Where Have All the (Marketing) Leaders Gone?

“There’s not a compelling reason to stay.”Brian McGuinness, vice president of Aloft, a
brand of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. that “launched” in Second

I’ve always said that there are two kinds of companies:
Those that read case studies, and those that write them. Most want to be the
latter but fall back on the former – they are willing to take risks as long as
others have taken them first.

Reading case studies and doing your homework is fine. But
more and more, at least in terms of exploring and investing in new media,
companies are either holding back or getting out too soon.

I’ve seen it again and again in my professional life. Some
companies want to be perceived as “hip” without actually having to be hip. They
want to “do social media” as long as they can “do it” the same way they’ve
always done traditional PR. They want “one of those viral videos,” as if
putting a clip on YouTube is an automatic Golden Ticket to word-of-mouth

Even those companies that take the leap – that are willing
to write the case studies for our new media world – do so without a clear
strategy or get out because there wasn’t any “immediate” return.

For example, American Apparel and Starwood Hotels, two of
the earliest innovators in the virtual world of Second Life, are either closing
shop or letting their simulations languish. Others simply wanted to write a
press release about being in Second Life more than they wanted to be in Second
Life. Now corporate marketing executives want to know what’s next so they can
look cool to their kids (some friendly
advice: You will never look cool to your kids.

You can’t experiment with a bleeding edge social network and
expect immediate results, yet this is the message these companies send when
they fold their tents. And if more companies go, who will be left to move the
medium forward? Social media allows innovation to come from the bottom up, this
is true, but great innovation also needs stewards at the top.

Corporate America is scared. Things are changing too fast, consumers are too powerful and
marketing is too fragmented. The One Corporate Voice now has to speak with multiple
messages for infinite desires stretched across psychographic lines on varied

Marketing today is better because of the ability to have
real conversations and relationships with consumers. It’s also a lot easier to
find the people you want to reach.

But marketing today is also harder. It requires patience,
some prescience and lots of participation. It demands new metrics of
measurement. And yes, it calls for risk and a long-term view.

Running in place will keep you fit for a while, but it won’t
get you anywhere. And if they continue to be too careful, American marketers
will find themselves on the sidelines and out of the race for good.

One thought on “Where Have All the (Marketing) Leaders Gone?

  1. Gary,
    Good point-counterpoint thoughts on marketing. As with everything else, timing is key in business. American Apparel and Starwood may do great in SL, but not yet. Too bad they can’t wait — due to investors, job security and other short-term pressuress — until SL reaches critical mass.
    Hopefully though, the knowledge they have obtained and others have learned from their work will pay off.
    It’ll just be a matter of time.

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