It’s difficult to imagine how non-platform Advertising & Marketing worked before the advent of the big platforms (like Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc) because many of us only entered the WWW after the platforms …and the old-timers have either forgotten, moved on, or gotten knocked out of the game.

Perhaps a reframing of what it was all about—and how promotions used to work—may allow us to peer beyond the dystopian Advertising & Marketing models prevalent today…

Businesses come into existence because the business owners & entrepreneurs believe they have a USP (unique selling proposition).  That is, they believe they are bringing to market either a business solution the market needs (ie. services) or a product that is perceived to be in demand by the marketplace.  This is key.  This is fundamental.  Every business needs to justify its existence to the market, niche or otherwise …or the business does not survive for long.  (Compared to how many ‘online businesses’ today are now templated and cloned without any reference to unique or distinctive features.)

And so promotions were designed to do that.  On the pre-platform WWW, this was done via Email Marketing.  It had this advantage:  the promotions were reaching a captive audience that had signed up to receive that information.  The Advertisers and other promotional programs could receive tracking feedback to see if their promotions and advertisements were getting the interest they wanted.  If not they would tweak their promotions, or run parallel promotions to see which had better traction.

Note:  This approach is fundamentally based on self-development — asking questions about our products & services after each promotion in order to improve, etc.  Ergo it’s about both knowing ourselves as well as our customers.

The key to building USPs was trust.  Trust builds relationships.  Trusted publishers — together with trusted content, products and services — build a loyal customer base.  And so Promotions were carefully crafted to present information in organized bite-sizes so that our audiences and customers also grew with us.

So let us now juxtaposition that to how today’s Marketing works… when we do not know if a promotion is successful because of the content, or because of the paid hits from suspect subscribers?  What also happens if we are unable to get reliable information about our promotions from the platforms because of this?  How would we plan any improvements for future iterations?

What happens if we are unable to reach the same reader on the platform …because our reach is not based on a fixed database, but scattered willy-nilly according to the vagaries of the algorithms?  How would we plan our information packages?

Clickbaits with no relevance to content, “big data” with suspect subscribers, and suspect analysis with no relevance to our client base — In whose interest would they be serving?  Cloned and templated business models without reference to who we are, our unique skills and giftings, our unique offerings — Isn’t that what happened together with the massive platforms?  So what about the SMEs?

Points to ponder yes?

Caveat.  I’m not saying that Platforms do not work at all, that influencer marketing does not work.  I’m merely saying that it does not work as we are led to believe ie. for the little guys.  It does not work for many SMEs that want to move up the value chain — ergo for SMEs that want to be price makers and not price takers.  The evidence so far is pointing in the direction that most platforms are actually designed to advantage just themselves and big business.


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RAYMOND SIEW is the Managing Partner at EMasters …where his vision is to build a community of businesses rooted in authentic partnerships that are nurturing, sharing & respectful (as inspired by M Scott Peck in his seminal work “Community Building in Business”).  He also documents his journey in his Walking The Road Less Traveled blog.

When Raymond is not immersed in business development for EMasters and her suite of partnerships & assets, he enjoys a good game of bridge.