Is Marketing Dead?

The Harvard Business Review’s HBR Blog Network posted a fascinating piece recently called Marketing is DeadMy first reaction, not another “_______ is dead” (fill in the blank) piece. I’ve seen many of these titles before and they always appear to be a cheap way to grab attention on the fly.

Then I began reading and my cynicism turned to real interest. Bill Lee, the author, has a major point, one that might be outside most people’s comfort zones but it is nevertheless hard to refute. Traditional communications, especially public relations, is radically changing. Why? Because target markets (particularly younger audiences) no longer pay attention to the old approaches. Today, according to Lee, it is about….

– Community marketing

– Finding customer influencers

– Helping those influencers build social capital

– Getting customer advocates involved in the your solutions

My own take on this question is that traditional marketing is not dead—yet. But it certainly is changing dramatically and has just as dramatically changed the way we need to serve clients. Media relations, for example, used to be the primary component of client communications programs. Now it is just one piece of the mix and not necessarily the most important. A major story still carries weight among audiences, but articles alone are not enough. Today we must reach audiences in the mediums of their choice. Word-of-mouth is the ultimate marketing tool of choice.

Now it is easy to understand why print advertising is having such a hard time. It is too expensive for the investment. Social media is not only effective, it is cost effective…and you can measure its effectiveness virtually in real time. As one very wise CEO client once said to me, “Don, the only thing we can count on is change.” Well, change is happening faster than ever in the marketing space. Adapt or die.