Dec 6, 2008

Too Smart for Your Own Profit?

In "Marketing in the World of the Web" (op-ed, Nov. 29), Tom Hayes and Michael Malone warn of dire implications for marketers that fail to adapt to new realities they call Marketing 3.0. They suggest five calls to action: pay distracted consumers for their attention, listen to feedback from (mostly unhappy) customers, target smaller niches, pay consumers' trusted friends to evangelize for you, and use brick and mortar as showrooms for online inventory.

Their evangelism goes on to assert that "there isn't a smart company today that isn't implementing some kind of online community, wiki or blog strategy."

But the authors raise and fail to answer the important strategic question: "how to leverage this phenomenon into actual profits?" Whether their advice describes a two-generation leap forward from "classical marketing" or not, it certainly drives home the real challenge facing marketers today: consumer inertia. After years of myopic focus on efficiency and low price, most U.S. retailing -- offline or online -- today is simply boring and uninspired.

With the dot-com bubble of 2000 still fresh, however, truly smart and strategic marketers are being extremely careful to sort out the wheat from the chaff in the ever-expanding glossary of Internet lingo.

Nimble and relevant are indeed important business goals. So is the classical one of profit.

[Letters to the Editor, WSJ, 12/6/08]

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