Screw You, Seth Godin – I’d Rather Lose My Job

Those who may be familiar with Seth Godin know that he’s been a pretty good predictor of what’s coming in business and marketing. For me it started with his book Permission Marketing where, by his definition, he states that ¬†“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” Think about that concept – people who actually want to get them. Not “roadblocks”, not “takeovers”, but actual engagement by choice. Such a novel concept, except most marketers disregard this basic premise: people don’t like ads.

Seth’s genius continued in his book “Small Is The New Big”, a concept that’s undoubtedly unfolded in truth through micropayments, micromessaging and microplatforms. Yes, Seth’s written a few stinkers along the way, but a man has to eat and Seth has a large home in Westchester to maintain. That being said, I was reading a sister agency’s report on digital ad spending in 2009 and was completely blown away by what I saw.

According to the Razorfish Outlook Report (catchy name, huh?) 4% of online ad spending went to social media in 2009. I’ll say that again: Four percent of digital ad spending, which includes search, directory sites, vertical web sites, ad networks and portals, went to social media sites. This blew my mind for several reasons, but first and foremost it proves one thing: Old habits die hard.

I’ve had the fortune of managing large digital accounts and spends and know what the “reach” play gets you: a boat load of unaccountable impressions with a ridiculously low click-through rate. And it’s great: when a company does an “awareness” study they’ll see a slight bump in their percentage for their multi-million dollar ad spend. Does it lead to a purchase? Well, no, not necessarily, but our antiquated means of measurement show that the lowest common denominator, e.g. surveys, shows people saw something we did during the lifespan of their media consumption day, month, quarter or year.

I can’t help but think about Seth’s “Small…” concept to honestly say that much like LOL Cats, when it comes to budgeting it’s quite clear that CMOZ R DOIN IT WRONG. The fact that Apple is killing it with 99 cent downloads, game creators and developers are becoming multimillionaires overnight thanks to selling a few million $5,99 apps, and that on a micro level you can personally affect sales by simply talking with your consumer ¬†leads me to one conclusion: CMOs are, even while their time on the job shortens, afraid to change.

Scared people resort to the “same old, same old”. Scared people don’t take risks. Scared people want The World’s Largest French Toast In Times Square, a celebrity and a Yahoo home page takeover – because in their mind, this amounts to some sort of measurable success based on the training and schooling they received 20 years ago. It’s time to wake up, marketers: social media can drive your business beyond tweets and reputation. Be a leader and an internal champion at your company.

Leaders, unlike scared marketers, know how to push and pull the right levers. Leaders know when it’s time to dump marketing techniques and mediums that simply aren’t producing a direct return on investment. Leaders know when a site or medium has jumped the shark and when it’s time to create something completely different. Leaders also know that you don’t have to be first in order to be the best. Leaders also know how to hold their agencies and staff accountable for their programs. The best clients I’ve had have been those willing to take risks. Over six years ago when I started practicing online word of mouth it was a few brave souls (who, by the way, moved up the ladder quickly and solidified their position and reputation at their companies) that took a chance knowing it was the right thing to do. And the smattering of case studies from Dell, JetBlue and others show it can be done if you’re willing to put some thought — and more importantly budget — into it.