Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

The Hybrid Theory Manifesto: The Future of Marketing, Advertising, and Communications Part One

Hybrid Theory |ˈhīˌbrid thee-uh-ree |: The fusion of creative and communications, combining earned and paid media to enliven ideas, unite communities, amplify stories and spark desired outcomes.

Part One of Three…

Marketing, advertising, service, communications, and business dynamics in general is undergoing incredible transformation. The innovation transpiring across the board however, wasn’t ushered out of vision as much as it was pressured through the democratization of content and the equalization of influence. After years of the socialized media changing how individuals find, create, consume, and share information, we are approaching the cusp of following markets to leading them.

Business and its supporting branches of information dissemination, connection, and contact, are no longer practical in the era of interactive media. A new philosophy and methodology is required to effectively shed the perpetual cycle of catching up to consumer behavior. Doing so will position us for prominence and influence to guide experiences, direction, and earn presence through not only traditional media, but also through the opinions, thoughts, and ultimately public validations of our influencers and influential consumers. But it will take more than ideas, creative approaches, or simply “showing up” to the conversation. A new skill set is required to effectively compete for attention, mindshare and ultimately affinity. Hybrid Theory introduces a workforce of cross-breeds , experts who master an array of marketing artistry, social sciences such as psychology and sociology, creative vision, business dynamics, service, and communications. These individuals do not displace the authorities in their respective disciplines, they simply extend their capabilities into new media and corresponding domains and markets.

Social Media Upsets the Balance

In social networks, attention is earned and engagement is a privilege. But instead of innovating or identifying opportunities for meaningful internal and external collaboration and engagement, many organizations and the teams that support them, debate over who owns social media on behalf of the brand. The answer to the question of “who owns social media” is not representative of the opportunity that seemingly eludes most organizations.

In its sixth Communication and Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) study produced by the Strategic and Public Relations Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, it appeared as though a clear winner was crowned in the tug of war for social media governorship. According to the report, more than 25% of companies placed between 81 to 100 percent of budgetary control over social medias compared to only 12.6 percent going to marketing. In addition, one quarter of respondents claimed that PR held strategic control over social media as a whole within their organizations and only 9 percent was bestowed upon marketing. An interesting point of note is that just over 25 percent stated that marketing held zero budgetary control and 22 percent said marketing maintained no strategic control whatsoever.

Jerry Swerling, Director of the Strategic and Public Relations Center explained the results, “[Social media] require a relatively non-commercial approach; they entail dialogue rather than monologue; they often convey objective information rather than product features; and they tend to be free-form in nature, which is just the opposite of the highly controlled world of marketing.”

If you believe the information contained within this study, PR is a clear beneficiary of the strategies and purse strings that drive corporate social media. But to say that it is the industry standard or even the right or only answer, is far from reality. While Public Relations may not operate with commercial motives, it doesn’t operate without its own bias and agenda. It is only one part of the overall marketing mix and it too, is in need of reinvention.

The truth is that while we control the top down aspects of branding, it is the people who define our stature in social media today. Their views are emanated through the impressions, perceptions, and opinions they not only harbor, but also share via word of mouth in the real world and in the networks that connect us socially. The web has a long memory and the words of customers enjoy the same visibility, if not sometimes greater, through the SEO and SMO that we employ in our marketing efforts.

So in the great debate as to social media ownership, for the time being, it appears as though it’s not created, but co-created. As such, our best interests are served in the investment of time and energy in identifying the missing elements that currently prevent our business from embodying a true 360 approach in all we do. Doing so opens the doors to identify and apply specific value and resources to where it’s most critical and to specifically match capabilities with needs.

The socialization of media begets an approach that’s reverse engineered in order to affect the culture of our organization to inspire relevance in our markets and in turn, socialize the outbound efforts that connect products, services, and communications across every impacted branch of our business. In the process, we’ll find that the only thing that changes in terms of ownership of social today is the introduction of shared equality and equity in the engagement of our stakeholders through the evolved mechanics of:

– Marketing
– Advertising
– HR
– Finance
– Sales
– Service
– Product
– R&D
– Strategic Alliances
– Et al

A hybrid approach is required to ensure that engagement is focused and genuine in order to meet the needs and expectations of today’s social consumer.

The Five P’s of the Marketing Mix

Social networks and the prevailing cultures within each foster interaction and reward active contributors with visibility and connectedness. As individuals in online networks earn prominence, it’s clear that their authority and influence is only expanding. As we’re learning, people and their actions and words, are now critical ingredients in business. Therefore, a 360 approach is only complete through the integration of a fifth “P” to the marketing mix, people.

We’re familiar with the Four P’s of the marketing mix. For those who need or perhaps would enjoy a refresher, the term “marketing mix” stepped into the spotlight when Neil H. Borden published, The Concept of the Marketing Mix in 1964. In the late 1940’s, Borden adopted the term in his teachings inspired by James Culliton who had described the marketing manager as a “mixer of ingredients.” Borden grouped the ingredients of the marketing mix in 13 parts, product planning, pricing, branding, distribution channels, personal selling, advertising, promotions, packaging, display, servicing, physical handling, fact finding and analysis. Years later, E. Jerome McCarthy grouped these ingredients into what we now refer to as e 4 P’s of marketing:

1. Product
2. Price
3. Place
4. Promotion


The Four P’s represent the variables controlled by a marketing manager as dictated by the internal and external dynamics of the market ecosystem. Originally, the 4 Ps were designed to create the perception of value in order to drive activity and in a positive and profitable direction.

In the era of social media, the 4 Ps require a new tenant in order to make its rent. Now in 2010, social media upset the balance of top down communication. Whereas organizations thrived on the governed dissemination of information as of a form of control nowadays, many of the intermediaries and individuals they hope to reach are now far more influential than we may realize.

As content production and dissemination is democratized and influence is equalized accordingly, a new “P” is necessary to ensure the integrity of the existing 4 P’s.

People = The Fifth Element

Continue Reading

Part Two
Part Three

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Please consider reading, Engage!: It might just change the way you think about Social Media

Get Putting the Public Back in Public Relations and The Conversation Prism:

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124 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The Hybrid Theory Manifesto: The Future of Marketing, Advertising, and Communications Part One”

  1. Scot Wheeler says:

    Brian – coming accross your post after just finishing my own post on the second Barcelona principle for PR measurement prompted me to quickly post an addendum ( on my blog, the gist of which is that I really like the idea of the skill sets involved in the hybrid workforce, and that your description of the new social communications environment where “attention is earned and engagement is a privilege” illustrate why the Barcelona Principles for PR measurement require immediate understanding by all PR practitioners.

    As organizations develop their hybrid workforce in response to changing social expectations, everyone will need to understand how what they do fits in to the new workplace, and will need to show how they contribute. Work that is done without measurement-based planning and evaluation cannot hope to connect with a practice built on social sciences and business dynamics. The Barcelona Principles are one set of pylons on which PR teams can begin to build their bridge from a siloed practice with a sometime archaic viewpoint, to the hybrid organization.

    This will be no easy task for most organizations, and as you mentioned organizational change in your response to my last comment, it seems you agree that the “hybridization” will not be entirely organic for most organizations. It's in that light that I see the connection of as many structures as possible to be beneficial in bringing about the change you so clearly envision in your writing.

    I am looking forward to the continuation of the manifesto.

  2. Fard Johnmar says:


    Glad to see you hopping on the interdisciplinary marketing communications train. Have you heard of our effort to train health marketers to think (and act) in the ways you describe? Check out unNiched 2010. I think you might be intrigued by what we're doing:

  3. jgraziani says:

    Brian — really good ideas here. So glad to see your Hybrid Theory talk about a workforce of experts who bring their talents to social media. I think you've hit the nail on the head with that!

    As a PR practitioner who has spearheaded the social media involvement at a large company I do want to point out one perception that I think could be slightly altered to the benefit of both PR and marketing. Companies seem to run into trouble when they consider their PR efforts “a part of marketing.” PR is a separate function with the goal of gaining attention, not necessarily for the purpose of selling. It's more sensible and beneficial to approach PR from a standpoint of helping people, building an audience, providing credible information rather than trying to use PR to sell stuff — which it was never meant to do. When companies stop thinking of PR as a part of the “marketing mix,” then their PR efforts become much more effective. It's a long-term process but the results are usually beneficial to everyone — including sales.

    • briansolis says:

      I think you're exactly right…public relations vs. PR. I think that in many ways, Public Relations becomes an essential part of the “un” marketing mix.

    • Yarndi1 says:

      I think a lot of these misconceptions between marketing and PR stem from not fully comprehending the meanings of words. The English language has nuances with word definitions and I think in many cases peoples lack of reading and comprehension skills cause some of this misunderstanding which leads to mismanagement.

      Public Relations is both similar in word definition and in nuance. Public being everyone and relations is “a bond” of one or more similarities or commonalities.

      Anyway~ good PR will always increase sales simply because people like to deal with people they consider have the same values as themselves; people they know because of familiarity and most importantly, people they trust.

  4. Brian, to my mind the mix of social media with what's left of traditional marketing and PR makes for a new normal of integrated marketing, with that 5th P — people, and listening to people — being the capstone. I respectfully disagree with jgraziani: Because I advise small business owners on their marketing, branding PR, etc., it would be folly to suggest to clients that the various functions should be seen as “separate.” Yes, they need to understand how each works and its purpose, but a business's communications program should tie the functions together to present core value, story and messages cohesively, consistently, and honestly.

    • jgraziani says:

      I think that maybe my statement was misunderstood. I agree that corporate communications efforts should be cohesive and that different types of communications efforts work best when coordinated. What I'm saying is that PR is not the same as marketing and when companies try to use PR to achieve marketing goals, then they are likely to be disappointed in the results and, worse, could damage relationships with media (both traditional and social) — a trust relationship that can take years to build. Instead, PR needs goals that help further the overall goals of the company. Where those goals naturally intersect with marketing then the two should work together — each dedicated to achieving their own goals in their own way.

    • Agree wholeheartedly. And, PR and marketing should be joined at the hip, so to speak, rather than operated as if from silos.

      Small business owners don't know the difference between PR and marketing. That's why I use both in my company name. I've lost count of how many prospects came to me and said, “I need a press release!” In almost all cases, what they really needed was a marketing strategy overhaul, brand makeover, and focusing, especially of their messages. I also see it as my responsibility to educate my clients to become better marketers and, as you correctly point out, to know what results to expect from each strategy.

  5. Paul Smith says:

    I enjoy your work very much. Re Marketing Mix, McCarthy's 4Ps for products were extendedinto the 7Ps for services by Booms & Bitner, 1981. These included People, Processes and Physical Evidence.

    In our 3rd ed eMarketing eXcellence , I suggested an 8th P (I know – difficult to remember beyond 7) but I felt essential to online and social media in particular, and that was a new skill/resource was required – that of building 'Partnerships', marketing marriages & strategic alliances.

    Having said all that, I am totally dependent on 'people' giving me stories for my user generated sportsmanship blog and next edition book Great Moments Of Sportsmanship – would really welcome a comment from yourself if you get a chance. I am listing you in my 5th ed Marketing Communications as a great source. Best wishes, Paul

  6. scottsauce says:

    Brian, really appreciate this article. I am fairly novice to this, and I like the learning curve. I am wondering…so much of this is based on a growing understand of a group of people (i.e. the target market). I have heard a lot about listening on Twitter…but am wondering if you have some help on “how” to really get good information about people…where do you start researching “as” you are developing those online relationships?

  7. Brian,

    i think you should broader the research to include other marketing approaches other than the Four P's. 80 years ago when this approach was first presented and marketing has moved on quite a bit since then. I've spent some time looking at Don Schultz and his approach os just as thought provoking and will imho, stnad the test of time.

    Prof. Schultz coined the term Integrated Marketing Communications and defined it as 'a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinated, measurable, persuasive marketing communication programmes over time with consumers, customers, prospects, employees and internal audiences. The goal is to generate both short-term financial returns and build long-term brand and shareholder value.'

    Where traditional marketing focused on the Four Ps – product, price, place and promotion – IMC concentrates on the following:

    1. Relevance. How relevant the marketer can be to the customer in terms of making products and services the customer wants and needs.
    2. Receptivity. Two meanings:
    i. Want to reach customers and prospects when they are most receptive to the message(s). So, the question is when and at what point of brand contact will the customer or prospect be most receptive to the message or incentive.
    ii. IMC is not simply about how the company wants to communicate; it is instead, about how the customer wants to communicate or be communicated with.
    3. Response. Two aspects:
    i. How easy it is for the customer or prospect to respond to the company’s offerings.
    ii. How well the organisation can sense, adapt to, and answer the needs and wishes of its customers and prospects. In an interactive marketplace, the key skill of the marketer is no longer his or her ability to plan, develop, and implement marketing and communication programmes. Instead, it is to be able to respond appropriately to customer needs and wants.
    4. Recognition. Two meanings:
    i. It reflects the firm’s ability to recognise a customer at important points of contact and to immediately connect to the firm’s stored knowledge about that customer.
    ii. Recognition has to do with the customer’s ability to recognise and select the organisation’s brand from a given array of alternatives.

    Depending on how the customer or prospect wants to obtain value though the first circle, the second circle illustrates the types of additional value to be received from the company because if its organisational structure, company focus, willingness to change, and soon.

    5. Relationship. In value-based IMC, the customer is on the one who creates the relationship, not the marketer. The power of the customer is key to understanding the customer-centric view of IMS: the customer decides, the marketer responds

    I'm not advocating that you throw out the Four P's but I think that Schultz is spot on when it comes to social media and his approach with the Five R's. The traditional, outbound, interruption based marketing world was built on the Four P's and I'm not so sure that this approach best suits the new paradigm.

  8. Let's not forget Search (google) as being a major game changer in the world of marketing. Social media is a huge channel as well, but search is the hard engine core of the internet right now.

  9. led signs says:

    Scott ,you are right ..this is really a usefull article ..

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