Facebook is fueling revolutions. Mobile is quickly connecting even the poorest of the world. The Internet is redefining how businesses are run, how students are taught and how people buy everything.
I’m headed off to my favorite week of the year, the annual TED conference in Long Beach, Calif. This is the best place and time to think big thoughts, and I’m armed with some big questions going in. This year’s theme is “The Rediscovery of Wonder,” and it seems like a timely idea given the tremendous changes going on around us.
While TED is largely focused on societal, artistic and technological issues, I always try to arm myself with a big business question or two to discuss at the conference. One of the ones I’ll be pondering and debating this week is the role of marketing amongst all this change. The recent tussle of “search spam” at Google, not to mention the rapid commercialization and monetization of everything social, begs the question, ”What is the best role for marketing to play moving forward?”
On one hand, marketing provides the fuel and platform for virtually everything that’s bought and sold across the planet, not to mention jobs and income for countless people. On the other hand, marketing is a business like any other that often struggles to balance what’s good for itself versus what’s good for society.
One thing is clear: The online world is full of noise, and the noise is getting worse. Whether it’s a status update about the sandwich your friend had for lunch, content farming run amok, or a promotion for a store you’ve never bought from, it’s getting harder and harder to find the stuff we want amidst all the distractions online.
Many marketers take the approach of simply saying more things to more people and hoping they can outdo all the other marketers trying the same thing. To me, there’s a better path for marketers to take, and it has everything to do with engagement. Zappos made a billion in revenue with virtually no traditional marketing because its value proposition was so unique and powerful.
So what does that mean for the future of marketing? Maybe the answer has less to do with how we say something and more to do with what we say to whom—and when. I’ll be wrestling with this idea in the week ahead and will let you know what insights this year’s TED conference yields.