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The Gap in Marketing Thinking

Social media isn’t always the world-changing force that people like to scare marketers about, with apocalyptic predictions about what happens should that force be ignored. But there’s no doubt that social media changes events in ways that were unforeseen even a few years ago. A while back, I wrote a post about the backlash from their fans in social media when The Gap changed its logo and then changed it back. More recently, The Gap was in hot water again when they claimed that bags for a charity initiative were made in the U.S. when they actually came from China. So, using The Gap as an example, where are the gaps in marketing thinking that all companies (not just The Gap) must identify to survive in the changing world of marketing?

The GAP logo.

Image via Wikipedia

All this was brought to mind when I was asked to comment on a story about The Gap’s recent marketing foibles for The CMO Site. Between my original post about The Gap’s logo troubles and this comment on their recent bag faux pas, I am running the risk of becoming part of the marketing echo chamber that loves to tweak the nose of any big company that makes any mistake.

We love to tear down companies who have these sorts of problems. I think that it’s a shame that a company ostensibly trying to do the right thing by supporting the U.S. school lunch program instead gets publicity over a miscue, but that’s the world we live in. To me, there are a lot of companies that miss the mark completely by not trying to do anything to better the world and to hold The Gap up to ridicule over a mistake when they were trying to do the right thing is in some ways counterproductive. I think we’d all like to see more companies act with a conscience, and yes, they should avoid execution mistakes, too.

The whole incident highlights the state of marketing today. Good intentions are not enough when you have millions of people watching your every move, not just the mainstream media. And I think this is the gap in marketing thinking.

Marketing was once a place where sloppiness was sometimes tolerated. For example, how many cost overruns were once tolerated for the TV commercials that really wowed everyone? How often did we overlook the lavish expenses run up by that really creative person? Did we really inspect all the aspects of the event that we put on?

Now, we must. We need to be cost-effective, green, and kind to animals, among other things. What the media would once overlook as a small error is now pointed out by people who really care about that one thing—what to us is that one small thing, but not to them.

We need to accept that although most people will overlook these kinds of errors, some people won’t. And they talk. And the more they talk, the more The Gap becomes known for Chinese bags rather than for supporting school lunch programs. Social media holds all of us to a new, higher, standard on marketing execution. If you still have a gap in your marketing thinking on how well campaigns must be executed, social media will have a way of rooting it out over time.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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