I call bull$#@! on viral marketing programs, targeting technical influencers and social network advertising. Why? Because they are fraught with marketing spin and only add to a confusing and ever-expanding marketing landscape. I can almost picture people doing silent finger "quotes" when they say these three terms. These and other new technologies are causing havoc in the advertising world. The traditional agency has long been left in the dust by the internet. And now it's happening to the internet agencies themselves-- outrun by niche vertical shops carving up the space with new ways to reach the consumer. Occasionally they are intelligent ways; more often than not they are just the products of delusional idiots with a new technology and no understanding of marketing. But sometimes -- just sometimes -- they converge. When that happens, the industry moves with them. Those times breed a whole new slew of verticals specializing in the emerging field-- email, SEM and the word-of-mouth nexus of viral, buzz and social networks are all moving us forward. Welcome to Web 2.1r3The problem is that the technical understanding and emergence of those verticals does not make people marketers, nor does it give them an understanding of branding or how to properly research, drive consumer insights and fundamentally shift consumer perceptions. They are utilities, a tool, a brush. It takes a craftsman to wield these tools for good, not evil. The speed of the emergence outruns those who make the tools. The lack of understanding in them has people fumbling to catch up, latching on to the vernacular and diluting the meanings, intents or understanding of what makes marketing effective. Whatever it is, we have ended up with a plethora of options, a lot of confusion and people everywhere spouting the marketing buzzwords "viral," "technical influencers" and "social network" like they were sugarshots at a diabetic convention.
Author Notes: Sean X Cummings currently serves as director of marketing for Ask.com. Read full bio.
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