Don’t Panic

Over the weekend I came across an excellent BusinessWeek article by Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland Advertising, on the maddening complexity of the current marketing mix — particularly the disruptive role of social media. I use disruptive in both a positive and a negative sense. Positive in that the social media juggernaut has fundamentally changed the theory, practice and infrastructure (human and technological) of marketing for the better, and negative insofar as it has also spawned distraction, panic and confusion, causing marketers to lose their strategic bearings.

“Most marketers don’t know that an epic struggle is going on just beneath the surface of the marketing communications industry. Digital agencies are starting to offer more traditional services. Traditional agencies are adding digital capabilities. Ad agencies are offering PR. PR firms are selling graphic design. Design firms are calling themselves ad agencies. And every one is staking a claim to the new ground of social media. It’s a mess out there, with each company kicking the others under the table like too many siblings vying for too few pieces of pie. Somebody has to manage the chaos, and unfortunately, that’s you.”

Dion Algeri at The Great Jakes Blog picked up on a similar theme recently, warning “Brace yourself for the backlash against social media marketing.” However, I wouldn’t describe it as a backlash as much as a necessary correction. It’s not as if marketers are wholesale abandoning and disparaging social media and networking. Rather, the tulip frenzy and accompanying fear of missing an opportunity have subsided and marketers are being more strategic and rational about how social media fits into a an integrated marketing mix.

McKee’s simple prescription is also the best:

“There has never been a better time for small marketers to act big. The tools, tactics, and best-of-breed vendors are increasingly available to help you take on larger competitors. But if your approach isn’t integrated, you risk having your plan jerked here and there by the latest tricks and tactics, with no formal analysis of whether (or when) they make the most sense for your brand.

“It’s good to change your tires every so often, but if you neglect to align them, the ride may be rough—and you’ll waste a lot of gas, even if you’re headed in the right direction. Invest the time and effort to develop a properly integrated plan, and you’ll be on your way to where you want to go with a lot fewer bumps.”