The Marketing Guy

Rooting for Good Marketing Since 2009

“He Didn’t See it Coming:” Staying on top of your Market and Your Marketing

There was recently a long serving politician here in the United States who was defeated in a primary election by another member of his own party. He’d been in office for decades, and was a member of the Washington establishment. One of his colleagues was interviewed after the election, and while he talked in glowing terms about the many accomplishments of this congressman, he lamented the fact that he was totally blindsided by his constituents—the quote “he didn’t see it coming”—the title of this post, was the final line in the story.

But how could he NOT have seen it coming? With the anti-establishment tide sweeping both parties and general unhappiness with how things are going in the USA right now, even the most established of incumbents should be looking over their shoulder—again regardless of their political party—to ensure they have a finger on the pulse of the people they serve.

So it is with organizations, brands, and our marketing today. We could argue (based on their PR response thus far and how they’ve totally lost control of the narrative) that BP “didn’t see it coming” with the magnitude of the deep sea oil spill.  And yet they’ve racked up more safety violations than any other company drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  Did they really not have a marketing and PR plan to put into place on the off-chance that something like this could happen?

Or what about the fine folks at Facebook, who’s site recently passed Google (albeit in a snapshot in time) as the #1 place to search.  With such a large global community of users that’s been on edge since they started tinkering with their privacy settings, did they really not think that such a wholesale change in their policies would not spiral out of their control?

My point is not to pick on these companies, but to use them as very public examples of how we as marketers need to ensure that we don’t get caught off-guard.  There is no longer any filter or bar to clear to make news—it only takes a free Twitter account and a direct message to the right influencer, and just like that, the message is viral.  And the thing is that none of our companies are immune to it.  None of them.  I recently led a CIO panel on a variety of topics pertaining to IT challenges of companies today, and it was startling to see the lack of understanding by so many of these very accomplished and distinguished leaders of the impact of social media and external influences on their industry and company. One such CIO, however, seemed to get it—he had been passed a Tweet with a hashtag that pertained to his industry, which activated this huge community of people that had an opinon on the matter at hand—and guess what, some of them started mentioning his company. He got lucky, because he wasn’t in the direct line of fire.  But it taught him a lesson on what *could* happen if he wasn’t prepared in the future.

Now he has a plan in place. And while you can’t plan for every scenario and potential problem, as marketers we are now being called on to both have a process ready, and be accountable for monitoring and driving the conversation where we can.  The days of “we didn’t see that coming” are gone—we have no more excuses.

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