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Brand Marketing Conversations.

There seem to be two conversations in the B2B marketing space. I don’t typically engage in the conversation so early in the season for fear of peaking too early and looking like a twat.

But this year I’ll make an exception. There are definitely two conversations – the agenda and the hidden agenda. Here’s how I see them unfolding…

The agenda is the recession, the economy, the shoot me now and let’s just end it all agenda. It’s a reasonable agenda – Lord knows we’ve heard enough from the Markets, the City and the ‘experts’ to know that we’re all doomed. The doomiest of the doomed are the people, businesses and services with the prefix (or indeed suffix) of ‘marketing’. So we’re all going to die and everyone wants to talk about it – to shoo the evil voodoo away, a bit like saying the word ‘cancer’ out loud.

That’s a very dull and depressing agenda and is it really what we want to spend the next year(s) talking about? People will lose jobs, businesses will close, the world will change. I’m still not getting anything helpful or interesting out of this conversation and on the basis that I’m not actually going to top myself just yet, I’d quite like to move forward. Thanks for asking.

I’ll concede one point on the recession agenda. For the foreseeable future, B2B clients and agencies are going to have to try different things and deliver results. Sound familiar? Uh huhh, thought so.

The far more interesting hidden agenda was just warming up last year when the economic shit hit the fan – it’s the social agenda. Has anyone noticed how social media has been spreading like a disease? It’s the overnight sensation that’s taken years to appear overnight. Everyone, but everyone has had a look at their social strategy and formed an opinion – waste of time, waste of money, don’t understand it, can’t see the point. Or maybe they’ve become social ‘experts’ with a view on what will and will not generate revenue and offer value and produce returns.

Everyone’s full of shit of course because there are no experts, no one knows what’s going to work and the whole space is a complete land-grab.

So I started some conversations. And they’re carrying on. I revisited Linkedin too – I’ve never really bothered with it before, but I was able to create a permission-based network in a few days. I’ve got absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with my twitter streams or my Linkedin network yet, but I do know that, so far, almost everyone – client and agency has missed the point of these technologies. The point is the conversation.

The conversation is, for the first time, being shaped and determined by the customer not the provider. That was always the intention of the social model. There’s a good argument that says ‘conversation doesn’t pay the rent’, but inevitably, things take a while to figure out and I have the impression that the moment’s arrived. Or it’s at least arriving. There’s plenty of tech geekery around the subject and there are a load of no-marks professing to know all the answers, but there’s also a growing conversation. A movement. It has nothing to do with the people who think they know the answer to ‘Social Revenue Generation Models’. It’s just about the people – having the conversations and working it out for themselves and with each other. And from those conversations comes the revenue. Just as it always has.

This is the agenda. It’s still hugely unpredictable which makes it easily dismissed, but it’s a beautiful thing because nobody’s screwed with it yet. Those who have tried to manufacture a set result have been left behind by the power of the people who have other expectations and (for the first time?) the ability to shape outcomes.

So as B2B clients and agencies and brand champions and marketers how are we all going to reinvent ourselves? How will we be ‘creative’ online? How will we promote our brands when we can’t ‘push’ messages but have to learn how to ‘pull’?

We’re going to watch the weak and the irrelevant wiped out by  recession – that’s a given. Then we could spend the next several years talking about how awful it all was. Or we can try being creative again. Whatever happens, don’t waste a good recession…

Scot McKee