“Traditional marketing — including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications — is dead. Many people in traditional marketing roles and organizations may not realize they’re operating within a dead paradigm. But they are,” wrote Bill Lee in the Harvard Business Review. Within an hour of being published, the article was trending on the professional social network LinkedIn.

Lee is not the first person to sound the death knell of traditional marketing. In April 2012, Saatchi & Saatchi’s CEO, Kevin Roberts, created a stir by proclaiming the death of marketing that is based on strategy and management.

Lee argues that traditional marketing communications no longer make sense in “today’s increasingly social media-infused environment”. Old-school interruptive and overtly promotional methods are no longer relevant to the “buyer’s decision journey”- he goes on to explain- as buyers nowadays are “checking out product and service information in their own way, often through the Internet, and often from sources outside the firm such as word-of-mouth or customer reviews.”

Lee’s arguments are not much different from what John Hornell wrote in his blog article, Traditional Advertising is Dead. “Ask yourself this question, when you were last considering buying a particular product, did you look for information on TV, in the paper or on billboards? I doubt it. Did you, however, type something into Google, look for blogs on the topic or ask your social media community for advice or information. I think this is far more likely,” argues Brightfire’s CEO.

According to Lee, the broken model should be replaced by a new type of marketing that is based on:

  • Community marketing – with companies positioning their social media efforts to replicate the community-oriented buying experience.
  • Customer influencers – businesses need to find and cultivate customer influencers from their own network, as opposed to industry influencers who have gained following through social media.
  • Helping customers build social capital – businesses should help customers build their affiliation networks, increase their reputation and empower them through new knowledge.

Ultimately, Lee concludes, the new marketing model should be based on businesses creating and sustaining authentic customer relationships. The only way you can achieve it is this: leave outbound marketing in the past and embrace inbound marketing as the only marketing strategy which reflects the way people search, buy and live online.

Image credit: Mandy Goldberg, view from 5’2“, Creative Commons