The Obsolete Brand.

The business battlefield is littered with the corpses of early adopters who simply cleared a path for the majority.

But it’s also littered with the obsolete brands that failed to read the signs and react.

Not every business has a defined social policy in B2B. Not every brand is building a social community. There’s no doubt that the social space is favoured by those active in the social space. But what about the rest? For they are Legion.

In recent years we have all felt the speed and pace of change in online communications in business marketing. The adoption rates particularly of individual user accounts are breathtaking. There is no respite to the channels and platforms available for marketing strategy and individual users. Even the space that you thought was fully occupied, seemingly isn’t. Twitter has announced the Twitter Music service. I thought music had been nailed by iTunes. And then Pandora. And then Spotify. And now, apparently, Twitter.

But while the insatiable appetite for ‘new’ online marketing continues, there are those who simply don’t care. What about them? What has made them ‘opt-out’, if they ever even opted in?

I have written about the technology threshold in marketing services – the point that we all just say ‘no’. No, I’m not going to update the software. No, I’m not going to buy a 3D TV. No, I’m not going to throw out my CDs. No, I’m not going to integrate my PC with my TV and DVR. No, I’m not going to use a tablet at meetings. No, I’m not going to tweet bollocks to people I don’t know in 140 characters or less.

Sooner or later we all reach (or will all reach) the point of ‘no’. It isn’t only a point of ‘no thanks’, it’s almost certainly a point of ‘no return’.

And so it is with internet marketing. Some businesses have just said ‘no’.

I recently reconnected with a colleague after a hiatus of about 5 years. He sent me a LinkedIn message (not a tweet, or, God forbid, a ‘poke’) asking to meet up. “I don’t read any of your stuff on LinkedIn, you can just tell me about it,” he said. I let that one go because how could he not be reading it on LinkedIn when he was contacting me on LinkedIn? But there were more important matters to attend to. Beer for example.

It didn’t surprise me that he wasn’t active on social networks. That’s no biggie. It didn’t surprise me that his business wasn’t represented on social channels – I hear that one all the time too:

‘I have questions… we don’t know how… we need to improve… we need you to run workshops…’ etc.

What surprised me was the total absence of corporate, brand or business imperative to join the swelling throng of social communications. “We just don’t need it,” he said. “Our business comes from the Public Sector. We know where the contracts are, when they will be reviewed, how to tender for them and we win enough to have grown to 10 times in size since we last met. What do we need social for?”

He had a point.

I had a beer. Maybe two.

I asked about the future. His business plans for the next 5 years. Unsurprisingly, the market was changing, Public Sector revenue was dropping, private sector business was increasing, competition was also increasing.

I pointed out that in 5 years a visible social brand outside the Public Sector would be mandatory. He would need a strategy to be recognised online in a commercial, competitive environment as a thought leader. He would need a proven, searchable track record, a position on the developing issues of the day, He would need these things because his prospective audience was already consulting social channels long before they issuing any tender document and in all likelihood would have already established which company to work with based on its social footprint.

He could absolutely invoke his personal and corporate right to, ‘just say no’. But in 5 years time he would be walking into the room with nothing but his dick in his hand.

I had another beer. It actually took the 4th pint before the tide turned and he started saying, “‘I have questions… we don’t know how… we need to improve…”

My advice? Think long. Drink hard. No is not an option.

Scot McKee