two. But, I'll stick to my guns and keep this reasonable for you.
There are a couple things that I think are dangerous here.
Problem Number One: There Is No Such Thing as Free
First, Mr, Kvamme is engaging in the frequent falsehood that anything one chooses to do in the social arena is "free." That mistaken belief is one of the biggest barriers that is keeping companies and organizations from properly planning for and implementing social tools and technologies into their overall business plans. Many have written on this subject, so I won't belabor it. Bottom line, social efforts are NOT free. It may not be like shelling out $2+ million for a Super Bowl :30, but it is by no means free.
Mark, we get it. The world of marketing is changing. Correction: HAS changed. But, your comments imply that because change is occuring, something must die. Something will become unnecessary, unwanted, unused (that would be the aforementioned "paid advertising").
However, “change” does not mean "extinction." I hardly think that all other forms of media, communication or entertainment are going to go away completely. After all, even extinction takes a long time (see Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ and the theory of evolution).
One Big Misunderstanding?
Are we misunderstanding what Mr. Kvamme is saying (or said)? I mean, I can’t imagine that a high profile VC would EVER make any sort of bombastic, outrageous, hyberbolic statement in front of a big audience like that in order to get some press. OK, maybe he (or someone) would. So, let's stick with the hyperbole path for a moment.
The problem with hyperbole and rhetoric like this is that it rests on an assumption that everything works in the same way. That’s naive and dangerous thinking. There are many brands, many products, many services and they are obviously NOT all the same. Likewise, their objectives, goals, problems, needs, etc. are NOT the same. One size does not fit all. So, social media eliminating advertising as a tool for marketers? Maybe for a few, but not for all. In fact, not for all that many in the short run.
So, Where Do We Stand?
Don't get me wrong. I am a BIG proponent of social tools and technologies, and see incredible opportunities for companies to utilize these tools in alignment with their overall business objectives and strategies. But, I'm also clear on what role social plays in a marketing mix, alongside other tactical tools. It's only a part of the mix.
What remains key is the marketing science and art. Fundamentally, we need to intimately understand
- our business objectives for our organization
- our consumers, from who they are to brand perceptions to behaviors to media consumption patterns
- how our brands fit into our consumers' lives, fill their needs, solve their problems, enhance their lives, etc.
- what brand messages will impact our consumers' attitudes in a way that ultimately reinforces a desired behavior (whatever we decide we want that to be)
- what are the best ways to reach our consumers with our brand's message(s)
Then, we build a plan. (I'll skip the other "P's" in the marketing model for now) It may include social (I hope that it does), IF social tools and technologies help to further the organization's business objectives. And, IF social tools will best accomplish that, then they will (and should) be a critical part of the plan.
I just have a hard time believing that all the eggs will, or should, be in one basket. That's like saying let's put all our marketing dollars into the Super Bowl (wait...MasterLock did that for years...okay, maybe there are some exceptions that prove the rule).
It's all part of the overhyping of the social world. It's the Shiny New Object Syndrome. To be sure, it IS a new world order, but that new world order is coming to us courtesy of evolution, not armegeddon. In the plainest of terms, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Enough of my comments. My minute is more than up. What I'd like to know is...what do YOU think?