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Since everyone is rolling our their predictions for 2013, here’s mine. Don’t worry, it isn’t that 2013 will be the year of mobile or Social TV, or that social media “experts” will finally figure out what R.O.I. actually means. (They won’t. They don’t want to.) I have only one prediction for you, and it’s basically this: there is a very good chance that 12 months from now, we will learn that 90% of CEOs have lost faith in marketers.

It should be said that there are tons of solid professionals in Marketing professions, and they will continue to do great work – ethical work – and kick ass. They will solve problems, innovate and teach to others what they’ve learned. Their work and real success will drive everyone forward. Look for new knowledge, new methods and new insights. Real ones. Also look for new software, platforms and products they will have helped design or improve that will help you get more done. You already know who these people are. Even if you’ve never met them, you know who they are inside of five minutes when you hear them talk or watch them work. You know the real deal when you see it.

But the flip side is that the same hacks and posers who faked it all through 2012 and 2011 and 2010 and 2009 and 2008 will continue to lie and sell bullshit in 2013. Why? Because it’s easier. Because they’ve gotten a free pass so far. Because there’s good money to be made, selling bullshit. Because there’s a business model behind it and an “industry” to drive it, complete with metrics and equations and conferences and publishers all lining up to make their buck off confused senior managers with budgets to burn. There’s no incentive for any of this to stop. None. Nobody who has spent the last five years selling bullshit and building a personal brand around it is going to wake up tomorrow and have an epiphany. They know what they’re doing. They’ve been doing it long enough. If they had a conscience or an ounce of professional responsibility, they wouldn’t have chosen that path. They won’t “self-deport” from their trajectory of made-up success and industry status. Not until the speaker invitations and the money dry up. We’ll have to wait until they get fired or move on to the next scam.

So here we are then: 2013. What’s changed? Nothing. As long as there are people who want to believe that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake, there will be people who will want to believe that the “I” in social media ROI stands for influence or interest or insights. As long as some people want to believe that more guns in schools will solve gun violence in schools, there will be people who will want to believe that likes and followers are legitimate measures of brand awareness. As long as some people want to believe that the Earth is only 5,000 years old and came preheated and ready-to-serve, there will be some people who will believe whatever nonsense you want to sell them. An equation. An algorithm. A methodology. A marketing religion. A measurement scheme. It won’t matter that it makes no logical sense, that it is mathematically incorrect, that it is a complete fabrication. It will still sell.

Fact is that if you are willing to lie your ass off, there are people out there who will believe you. Tons of them. Out of stupidity, out of laziness, out of sheer incompetence, it doesn’t matter. They won’t bother to fact-check. They’ll buy the lie, hook, line and sinker, because they don’t know any better, or don’t care, or just don’t want to do the work. If you can sell them something that will deliver good metrics to their bosses with minimal effort or risk from them, you will find eager clients in these people. It’s a simple business arrangement: They need to score that next bonus or promotion. The next case study they publish might even be their ticket to a better job. Sell them a product or vehicle that will make that happen and you’re in. And as long as nobody complains, everybody wins, right?

Well no. The only people who win are the hacks who betrayed the trust of those they ought not have taken advantage of in the first place. The companies that get defrauded don’t win. At all. Their CEOs sure as hell don’t win either. And that’s the rub: every time a social media director or a CMO or a digital consultant repackages a pile of bullshit into a “win” for the executive suite, the already fragile trust between marketers and CEOs further erodes.

For some insights into how bad things are and why, check out this study of the current state of social business. Here are a few takeaways: Only 5% of organizations are highly satisfied with their social media programs. Most of them don’t even have the right goals in place. Almost 40% of social media managers surveyed don’t think that measuring the success of their programs is even important. A business background is only important to 3% of organizations in considering a social media hire.

No wonder hardly anyone in social media understand the first thing about how to measure ROI properly or effectively deploy a social business program across an organization. It’s a shambles. A house of cards. I’ve never seen anything like it.

If you have the time, go to some of the big social media conferences this year and listen to all of the awesome success stories being sold there. Let yourselves be convinced that most companies out there aren’t failing miserably in the social space. Ignore the fact that most of their monitoring practices are operationally disconnected from the rest of their organization, that their “engagement” strategy has slipped into flacid 3rd party content schemes that might as well have been devised by SEO robots, that the connection between social activity and business results is still at best a muddled abstraction, that most brand managers still don’t know that a chunk of the likes and followers they paid digital agencies to acquire for them are fake, or even that the guy they just hired to run their social media program emails and DMs me three times a day to ask me questions someone getting paid what they get paid to do the job they lied about being qualified for shouldn’t be asking in the first place.

Let’s keep pretending that everything’s fine and that those of us who shake our heads at damage being done by the social media guru industry year after year are wrong for demanding more than this giant stinking heap of bullshit.

Here it is again: Only 5% of organizations are highly satisfied with their social media programs80% of CEOs no longer trust marketing professionalsA year ago, that number was 70%.

So welcome to 2012, part 2: Bullshit vs. the real deal. Same people on either side of that divide. The tools have gotten better but no other progress has been made. The cause behind this industry-wide fiasco will be the same in 2013 as it was in 2012, and it boils down to a simple word: choice. We all choose to either know our shit or fake it. We all choose to do the work or pretend to. We all choose to report adequately on what is working and what isn’t, or just select pointless KPIs we can easily manipulate to tell the story we want to tell. None of our choices have changed, and none of us have changed either. In spite of all of our new year’s resolutions, we’re still the same people we were in 2012, and for a lot of organizations, that’s a serious problem.

So what will happen this year? Maybe nothing. Or maybe I’m wrong and things will turn around. Maybe a bunch of social media gurus will retire or go find something else to do with their time. Maybe this will be the year when they finally start to lose traction. We’ll see. I won’t hold my breath, but we’ll see. Looking around though, I won’t be surprised if 12 months from now, a study comes out reporting that 90% of CEOs don’t trust marketers anymore. From 70% to 90% in just two years? Is that where we’re headed? There’s a good chance, yeah. And that really bothers me.

I am usually pretty full of ideas, but I have to admit that this time, I am stumped. I have no clue how to fix this.

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I’m also blogging over on the Tickr blog these days too, so if you want more stats, facts, infographics, insights and less opinion, go check it out. You won’t miss the bite, I promise.

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And as always, if you are tired of bullshit and just want straight answers to real questions about value, process, planning, measurement, management and reporting in the social business space, pick up a copy of Social Media R.O.I.: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. The book is 300 pages of facts and proven best practices. (Go to smroi.net to sample a free chapter first, just to make sure it’s worth the money.)

And if English isn’t your first language, you can even get it in Spanish, Japanese, German, Korean and Italian now, with more international editions on the way.

CEO-Read  –  Amazon.com  –  www.smroi.net  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Que

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So I will be speaking at Fusion Marketing: Brussels – on 23 March. That’s next week.

If you work in marketing or digital and happen to be in the EU next week, I strongly recommend that you swing by the summit, attend all the sessions and come say hi, because I don’t come through Brussels very often.

Here are 6 facts about Brussels that you may not know:

1. I went to high school in Brussels.

2. The food there is pretty fly.

3. NATO has its HQ there.

4. Brussels is the capital of the European Community.

5. Brussels will be the first international city on the 2011 “Social Media ROI” book tour. (In fact, all attendees get a free copy, which I will be happy to autograph while I am there.)

6. This guy is reportedly from there (unconfirmed):

In other words, it should be a pretty solid event, if only by virtue of the fact that it is being held in Brussels.

Other speakers at #FusionMex:

Dave Chaffey – CEO, Smart Insights

Dela Quist – CEO, Alchemy Worx

Gianfranco Cuzziol – Head of eCRM, EHS 4D Group

Richard Sedley – Client Relationships, Foviance

Kath Pay – Strategic email and digital marketing consultant, DM Inbox

Joost de Valk – Yoast.com

Alfred den Besten – IT and telecom watcher

and my good friend Trey Pennington (whom I see only overseas even though we live five miles from each other).

Click here for the schedule. To register before tickets run out, click here.

I look forward to seeing many of you next week. Cheers!

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Social Media ROI: In stores now. (Click here for a sample chapter)

 

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“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

– Peter Drucker

Amen. If you have to sit there and work to sell it, there’s a marketing department somewhere that’s at fault.

Read Tom Asacker’s letter to Tom Peters
to find out where the whole Sales vs. Marketing thing went oh-so-wrong. (Good stuff.)

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In a nutshell.

Hat tip to Francois Gossieaux, who grabbed the baton from Digital Demystified.


Update: Spike over at Brains on Fire just pointed out that the original source is Marty Neumeier’s ZAG.

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Again from Seth Godin, here’s a great little post on Marketing. (It’s good to hear it from the horse’s mouth:)

Very rarely do we come to meetings and say, “well, here’s our cool new PBX for Fortune 1000 companies. It’s exactly the same as the last model, except the phones are designed by frog design so they’re cooler and more approachable and people are more likely to invest a few minutes in learning how to use them, so customer satisfaction will go up and we’ll sell more, even though it’s precisely the same technology we were selling yesterday.”

Very rarely do vodka marketers tell the truth and say, “here’s our new vodka, which we buy in bulk from the same distillery that produces vodka for $8 a bottle. Ours is going to cost $35 a bottle and come in a really, really nice bottle and our ads will persuade laddies that this will help them in the dating department… nudge, nudge, know what I mean, nudge, nudge…”

It would be surprising to meet a monk or a talmudic scholar or a minister who would say, “yes, we burn the incense or turn down the lights or ring these bells or light these candles as a way of creating a room where people are more likely to believe in their prayers,” but of course that’s exactly what they’re doing. (and you know what? there’s nothing wrong with that.)

It’s easier to get people to come to a meeting about clock speed and warranty failure analysis than it is to have a session about storytelling.

We don’t like to admit that we tell stories, that we’re in the placebo business. Instead, we tell ourselves about features and benefits as a way to rationalize our desire to to help our customers by allowing them to lie to themselves.

The design of your blog or your package or your outfit is nothing but an affect designed to create the placebo effect. The sound Dasani water makes when you open the bottle is more of the same. It’s all storytelling. It’s all lies.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In fact, your marketplace insists on it.

To find out how that post got started, click here.

My point for the last decade or so has been this: Marketing isn’t all about the “message”. Brands aren’t about fresh coats of paint and cool logos and expensive advertising. No matter how many time brand shops will tell you otherwise, brands aren’t about creative or media buying – which is why ad agencies are the last place any business should look for advice when trying to ‘develop’ a brand.

Bleh.

People, listen to me: Design a better PBX. Develop a tastier vodka. Don’t just tell stories. Design products, services and experiences for your users that will make them talk about you.That’s how you build strong brands. That’s the foundation upon which you build your marketing and branding practices.

As a marketer, if you are only in the business of telling stories, you are in the business of charging a pile of money to deliver a whole lot of hot air. Regardless of how many awards you win for your brilliant work, you aren’t contributing much to your clients’ brands.

Food for thought.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. 😉

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Here’s another reason why Tom Asacker has been one of my favorite bloggers these last few years:

“I’ve never experienced so much noise and so little signal as I do in the present field of marketing. Marketing is a mess. Marketing is broken! Half of marketers are on autopilot creating award-winning, irrelevant media noise, web nonsense and events. The other half is paralyzed – measuring everything to death and covering their collective butts. Clarity: Marketing’s New Task.”

If the truth hurts, well… sorry.

Click here to read his 2-page mini-manifesto.

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Here’s some context for you (and some culture too, while we’re at it):

The Years of Cristobal Balenciaga

1918 saw the founding of Cristobal Balenciaga’s first haute couture house in San Sébastian, Spain. Local admiration for his designs was so strong that a second haute couture house was opened in Madrid and a third in Barcelona. In 1937, 10, Avenue George V became the Parisian home of Cristobal Balenciaga’s creative influence. Balenciaga’s Paris flagship store is still located at this address.

Balenciaga soon came to embody Parisian elegance. Cristobal Balenciaga was hailed as ‘The Couturier of Couturiers’ and ‘The Master of us all’’ by designer Christian Dior.

In 1946, the House of Balenciaga launched its first perfume, ‘Le Dix’, aptly named after its first atelier, 10, Avenue George V. ‘Le Dix’ attracted the same acclaim as the famous Balenciaga couture pieces, and the perfume soon even rivalled that of Coco Chanel herself. In 1968, Balenciaga closed his couture house, to the deep dismay of his favourite clients. Countess Mona Bismarck lamented the event by locking herself indoors for three days.

Transitional Times

Cristobal Balenciaga died in his home country of Spain in 1972. His nephews then took the helm of the business. In 1978, control of the House of Balenciaga, including the important fragrance business, passed to Hoechst and then to Groupe Jacques Bogart in 1986.

In 1995, Nicolas Ghesquière was hired by the House, initially as a designer for the licensed products activity. He became creative director for the House’s own ready-to-wear and accessories collection in 1997.

Balenciaga Today

In 2001, Gucci Group, in partnership with Nicolas Ghesquière as creative director, acquired the House of Balenciaga, now well on its way towards recreating the influence and respect that the house commanded in its former heydays.

Today, the House of Balenciaga creates women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories, sold worldwide.

Years ago, when famed couturier Yves Saint Laurent was asked how many true Haute Couture houses there were, answered “only two: Balenciaga, and Chanel.”

It’s safe to say that Yves Saint Laurent and Dior have now added to that count. At any rate, it’s pretty much a given that the house that Balenciaga built is still the house of houses when it comes to the world of Haute Couture.

Perhaps Cristobal would scoff at the idea of creating accessories for a techno culture icon like the iPod were he still around today, but… here we are: Balenciaga is now selling iPod cases.

Are we seeing the bastardization of once proud couture houses, (catering to a new breed of customers) or is this simply another illustration of the impact that iPod has had on our culture? I’ll let you decide.

My two cents: Relevance by association may sometimes be a good strategy to attract new clients/customers, but in the case of very high level luxury brands, the trade-off can be dire. A house like Balenciaga was never about attracting the spoiled offspring of the super rich. It was about class and exclusivity, not selling out to a fickle crowd with money to burn.

This is how great brands choke and die.

Balenciaga “execs,” here is my advice to you: More haute couture and less marketing. Your brand is about design and quality, not gimmicks and gateway products.

*sigh*

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Okay, so our last post was a bit harsh. I understand. Feathers were ruffled, egos were bruised, and some agencies were called out. I feel your pain. Really, I do. So as a gesture of good faith (and to balance the cosmic scales a bit), I thought it wouldn’t hurt to pass along this great constructive advice from David Polinchock over at the aptly named Brand Experience Lab (which was named 2006 Agency of the Year by Media Post Publications by the way). These guys obviously get it… and already have a head-start on most of their “contemporaries” (that means you) so pay attention. Some of the insights in this piece are pure gold, so I hope they will inspire you to take your agency/firm/PSF to a whole new level:

What should an agency of the year look like? In my eyes–in this era of the rising “you”–an agency must embody ten critical attributes and capabilities:

1. Foremost, agency staffers must be passionate about acting in the interest of consumers as much as they are in the interest of paying clients. You must do good things in the world and reciprocate with others. Tolerance for anything else is waning.

2. The agency must drop tactical communications from its core positioning and instead embody the value of creating great experiences, with tactics following. (Emphasis mine. This is something that we’ve been saying to agencies since we started the Lab and something I’ve been preaching since the mid-90’s. Maybe now people will start listening! DBP)

3. The agency must embrace a world where paid media placements lose overall traction, and instead master the new currency of word-of-mouth, where reputation and propensity to recommend are earned. These latter factors increasingly determine your ability to communicate and be noticed; they are the new media pipeline.

4. The firm must strive for everlasting client partnerships, not because of insatiable desire for ongoing revenues, but because it understands that programs which achieve deep, ongoing customer experiences and loyalty are incompatible with a start-peak-end model. It’s all about a transition from campaign to platform mentality.

5. An agency of the year should be one that first evaluates the client’s internal processes and culture, to ensure those dimensions optimize opportunities for greatness, not hamper potential.

6. The agency must gain expertise in areas of innovation, product and customer service–versus solely on marketing communications. When the client fails to deliver those fundamentals, the agency must recognize that any advertising or marketing communications will only threaten or erode the client’s brand, or simply waste money. Yes, sometimes the client’s baby is ugly, and it needs help beyond advertising or marketing communications. (Again, something that we’ve been saying since day one. It’s why we created the Experience Audit, so companies can see whether or not they’re actually delivering on their messages. It’s also why we created our university program, to help explore the innovations that will be driving our storytelling in the future. Of course, it goes without saying that we always explore those innovations from the consumer side first! DBP)

7. The firm will value institutional customer-listening as a core competency far more than institutional speaking.

8. Enterprise creativity will stem not from a creative department, but collectively from a group of staffers with diverse disciplines, each with the ability to think creatively, abstractly and from different vantage points. These passionate staffers will often have backgrounds in digital, science and algorithms, multimedia, social sciences, history, arts, culture and more.

9. The agency may get out of the advertising business, for the most part, and perhaps outsource the more tactical aspects.

10. The agency increasingly will recognize and organize around you, the individual.

And that’s how the Brand Experience Lab got to be Agency of the Year in 2006. Welcome to a whole new world of possibilities. Spike, I invite your comments on this one.

Have a great weekend (errr… Tuesday – thanks for your cunning, Spike), everyone. 🙂

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