Where There’s New Media Smoke, There’s Usually a Smoke Machine

I modified a JFK attributed quote for this title. But also thought another modification explains a lot about one of the biggest hassles in modern marketing:

Where there’s smoke, there’s usually deep pockets writing a check.

Marketers today are pummeled with smoke — especially about new media, brand love, and about big data. And there’s a reason the smoke is so thick… There’s a set of big companies, venture startups, and VCs that think they can make big money by selling these ideas. And that opens their checkbooks wide.

But just because the checkbook is open doesn’t mean they’re selling anything important. All it means is that a pile of VENDORS stand to make big money if they can only convince you that what they have is important. (Most often they’re the ONLY ones making money through the idea.)

Marketers or agency denizens who care about business results have had to breathe in a lot of smoke over the last 10 years.

We’re being overcome by smog from vendors who promise the moon and the stars. Far too much comes from the big agency naive’s who believe the hype (often because it’s far more fun than the mundane reality that building business with communication is hard work).

And it’s forced on us from within companies…

  • From the top. It comes from everywhere. But I have seen it often in my work with VC funded firms. In those cases, there’s no worse sentence than one that starts with “One of our board members read a book and…”. That’s code telling you to be prepared to suffer from unwise intervention that will destroy any chance of a good strategy & profitable success.
  • From the side. Can’t count the number of times my clients have been pummeled by other departments who think THEY’VE discovered you have a problem and only THEY know the answer to your non-problem.

So what should smart marketers do? There’s really no fighting the existence of this smoke – no “smoke free” legislation’s going to change things. So it’s up to all of us to fight back.

First, demand that your teams know the difference between smoke and reality. (Stanislaw Lem is reported to have observed that “mud gives the impression of depth”. Don’t let your team get in the habit of using mud to try to fool people.)

Then, don your metaphorical gas mask and fight through the smoke that comes from outside your team to find the solidity that the smoke blowers are trying to hide.

Along the way, be careful not to abandon the tried and true too quickly. And develop a new skill – peering through the smoke to find things that are real & solid — the things that drive profit for your company and clients.

Copyright 2015 – All Rights Reserved – Doug Garnett

About Doug Garnett
Growing retail based businesses through television, DRTV, and all forms of video. Doug is a strategist, executive producer, director, author, & teacher.

2 Responses to Where There’s New Media Smoke, There’s Usually a Smoke Machine

  1. Eric says:

    Great article Doug. As marketers we too can be part of the problem being attracted to the new shiny object.

    Cutting thru the smoke what new approaches have you or readers uncovered that actually drive sales and produce roi?

    • Doug Garnett says:

      From what I can see, the primary impact of social media (for example) driving ROI is as, essentially, a coupon distributor. A lot of the case studies (e.g. Dell) tend to be in this category.

      But the immediate, ubiquitous advantage from social media and online are the advantages they offer in customer service/customer satisfaction. This doesn’t result in immediate ROI, but has key long term importance.

      I am fascinated by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute book on viral video – that viral video’s with large distribution are funded to get their start.

      And, more than anything, online activity relates to offline advertising. It’s all simply advertising to the consumer – only marketers or investors force arbitrary boundaries. So offline advertising drives huge online impact. And online work can make offline more effective.

      Particularly interesting… One key role of social media buzz is to lift an idea from buzzing in niche’s to get enough attention to get picked up in offline mass media. Many of the entertainment successes work this way. They might start social, but they really kick in when People Magazine picks up the story. Or it appears on the Today Show.

      Anyway, there are some ideas to start.

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