I recently completed a chapter in a book on social media to be published next year (no not mine - another one) and I called it "Your staff are your best advocates". Hugh McLeod just re-blogged this post from 2005 on the same topic, and Steve Bridger just said in a Twitter conversation that he got a good response to saying " loyalty to charity brands is now shifting towards affinity to individuals working within charities" in a keynote yesterday.
We are gradually groping our way towards the Cluetrain idea of markets being conversations but it is still a long way off and "brand" still mostly means orchestrated bollocks.
I am a mentor at The School of Communication Arts, run by Marc Lewis, which aims to develop new talent for the marketing business. I have done a few mentoring sessions and really enjoyed meeting and getting to know the students. However I have been feeling increasingly uncomfortable about being involved, even marginally, with an activity that I find increasingly annoying.
When I called Marc to share these feelings we had a pretty robust exchange of views on marketing and its place in the modern world. We then had round two of this argument in a session in front of the students at the school last week. I said that I had no problem with advertising as such. I am happy being helped to make decisions about buying stuff. I will always buy stuff and ways of making better decisions about what to buy are always welcome. But this is a million miles away from being shouted at about crap I don't want when I am trying to do something else - no matter how entertainingly it is done. There were one or two students nodding as I made my case but most were pretty full on that we "need" marketing to fund content, entertain us in magazines, and smarten up Times Square!
Roll on the day when marketing retires into the background and I can have real conversations, with real people, in real businesses, who are doing stuff that makes my life better.