I read two articles last week that got my attention, but not in a good way. The first was a piece in Wired about how companies are using Klout scores — which purport to rank a person’s online social influence — to provide perks, upgrades and also to determine if a person is right for a particular job.
The other annoying article was a recap of a speech given by Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi.
Let’s start with Roberts. I often wonder if people in his position are totally out of touch with reality, or if they believe in, and enjoy, provoking their audience with inflammatory language. Roberts claimed that strategy is dead, management is dead, marketing is dead and so on. Yes, all in one speech.
“The big idea is dead. There are no more big ideas. Creative leaders should go for getting lots and lots of small ideas out there. Stop beating yourself up searching for the one big idea. Get lots of ideas out there and then let the people you interact with feed those ideas and they will make it big.”
Speed and velocity is everything today. Marketing’s jobs is to create movement and inspire people to join you.
The best approach to this type of loose rhetoric is to laugh it off, or ignore it altogether. Yet, I doubt that’s what members of Roberts’ London audience did. They no doubt listened and some of them may have even believed what they heard.
Of course, the pace of communications in today’s networked world is new, but that doesn’t mean it is good, and it doesn’t mean that we all need to jump on a speeding vehicle that’s dangerously out of control. In fact, my advice is the direct opposite of Roberts’. Slow down, pace yourself and practice on your craft.
Do you think Apple Computer buys this nonsense about the big idea being dead and the need for lots of litte ideas? Clearly, they do not. Substitute another leading company for Apple and the answer is the same. The only people playing Robert’s game are Facebook, Google and other tech industry firms. And we’ll see how that works out for them in the long run.
Now, on to Klout and what’s wrong with influencer marketing. I don’t want to focus here on what’s wrong with Klout itself (that’s been done). I want to look at how brands are using Klout.
“We want to create powerful brand advocates,” says Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau, who arranged a two-day, all-expenses-paid trip for 30 high-Klout visitors. “We hope these folks will tweet and Instagram to their many followers.” Virgin America has offered free flights, Capital One has dispensed bonus loyalty points, and Chevrolet has loaned out its new Sonic subcompact for long weekends.
Here’s a video from one of the Chevy Volt drivers, who was loaned a vehicle for the weekend:
The video, which was posted last September, has just over 1000 views on YouTube. This is what Roberts means by lots of little ideas. But from a marketing communications perspective, I fail to see the point. When shopping for a car, we do listen to and seek advice from our friends and family. We may also read Consumer Reports for expert opinions. What we do not do is hunt through our Facebook and Twitter streams for insights, especially if those insights are being funded by a brand.
The video above has no reach, so even if it was a persuasive piece, no one’s seeing it. A weak commercial, with or without the benefit of celebrity star power, does a whole lot more for a brand than lots of litte ideas.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. We do live in a hyper-networked media environment today, where the “everyman” has a voice. There are plenty of positive aspects to this development, but the impact on marketing is still negligible. Go ahead and experiment with social media marketing and influencer marketing, but don’t put too many eggs in this basket.
Big ideas are always relevant and great new products and services will spread via word of mouth, but there’s still a need for traditional media. Look at Apple again. Apple uses commercials, print ads, out-of-home and email marketing to inform us and prompt us to buy. Apple’s best customers are often evangelists for the company, but Apple wisely does not lean on these super fans to do the hard work of crafting its messaging. They have Lee Clow and company for that, and there’s little doubt that Apple’s consistently great brand advertising is a huge part of the company’s off-the-charts success.