A simple approach to complexity

Principal Consultant , David Allison Inc.
  • Oct. 4, 2011

I'm a denizen of the Generation X cusp, born in the transition between the boomers and the next wave, and I can honestly say, I've never experienced anything like this.

The world of marketing and branding has become increasingly complex. It doesn't matter what industry you're in, the fact is, with the advent of social media, marketing channel metaphors have shifted – at top speed, no less – from being like soapbox speeches, to resembling polite tete-a-tetes (one-to-one marketing, anyone?), to packed stadiums with hundreds of people talking all at once (hello Twitter!). It's no longer about making statements; it's about engagement and conversation.

A real estate campaign used to consist of a brochure, direct mail piece and a few prints ads. Now, it's all that plus a website, e-newsletters, a Facebook page, Twitter and more. And once a company opens up their brand to millions of online conversations and comments, the brand commits itself to an exponentially increasing amount of time in the Cloud.

It's exciting. But it's tough too.

It seems like there is a newfangled, must-use marketing tool emerging every month. Just when you think you've got your head wrapped around the intricacies of Facebook and Twitter, Google comes out with Google+. Now you've got to think about whether that's right for your company as well. If it is, who is going to manage it?

It takes a lot of time and energy to participate in this newly sophisticated marketing communications world. It's one of the biggest fears I hear from real estate clients as we gently prod them into trying out new communication tools. They are worried sick that if they open up their real estate development project to the world of social media that it will become too onerous to maintain.

To that, I can only point out that this kind of engagement is the new norm. So get used to it.

One look at our client FRAM+Slokker's project website, thenewcalgary.com, and you'll see exactly what I mean: there's a moving timeline that pulls in the project's latest tweets; there's a 'Stories' section that makes use of Storify, the latest social media storytelling tool, as well as more traditional blog posts; and there's a Facebook thread that links you to the project's photo contest. Someone monitors these channels on a daily basis and reports on them weekly. (Fear not, dear reader. As social media and marketing channels have become more complex, the tools to measure them have become much simpler.)

So, what's a beleaguered brand manager to do? Two macro principles should help keep you on the straight and narrow path to success while helping you maintain some semblance of sanity:

1. Keep an eye on what's happening with emerging marketing tools and channels, but don't get distracted from your current program.

2. Be realistic about what you can do. You might not need a Facebook page at all. You might need ten of them. You might benefit most from Twitter, but maybe only with an account for your CEO. You need to make strategic decisions about channels the way you always have, and you need a communications campaign that honours and respects the strengths and weaknesses of each medium.

Approach your communications campaign as you would any life experience: It is better to do fewer things well, than many things poorly.



David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more

David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more




Industry Events