Letters, July 13, 2009

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Marketing helped make this mess

RE: Rance Crain's "Marketing Must Take Its Share of Blame for the Economic Crisis" (AA, June 29). I would even go further and say overzealous marketing -- "expansion for expansion's sake" -- should take the lion's share of the responsibility for where we are, economically, politically, etc. Throw in short-term, quarter-by-quarter reporting of profits, and it is easy to see how we get in "crisis" mode from time to time. In short, the ever-increasing outrageous, unsupported claims made by marketing professionals has made it so our reality can never keep up with our expectations. I think people are always disappointed when they get the actual product they have been driven to covet through advertising.

In the dot-com era, everyone wanted all these fantastic ROI numbers, so much so they threw all sensibilities out the door. Brick-and-mortar companies that had long and great profit histories at 7% to 8% were suddenly dinosaurs and being asked to come up with ways to attain profit percentages on par with what the dot-coms were saying they were producing. It all looked good over a couple quarters, but then reality hit. Same thing with the housing market. Can everyone buy houses with no money down, then use whatever "on paper" equity to splurge on more consumer stuff? Same thing with the National Basketball Association; can you keep handing out multiyear guaranteed $100 million contracts to people who have never played one minute of professional basketball? Same thing with this current economic "crisis."

By continuing to buy our Treasury bonds, China and other Asian nations are financing much of what's going on in this country. In my opinion, much of the "stimulus" measures are going to reassure China that its investment is doing well and to keep investing. If it ever stopped or lost faith, then we would certainly have a very severe "correction," the likes of which no amount of consumer consumption could change.

As marketers, we keep selling potential before things have been around long enough to gauge any real information on their real value.

Michael James Brown
Other Awareness Project
Long Beach, Calif.

Numbers can't answer everything

RE: Al Ries' "Metric Madness: The Answer to Mathematical Failure Seems to Be More Math" (AA, May 4). Several comments reminded me of what former Crain exec Robert Heady used to say to me when we worked together at Bank Rate Monitor:

  • "Perhaps they could have helped answer the question, 'What's a Macy's?'"
  • "Almost everything about marketing is the opposite of the typical manager's approach to running a business. Marketing is illogical and definitely not analytical. Marketing is intuitive and holistic. We're concerned, however, that this message is being ignored by the marketing community, who seem to be drifting from the right to the left -- from a right-brain approach to a left-brain approach."
  • I remember that Bob had a sketch cartoon that showed several uniformed men standing around an artist's drawing stand. The caption read, "If the anti-creatives want war, we'll give it to them."

    I have always fought -- or at least distanced myself -- from the anti-creatives. Keep up the fight and let me know if you need another soldier.

    Hugo H. Ottolenghi
    Ottolenghi LLC
    Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

    Who writes the rules for Twitter?

    RE: "Learning Twitter? Don't Take Your Cues From These Agencies" (AdAge.com, July 6). I continue to enjoy the "rules" of engagement and the outlines for how one must appear on Twitter in order to be defined as successful.

    What works for one should not be the be-all end-all blueprint for hundreds.

    While I would encourage every agency to be on Twitter and as many social platforms as possible, being there and participating, or not, doesn't equate to development of strong ideas for clients.

    As I read through the comments, I am struck by Scott Monty's remark. It is great that Zappos has an army of employees on Twitter, but as well they should, they have no army of employees to greet people at their nonexistent storefronts. And I am not saying this as a dig on Zappos at all -- I love what they have done -- but it is a natural extension. Although I'd argue Amazon.com has made a mess of their logical natural extension on the other hand.

    Nevertheless, it's hard to say whether a Twitter experience or any social platforms for that matter needs to be entirely "human" or multifaceted. It will work differently and likely evolve for any entity that takes part.

    Patrick Boegel
    Albany, N.Y.

    I find it funny that you're bashing ad agencies about not using Twitter enough or correctly when you aren't doing a great job yourself.

    You have over 27,000 followers, but only follow a little over 5,000.

    You do not retweet anything.

    You don't start conversations with anyone.

    You don't participate in follow Friday, music Monday or any of the topics.

    You basically post RSS feeds, which pretty much means you're talking to yourself. Is that what you think social media is?

    Elizabeth Phillips
    Arlington, Va.

    As a small company, online social networking has been a godsend for us. I started with MySpace almost five years ago, went to Facebook and then Twitter.

    As a winery, it is easy to portray a "fun" persona on sites such as these, but I figure a large company must be very careful about each and every post they share. I think their caution might come off as aloof (for fear of getting reprimanded for one "wrong" post). I say, have FUN! It's refreshing to see a company "having fun" and adding some personal interaction. A great example of a larger company having fun (and doing it right) on twitter is Southwest Airlines @Southwestair & @Christi5321 .

    Christina Anderson-Heller
    Lynfred Winery
    Roselle, Ill.
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