The old way of thinking about marketing was to create a product and then figure out how to market it. Hence, marketing as a separate department. In the past few years, however, a dramatic shift has occurred as the Internet and the rise of social networking have rapidly expanded the tool kit available to marketers, and everyone else, for that matter.
These new levels of connectivity have vastly increased our ability to broadcast our objectives in the early phases of product development, road-testing ideas and gathering valuable feedback while simultaneously engaging people in the process and building a primed word-of-mouth network.
A new project that’s doing just this is TrustArt.org, a website introduced at this year’s TED conference by the Fame Theory group. Trust Art’s purpose is to raise money for large-scale public art projects by crowd-sourcing small donations. When you donate as little as $1, you become a “shareholder,” part of a network of enthusiastic volunteer supporters who have a vested interest in seeing the artwork come to fruition. While raising financial capital, Trust Art also raises “social capital” for the projects – in essence, marketing the project through the fundraising process and creating a powerful word-of-mouth network that can be harnessed to maximize exposure upon the project’s completion.
Similarly, more and more authors – particularly those in the non-fiction genre – are evolving their books in the blogosphere prior to publication, gathering valuable input that refines their ideas while simultaneously creating an active network of primed readers and recommenders. Long Tail author and WIRED Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson has been using this approach for his forthcoming book Free, as has technology writer Kevin Kelly, another senior WIRED editor and a former publisher of the Whole Earth Review, on his Technium blog.
Rather than being tackled as a final step, marketing can now seen as an ongoing process that’s organically tied into product development. By engaging as many people as possible on the way to completing a product, you can create a collaborative web that can form the cornerstone of a successful marketing campaign down the line.