Traditional marketing and communication is about getting people to do things. Web marketing and communication is about helping people do things.
"If you don't like a particular ad on your screen, just throw it in the bin but if you found it interesting or useful, why not share the ad with your other friends - this seems to be the new advertising formula for Digg and now Orkut," writes Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration in June 2009.
"The traditional banner ads and even contextual advertising (like AdSense) is not really working on social news sites so web companies like Facebook and Digg are trying more innovative ways to get the advertiser's message across to their users without actually annoying them," Agarwal continues.
According to a July article in Revolution magazine, "In the UK 68 per cent of internet users were found to trust online consumer opinions, while only 58 per cent said they trust brand websites." The article also refers to a Harris Interactive poll which found that "46 per cent of US internet users say they ignore banner ads, with just one per cent finding banner ads helpful in making a purchase decision."
A recent Nielsen study found that, "Personal recommendations and opinions posted online are the most trusted forms of advertising among Internet users around the world."
Advertisers and publishers are really struggling with the Web. They can't seem to make it work. These web ads just aren't as effective as TV, radio and print ads. Is that really the problem? Perhaps the problem is that modern advertising and communications are a house of cards that the Web is pushing over.
Why? Because the Web is measurable. For the first time, we can really see how effective advertising and communication are. Didn't an advertiser famously say that half of their advertising worked; they just didn't know which half? Now they can know. Maybe they will find out that much less than half is effective.
Organizations are trying to come up with new ways to advertise and communicate. New ways to disrupt, interrupt and annoy. New ways to grab us by the arm and shout in our ears about how wonderful they are and how much we need their products and services.
Marketers and communicators are trained to think like dog trainers. The dog is the customer and needs to be made do what the master (the organization) wants it to. That's old school marketing and communication and it doesn't work so well on the Web.
To succeed on the Web we need to change our mentality from seeing ourselves as a master to seeing ourselves as an apprentice. The customer is the master and we need to learn about what they need to do right now, and help them do that.
The web customer is purposeful, directed, action-oriented. They are on a journey and we need first and foremost to help them get to their destination. Then and only then have we any chance of introducing to them the idea of taking a new journey.
Good web marketers and communicators apprentice themselves to their customers.