Together, or apart?

Is the marketing world fragmenting into a free-for-all? And, if it is, what does that mean for those of us working in the arena?

On 20th May, Andrew Schiestel Tweeted this:

And I responded:

But the issue hasn’t quite left my brain since then. It’s true, the marketing world does seem to be blowing itself apart as power is moved to the consumer and away from organisations. It does appear as though the old rules are being rewritten daily, especially in relation to social sharing.

I mean, look at this:

Got to be honest, I’ve never heard of half of these. I’m still getting to grips with making the best I can from Digg, Reddit, Facebook/Twitter, Folkd, StumbleUpon etc. Maybe that means I’m lagging behind the current wave. I don’t know.

What I do know is that it would be simpler if there were just five or six sharing services for consumers to get their social links from. But that’s not really going to happen though, is it? The tipping point has been reached and more sharing services are coming on stream every month, each aiming to be the next Digg or Delicious.

How have consumers reacted?

I believe that consumers have got wise to the fact that they can’t monitor every new sharing site going, but they still don’t want to miss out on anything interesting.

Hence the growth of tribes and tribal allegiance (specifically online) which is, I believe, changing the channel landscape.

Tribes are self-identifying and elective. Once you ‘join’ a tribe, you essentially agree to take part in the tribal goings on, contributing not only to the discussions but also to the aggregation of information useful to the rest of the tribe.

You therefore filter on behalf of the tribe, and serve up the best bits as personal recommendations to enhance the communal knowledge and learning base (check out #usguys for an example of this, as well as many marketing/communications LinkedIn groups).

So maybe the discussion now isn’t about channel per se, but about tribe and tribal access points (which reminds me of the Integration section of my BIIR model)…

So what does this mean for marketing and marketers?

If we assume that the landscape is changing on a daily basis, and tribal allegiance is the way that consumers navigate through the increasingly confusing social world, I think that the future is going to rely on two primary actions:

1) Going back to basics

Going back to basics means ensuring that the work is not just good enough, but is in fact great enough to cut through the chatter. Not being cool for the sake of being cool, or using a particular channel because that’s the one that everyone’s using, but creating great work that speaks to its intended audience, and encourages that audience to speak back. Plus getting the work to the right tribe, in the right way – not just flinging it out there and hoping that it sticks.

2) Leading and leadership

As the market fragments further, it divides into smaller and smaller pieces. However, the next marketer to rewrite the rules will provide leadership so strong that it’ll be like a magnet to draw the fragments back together. In a piecemeal market, leaders really stand out and cut through the noise with clear, concise, targeted instruction (while others run about like headless chickens from one channel or campaign to the next).
And tribes like leaders. Just look at any tribal dynamic and there’s always the conversation starters, opinion formers, leaders and led.

And finally…

The fragmentation of the industry shouldn’t mean that you and your offer becomes split up. In fact, it may be that the only way to survive is to regroup, reorder, strengthen the core promise and delivery structures.

So maybe that’s the lesson of industry fragmentation. A time for back to basics regrouping and rebuilding, reassessing and reconnection, ready to lead the way into a brave new world.


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