Between Xmas and New Years of 2006-2007 I stood in a small village's market square in central Guatemala watching the real deal: a guy standing on a soap box in the midst of a crowd of indigenous people holding up a small bottle of oil, extolling it's magical healing powers (and swallowing some to demonstrate how easily it went down).
Watching him and the enthralled crowd as he worked them up to the point that they started digging in their distinctly striped pants pockets for change, I felt nothing but admiration for a vanishing skill (outside of the Shopping Channel). I had the privilege of witnessing one of the last of the Snake Oil salesmen plying his craft.
My career as a consultant working out how to leverage Marketing Disruption to shift the efforts of national advertisers from 'product marketing' to 'experience marketing' began right then. (A keynote I created shortly thereafter on 'Shopper Marketing' has been presented to thousands of marketers across North America by Jason Dubroy, turning him into a 'Shopper Marketing Czar'!)
Snake Oil Salespeople are very much alive and well in our industry!
I saw where the media dollars SHOULD be going -- into an effective, but infrequently invested-in medium with astounding ROI (be forewarned, the 'CPM' will get you thrown out of the CFO's office) -- and I wrote my first keynote on the subject of Conquering Marketing Disruption. The focus, unsurprisingly, dear reader, was to steer marketers away from the distraction of seductive, but inappropriate media for 'push marketing,' to a much more strategically sound, mixed-media strategy that would see them winning, not losing, the profitable ROI game in this red haze of technological advancement we're living through.
If you control the marketing budget for a major brand, well, now you have to decide on either the humiliation of the facts coming out at trial, or just keeping quiet about it. ;-)
You've been had, Marketers. Seriously abused. Bamboozled.
Use it or lose it.
With the realization that ATL advertising had never actually had any demonstrable ROI and believing that all this new digital stuff apparently was soon going to have SIGNIFICANT, PROVABLE ROI (but wasn't quite fully baked at that moment...), the burning question for marketers was:
Where can we spend all this money we used devote to TV ad placements?!?
There was something new, confusing and mysterious out there, however, and unlike trying to master how digital media is placed, tracked and evaluated, these new 'social media' were pretty easy to figure out how to mess around with. 'Social media optimization' (SMO, akin to it's sister, SEO) soon got a much sexier name: "Social Marketing," and the gold rush was ON! Virtually overnight "Social Marketing Experts" and agencies materialized by the hundreds ready to capitalize on 'pushing' ads into a space normally reserved for friends and relatives.
I don't blame the marketing masses for jumping on the first exciting new band wagon to pull into town. The Snake Oil Salespeople were offering to make sense of a confusing barrage of emerging new media and take the pressure off brand management (and many of them are my friends and colleagues, so I'm jousting with no ill will, per se...). One of the adages of Jon Jerde, the architect of the world's most stunning shopping plazas, made perfect sense:
"People go where people are."
...and now they're all on social media!