Accepting and Embracing the Age of Conversation

For many brands, the “good old days” were when you were in complete control of your brand image and all the associated messaging around it.  You dutifully prepared your annual marketing plans, you developed your various creative strategies, you bought your media and you flipped the switch.  And hopefully your customer bought what you were selling them.  This was the Age of Interruption Marketing, not the Age of Conversation.

Recently I was at a meeting of luxury brands and a high end car company executive told me about how many of his colleagues were practically begging him to get serious about social media and become active on Twitter, Facebook and the like.  He then proceeded to tell me all the reasons why their arguments made absolutely no sense to him.

After listening to him and reflecting on his plight I asked him: “So, you just want me to tell you that you are going to be alright doing what you have always done?”

He looked at me quizzically and said, “well, yes I suppose I do.”

Considering that I do not necessarily consider myself a social media maven–and I am certainly far from an auto industry expert–I was hesitant to take too strident a point of view.   But there were two strong senses I had as I formulated my response.

First, I was struck by how this gentleman clearly lacked a basic awareness of how social media worked and how current and future clients were undoubtedly already having conversations about his and his competition’s products.  If he did not know how his customers were disseminating information about his brand, how could he possibly formulate the appropriate response?

Second,  The Age of Conversation is clearly upon us, and while I seriously doubt that anyone knows exactly what it will mean for any company, denying it will not negate the reality that just about any business will be impacted, in many cases, profoundly.  It is time to accept that the world is changing–and embrace that you therefore must change with it.

Some of you will no doubt detect that I am borrowing a simple, but powerful, technique often employed by 12 Step groups, namely going through Awareness and Acceptance before moving into Action.

Too often we fail to do these at all, or we do them in the wrong order.  And when we get the order wrong, we usually get the action wrong.

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2 thoughts on “Accepting and Embracing the Age of Conversation

  1. The simple fact that he was discussing it with you, shows the importance and that social media is an “influencer” for the “18-35” year old crowd.

  2. May I presume to put another hand on that same elephant lumbering around luxury’s marketing situation room? The experience at this end is as warm and musky as what you describe, thought a bit more moist and spread-out over such a wide expanse of canvass that “social media” is an insufficient moniker for more than an aspect of the beast.

    A half-generation ago, “Just In Time Manufacturing” squeezed the many ponderous activities out of a company’s production and supply chains. Today’s more modern assembly plants speed smaller quantities of parts immediately and directly to the point where they are needed and almost immediately applied to produce the right product. Producers had previously used intermediate inventories to protect themselves from external or environmental changes (such as a late arriving delivery truck) that would have otherwise disrupted the costly production process. While relearning how to anticipate, and plan, and product in the modernized and real-time ballet, companies built whole new information flows and automation to “mass customize” what they were doing. Of course, companies also found new profits, new products and capabilities they could produce, and new cost savings.

    Marketing — and not just Luxury marketing — is at the beginning of a similar transformation. Where manufacturers focussed on inventories, marketeers focus on targeting, ultimately to an audience of one. Instead of targeting 6 months in advance so to leave enough time to create and deliver the right message, today message can be created and delivered in minutes. Unlike Silicon Valley’s simplistic cut at mobile ad start-ups, personalization in television advertising currently includes the custom assembly of video, audio, and message based on who the viewer in front of a television actually is. Therein is the fundamental, long wave trend; mobile (and mobile social media) is actually a low-function laggard.

    In this Age of Conversation, social media can be one helpful tool by which marketeers better target consumers and personalize. Or maybe just practise on how to get started. While gently holding and speaking into the elephant’s trunk, marketeers can indeed do a few new tricks. But social media’s contribution to a highly personalized version of Conversational Marketing feel more like whiskers than the totality of the elephant in the room.

    The Age of Conversation seems also to call for real-time responsiveness, highly individualized propositions and messaging, and a newly defined grace in the interpersonal interactions that encourage real people to part with hard earned money. Retailers will need to delivery that experience everywhere and to each and every one of its most valuable customers, not merely those who are face-down on a iScreen with a post-paid unlimited data plan. From this end of the elephant, retailers seem to additional opportunities to distinguish themselves from Amazon by attending to channels other than online first.

    Why don’t people buy more personal automobiles online with their AmEx Centurion card? It certainly is the least expensive way to get into traffic …

    With thanks and best personal regards,

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