There was plenty of energy at last week’s technology expo. You could feel it as you walked in and it was there in every corner. Lots of focused conversations about potentially significant implementations.
One vendor I spoke to was dealing with 24 requests for proposals - a good indicator that multi-channel communications and data management remain hot zones for companies. Most excited of all were those exhibitors offering social media tools. These are maturing rapidly and becoming more robust, just as they are becoming more in demand. As has been the case ever since TFM&A launched, these digital propositions tend to make what is on offer from the data world look old school.
Mention social media “buzz”, brand heat and sentiment tracking and you get into serious discussions about purchasing very quickly. All of which underlines a dilemma which the social media sector currently faces - does it want to continue down its current track and concentrate on brand issues? In which case, it will become the new broadcast media.
We are only a few years away from the moment when a marketer’s first suggestion will be, “a social media campaign - now, what’s the brief?” Look back at where the dominance of the 30-second ad took us if you want to know why that should be feared. Yet brand retains a deep-rooted place in the majority of companies.
It seems to me that CEOs think of their brand as their mistress - they are excited by her, think about her all the time and have no rational expectations of the relationship. I spoke to one data practitioner who recently joined a global financial services provider. It has a 200 year-old brand, yet knows nothing about its customers. So every decision starts with thinking about new products, how they might fit the brand, and only at the end is any thought given to whether the customer might be interested. He is trying to make the case for investment into data and a customer management infrastructure. In one meeting, the discussion focused instead on re-tiling the pool on the roof of a headquarters building that had just been acquired. Customers are unlikely to be impressed by that. And these days, they will use social media tools to explain why.
What few brands are able to do is make the link between customers who buy and those who blog. You could walk five times round TFM&A and still not find a vendor able to help you with that. Perhaps by next year, that will have changed. But only if clients and suppliers alike can stop being dazzled by brands and social media and start to pay attention to what keeps a roof over their head - customers and data - rather than branded swimming pools sitting on that roof.