The marketer’s dilemma

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The marketer’s dilemma

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Vice President

That the internet and web-based tools and offerings have put the threshold expense of a marketing campaign at near-zero dollars has created a huge problem for marketing executives: how to stand out in an increasingly crowded field.

In 2010 I attended a dinner with a dozen CMOs from largely tech start-ups. The host asked the group: what keeps you awake at night? Ten of the group offered a similar response: the CEO and Board argued that social media could broaden reach, build awareness and garner leads at little or no cost. Some had already had budgets cut. Those who hadn’t worried that their budget would soon be on the block.

The CMOs argued with their bosses and boards that social media, like all other forms of marketing, was a zero-sum game. Whatever upper hand cost advantage was gained in one area – in this case, the cost of media buys and direct marketing – was lost in other ways, such as the cost of ensuring one’s message drowned out the millions of competing messages.

Who was right?

Paradoxically, both were right.

There is little argument that the price of admission for a marketer to reach the masses, if smartly played, is free. One need look no further than the real-time marketing using Twitter that took place during this year’s Superbowl (see March 3 blog). It is a contest by marketers to see who can out-do Oreo Cookie’s “you can still dunk in the dark ” viral Tweet posting in the 2013 Superbowl when the lights went out at Candlestick Park. Luck and an inspired in-the-moment tactic had considerably more to do with Oreo’s enormous gains in retweets and publicity than did strategy.

Asking another marketer to repeat what Oreo did as akin to asking a long jumper to repeat what Bob Beamon did in the 1968 Olympic Games.

In a world where the cost of entry onto the marketing field is cheaper than ever before, millions can play. And millions do play. Email marketing, Facebook likes, Tweets, SEO, online reviews, Pinterest …. You get the picture.

There are only two ways to stand out from an increasingly crowded field:

  1. Incredibly clever and well-executed marketing messages using the “Freemium” model
  2. Upgrade from coach to first class on the Premium media express.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and thousands of others figured this eventuality years ago, and derive hefty revenue as a result.

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Written by Michael

Michael Douglas has held senior positions in sales, marketing and general management since 1980, and spent 20 years at Sun Microsystems, most recently as VP, Global Marketing. His experience includes start-ups, mid-market and enterprises. He's currently VP Enterprise Go-to-Market for NVIDIA.

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