Conversations Need to Yield Actions Measured in Dollars

We Need to Get Consumers to Do Things That Matter to the Bottom Line

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Any CMOs worth their salt can tweet, Flickr, lens, blog, micro-podcast, locate on an online map, IM, mash, compare MP3s, Wiki, Yelp, FriendFeed, Digg, video and otherwise communicate 24/7 with folks who buy your products -- or couldn't identify what you make if their lives depended on it.

Got it. But now what?

At some point, doesn't this need to communicate everything anywhere need to translate into doing something somewhere?

It's probably my age doing the thinking here, but last time I checked, we exist in physical reality. People can legitimately differ on how they view the dichotomy of mind/body, but that's a discussion worthy of a few cocktails and a starry night. We all agree that what ultimately matters is that customers do stuff, right?

Jonathan Salem Baskin
Jonathan Salem Baskin runs Baskin Associates, a global brand consultancy, and blogs at Dim Bulb.
This truth was obvious in the pre-internet Dark Ages of branding and marketing. Then we dreamt up creative pitches -- equating dishwashers or floor polish with sex or social status (or both) -- and consumers blithely obeyed our commands to buy. Our technologies were less machinery than mnemonic; our creative was more about consuming than, well, more creating. The best brands were the ones that sold stuff the best.

Now, we're supposed to engage in endless conversations. We're regularly lectured on a host of new-media rules around the idea that selling the "least" is how we'll sell the "most." "Free" is the new "paid." We're told to see value in the fact that our CEO is exchanging e-mails with a disgruntled customer and not in marketing that is so audaciously old-fashioned as to promote a benefit, let alone prompt a purchase.

When I talk about this with my CMO friends, they tell me they're worried the finance people aren't buying it. "Relying on their appreciation of new media because they've got chattering teenagers at home doesn't mean they'll approve next year's budget," said one.

I'm waiting for that first social-media expert to tell me when it's OK to stop talking or listening or contemplating the twinkle of those stars in the night sky and start selling instead. Pick spots where people emerge from the ubiquitous muck of blather and make choices. Commit money. Do things. Make branding less of a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game and more "I need to buy now."

We could have wasted consumers' time in the old days but chose not to. The hard part then, as now, was getting them to do things that mattered to the bottom line. Conversations, whether one-way or ubiquitous, need to yield the immediacy of actions that are measured in dollars.

So could "Turn on, tune in, drop out" be the new new-media mantra?
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