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 / Winter 2011 / Issue 65(originally published by Booz & Company)


Best Business Books 2011: Marketing

Vaynerchuk’s book is as conversational as his various feeds. Explaining the now-famous Old Spice Man social media campaign, in which former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa interacted directly via social media channels with individual people, he enthuses: “With this campaign, Procter & Gamble…showed the world how a brand can play a kick-ass game of media Ping-Pong.” (More on what he thought were the campaign’s shortcomings in a minute.)

So what is the Thank You Economy? It’s today’s consumer-driven, social media–enabled economy, in which Vaynerchuk declares, “Only the companies that can figure out how to mind their manners in a very old-fashioned way — and do it authentically — are going to have a prayer of competing.”

Whereas We First argues that consumers are demanding more accountability from corporations in how they operate within the world at large, Vaynerchuk turns the premise inward. No matter how large the business, he says, companies can and should delight individual customers, who are becoming ever more discerning about how corporations should treat them. Drawing from his own experience, he asks: “How else do you think I outsell Costco locally and nationally?… The real success of Wine Library wasn’t due to the videos I posted, but to the hours I spent talking to people online afterward, making connections and building relationships.”

Which points directly to Vaynerchuk’s disappointment with the Old Spice Man campaign, even though it is viewed in the ad industry as one of the most successful social media campaigns to date. As far as the Thank You Economy is concerned, he says P&G dropped the ball because the brand didn’t use its new following in social channels to build an ongoing dialogue. “Every one of those people should have received an email, thanking the followers for watching the videos and offering them a reason to keep checking in,” Vaynerchuk says. He’s right. If building long-term relationships is the key to sustaining a brand, than P&G missed a major opportunity. “They turned what had all the markings of a superb social media campaign into a one-shot tactic,” he complains.

In fact, although The Thank You Economy is full of anecdotes about how brands delight customers using tactics, Vaynerchuk goes to great lengths to explain that tactics work only as part of an ongoing engagement, an engagement that has to be more than superficial. As Aaker says in Brand Relevance, in order to differentiate a brand or a company, the employees have to live it.

For Vaynerchuk, that comes down to intent: “If you’ve ever considered embarking on a social media campaign, or even tried an initiative or two, what was your intent? Was your goal to get someone to click through or click the ‘Like’ button? Or was it to build your online identity and foster a connection between yourself and the consumer?” You know the right answer.

Vaynerchuk’s book is full of commonsense advice, but it has a big flaw: It promises that building individual customer connections is scalable, but it doesn’t really explain how the biggest brands can build those connections. It could have used more case studies involving a Ford, or a Microsoft, or a Kraft. That said, Vaynerchuk is inspirational. We First and Brand Relevance are food for thought, but The Thank You Economy is food for the soul of marketers who aim to build long-term relationships with their customers.

In a world cluttered with brands and the media they support, traditional ways of messaging and targeting just aren’t getting the job done. And throwing money at the problem isn’t working. But as this year’s best marketing books show, companies can succeed if they market their brands in other ways — through the “media” of buzz-worthy products, excellent consumer experiences, and outstanding customer service. Since that’s the case, these books contend, it’s time to reframe the discipline and move forward.

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