Why Twitter Is Not a Strategy

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From social media to marketing automation, modern technology allows marketers to connect with customers more efficiently than ever. But relying too heavily on technology can be costly. If marketers allow technological tools to take the place of fundamentals, customer relationships may suffer and customer loyalty could be at stake, Tom Doctoroff, Asia CEO of advertising agency J. Walter Thompson and author of Twitter Is Not a Strategy, says. The key, he told Associate Editor Maria Minsker, is to align the basics with the buzzed-about technology and to allow the two to work hand in hand.

CRM: What inspired you to write this book? Why was the timing so crucial?

Tom Doctoroff: I wrote the book because I really feel like the advertising and marketing [industries are] in a state of identity crisis. There is so much technological innovation and there are so many things to learn that it's easy to forget the importance of marketing fundamentals. It's my key belief as a manager and leader that marketing and advertising are industries that are differentiated by conceptual precision and abstract thought. Many people feel insecure when things can't be proven or quantifiably supported through analytics, but marketers need to have faith and confidence in what they do. They need to remind themselves that loyalty is not generated from a stream of data, but from a carefully cultivated relationship.

CRM: The book's title is blunt in its dismissal of Twitter. Is that really how you feel?

Doctoroff: I think social media is a fundamental part of engagement. The title is meant to provoke a debate on whether or not timeless brand building can be replaced by a new era of consumer empowerment, but ultimately, my goal is to suggest that they can coexist. That is, the traditional model of top-down brand building, which is characterized by message craftsmanship, and the bottom-up era of consumer empowerment, which has been turbo-charged by technology, can—and should—be aligned. There is no fundamental conflict between them. It's not a choice.

CRM: Why do you think that the two have gotten out of sync for many brands?

Doctoroff: Usually it all comes down to the consistency of the brand idea. And I don't just mean a tagline. A brand idea should be defined by the relationship between a consumer and the brand. The brand idea is the soul of the brand. It is the life force, and it must remain consistent, even when a long-term relationship eventually evolves across time. Every marketer must be able to define that idea because it's based on a bilateral relationship that underpins all engagements—digital or otherwise. The other problem is that brands' digital engagement platforms are not connected. It's a blizzard of bits and bites that don't come together conceptually and don't coincide with the buyer's path to purchase.

CRM: What's an example of a company that really gets it right in terms of message consistency?

Doctoroff: Nike is one of my favorite examples. Think about their "Just Do It" proposition. It's a message with deep insight into human motivation. Nike is encouraging people to challenge convention and push against their limits through sports by transforming the soccer pitch and the basketball court into realms of individual expression and achievement. Nike is not just a brand, it's a belief. It's iconic. It captures a core human motivation, and carries that idea through its technology, its products, and its various campaigns. Even on social media, Nike consistently shares messages of encouragement and inspiration, not just promotional content.

CRM: What do you say to critics who argue that loyalty is dead and it's all about getting the "right offer to the right person at the right time"?

Doctoroff: Loyalty will always be important because it is where price premiums and profit margins come from. In the context of real-time precision marketing and mobile marketing, we haven't yet resolved the technological friction that makes getting the right offer to the right person at the right time realistic. And even if we did, we can't treat people as users and buyers all the time. We can't just flood them with constant offers. We have to make offers mean something in the context of engagement and brand building. That's the only way that you'll keep customers coming back, and that's why loyalty cannot be dead.

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