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The Springsteen Effect

By Asher | 1st Feb 2013 | Posted in Marketing

My name is Asher. I’m an Online Marketing Executive at the Oscar-nominated and World Heavyweight Championship-winning marketing agency, Render Positive. This is my first post here.

When I began working here, Gary told me that by working in digital marketing, I would “never see the web in the same way again.” He was right. Digital marketing has ruined my view of the digital space – before, a wondrous sea of stupid cat pictures, downloadable video games, and a tutorial on absolutely anything; now every website is good content wrapped around a positive message. Or shit content that’s there for the sake of it. Or a bit of both.

I’ll use the rather lazy analogy of the Springsteen Effect: just because artists like the Gaslight Anthem and Dave Hause are becoming more and more like Springsteen, that doesn’t mean that they are him. And while many people will lap up faux-70s Americana off the back of songs about cars and falling in love crooned by 30-something year old men in double denim, not everyone will be as accepting, especially not in 2013.

Like remembering a decade you weren’t alive to witness, engaging with companies and brands online whose digital strategies are just hackneyed cobbled-together rehashes of campaigns from yesteryear just seems ridiculous.

So, what makes for terrible digital marketing practice? Why do agencies do it? And why do marketing departments pay loads for it?

Outdated SEO Practice

Some agencies seem pretty in-the-know about search marketing. They’ll be the ones started ten years ago by the one man hailed to have “ushered in the SEO age” by creating loads of domains, stuffing them with links and keywords the same colour as the background, and watching websites climb the rankings.

But these agencies are finding themselves left behind – with Google dropping bombshells like Penguin and Panda, those who said “chasing the algorithm” was foolish to begin with are progressing into digital marketing, not just SEO. With the expansion of SEO tools and brands like SEOmoz, Distilled and Brilliant Noise becoming big names in their own right within the industry, digital marketing is becoming just that – an industry. Unfortunately, cowboys permeate any industry, and many a time a company will pay a “very reputable” SEO company to mess up their keywords and links, employ black hat tactics and largely leave them in the shit when the next update comes – then pay another company to pick up the pieces, giving them grief in the process.

Antisocial Media

Some companies hear through the grapevine that social media is the way forward. So they make a Facebook page – a friend page that hides a lot of crucial information and doesn’t show up in search results. Nobody wants to add them as a friend to access it, and they lose out to competitors.

Others start terrible or poorly thought out hashtags (does anyone remember the #McDStories fiasco?), focus only on the number of likes or followers they have (quality, not quantity), and some just pour everything into social media – a phenomenon in a medium that’s so incredibly fleeting, it seems daft to give it so much importance. Just look at MySpace and AOL.

Discontent Marketing

So much content on the internet is obvious corporate crap. Whether it’s AirWatch’s many latest MDM solutions for business adverts on YouTube, or Sandals’ branded Pinterest photos, too many businesses are being seen to simply extend their traditional marketing to the internet, and think that somehow, that’s going to expand their marketing possibilities. “Other brands are doing it, so it clearly works!” This leads directly on to…

Multi-channel, or Multi-crap?

Some businesses like to flaunt how “digitally advanced” they are or how “socially active” their brand is. The reality, however, is that their brand is already well-established – they’ve simply, like other clueless companies, heard that digital is the “next logical step.” So massive companies like Coca-Cola start a Twitter account to ask inane questions to people stupid enough to follow them. The WWE establishes Twitter pages for their talent, constantly drop words like “Tweet” and “Trending” throughout their broadcasts, then throw statistics at their audience, as if everyone is a digital marketing nerd who doesn’t get enough infographics at work and feels the need to “ooh!” and “ahh!” at them at home too.

Agencies, Y U DO DIS?

A lot of agencies are just after a quick buck. They either don’t get a retainer, or get a real nasty restrictive gimp mask of a retainer contract and then sit back in mediocrity.

Many businesses, like most people, don’t understand digital marketing – it’s just a buzz word. “Twitter followers equal surefire conversions and Facebook is worth loads so my company can be too with a few social channels!” A lot of big companies turn over gargantuan amounts every year. They’re essentially throwing chicken feed at a small agency in the hope their digital marketing problem goes away.

Bad digital agencies know this – they can cruise along on a retainer because their clients simply won’t pull them on it. Many companies need to be educated as to not make a poor digital marketing decision – otherwise, they’re simply forced to make an ill-informed decision over and over until they learn to make a good one.

Hopefully, we can change this.

The way to curb terrible agency practice isn’t a secret. It all starts with a positive attitude. You win the client, you do awesome work for the client, the client loves your agency, your agency love the client, a relationship is formed.

No one-off payments then out the door. Keep your agency on the cutting edge of digital marketing practice – attend conferences like BrightonSEO and SearchLove, they’re there to educate you! Lay the smackdown on social media channels and make it about communication, not boring questions and empty buzz-words. Create and curate engaging content that people actually want to look at and share – make it funny, informative, sexy, classy. Reach out to new crowds – don’t just reinforce a brand and preach to the converted. Tailor the client’s message and products to new people, and spark their interest. Sure, measure the results, make graphs and stats and shit – but don’t get bogged down by numbers.

Do all of these, and you’ll become a fucking digital badass. You’ll know the landscape is constantly changing, and you’ll have a good idea of how. Quit resting on your big client wins, stop dishing out half-boiled rehashed ideas other agencies had years ago. You’re not Springsteen, and this isn’t the 70s. While potential clients might feel comfortable with same old, same old ideas, they just don’t work. We’re digital marketers, we’re better than Springsteen, and if we keep on inventing and reinventing, they’ll know about it.

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One Response to “The Springsteen Effect”

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