Wow. I’ve always admired Ad Age but part of me has always had a problem with their “advertising-centric” focus. I know, not surprising for a publication that has the word “advertising” in it. And don’t get me wrong, editors Abbey Klaassen and Jack Neff definitely dish some serious “social” but a post by Neff today really made me stand up and take notice.
The article talks about Simon Clift, CMO of Unilever, and his warning to marketers that “ Brands aren’t simply brands anymore. They are the center of a maelstrom of social and political dialogue made possible by digital media” at Ad Age’s Digital Conference last week. Clift went on to state that marketers that don’t “adapt their marketing… are in grave peril.” But what impressed me more was Neff’s “five rules” at the end of the article. A sign that not only are main stream companies but also main stream publications are starting to understand the transformational movement that’s now underway.
My favorite rules out of the five are easily numbers two and five but I really like all of them:
- Listening to consumers is more important than talking at them. As Mr. Clift said, “We may be ahead of our competitors, but we’re most definitely behind consumers.” The consumer is not a moron, she’s the person defining your brand.
- You can’t hide the corporation behind the brand anymore — or even fully separate the two. Even this editor’s creaking computer only took 0.13 seconds to show that Philip Morris is owned by Altria Group. Welcome to radical transparency, where bad corporate behavior will damage your brands, and vice versa.
- PR is a primary concern for every CMO and brand manager. If “marketing” and “PR” are not the same department, tear down the wall. Spend time deciding whether PR is underleveraged in your organization.
- Cause marketing isn’t about philanthropy, it’s about “enlightened self-interest,” as Mr. Clift puts it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. Don’t be ashamed of your profit motive, because great branding and doing good are increasingly one and the same.
- Social media is not a strategy. You need to understand it, and you’ll need to deploy it as a tactic. But remember that the social graph just makes it even more important that you have a good product. Put another way: The volume and quality of your earned media will be directly proportional to the impact and quality of your product and ideas.