Watching "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947) last night, I was struck by the similarities between the radical marketing ideas of the main character, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), and the new marketing strategies of web 2.0.
You've seen the movie. Macy's Marketing Director, Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) hires Kris to play Santa Claus during the big Thanksgiving Day parade. Kris is a big hit, but the snow hits the fan when Santa (Kris) uses marketing transparency and open, customer first tactics as spokesperson for the Macy's store.
If you remember the plot, after Kris' smashing success at the parade, Doris hires him as the official Macy's Santa for the holiday season. One of Kris' responsibilities of course is to meet with the kids (and their moms) in the shopping crowd and ask them what they want for Christmas. One of the kids asks for a pair of ice skates, but instead of directing the mom to the skate department at Macy's, he suggests going to competitor Gimbel's because they sell skates that are a better fit for the customer. Is it just me or does this sound familiar?
- Marketing Director Doris panics because she is losing control over tried and true marketing tactics... This sounds a lot like some marketing directors that I know (including me a few years back).
- Toy Department head (Philip Tonge) also panics when he learns what happened, despite the fact that the child's mother (Thelma Ritter) is delighted and professes a new loyalty to Macy's...I love merchants: "I don't care if you're happy, what about my margins?"
- Marketing Director Doris does the only logical thing: fires Kris for causing such unabashed customer glee...This reminds me of the great story told by David Meerman Scott http://www.webinknow.com/ about getting fired from The Thomson Corporation.
My point is that in today's web enabled world, the more things change the more they don't have to stay the same. Smart businesses know that customers are the new marketing medium. The Thelma Ritter character in Miracle on 34th St. doesn't have to wait in line to find the right gift, she goes on-line. She routinely uses search engines, social media sites, online peer groups and YouTube. She spreads the word through amazingly efficient word of mouth networks unimaginable in 1947 or even 2007.
So it's time to get on board. 2010 will be a year that rewards progressive marketers and businesses that learn and implement the new techniques of inbound marketing and web 2.0. Remember, Doris and Kris both received a big Christmas bonus from Mr. Macy.