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Navigating Marketing 2.0 (part 3): open source 6 October, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in web 2.0.
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Continuing to set the scene for our Inside the bubble event, today I’m going to look at open source. While open source is not strictly speaking core to Web 2.0, the thinking and philosophy behind it is. And, I believe, it is the open source way of working which will have more impact on the way clients and agencies work together in future than anything else.

Of course, open source for many of us in technology is synonymous with software and the high profile of Linux, OpenOffice et al. The open source ethos has also spawned the Creative Commons approach to licensing intellectual property and the release of the APIs that have been used to create so many mashed-up applications and services.

This is all very well for creating new applications but what has it really to do with marketing communications?

For me this is at the core of the difference between Marketing 1.0 and Marketing 2.0. We can characterise ‘old marcoms’ as essentially a one way, blunt, broadcast affair that distributes largely sanitised “over polished” communications.

These communications talk at people rather than with them. This is now out of step with the new reality of blogs, wikis, ad blockers, Sky+ etc. It is the kind of approach that audiences mentally tune out of as fast as the messages hit their retinas.

The creation of Marketing 1.0 communications is also increasingly out of step. The days of the client handing the problem to their agency who vanish into a closed room for a couple of weeks and the return with the answer that they then must sell to the client must be numbered (and are already vanishing in more enlightened agencies).

Essentially, the old way is closed source.

One way of constructing a route forward is to look at the model offered by open source (the bazaar model) and apply this to the agency/client relationship. The result is to change the way agencies work with clients.

This model has 6 core principles:

1: Users should be treated as co-developers

This means embracing journalists, customers, bloggers, analysts etc as co-developers of the messages and strategies we create. While traditional agencies have always used research to pre-test their ideas, by the time it gets to that stage, there is little chance to change course (except when the feedback is so bad that it’s a rip and replace exercise). Co-development doesn’t mean abdicating responsibility for the message to 6 customers behind one-way glass. It does mean that you get more informed, more insightful input as the project progresses. Input that offers a more rounded view of the market, the challenges and potential solutions.

2: Early releases

Marketing 1.0 emphasised that the final communication be totally finished, totally polished and then rolled out. In contrast open source-based Marketing 2.0 means that messages are not over-polished. We put ideas out there and work with our co-developers to evolve them. We encourage them to gain a life of their own, to keep pace with the market.

3: Frequent integration

Building on the idea of early releases, we need to constantly farm for new ideas and insights from other disciplines and industries and integrate them often. The project keeps moving forward. This is, of course, easier for integrated agencies as they have less of the silo-mentality that afflicts old-school single-discipline agencies.

4: Several versions

If Web 2.0 teaches us anything, it’s that the media are fragmenting. For any message, there are a multitude of ways to connect with customers (even with ad-blockers, RSS and SKky+/Tivo etc). To succeed means ensuring you have a truly media-neutral idea driving the brand which can be re-configured in a wide variety of ways. It could also mean creating more stable (polished) campaigns for mass media and more ‘buggy’ (unpolished) campaigns for relational media (eg blogs) which can be further co-developed.

5: High modularisation

In a Marketing 2.0 world, every campaign is a holistic campaign. It’s not enough to run an ad and think the job’s done (actually, this has always been the case). Even on limited budgets, it’s still vital to think through all the modules that are needed to make the campaign successful (again this is something that comes more naturally to integrated agencies). It means being able to create modular campaigns that allow for parallel development (possibly by multiple partners). And, of course, none of this must negatively impact upon available timescales.

6: Dynamic decision making

Speaking of deadlines, it is vital that clients and agencies have a way of making strategic decisions quickly and effectively within a changing environment. With the latest workflow systems and development wikis this is now easier than ever but on international assignments with layers of sign-off this still presents challenges for everyone involved.

The open source model presents a compelling blueprint for how Marketing 2.0 will develop.

Are we there yet? No. While today’s integrated agencies are adopting some of these ideas, embedding them throughout both agencies and clients will take time and commitment. This will be less a case of if than when.

I look forward to seeing what visitors to the bubble think.

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