Markets are conversations – but not all conversations are marketing.

Dave Weinberger, one of the authors of the cluetrain manifesto (“markets are conversations”) expresses his concerns over the increasing wrong adoption of this idea by marketeers. In a comment to this post by Chris Heuer, he writes the following:

Marketing has to change. It has to recognize that market conversations are now the best source of information about companies and their products and services. It has to recognize that those conversations are not themselves marketing — you and me talking about whether we like our new digital cameras is not you and me marketing to each another. Neither is our conversation a “marketing opportunity.” But the temptation to see it as such is well nigh impossible for most marketers to resist.

Fortunately, the people leading the thinking about this generally do honor the conversation as the thing that must be preserved. How the meme gets taken up, however, should worry us. We need to help marketers resist their deeply bred urges. We need to make preserving the integrity of the conversation as central a marketing tenet as is not lying about product specs or prices.

This point is critical, some elderly agency folk still get this mixed up sometimes. Markets are conversations, but not all conversations are marketing. And marketing isn’t necessarily a conversation (even though a lot of marketing could be, in the future).

Marketing also isn’t about “letting the crowd decide everything”, in fact conversational marketing is not about “wisdom of the crowd” at all. This also gets mixed up often by elderly agency folk.

As Chris writes:

More broadly, I think what is happening is really about Market Engagement – how companies interact with the market’s they serve – how companies relate to the people within those markets through product experience, conversations and media.

This doesn’t mean that brands need to open up completely loosing their identity (because of some “wisdom of crowd” interfering with brand communication) – but it does mean that brands need to engage in 2-way conversations instead of keeping up a monologue irrespectively of whether people want to listen or not.

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