In London last week, I happened across Mark Ritson’s column in Marketing Week: “Hoodwinked by the Emperor’s New Tweets”. The title alone sparked this cartoon idea.
Mark lampoons the social media bandwagon, particularly the herd mentality to incorporate social media into each and every marketing plan and the gullibility of marketing directors to believe all the hype. He writes, “Most brands don’t have the newsworthiness, broad appeal or dynamism to have any chance of making Twitter work for them.”
I think that statement is true. And I agree that attempting social media without “newsworthiness” or “dynamism” is simply expensive window dressing. But, I don’t think that this is result of a limitation of Twitter or any other social media platform. I think this is the result of a limitation of the brand.
Brands have the obligation to be “newsworthy” and “dynamic”. Start there, not with social media. I’m a big fan of a quote from Kathy Sierra: “Please, businesses, don’t DO ‘social media’. Do ‘user happiness’, which may, or may not, require use of social media tools.” Social media will not make a dull brand more meaningful.
Eric Ryan who founded method in the mundane category of household cleaning likes to say, “There are no commodity categories. Only commodity brands.” It’s the impetus of each and every brand to rise above commodity status. Or it risks becoming irrelevant next to cheaper private label.
Only once a brand is truly meaningful to consumers does it earn the opportunity to have relationships with them. And I believe those relationships often can be made stronger through the use of social media tools.
12 CommentsJoin the Discussion
Karl Sakas says
Social media is a tool, not a panacea. A friend recently mentioned creating a Facebook page for her small business. Without a larger context (making the brand relevant to customers), that’s like announcing, “I have a brochure” or “We pick up the phone when people call.”
Armando Alves says
Or quoting @nicholasgill :
“Socialised brands can be contagious. Social media is just stuff.”
ralf schwartz says
Social Media is – once understood – just common sense.
I Germany self-announced ‘Gurus’ are selling it as the new mantra for 2 years now.
Adding to your lines above, Tom, the lead/marke proposition is derived from the easy observation that brands and corporations have bigger problems than social media: they have nothing to say, nothing to talk about, nothing noteworthy to tweet, blog facebook.
But this – of course – they are not getting told by the social media gurus, because they themselves sell social media – not common sense, innovation, and relevance.
People will connect with ‘meaning’ or purpose.
Finding those things is the trick.
David Rosen says
A refreshing and and in my experience accurate take on SM and marketing.
All true. You can’t get people talking about dull stuff in any medium; toilet cleanser is not a thrilling social phenomenon
Kevin Dugan says
Tom: Well put. You note it is up to the brand and not social media.
Clearly communicating without something to say will never work, regardless of the channel: social, traditional, smoke signal, carrier pigeons.
But for the brands that can tell an interesting story, it had better be real before communicating it. Otherwise it’s just marketing fables. We have enough of those.
Amybeth Hale says
I’d say this applies to people building online identities too – the old cliche goes “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” So many people vomit forth the wrong kinds of digital ‘gifts’ thinking that will earn them social media street cred, without first checking to see if it’s what their target audience wants to see. I feel this is similar to what you’ve laid out here. Thank you for this insightful post!
Ted Simon says
As usual, great thoughts (and hilarious cartoon!), Tom. The truth is so much funnier than what we might make up.
As so often happens, people put the cart in front of the horse, confusing a tactic (social media) with an objective or strategy (and a true Brand has a strategy as well as a meaning to its audience). The latter should drive the former, not vice verse. This explains why many brands are acting like the “emperor” or suffering from what I call SNOS – Shiny New Object Syndrome (per my post, “Beware of Shiny New Objects” http://j.mp/9uT6LJ ).
This year it’s social media; next year, who knows. But, history too often repeats itself. You can count on people/emperors keeping you well supplied with material for your insightful posts and cartoons. 🙂
@tedlismon – Excellent point – it’s a cool factor issue. Sometimes leaders learn of a channel and think it’s necessary to exploit it (used in the nice, businessy way, not the sad way). It’s like trying to attack on every front — it’s a surefire way to lose the war.
Love this paragraph: Brands have the obligation to be “newsworthy” and “dynamic”. Start there, not with social media. I’m a big fan of a quote from Kathy Sierra: “Please, businesses, don’t DO ‘social media’. Do ‘user happiness’, which may, or may not, require use of social media tools.” Social media will not make a dull brand more meaningful.
And if that doesn’t convince them, this marketoon should:
“Social media will make us more authentic. Let’s outsource it all to social media specialists who could not care less about our brand.”
So happy I discovered your work! You really have a way with both words & pictures!
Paul Callaghan says
Loved this cartoon. And a well reasoned article to go with it.Naturally I tweeted it 🙂