Rumours of online’s power have been greatly exaggerated

I recently attended the Market Research Society Annual Conference in London. This is an important event in the marketing calendar and the organisers had assembled some fantastic practitioners and case studies, both agency and client-side.

Secret Marketer

My interest was piqued in the opening seminar. Patrick Barwise, emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School, made a startling statement: that 90 per cent of brand conversations are still offline, and only 2-3 per cent of the remainder are in the social space.

The point was built upon by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, who said that online conversations are more polarised than those shared by the mass market populace.

Now this is a point that I have inferred in this column in recent weeks. Social media is important in our society today, and marketers are foolish to ignore it. However, it is not the only media that exists and, in fact – if you are to believe the above – it is probably over-hyped, perhaps to a very great degree. At a time when everyone seems to be jumping on the social media bandwagon, this is a helpful dose of realism for us all to keep our feet on the ground.

The following day I presented my 2013/14 marketing plan to my board – always a trepidatious time, and this year was no exception. After hours of pre-selling the plan to the individual board members, and then a carefully staged presentation taking the board through the plan from market insight to alignment with business objectives, lessons learned from last year and clear (and impressive) return on investment statistics. But as usual, I got to my final slide – the budget – and there was the usual sharp intake of breath, shaking of heads, deep inspection of one another’s shoes as everyone avoided making eye contact, ending with the “we’ll have to see if we can afford all that”.

Oh well, perhaps if I anonymously tweet the importance of solid marketing investment in my brand being essential to our success, the chief financial officer will come rushing to my desk with a big bag of cash for me.

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