Marketing Hollow Dolls

It’s fairly easy to put together compelling, impressive statements about stuff on the Web.  There’s “capitalizing on social currency as a prime motivator for influencer engagement,” or “exploring new modes of amplifying brand messaging for viral effects,” and my favorite, “leveraging conversational assets through engaging content-driven creative initiatives.”

Then there’s the tried-and-tested tactic for the impressionable (if not the gullible): defining a cachet by an entire mess of clichés, followed by a motivational “x is the new y” pronouncement, the “join in the conversation” mantra, and so on and so forth.

It’s like the big Matroyshka doll: buzzwords moving into progressively bigger buzzwords, with nothing more than an empty hollow in the middle.

I’m not an expert in the field of online marketing and digital advertising, but there’s a certain kind of toxicity in encountering buzzwords regularly.  While it’s true that online marketing and digital advertising should have terms that belong exclusively to it, buzzwords – and invoking neologisms and esoterica from the many different planets of the Internet universes (yes, there’s more than one universe) – don’t really led credence and add value and importance to a discipline that’s “emerging” over and over for the past decade.

All I’m saying is: yes, social media and new media are big things.  We know how big it is: we’ve all seen slideshows on how many people use Facebook every day, how many billions of tweets are there in the Twittersphere, and that this social network is the new social network.  Or a hundred thousand Facebook users like a page, or an entry has a hundred thousand hits, and therefore translates to the same effect in the real world.

We should ask ourselves how we measure success, what are our benchmarks for success, and how we can get our precious traffic moving towards things like sales and social change.  We should ask ourselves what we measure, above parenthetical graphs and percentages. We should ask ourselves whether the “bigness” of an idea translates to a big effect and, as Niccolo Machiavelli writes, if it translates with the result.  We should ask ourselves what likebases mean, and if these conversions matter.  It begs the question that no matter how big social media is, or how exponential the rate of growth for new media is, it is always defined by the limit of how many people actually have near-constant access to it, like we do.

Questions that cannot be answered by a buzzword, or a pronouncement.  It should hark back to the old reliable factors that make advertising and marketing work: exhaustive research, rigorous planning, dedicated execution, and the careful analysis of results.  Somehow, I feel that the industry has deviated from those practices in favor of jargon.  Granted that new media is “big,” but maybe it’s only because it’s a big thing from where regular users stand, and “bigness” is a matter of perspective.

Should we dwell on the bigness?  No, we should make it bigger and measure it (so to speak).  Should we dwell on joining the conversation?  No, we should convert the conversation to tangible, real results.  Should we dwell on being the breakthrough medium?  No, we should break through the barriers that keep people from reaching our medium.

So let us do away with the buzzwords, and be concerned with sentiment and the careful analysis of content.  Let’s do away with the pronouncements, and establish good benchmarks and standards in measurement; doing the math, burning the midnight oil, and exchanging ideas with people.  Let’s do away with focusing all our energies on one or two social networks and bleed them dry of every iteration of good executions, and grow new bases on new networks and explore new ones.  More than professing “expertise,” let’s not hesitate to learn, be criticized, and talk.

It was David Ogilvy himself who used the example of Matroyshka dolls to emphasize the concept of “bigness.”  The big doll houses small dolls, which houses progressively smaller and smaller dolls.  Bigness isn’t about the big doll, but the small dolls that take into bigger dolls.  Whether they’re ideas, thoughts, measurement methods, executions, or criticism, it’s about standing and creating things bigger than the buzzwords that we either make, or perhaps even believe in.

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