By Sean Follin
Potomac Tech Wire, a premier source of tech news for the region and nation, put on a breakfast panel on Oct. 12 featuring some of the best and brightest in forward-thinking marketers.
Titled “The Future of Marketing,” the panel included Matt Goddard, CEO of R2integrated; Bob London, president of London Ink; Eric Ludwig, senior director of online marketing at Rosetta Stone; Erin “Mack” McKelvey, SVP of marketing at Millennial Media; Simon Owens, director of PR atJESS3; and was moderated by Tech Wire’s Paul Sherman.
Sherman hit the ground running with his opening question: “What’s happening now? And what can we expect in 2012?” The panel’s response was diverse and informative.
Some of the takeaways from this first question were timeless classics. Owens confirmed that, “content is still king.” McKelvey pointed out that the younger generation is not, “interacting with brands like we want them, too” which may be every marketer’s biggest issue as the purchasing power of each generation shifts.
However, there were some unsettling realizations that the audience was forced to face. The biggest one being the point that Ludwig made. Simply put, the brand is no longer in the hands of the marketing department. It is now in the hands of the consumer, almost entirely. He went on to give the example of Coke. Coke has found that of all the 170 million mentions of Coke on the internet, only about 10% are actually produced by Coke. That means some 90% of Coke’s brand message is completely out of their control. But, don’t let that get you anxious.
Rather, be comforted by the fact that you will probably never be able to interact with those “creators” on a large scale. According to Goddard, this conversation layer (which was the new buzz word of the event and maybe the industry, so credit Goddard) is impenetrable by automated, scalable processes. At the conversation layer, where decisions take place on the internet, you need to be participating in an authentic and adaptable manner. Canned, brand messages are just tossed to the side and ignored. So if a marketer has to start creating unique interactions, where does the time come from?
The next question from Sherman was, “What buzzwords and strategies can we start forgetting about? And what should we actually be paying attention to?”
First, Owens said to forget about, “mommybloggers.” They’re overhyped and oversaturated. Rather, focus on “long tail” influencers, those “B” bloggers that are tier 2.
According to Ludwig, daily deal sites are out because they lack the foundation and infrastructure to be a viable model (not saying that some won’t exist, just not in this current state). Instead, focus on email marketing, which is making a comeback.
London said content marketing is over-hyped, but not in the sense that it’s bad or wrong. He noted that content marketing is nothing new and cited as an example the history of soap operas.
Goddard believes using the word “influencers” is now a faux pax. He also agreed with Owens in saying that the “magic middle” of bloggers is where it is at.
McKelvey capped it all off with the most important, and comforting, observation. She merely said, “don’t go all in.” A marketing strategy can never be just all in on social, or all in on direct marketing. Rather, every component needs to be integrated in a cohesive strategy. She topped it off with, “data is the new black.”
Sherman then opened the floor to questions. Some brief observations from the panel’s answers to the crowd: Google + = overhyped, QR codes are no good unless linked to a quality landing page, mobile sites are a must (McKelvey also pointed out the mobile does not mean “on the go.” 40% of mobile interactions happen within the household), video is an SEO shortcut, changes to Facebook’s layout can and will affect your message.
In conclusion, the future of marketing may be exciting to watch as companies change the way that they do business as they adapt to the ever-changing market landscape. The biggest lesson learned at the breakfast roundtable was to not fight change because change is happening and if you fight it you’ll just be left behind.
Shown in photo: Moderator Paul Sherman and panelists Erin “Mack” McKelvey, Matt Goddard, Bob London, Simon Owens and Eric Ludwig.