“Blogs are the most important thing to online marketing since sliced bread.” “Blogs may have their place… but it’s not in direct marketing.” With such disparate views, whom do you believe? The blog consultants? Or established “old school” marketing mavens?
Barraged with hype, marketers can have a tough time deciding whether blogs should be part of their arsenal. Listen to the blog consultants? But who profits from the blog phenomenon? Are we talking “opportunistic agenda” or “objective perspective”?
How about the marketing experts? Is it fair to say that blogging doesn’t belong in a direct or business-to-business marketing program? Why do so many veterans bristle at the idea of blogs? Is it simply because of imagined shortcomings? Or do blogs stump an “old school” sensibility that seeks a precedent for comparison?
A decade ago, with the dawning of the commercial web, marketers faced a similar dilemma. One faction wrote the web off as negligible, while another took to the barricades, waving the web banner and proclaiming the demise of other channels. As we learned, new vehicles do not necessarily replace old ones — in fact, they may even supplement them.
“Okay,” you say, “history is well and good. But what happens in the next senior-management meeting when the CEO asks, ‘Does blogging belong in our marketing communications program?’ What do I tell him?”
First, you can tell him blogs are not an effective direct marketing tool. I doubt they ever will be. Blogging doesn’t allow you to precisely target audiences or permit any discernable control over who sees your message. However…
Blogs have already proven useful in publicity campaigns, generating word-of-mouth and, in some cases, media attention. CPG marketers have made the most effective use of commercial blogs, with highly imaginative efforts attracting throngs of consumers. There’s no question these blogs have affected consumer bonding with brands.
Blogs can also play an important role in business-to-business marketing. Management gurus, public speakers and prominent business leaders can wield some mean business-to-business blogs. Tom Peters, for one, has a very successful blog. For Peters’ fans, this is a godsend — access to Peter’s daily thought process. Of course, the more people who clamor to glean Peters’ next idea, the more likely his next seminar will sell out and his next tome will fly off the bookshelves.
Are blogs right for every company or brand? No.
Are bloggers, and especially blog consultants, over-hyping blogs? Absolutely.
The first group is merely excited about technology. The second benefits from getting businesspeople to turn off their logic and open their pocket books. The unfortunate backlash — wholesale discrediting of blogs by critics who have either never used them effectively or never used them altogether.
A brave new nirvana? Or just a passing fad? The importance of blogging shouldn’t be overstated or ignored. (Though, currently, the most interesting aspect of blogs is social, not commercial.) Blogs are unique. They aren’t direct mail, telemarketing, direct response TV, e-commerce or e-mail marketing … and that’s fine. Defining what they aren’t doesn’t diminish their potential in the hands of a smart marketer.