Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sure, advertising works - but what about social network marketing?

Let's get one thing straight: virtually all commercials work -- to some extent or another. Putting a picture of a product in front of a gazillion people every day of the week is going to raise awareness of the product and result in some added sales. 

Every commercial works...whether you hate it or love it. There isn't a commercial made that somebody doesn't claim is "absolutely hillarious," even as millions of others condemn it as "the most fucked up piece of shit" they've ever seen.

Okay, a few ads don't work, the most notable being public service ads meant to keep kids from smoking, drinking or doing drugs. So effective, in fact, are some of these PSAs at doing exactly the opposite of what they're supposed to do that Philip Morris has been accused of sponsoring an anti-smoking campaign for the express purpose of increasing sales of its product. It may be true, but it's hard to know why that particular campaign was picked on when all the others seem to be equally guilty in their own areas. Were the notroiously ineffective anti-pot ads secretly paid for by the Association of American Gro-ops?

So why did these ads fail in their stated intent? Because they were trying to do the impossible: they were publicising the very products they were discouraging. Even the ancients knew how well something like that would work. "Hey Adam, here's a tree with the fruit of knowledge. I'm just showing this to you so you won't eat from it." "Happy birthday, Pandora. I've given you a box, but whatever you do, don't open it."

PhotobucketVacuum packed shit to seal in fresheness

All commercials work. If you put up ads for feces you would undoubtedly find buyers. Oh, wait...installation artist Wim Delvoye has already done this with his Cloaca machine, a complex system of containers which replicates an animal's digestive track complete with real poo coming out the other end. The poo is then vaccuum packed and sold.

Anyway, the point is this: in the wild and wooly mix of humanity, you can always find somebody, or even several somebodies, who will buy pretty well anything...if they know about it. And they will know about it through advertising. I could create an ad selling three-year-old uncooked eggs and likely find buyers.

So if you're asking, "Does the advertising I'm doing work?" the answer will be yes. No matter how bad your ads, you will undoubtedly be getting at least one more customer than you would without them.

The real question, however, is whether or not the advertising justifies its ROI. I might be able to find ten buyers for my three-year-old, uncooked eggs, but if I have to advertise to 50 million people, the cost probably won't be worth it.

This is obvious.

At least it's obvious unless you're talking about social network marketing. Social network marketing is a brand of marketing all its own, in which the goals include anything other than actual sales.

Next post we'll look at one of the more successful, and well-documented cases, Kmart's foray into the blogging and Twitter scene in 2008.


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