Making Peace, Not War
April 6, 2012 |
This isn’t political commentary. It’s just that I was thinking about a lot of the changes in advertising and marketing that have occurred over my career. Years ago, I went to an ad club dinner at which the speaker elaborated at length on the genius of Carl von Clausewitz’s “On War” as a valuable, powerful and effective premise for marketing and advertising strategy.
At the time, marketing people and advertisers seemed more interested in attacking the marketplace and battling competitors than in wooing customers. Partly this kind of thinking may have had more to do with the tools available than with inherently bellicose attitudes.
In the 1980s business strategists realized that there was a vast knowledge base stretching back thousands of years that might help them reach their goals. They turned to military strategy for guidance. Military strategy books like The “Art of War” by Sun Tzu, “On War” by von Clausewitz, and “The Little Red Book” by Mao Zedong became business classics. There was even one book titled the “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.” (I once worked for an agency owner who displayed it prominently in his office...but that's another story.)
In a very military way, marketing warfare literature also examined leadership and motivation, intelligence gathering, types of marketing weapons, logistics, and communications.
In a practice that still thrives, the language of advertising and marketing derives from these militaristic influences: objective, strategy, tactics, guerrilla marketing, battleplan, target marketing and others.
According to the business literature of the period, offensive strategies were more important than defensive ones. Defensive strategies were used when needed, but an offensive strategy was requisite. Many marketers believed that only by offensive strategies could market gains be made.
By the turn of the century these marketing warfare strategies began to drift out of favor. It was felt that they were limiting. Thanks in part to technology and the evolution of the internet, a new paradigm began to emerge.
If the old way of thinking was making war, the new way of thinking is more like peacemaking. Times have changed and much of it has to do with social media and its effects.
Experts see Social Media as “the democratization of information,” transforming people from readers of content into publishers of content. In marketing, it is the shift from a broadcast mechanism of one-to-many into a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people, and peers. In that sense, Social Media uses the “wisdom of crowds” to connect information in a collaborative manner. The new model is simply not to literally “bombard” the audience, but to offer information that people will value and share.
It is one of the foundational concepts in social media that you cannot completely control your message but rather that you can begin to participate in the "conversation" in the hopes that you can become a relevant influence in that conversation. The social media marketer becomes a trusted "advisor" instead of a marketer. The marketer is not waging war with the consumer, but is engaging in dialogue. Social Media becomes effective through the process of "building social authority.”
As a marketing tool, the major strength of social media is the interface between businesses and consumers - or between any participants in a “value chain.” Social media and networking provides tools to establish relationships that can create two-way value with benefits accruing to both parties. In general, social media operates by bringing people together and letting them do what people love to do - talk - about what they like and don’t like, what they’re interested in and what they’re not, what they’re doing, watching, or listening to and everything else under the sun. Social Media channels create a context that brings people together.
Think of it as making peace, not war.