Some bloggers are engaging in conversations about whether conversational marketing should be called “conversational marketing” or rather “market conversations” (as coined by the founding fathers of the movement in “Cluetrain Manifesto”). Chris Heuer calls for the latter (“Stop the insanity- don’t call it conversational marketing!”): “In the world I inhabit, Marketing has become a four letter word. It has come to mean interruption, manipulation and pushing messages into people’s heads. (…) It seems to me that Conversational Marketing is in danger of ending up becoming something that traditional marketing people use to do TO other people rather than understanding it is something that we do WITH other people. (…) A conversation is not an advertisement, not an email newsletter, not a podcast, not a press release, not a ‘contrived’ focus group where management watches real people from behind the glass - these are all pieces of communication. A conversation is a human interaction between two or more people, which involves listening, speaking and responding.”
Ahem, sure, so we should all just talk to each other?
Heuer admits that his concern may be “splitting hairs,” and indeed it seems like a meaningless semantic argument to me. It is in fact a little bit ironic that Heuer worries so much about the branding of conversations – like one of the traditional marketers he appears to despise. Conversational Marketing or Market Conversations or whatever: the question is not what it’s called but how it’s done. David Weinberger writes in a comment to Heuer’s post: “What counts is how marketing adapts to the era of market conversations.” Exactly. Marketing is not a “four-letter-word” and the formats that Heuer condemns as marketing tools are vital channels to enable market conversations. Lastly: If there is any powerful force in the world, then it is marketing. Once you acknowledge that, then you can have serious conversations about improving both marketing -- and the world.