Digital Democracy: Traditional Marketing & the new Public Sphere?

Back in the 1400s, Constantine battled vainly to cling onto a crumbling, outdated empire that had finally lost its way in a modern and evolving world.  Like Constantine, many marketers also remain in the past, burying their heads in the sand and trying desperately to cling onto past glories.  Are they all doomed?  Or does the traditional marketing empire simply need to refresh its politics?

Although a tad dramatic, the analogy does illustrate the futility of remaining rooted firmly in the past.  I’m not for one moment claiming that traditional methods of marketing are now redundant – not only would such a claim be foolish, but also very, very wrong.  However, the advent of Social Media has undoubtedly ushered in a new era of ‘digital democracy’ and as marketers, we have to listen to the masses – on their terms.

The days of residing in ivory towers and waiting on messengers to bring us news of focus groups, consumer opinions and insights has been surpassed by a fundamental shift in access between the rulers and the ruled.  Social Media is the catalyst of this revolution, enabling the masses to scale the city walls and breach marketing strongholds – in 2010, they literally walk among us.

So how should we, as marketers, react to this?  Yes, things are fundamentally changing, but this is not necessarily for the worst.  Rather than issuing one-way messages dictatorially, we now have the opportunity to lead organic, ground-up discussions that appeal to, and involve, the very people that matter most.  We have permission to walk amongst our customers’ playgrounds – Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, BeBo, LinkedIn, Blogs – and speak directly to the consumer on a one-to-one basis.

So you see, in reality, traditional marketing is far from over.  Social Media may well be a prevalent beast roaming the marketing landscape – but it continues to have its leash held firmly by marketing reason, strategy, channels and tradition.  We are entering – nay, are already IN – a brave new world.  ‘Digital Democracy’ has arrived.  Social Media marketing may not be the ‘right’ channel for your marketing campaigns – but its power as a public sphere in which to listen to your citizens simply cannot be ignored.

Viva la revolution.


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