Social Media, Brands and...Customers: Are We Having Fun Yet?

The world we live and work in is all abuzz about social media and the increased prominence of brand initiatives. Even this morning, none other than The Wall Street Journal pronounced "The End of the Email Era". While we'll save commentary for WSJ's opinion that email is over (we don't think it is, at least for many customers), the underlying issue is that marketing is much more complex than simply email, just as it is also about much more than social media. Whichever of these media channels or strategies is more or less important is a function of a customer, a context, a time, a place and a brand relationship. As was said long ago: not all customers are the same. Some may want brand friendships on Facebook some (many) don't or won't. Ditto for ads. (That's why mullets were invented: business in front, party in back. Kind of like brands in email, real friends on Facebook? Hmmm...)

Two other pieces today caught our eye and they both underscore the complexity and associated challenges facing marketers today. One is fairly obvious though detailed in depth by none other than Peter Francese, founder of American Demographics and now head of demographic trends at Ogilvy. The conclusion in the promotorial piece in AdAge is that there is no average customer anymore. Perhaps this story will be on the network television news tonight. The second and much more interesting story, also by coincidence in AdAge, is about a new report from our favorite Forrester analyst, Lisa Bradner. In this report, coming out next week, one of the things Lisa addresses is the important reality that companies and brand managers aren't organized to effectively handle new media nor moving rapdily to adapt to, much less embrace, other new digital opportunities. Like technology and social media and customers that don't fit neatly into demographic "target" audiences with labels like "A25-54". Further, marketers need to be more able to do math and be able to develop and presumably use customer intelligence so as to be more accountable for results and be able to adapt and change course based on actual performance. Now this is relevant and something we support.

From our perspective, there is too much discussion about what is and what isn't dead or alive, and not enough discussion about customers. For marketers, customers are the essence of social media's value. Perhaps it should be called Customer Media - because that's who controls it, at least as far as brands go.