This problem is more acute in the digital and mobile space, thanks to the rapid evolution of technology. Let's take a look at some of the more recent opportunities that I think have passed and use it as a platform to understand how to find the next big thing before it becomes just that -- the next big thing.
Four years ago, clients were in love with MySpace. It was the first social network to achieve traffic on par with a major portal. Brands were creating pages for themselves and they were highly integrated into a multitude of campaigns (but generally very poorly). Then before we knew it software was created that would "crawl" MySpace and add friends and leave comments in mass.
In the beginning we were able to use this technology in clever ways to create some very compelling campaigns. One of my favorites, for Motorola's (Red) Razr campaign, allowed you to add a widget to your page that scanned your profile page's comments for positive and negative keywords and then gave you a karma rating based on your friend's feedback. Of course other advertisers (and bands), small and large, figured it out as well and effectively ruined MySpace by spamming everyone to death. A huge portion of MySpace's original audience was inevitably turned off.
Then we put a lot of our focus onto Facebook, especially when the applications platform was launched. Facebook already had a substantial user base when the applications platform was launched so we knew the eyeballs were already there. Any of the applications that were released at or near the launch of the platform instantly had tens or hundreds of thousands of installs within weeks of their release as people investigated the platform. Now, according to Adonomics, "there are 47,029 apps on Facebook with over 200,000 developers currently evaluating the platform. These applications were used 34,175,797 times in the last 24 hours."
Independent developers or challenger brands with smaller budgets will find it incredibly hard to cut through the clutter now without allocating budget to a media campaign. This, in combination with some of latest changes Facebook has made, had made a Facebook a far more difficult place to launch an application successfully than it was even six months ago.
It feels as though the latest marketing media darling is the iPhone. The problem is that anyone who didn't have an application out for the launch of the platform missed out on an opportunity for substantial media exposure, potentially hundreds of thousands of downloads and an early foothold in market share.
There are more than 1,800 games available for the iPhone on iTunes already. Please note I said games, not total applications. There are about 12,000 applications in iTunes right now. Almost every client I actively work with has asked me for an application and I'm already starting to wonder when it's going to be too late to push through the madness without substantial efforts.
This repetitive cycle is the paradox of marketing. Some site or mobile platform becomes the next hot thing and, without fail, marketers descend upon it like vultures. We don't mean to destroy these new coveted opportunities but we can't seem to stop ourselves. We can't, in good conscience, ignore these opportunities for clients but simultaneously we must become aware of our own actions as an industry. Eventually we over saturate any platform or medium. Then once we've made that medium unpleasant for the users that we so unabashedly desired, they move on.
Is there a solution? I'd like to hear your thoughts. Come back tomorrow and I'll pass on my five ways that we can end the Paradox of Marketing.
~ ~ ~
Freddie Laker is the director of digital strategy at Sapient, a role he's held since his most recent entrepreneurial venture, the digital hot shop, ichameleon, became part of Sapient's Miami office. His passion for rapidly evolving digital marketing industry -- he has led the creation of well over 1,500 web projects from financial institution applications to left-field viral marketing campaigns -- has led Freddie to found the Society of Digital Agencies, a collective of notable digital agencies focused on thought leadership and positive industry change. He also blogs at www.takemetoyourleader.com.