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January 10, 2011


Christine Thompson

John, I couldn't agree more with some of your comments. Having said that, one of my concerns about today's almost faddish focus on "content" is how often the discussion is divorced from the context of customer needs and buying processes. In other words how will the content strategy and each component of it serve what the customer needs to know, believe or feel to progress that customer's relationship with the brand or potential purchase decision. (I'm thinking of considered purchase categories here, rather than impulse buys. IMHO considered purchase categories will benefit more from a coherent content strategy than brands that represent impulse buys.)

Yes, social listening and monitoring software represents an important advance here, but let's be honest, it's just revealing the footprints a customer leaves behind, and even those are imperfect or potentially misleading. A 140-char tweet doesn't leave a lot of room for insightful dialog... So we need to inform our customer insights with a much richer set of sources, of which the social inputs are just one set.

Enterprises (i.e., your firm's clients) need to develop a coherent view of buyer personas, people's needs and motivations, and how those qualities evolve across the purchase process through to product usage, and hopefully the advocacy phase. And we need a context or lens to connect these buyer/customer insights to our content strategies (and of course, the product/brand strategies over the customer lifecycle).

As I'm sure you agree, the marketing funnel has outlived its usefulness. We need a new insight and engagement framework, mapped to the customer lifecycle, to guide our architecture of the content strategy, so we can deliver the right content (informative or entertaining), to the right person, at the right time/place/context, respecting that person's likely device preferences for that type of content consumption. And we must know the purpose that content is intended to serve, from the buyer or customer's POV. This to me is one of the most important, and challenging, aspects of the shift from the broadcast- or publisher-centric view of marketing to the customer- or buyer-centric view. This is the true meaning of "sympathetic" (or empathetic) intelligence that you refer to.

Developing a new framework like this is hard enough, but when you're also dealing with entrenched marketing functional silos, disconnected information repositories (or lack thereof), as well as outmoded skillsets — this whole marketing makeover becomes very daunting (and ultimately will require significant investments on the part of your clients). Not to mention "instrumenting" the change process so clients see measurable benefit, payback, ROI — whatever they care about — to keep them incented to work through the painful changes.

I agree that federated approaches are most likely the best; however, some empowered change agent with a direct connection to the CEO and COO will have to play a key role in driving these changes.

Keep up the great work. I love your blog.


With the absence of Chief Content Officers at most corporates, advertising agencies have an opportunity to step up and play this role within campaigns that they develop. Unfortunately this is easier said than done as budgets only stretch so far, and the agency doesn't always have that crucial internal influence.
Brands need to do more to embrace content (both self-generated and user-generated) and support their agencies who are develop campaigns that generate, and leverage content for the benefit of their brands.

Russel Harris

John, I've learnt that management buy-in is key here, but you also need to get staff on board as well. Trouble is, the product managers and engineers are often to busy with their day jobs to tweet. And I think their CEOs are OK with that :)

I'd love it if agencies would become involved, but so few of them grasp the fundamentals of social business marketing (less so in Israel; more so in South Africa).

That said, I was in Jo'burg on a freelance gig around last year's World Cup soccer event and was pleasantly surprised to see how many companies themselves had got on board with Social Media marketing.

You can read my article here: http://www.brainstormmag.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3919:advertising-gets-social

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