Is Social Marketing Brand Marketing Dressed in Digital Drag?

“Branded social games are gaining traction with marketers seeking to add another dimension to their interactive programs.”

So reads the first line of a past article in the weekly marketing newspaper, DM News.

On the surface it’s an unremarkable and anesthetizing introduction to a marketing phenomenon that is, nevertheless, and needless to say – driving me nuts! What I specifically take issue with is encapsulated in the very last line of the article, which gushes: “Brands believe interactive games will eventually create revenue!”

Now c’mon… either that’s the most amazing and damning indictment against interactive/social marketing in general, and interactive games in particular, I’ve ever heard – or I need to get hooked up to a Valium drip!

Am I the only copywriter today bemoaning the ungodly amounts of corporate money lavished upon the trendy excesses of interactive marketing – a largely unproven, and certainly unquantifiable marketing fashion that only offers the hope of a return on investment?

I mean, does the emperor have no clothes, or what?

Yup, the MAD MEN are at it again! Except this time they’re not the same macho, cut-throat, Brooks Brother types you see on the TV show. These MAD MEN are pretty much techno nerds, born-again, re-branded marketing agencies with a digital veneer. But don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against the new MAD MEN version, much less the older one.

I admire and applaud the business acumen of both – for they successfully carved out a niche for themselves and seized their profitable opportunities wherever they found or created them.

I’m just amazed that so many marketers – predominately, those with huge corporate structures, marketing budgets and MBA driven initiatives – have fallen hook, line and sinker for the glitz and glamour of social marketing.

Okay, okay, I’m not so surprised. This is, after all, the same genome of marketers who are easily enamored of and predisposed towards brand marketing, as opposed to direct response.

Social Marketing is not Revolutionary – it’s Evolutionary!

Look, social marketing can be a valid strategy for incrementally increasing revenue.

Because in the last analysis, it’s just the latest methodology for putting a company’s name out there in the market place in the hope of generating brand awareness.

In other words, social marketing is no more than the digital successor to billboard advertising, Super Bowl TV ads and NASCAR sponsorships – except the interactive component now allows marketer and marketee to network on a one-dimensional plane – i.e., you click here, I click there and another window appears.

Now when all that can be accomplished in a virtual three dimensional environment (anyone seen the movie TRON yet?) – where you can touch me and I can touch you back, then we can storm the mountain top and declare a revolution in marketing has begun!

So am I saying that marketers should avoid virtual social outreach? Of course not. Social marketing, as part of a multi-channel advertising campaign, if it can be afforded, rounds out a company’s marketing efforts.

But to put social marketing at the head of the line and devote a majority of one’s budget, time and efforts to it – while decreasing or ignoring, or worse, eliminating entirely direct response – would be in most instances suicidal!

And that’s why I believe…

Many small marketers have a distinct marketing advantage!

Precisely because they’re time and financially challenged!

The CMO of a multi-million dollar company who doesn’t have any skin in the game, and must only satisfy the requirements of his or her job function, however defined, can entertain fads of little immediate consequence, so long as his superiors believe he’s doing whatever he’s supposed to be doing.

But the small marketer, who watches her metrics and analytics every day, because her mortgage and car payments depend on it; she must see more dollars coming in than going out. So she knows she has to make an offer – ask for the order – and make a sale, often, consistently and effectively!

Of course, she understands too that bonding with her target market – acquiring their trust and loyalty is extremely important. But, then again, she also knows that in business, platonic love and long-distance relationships cannot sustain a viable much less profitable relationship.

Hence, she must always attempt to move the relationship forward. She has to ask for a kiss – and get one! The bigger and more remunerative the better!