Understanding Ecosystems

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If ever there was a buzzword brewing around strategy meetings and marketing conversations it is: ecosystem. All great marketing tactics must live, breathe and evolve within the marketing ecosystem that brands are creating and nurturing for their products and services and the people that connect to them.

So, where does Digital Marketing fit into this ecosystem?

It was that kind of question that Clay Shirky, best-selling business book author of Here Comes Everybody posed to the audience during yesterday’s brain-melting keynote presentation at the CMA – Canadian Marketing Association National Convention and Trade Show. He challenged marketers to better understand how their products and services fit in a world where everybody is connected to everybody and information is no longer controlled by those with the money and resources. With free publishing tools and large audiences now available to everyone (thank you Internet), simply blasting ads into people’s lives may not be the ideal way to endear consumers to your product over your competitors’.

What’s a Marketer to do?

The concept of a brand ecosystem makes perfect sense. All consumers are not alike. In fact, if we’ve seen anything over the past little while, it’s that many people are engaging with brands in a myriad of ways. As some struggle through the recession, others are thriving. This creates a challenge for the traditional way that a brand would position itself to a consumer. By creating multiple personas and better understanding how consumers really interact with brands – in the real world – marketers are empowered to use multiple touchponts and channels to deliver their message, increase brand value and drive more sales. A brand must live in an ecosystem – it has to have it’s own little world.

Again, so where does Digital Marketing fit into this?

While Shirky did not, specifically, speak to Digital Marketing (it was more of broad stroke about Social Media and what people are doing online), he explained that we simply can’t put these digital channels into the existing ecosystem because these digital channels are an entirely new ecosystem. While the concept of a new ecosystem might sound like semantics, it’s an interesting observation and thought that Shirky has.

Maybe the real idea is it to shift brands into the Digital Marketing ecosystem.

The existing/traditional marketing ecosystem rolls on. How people connect to ads, when you can contact them with direct mail, growing your database through contests and incentives, etc… but maybe the best way to imagine the future of marketing, communications, advertising and public relations is to then think about how these brands will live, engage and thrive in another ecosystem for the Digital Channels.

This Blog post might read like some kind of sixties/psychedelic rant, but Shirky might be on to something. Maybe we need a new world instead of dumping something new into an older/existing one that no one was really all that confident about in the first place?

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