the big picture: traditional "Messaging" vs. social "Meaning"

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3M's

As marketers, we can now examine our communications plan in more of a social context while keeping an eye on the big picture. I'm building on the original David Armano post re the social engagement spectrum...I've added the component of non-traditional marketing to create four areas which make up a marketing communications plan. I've also added some elements regarding a marketer's control, the use of digital and the degree of social engagement. It comes down to strategies revolving around traditional messaging vs. social meaning. Messaging is the one way communication we’ve been taught and exposed to since marketing began. Messaging equals traditional marketing. We develop messages which we communicate via TV, radio, magazines, and even PR and Direct marketing. Marketers use the same methodology to develop”tradigital” strategies for banners, newsletters, emails, etc.. Both traditional marketing and tradigital (an Armano coined phrase) are dominated by control….a marketer’s ability to control that all important message. When I work with clients and discuss social marketing strategies I often hear clients express a definite fear of losing control should they move away from their familiar messaging strategy. The concept of Meaning is detailed in frog design’s Tim Leberecht presentation and article on the subject. It’s a good read and well worth checking out. For me, meaning comes down to a marketer’s ability to create content and relevance within a certain context. If you can do this then your brand becomes part of the conversation. And conversations are important. Look at what is happening in Iran right now - social tools are the Iranians only way to let the world know what’s happening there. The images and videos via Twitter and YouTube then turn into a conversation since the content has great relevance to a variety of people within the context of the situation in Iran. We typically think of social marketing as a digital phenomena, however, that ignores an entire set of non-digital programs which we use to engage consumers. Branded entertainment, guerilla marketing and consumer promotions are just a few of the non-traditional ways we can use to spread information via word-of-mouth. MasterCard is clearly trying to tie it's brand to football fever so that when people think about football (which everyone in the world does except for the US) they'll think about MasterCard. Mastercard is trying to become part of the global football conversation. And with the power of digital tools they can get more engaged with consumers and consumers can more actively spread the word...but only if MasterCard can develop relevant content for consumers to share. Developing this type of conversational content does not come easy for brands. Messaging really is quite simple…we’re socialized to try to remain in control of our message. However, if we want to develop social marketing programs then we need to give up control and change our thinking from messaging to meaning. The conversation bow attempts to describe how this works tactically (Please keep sending me comments/suggestions on how to improve the bow). I find this slide and its four segments very helpful as it not only describes the importance of non-traditional and social marketing tactics, but also marketing communications as a whole. Because of its clarity, clients understand it immediately… they still may not want to move away from traditional messaging tactics, but at least they’re becoming more comfortable with social engagement tactics. Naturally, the development of this big picture social marketing plan is a piece of content co-creation in itself: I’m building on items discussed in David Armano’s Logic+Emotion and in Tim Lembrecht’s work to create a new perspective on marketing communication programs. Please send me your thoughts and suggestions to keep this conversation going.