Last night I went to a debate sponsored by the International Advertising Association on the motion “In the online age consumers are the new brand managers”. During the right to reply I did a quick straw poll of the 100 or so people attending and asked how many of them had heard of the Walmart/Edelman fiasco.
There was definitely not a massive show of hands. Only four of the hundred plus advertising execs, media representatives and brand managers had heard of this MONUMENTAL CRISIS that had nigh on annihilated Edelman’s reputation. Or so the blogosphere would have you believe.
Is it important that of this assembly inhabitants of the advertising ecosystem so few had heard of this flog saga? No, but what it does show is that social media is still in its infancy in the UK.
The idea of consumer endorsement via blogs was novel to some. One gentlemen stood up and suggested if this internet (which he might well have thought was a series of tubes) was effective why not hire 100 students to write positive blogs for your company. I could feel the spirit Steve Rubel, Neville Hobson, Ben O’Connel and Jackie Huba rise in me, that is definitely not in line with WOMMA guidelines.
In the end, I had to vote against the motion despite feeling a deep affinity for what Simon Waldman, Digital Publisher at the Guardian, and Gary Lockton, founder of Strategically, who proposed the motion were saying. They showed the new power of word of mouth with the examples of Kryptonite locks and Mentos fountains, the problem was that they didn’t define brand managers tightly enough.
Patrick Barwise of London Business School, however, used Peter Drucker‘s definition of marketing – the art of seeing an organisation through the eyes of the customer -, locked down branding as delivery of a promise and said brand managers executed that promise. With that done he deftly showed that whatever the changes in media, there will still be those that manage brands. Tough to argue against that.
However, had brand managers been pinned down as those who, through the purchase of above and below the line media, attempt to deliver a controlled brand message, it would have been a different story. The days of controlling all channels of delivery, and the possibility of ignoring consumer reaction, are gone.
Dreams of control should be a thing of the past. However, there is a wealth of opportunity for those who will be able to let go and engage in the conversations which are happening online. I’m really glad to be taking part in these conversations and to hear them happening in the UK.
It really was a great night and I haven’t stood up for some public speaking for a while. Man it’s fun.