Claire Beale: Trends rely on fundamentals

I spent a couple of hours this month locked in a hot room with a handful of senior marketers. I've had worse jobs. The topic of discussion was social media. It still mostly is these days, when it's not big data.

Claire Beale is editor of Marketing
Claire Beale is editor of Marketing

I've sat through hundreds of discussions like this one over the past few years. They almost always feature at least one excited example of an elaborate and intense - but cheap, phew - campaign that notched up hundreds of tweets, a few thousand "likes" and sometimes even an explosion of user-generated content.

That's not to say we haven't moved on a little recently. These days such discussions display a growing obsession with more general online content too. We debate social media allied to a new stream of lifestyle content or a film - brought to you by that brand you "liked" once because there was a sampling offer and a money-off voucher. These excited examples, too, are generally elaborate and intense, though you can pretty much forget cheap (despite how they might look).

It's time for marketers to get post-digital, stop worrying about appearing out of date and obsessing about the next big thing.

It's usually at this point in the discussion that the air becomes heavy with self-satisfaction. Social media engaged. Content created. Job done. Sometimes, I ask (it's why I'm there, even though I reckon I know the answer) what impact the campaign had on sales. Uh-hm, did it work? Cue blather about the definition of "work" and few more statistics that don't involve the words revenue or sales. And then we all agree to agree that it's all about building awareness and advocacy and relationships. Fair enough.

Still, I'm totally behind the first trend identified in our brilliant Forward 50 feature this month. Apparently it's time for marketers to get post-digital, stop worrying about appearing out of date and obsessing about the next big thing. "For many brands, the greatest threat is not being out of touch with digital developments, but losing sight of the fundamental needs of their consumers and the underlying long-term drivers of their business." Other trends from the feature include "The silent majority" (the 75% of us who don't post online reviews or opinions) and "The analogue revival". It's all so new.

Not that any of this means marketers should ignore the growth of the connected consumer: it's just time for a fresh perspective. And a bit less hot air in locked rooms.

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