Conversational Marketing: Irrational Exuberance or Next Big Thing?

In a recent blog post, Jim Nail, chief strategy and marketing officer at Cymfony, wrote about a study that provocatively proclaims “Spending on Conversational Marketing will Outpace Traditional Marketing by 2012”. To find out if that’s even possible, I got together with Jim and Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president at Nielsen Online Strategic Services. Like Jim, Pete is wary of the “conversation” hubbub.

What ensued was a very lively debate about whether marketers are prepared to support conversational marketing, and the answer isn’t very pretty. As Jim and Pete point out, not only are marketers not using Web 2.0 tools to create a conversation. To even listen effectively, they need to overhaul their infrastructures, big time.

We invite you to listen to the debate and then tell us what you think by leaving a comment on this blog. Enjoy …

Conversational Marketing: Irrational Exuberance or Next Big Thing?

About Jim

Jim Nail has an extensive background in integrated marketing through his 22-year career that spans online marketing, market research, brand advertising and direct marketing. Jim was an analyst at Forrester for eight years, focusing on how marketing strategies and tactics must adapt to technology-driven changes in consumer media consumption habits. Prior to joining Forrester, he helped launch Web advertising network AdSmart, where he served as director of marketing. He spent 15 years planning and managing integrated marketing campaigns at leading advertising agencies including Ogilvy & Mather Direct, Draft Worldwide, Bates USA and Hill Holliday.

About Pete

Pete Blackshaw, whose professional background encompasses politics, interactive marketing, and brand management, is Executive Vice President of Strategic Services for Nielsen Online, a new entity combining Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a firm Pete helped co-found, and Nielsen NetRatings. Pete’s primary focus revolves around how to help brands interpret, manage, act upon consumer-generated media (CGM). A former interactive marketing leader at P&G and founder of consumer feedback portal, Pete co-founded the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). He is a frequent speaker at interactive marketing industry events, serves as Ad-Tech advisory board member, authors a regular marketing column with ClickZ, and authors several blogs including ( He is author of an upcoming book by Random House entitled “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000: Running a Business in Today’s Consumer-Driven World.”

Also, another good reference point on the ugly side of this debate can be found here.

7 comments to Conversational Marketing: Irrational Exuberance or Next Big Thing?

  • chet

    Good Podcast and hello to Jim. I think your other guest hit it on the head — companies need to take a hard look at their “listening infrastructure.” This is an excellent term. By the way, the listening infrastructure includes executives listening to employees as well. We are moving away from the age of employees as badgeholders and consumers as statistics and into participatory value creation.

    Keep casting!
    Chet Geschickter

  • Paul Dunay


    I totally agree – in fact I was quite surprised by his suggestion and feel others will be too.


  • Gil

    great podcast Paul…when I think listening I always wonder how it will scale unlike ad serving (a form of talking) but then I’m reminded that proper listening evokes the right responses which are in turn are shared with others – listening and viral communication go hand in hand.

  • The Tradaptor

    A lively & engaging podcast Paul..there is indeed a good deal to unlearn before entering the participatory consumer controlled mediasphere.More often than not we tend to focus on the wrong set of expectations – sales, ROI,conversions – and overlook the impulses that are driving consumer participation. The huge opportunity to engage consumers is not over-hyped but the ability to sustain it surely is.

  • Kami Huyse

    I was just at DELL and they are really doing this. They have also shifted their reward system on inbound support calls from shortest calls to “problem resolved in one call.” They have also launched idea storm as a listening device. I have been very impressed by what they are doing.

  • Paul Dunay


    Agreed – I was on with Dell (while acting as tech support for my Mother in Law)

    and not only did they resolve it in one call BUT the technician gave me his email address in case I had any further trouble!

    Then sent me an email confirm and with the confirm mentioned if I had a good experience would I mind writing a recommendation to his boss – which I did!

    Dell is all about Conversational Marketing!

  • Paul Dunay


    good point and to expand on that

    it is not just what companies need to unlearn but it is also about how you define marketing

    Kamis point below about Dell is true; who would think that good marketing would be having a great customer experience with their call center

    Both of us obviously did …

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