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Staying Afloat in Digital Waters

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: July 6, 2009, from the July 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

In early April 2009, Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Simon Clift, told attendees at Ad Age’s Digital Conference, “No matter how big your advertising spending, small groups of consumers on a tiny budget might hijack the conversation. So this Internet thing is much bigger and more interesting than just finding successors to TV advertising.”

In expounding on the power and intricacies of social media, Clift’s core message came down to a simple truth about the media, diluted by Ad Age, “Listening to consumers is more important than talking at them.” Social media, in itself, is not a strategy, but it must be understood in order to be deployed as a tactic.

In fact, social media is a tide that seems to be growing into a tsunami, and it’s about to engulf you, if it hasn’t already. Think of the coverage in this issue as a life jacket. It is clear that social media and the Internet in general have influenced and impacted the way we communicate and do business, and will continue to do so. The shoreline has changed, and understanding the change is essential.

The beauty industry, it is comforting to note, has a unique edge on other industries, and the backstory of its relationship with consumers is full of examples analogous to social media. In the September 2008 issue of GCI magazine, Jamison Davis wrote: “The beauty business has always enjoyed a certain word-of-mouth evangelism. The promotion of products designed to enhance one’s personal appearance is a practice made more believable when the advice is coming from a friend or acquaintance a consumer can trust.”