A Tsunami of bullsh*t

This week I reviewed a really interesting video presentation by Professor Mark Ritson from Melbourne Uni. which was very different and very confronting, that is, if you happen to be an avid believer in digital marketing being the only way to go for putting your brand front and centre, and seriously reaching and engaging with your customers.

There were so many choice quotes coming out of the video that I don’t really know where to start. The real take outs for me were “can you feel that hand in your underpants”, “what the f*** is going on here” ,“digital video is a Tsunami of bullshit” and my favourite “Digital Marketers are part of a mad cult”. Of course I’m quoting none other than Melbourne Business School’s very own Professor Mark Ritson. (view video here)

Professor Ritson offers bucket loads of factual based data to support his argument during a 45 minute myth-busting rant on the digital landscape and how the “dreary D word” is hurting marketing.

Ritson challenges not just the success of digital marketing, and social media in particular but goes on to compare digital reach with traditional marketing channels, such as radio / TV / print and even lays in to the media companies for supporting the bullshit commentary that traditional media is dead. This is compelling viewing.

Reflecting on his own Twitter following, Ritson exclaims “I’m a private individual with more followers than K-Mart, VB , Tim Tam and the Bendigo Bank. Combined. Times two. How is that f****** possible? “. Just brilliant! My only regret watching the video was that I was at work during lunch and laughed out loud with my head phones on and looked up to see the whole office looking at me. “Doing research” was about all I could offer.

This does sort of conflict with many people’s understanding of how social media can be used by businesses. One of the biggest myths being that social media works well for building brand awareness and creating a link between a brand and the audience. As the data showed, less than two thirds of all Australians actually follow brands on Social Media. The average Australian follows just 1 brand. This actually makes perfect sense, who really wants their newsfeeds interrupted with adverts and posts from businesses trying to push their brand in your face.

Although, I would argue that whilst this holds true for most major brands, there are always exceptions to the rule and many small businesses have managed really well on Social Media with customer engemement and are more likely to be prohibited from using traditional tactics such as TV / Radio advertising due to the high cost of traditional advertising in comparison.

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Look! It’s a whole arm full (represents your overall customers on Twitter) Source: M Ritson.

I decided to run some of the examples he gave on a Social Media following for a Government agency and was really quite surprised by the results. Their Twitter account  has 360,000 followers out of a potential national  audience of 15 million people (based on ABS data for the working population). This represents just 2.4% of the total audience. Active users during the last week were just 1,400 or 0.009% of the total audience. Facebook works out to be not much better. Sobering thoughts.

Thankfully, I don’t personally buy in to social media being a silver bullet for connecting to customers, especially if you are looking to raise brand awareness or to sell product. There are many ways this can be achieved more effectively by using traditional marketing tactics and I agree with Ritson that it needs to form part of a broader marketing strategy. I do think that too many people are putting way too much emphasis on digital marketing and as Ritson points out, quite rightly, that digital marketing is in fact a tactic, not a strategy and should be viewed as that. “You must know the difference between strategy and tactics; strategy first, followed by tactics”.

What I did find really interesting about Ritson’s talk was that is wasn’t actually an attack on those using digital marketing, more of a plea, a wake up call to stop the distortion of information about the topic and recognise it for what it is, a marketing tactic. It wasn’t a campaign not to use it but to use it in consideration. It may well be appropriate to set aside 80% of your budget to digital if that’s part of your considered strategy.

Reflecting on Ritson’s video one final time, it has made me realize that where I work we are starting to see a drift, a fracturing of the marketing function. “Digital” is its own department, isolated from the marketing team. We do have Social Media in our section but the website, apps / mobile website and analytical functions etc. are all controlled and managed by Digital. They have their own strategy, objectives and goals which do not necessarily align with what marketing is trying to achieve. To quote Ritson one last time, “how is that possible, what the f*** is going on?”.

I would love to know your thoughts on this. Leave me a comment below.

Big Data: Does size matter?

The Big Data Pandemic by Ken Roberts, CEO of Forethought is an interesting and thought provoking read. The article sets the stage by predicting that big data will explode at an alarming rate (projected growth in 2013 was $18.1 Billion USD) and completely negate the need for Small Data such as hypothesis, surveys and sampling. Anyone working in Small Data, on reading that, would have pricked up their ears and exclaimed “hang on a minute”, which is precisely the path that Robert’s then takes by offering the other side to the argument and concluding that the jury is still out as to whether Big Data will outperform Small Data.

Although there are many advocates for big data and its contribution to the marketing environment, issues with stability and integrity of data as well as basing decisions purely on clusters of behaviors without understand what is driving things has left opinions somewhat divided. Couple that with the inability of business in general to actually implement Big Data programs, (many can’t even get to grips with Small Data so how can they be expected to embrace Big Data) we are probably still a long way from this making a significant impact, or change to, business as usual approaches.

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As many of you know, I’m a huge advocate of Big Data. I’m totally fascinated by what information you can gain by using it and I think it can provide valuable insights in to identifying “what” is happening.

At the Bureau of Meteorology we use Big Data and Computer Models to provide weather forecasts. The Big Data generated by our observation networks coupled with the predictive analysis data from computer modeling can tell us with a high degree of certainty exactly what is happening, when it is happening and where it is happening. What it doesn’t necessarily do though is tell us “why” it is happening. For that we default back to our forecasters and observers on the ground to analyze what the models are outputting to help explain the “why”. In simple terms what I am talking about here is quantitative and qualitative data.

In the retail environment it is equally as complex. Big Data may well be able to provide valuable information on what people are buying and where they are buying it from, future trends etc. but is it really able to accurately predict how people feel about what they purchase, the decision making process they went through, whether they were happy with their purchase and would do it again? In an article by Chris Anderson in 2008 he argues that the why people do something or how they feel about it isn’t really that important as long as they do it, he is certainly more convinced with that than I am.

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And that was my key take away from the Robert’s article. Big Data can be a great resource of qualitative data, but would you really want to leave it all in the hands of computer models and artificial intelligence and then base your most important business decisions on just that?

To obtain a really good understanding, I think it’s still important to qualify those results by understanding the “why” and for that, you need some human intervention. As Robert’s notes “perhaps it is not about big data versus small data but rather, big data and small data combining to produce synergistic insight.

My money is on Roberts. What do you think?

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And here it begins …

Welcome to my blog page.

This blog has been set up as part of my Master of Marketing Course which I am studying at Monash University and will feature a number of posts relating to Social Media Marketing during the course of the semester.

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