For a very long time -- basically between the invention of fire and the development of radio networks -- there was only one kind of marketing: "one to one" marketing. You told someone about the product or service you were promoting. If the product was good, and if you were lucky, maybe someone would tell someone else about it and, lo and behold, you had "word of mouth" marketing on your side as well. This was how marketing worked until the emergence of mass media created the age of "one to many" marketing.
"One to many" marketing was hugely successful, but you didn't have to be a genius to see that it left a lot of markets unexplored and untapped. This untapped potential led to the development of "direct" marketing and all of its various progeny. Pretty soon, however, it became obvious that all of the increasingly granularized forms of direct marketing were largely attempts to turn back the clock and recapture the glory days of "one to one" marketing as practiced by our common ancestors.
At the risk of offending my former colleagues at the Peppers & Rogers Group
, I think it's time to ring down the curtain on "one to one" marketing. Unless you're promoting one-of-a-kind luxury yachts or high-end custom jewelry, "one to one" marketing will not deliver the ROI you need to justify its cost.
Today, and for the foreseeable future, smart marketers are adopting "many to many" marketing as the logical strategy for promoting products and services in an Internet-enabled global economy. "Many to many" marketing is actually closer to the original form of "one to one" marketing practiced by our predecessors, who went cave to cave with a great pitch. They knew their job was influencing people, entertaining people, educating people and talking them into buying stuff.
"Many to many' marketing takes the best of traditional marketing and cranks it into warp drive by relocating it from the physical world to the digital marketplace. "Many to many" marketing is empowered, enabled and fueled by social networks that live and thrive in rapidly expanding universe of digital social media platforms.
Social media, social networking, social computing -- it might look simple at first glance, but we're witnessing the evolution of a highly complex organism. It's so complex, in fact, that marketers will need increasingly sophisticated strategies and analytic tools to keep their heads above water. Let's face it, you can't just guess about how millions of people are thinking or feeling at a particular moment. Only they can tell you, and if you want to find out, you have to go where they live ... on social networks. It's actually very cool when you consider that all a good marketer needs today is a great idea, an Internet connection ... and a million friends. It's as easy as pie!