lessons from the entertainment industry

November 2, 2009 · 0 comments

while social media has been a boon for everyone (those who've taken to it anyway). the area it has most naturally fit into and leveraged exceptionally well is in the entertainment field. whether it's actors, artists (of all shades), bands, writers, performers, personalities and entertainment entities themselves (movies, tv shows, plays, etc), they all are woven well in the space.

the linchpin of it all is that those in the entertainment field (to varying degrees) have a network of passionate, dedicated and loyal followers, fans and other interested folks. they are cultural beacons we can all identify with our own select group out of the lot. it binds us to them and to others of a similar affinity.

how lucky they are and how so few in the corporate brand world are as fortunate. that kind of rapacious following can only be dreamed about for all but a handful of brands.

the entertainment industry has it real easy when it comes to engaging in social media. and there's lessons in there for us less fortunate stewards of brands in the space.

  1. notoriety & celebrity
    this has always been and will continue to be a potent weapon. people love and relate to public figures very well. how can you tap into this directly or indirectly? how can you leverage some kind of celebrity and share in their spotlight?
  2. they have the goods
    the entertainment biz and the personalities have the goods for engagement. content, access and rewards that are not just there, but at the core of what they do. do you have any of these, are they of sufficient quality, and do people actually want them?
  3. they are experts
    it is all about them after all. they are their brands and obviously the experts on the subject. not only that, they are empowered to act or have empowered others to act for them. do you know your business through and through? do you have the power to be present in all your brand spaces and be a leader?
  4. passion
    their livelihood is at stake everytime they put their face or product out there. it's no different for a corporate brand. there are people in every organization who are deeply passionate about the company and the business it does, but also social media itself. find the passionates and give them license.
  5. know your tribe
    the entertainment business is incredibly adept at creating followings. the last 15 years have given them other technologies to build, maintain and message that following to all kinds of success. if you don't already, get to know your consumers and start keeping track of them. build a database, talk to them, get their input, send selective messages. build your loyalty as any band might do.
  6. paid and owned channels
    these are the channels that you have some degree of control over (vs. earned which the consumer mostly does). these two media forms help fuel much of what happens in the earned side (ie. social media). there needs to be some critical mass to it to get you the requisite exposure. then the earned side can sustain you once the word is out there. but it has to be interesting, relevant and sociable. so little marketing is. do yo uhave a checklist to make that happen?
  7. earned channel
    once you have the paid and owned stuff figured out, the earned side needs to be in full effect. but not in the old ways it ways. it needs to have value and importance. the entertainment business has the gossip sites and rags, news shows, fan sites/forums, and embedding in each other. these do a lot of heavy lifting for the industry. is your PR team lifting as much? and is it on strategy and message as much as it should be? it it consumer-centric and not the old corporate speak?

ode to content

October 20, 2009 · 0 comments

content. i've been talking a lot about that lately. around all facets of clients' business, but mainly social media and search. it's the great enabler. let me explain.

let's start by settling a debate (or at least dismissing it). the debate rages about what's king: content or conversation. why do we have to crown something? they're not mutually exclusive and the real value of one isn't realized without the other.

without content, conversations have little to form around. without conversation around content, you're missing a key point of engagement and enhancement. not everyone wants to converse, but everyone wants to consume content. but the conversation is what you've earned and who we identify as being advocates, likely to work hard for the brand.

so let's stop declaring kings (much like we need to stop titling things as 'killers' - another post altogether). neither is the end, both are just components to the bigger picture.

with that put to rest, let's get back to talking content. i don't think it gets enough attention amidst the vast deluge of social media discourse out there. same in the search world. in social media, it is that which conversations are based on. in search, it is that which makes a link relevant to a keyword or consumer interest. in both cases, a brand has no license to partake without the appropriate content (we'll get to the ever important 'appropriate' part later).

previously, all content consisted of, from an advertiser viewpoint, was their ads. to varying degrees of branding, it was paid attention getting, whether wholly produced by the company or in a muddy way with publishers (advertorials). wither way, it was one-way and dictative. any resulting (minuscule amounts of) conversations were entirely brand-centric. very few were talked about and in a very limited way.

the new marketing world is shifting in what the definition of content is. the models for accommodating that are not yet (yet another entirely new post). ads are just one form of content, and a decreasingly influential one as the are now.

-related aside-
(i'm a heavy bracket user, but this needed more than what i think is an acceptable amount of bracketed words)
ads have evolved (if you want to call it that) to be jumbled messages of heavy marketing that are highly polished and mostly devoid of real deep consumer interest. they've become formulaic, outmoded, overly commercial and corporate in nature and rarely engaging. the typical names rise as exemptions to this epidemic: apple, nike and a select few others who have a moment of breakthrough. discerning, trained to tune-out consumers have less attention to give to these staid messages and our investment erodes in value. as content, as sociable spring boards, these types of ads are low probability contenders.
-end aside-

other content falls in three camps: 1) brand produced 2) consumer produced, brand shared 3) other content producer made, brand shared.

1) brand produced
it's just that. anything non-mass channel message that brand funds the production of. could be video, picture, podcast, whatever. it is typically (or at least should be) subtle on the brand integration and not heavy-handed with the selling. they are 'feel-good-about-the-brand' pieces made for pure enjoyment and sharing.

2) consumer produced, brand shared
what a place to be. consumers have taken to your brand and made something about it. where it turns into brand content is when it's celebrated by sharing it through a brand's channels.

3) other produced, brand shared
there's countless pieces of content that is professionally made that unto themselves are interesting. it's tapping into these affinity areas where we can align our brands to consumer interests and build our personality that way. could be an interesting show, video clip, song, whatever a brand can exploit to build conversations and sharing around the brand.

to address the appropriateness side of content, well it needs to be that. duh. it's not just developing or sharing any ole piece of content, rather it is doing it in a way that fits with the brand character.

content is essentially a doorway to participation. brands are brokers of content. their facilitation of it enables them to be included in the dialogue between consumers in the world of social and gain favorability by doing so. in the search world, brands can fully capitalize on consumer interests and drive traffic to their various outposts.

indicting the sacred cows

October 8, 2009 · 0 comments

a main theme in all the things i do this year is to challenge every notion. to turn my skeptic eye on everything and as a first step to whatever, i question everything about it. it's easy to get stagnant, to rely on how you've done things, to make the same assumptions, to approach things as you typically have, or accept that it's worked so let's continue it.

so it was my delight that at yesterday's AToMiC conference, the first keynote was two gentlemen who like to blow accepted concepts up. their presentation was entitled 'the indictment' and consisted of 9 sacred cows (their words) that needed slaughtering (my words) for creativity to prosper and flourish in an organization.

at one point, there was a telling quote that concisely sums up their radical assertions to not stifling creativity.

landforms come from volcanoes
the meaning being that violent change, while unsettling for a brief period of time, results in stability in newfound ways of operating.

without any further adieu, here are those accepted modes of operation that are false:
  1. all ideas are good ideas
    this is simply not the case because resources are finite. with infinite resources to process, ponder and evolve all ideas as we'd like, then yes, everything is meritous. but we don't and we also know that not all ideas are equal or equally good. to get at the best ideas and have the best resulting product (ie. a solid, well-formed idea the client can understand and approve) then we need to shift from a divergent method (an idea buffet that has ideas removed, the remaining ideas frankenstiened together and watered down) to a convergent method (not removing ideas, but focusing and revisiting each as a new jumping off point)
  2. ad campaigns are an essential marketing expense
    to use accounting parlance, an expense uses an asset, and often incurs a liability. it is transient. the shift in thinking lies in looking at creating marketing assets that have permanence and are leverageable, not as a support service. the former is a more inclusive and integrated mindset.
  3. disagreement = disrespect
    it's not about authority or a tenured viewpoint, it's just about varying ideas and opinions. we often hold back for fear of offending or being out of place, but creativity does not know these sentiments.
  4. the best teams are a collection of superheroes
    most often we prize specialists and the very best of them. but the real value is in a broad range of skills. intersectional innovation requires generalists among specialists.
  5. each employee should strive for perfection
    our typical evaluation systems focus on weaknesses but that doesn't foster creativity. our aim should be to create the perfect job, not person to optimize results of human talent.
  6. creative leaders should be the most creative
    just because a person is really creative, doesn't mean they can lead others in that field. creative rockstars are the doers and moving them to lead puts them outside their skill set. leaders cause creativity, but don't necessarily need to be super creative themselves. identify people's strengths and reward differently.
  7. bonuses should be objective and clear
    creativity isn't so easily boxed. this concept is very tricky, and standardized systems aren't always the answer. new subjective bonus systems should be developed.
  8. marketing is a masterpiece to be revealed
    the marketing industry has relied on a system of holding our cards close and then gloriously releasing them in a big burst. the problem with that is what happens if we were wrong? the idea is to keep marketing in beta and have an iterative approach to launches and campaigning. this graph easily explains how this would look.

  9. integration is the ideal
    we've striven for years to make campaigns and platforms and matching luggage. it's time to embrace the one-off. the unified campaign has too many moving parts and it's extremely difficult to align the stars and truly execute against that premise. by doing stand-alone efforts (while maintaining brand character and semblance) we can more quickly test and fail then move on.
all in all, a refreshing stance on what we've come to accept as operating systems. while all great, radical shifts in approach, can we change the matrices to implement?

redesigning the website

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

i took a spin of the recently released google fast flip (i know i'm late to the game, it's all about sidewiki now) and it got me thinking of how bothersome going to websites is these days. as fast flip rethinks how we read news, i believe a rethink needs to happen on how we view web content.

here's where we are in 2009: sites are all about stickiness and page views. ad supported sites deliver an incredibly cluttered experience for their audience, and the advertisers. a page is peppered with all manner of navigation, info-buttons, promotions, ad units (multiple), forms, calls-to-action, links, columns, and every-which-way to serve up the content in tiny slivers. the result is pretty ugly. the hope is that the more you readily see, the longer you will stay on the site because something might grab your interest.

it's all too much, really.

beyond the visual look of the site, it's about structure and experience as well that need an overhaul. content isn't seamless and integrated, it's linked out (still on site though). articles are spread over multiple pages. there's a lot of scrolling to get through a page in it's entirety (which means it's mostly ignored). social tools are rare. content types are siloed (video player vs. integrated with the page).

it can be quite onerous to navigate and enjoy.

i come at this from both an advertiser and audience perspective. as a site visitor, i'm being bombarded and am overwhelmed with the plethora of (mostly) garbage a site is throwing at me. as an advertiser (or agent thereof) i'm not getting the value out of my ad placements i could or should be.

yes, people wanted more at their fingertips so sites put more there. but they missed the 'more' part they should have focused on - more intelligence in structuring it, laying it out and presenting it ('it' being content). there's certainly a fine line between just enough and too much on a given webpage. more often than not, it veers toward the 'too much' camp, often wildly.

as an advertiser, i've seen the value of ad spaces on websites deteriorate over the years. you've got banners in inconsequential locations where they are out of the viewer's periphery, and a cornucopia of ad units littered across the page fighting to stand out. yes there's some new impact ad units that are starting to become more common, but that's not changing the standard much nor is it solving the experience.

here's some initial thoughts on what i'm thinking that would make for a good site design

  • a site 'capsule' that is properly sized to maximize the user's browser window and usable space (vertically and horizontally)
  • the centerpiece acts as a 'content' player so all media types are viewed in this window, not separately as is with text (main content), video (players), and photo (albums) now
  • little to no scrolling (no more 'fold')
  • ancillary content area served based on user interest, habits and inputs (not throwing everything under the sun at them)
  • navigation that is tidy, concise and expandable to be more robust when interacted with
  • 1 or 2 meaningful, integrated ad positions that are noticeable and have value (still accommodates custom units and over-the-page)
  • powerful search capabilities (a must in these content rich times)
  • strong social integration (a must in these social times)
maybe i'm off on this or alone in it, but i feel we need an overhaul or at least rethink how we see websites as experiences. right now, they're a cluttered mess and advertisers are not seeing the value they should. maybe it's not as drastic as outlined above, but work needs to be done.

all or nothing: drinking kool-aid and not doing favors

September 8, 2009 · 0 comments

i read a lot of blogs on a lot of different topics under the marketing umbrella. most people sit in their camp and evangelize, from ivory towers, that their particular area is the king. it gets pretty discursive because there is no mediation. i spend my time not absorbing the content, but mostly applying a rational filter to the greater scheme of things.

it's kool-aid drinking at it's finest. self interest prevails and people start defending their area. it's in the language, the tone, and facts presented. you can include the absence of facts to that as well. mostly, it's the lack of context to the greater marketing picture that is most troubling.

the search people do it. the social media people do it. the online ad network people do it. the tv people do it. many others too. each trumpeting their wares and pedestalling them (yes i made a verb of pedestal).

each has strengths, each has weaknesses. it's a media mix, not a media exclusive. this is where a channel neutral media agency is so important. we take the inputs of glorification and meter them to a cohesive, cross-media plan for a client's communications.

we are in a time where the consumer has so much control over their experiences. the world is highly fragmented. it's an attention economy. no one thing is the savior. it's how many things work together.

media is content. content is media. media is social. social is media. it's all intertwined, and only one perspective sees it all and how it can work together - the media agency. we also have all the tools to measure all sides of a marketing plan and not in isolation of any one or all other components. it's holistic.

i know this isn't a popular view and angers a lot of specific segments as it takes some of the wind out of their sales. the point is two-fold

  1. for the areas of specificity, stop the over-glorification of your area as the be-all and end-all of marketing. start thinking bigger picture and the role your media plays amongst a cross-media world, not a singular one as you often profess.
  2. for the clients, start looking to your media agency as greater partners. if we are the purveyors of the landscape our consumers are immersed in every day, then our role is seemingly amplified.

planning social media isn't short term media planning

September 1, 2009 · 0 comments

in my particular line work, it's that time of year where we lay down the foundation of our brands in media for the year to come. we plot out campaigns across all media channels and social media activations. the problem is that we plan both of those things as if they are the same. moreso, we force fit social media into the planning paradigms that exist for traditional media.

you see, traditional media fits nicely into campaigns and campaigns nicely into fiscal years. a flight of TV is just that. it lasts for x number of weeks and it's done. it does it's job, there are specific outcomes and results neatly tied to the time it was on-air. same with radio, outdoor, print and even online. so few of any advertising has life beyond it's short window of planned existence.

amidst this relatively short shelf life media, there's SM and the relationship marketing side. this doesn't fit nicely into a campaign or even a year. you don't just jump in and jump out as you do with other media.

social media takes time. it's about nurturing and continued support of a community over time. yes, you change the dynamic of the conversation depending on your in-market communication stream, but those are just outlets. they don't end as a campaign ends, it's ongoing. long lasting.

beyond the community cultivation and consumer engagement that is a continuing endeavor, there are a number of other ways that social media isn't short term.

  1. long term presence - what happens in social spaces lives on indefinitely, well after a campaign is over (that is until it's not so shiny anymore and shutters). it builds, it evolves, supplemented, referenced and complimented.
  2. searchable - as a result of being eternal, it is indexable and more easily found.
  3. greater impact of two way communication - participation by real humans, on both sides of the marketing hourglass, make this more powerful, especially the peers.
  4. memorability of personal interaction - should you be so fortunate (albeit sometimes of unfortunate circumstances) as to get personal interactions from the brand, that is something that lasts with you for a long time and alters behavior.
one of the main problems with this fiscal thinking is in how we link back our activities to the business. with traditional media, it's very easy. we see immediate lifts in sales, soon find out measures of brand salience as a result of seeing advertising or we look at clicks (sorry, but it's an easy example). with social media, the cycle isn't so immediate. it can take time to build the affinity, or know when a social touchpoint exhibits itself as a change in consumer behavior.

it's always difficult to change how people operate. social media represents such a shift in marketing operations that it's worth revising our necessity for short term planning and thinking.

negative tendencies

August 24, 2009 · 0 comments

people who know me would probably characterize me as negative. i'm not a doomsayer or a causeless malcontent, just very pragmatic. i like to see it as being more of a realist. this comes across as not being a terribly positive person. but it's for good reason.

yes, of course, the positives needs to be applauded and given some attention. it's great to be validated and feel good about things. but everyone wants to hear the good and cower from the bad. focusing on just the positives leads to complacency.

i tend to not dwell on the positives much. i give the goods their due, but no more and often less. i typically charge my positivity with how to make the good better, which comes across as negative. why? it's pretty simple. i'm never completely satisfied.

the main premise behind this mentality is this: glorifying the good, especially at the expense of underscoring the not so good, is a recipe for stagnation. can you improve on the good? yes, you always can. but that incremental growth will not bring about the same level of step change as if you improve on a negative.

how better to illustrate than with a graph:

if you look at 4 areas of any project or subordinate, there will be strengths and weaknesses. there's not much more to be gained from making B better, but there is in bringing up A or D. is there work to be done on B - yes. we should never stop challenging assumptions of success but we can't be so focused on this, it's covered pretty good.

the point in writing this is not to just let you in on an aspect of my personality i up and decided to share. it's because this is a kernel in my operating system that i think has value. i'm not telling you to go around being mr. or mrs. negative and crap on everything. rather, see to it that we're not just patting ourselves on the back with our blinders on.

it's paying mind to what really needs to be minded and a want to not just coast on the good, but do better by reversing the bad. unfortunately, that doesn't always make you the most popular or the most positive person on the team.

the great lactose debacle (not really)

August 14, 2009 · 0 comments

let me be clear, the post below is not a rant (despite my best efforts) but a lesson in micro-interactions.

this morning i stopped by a starbucks to get an iced coffee. i'm in no way a regular of starbucks, nor do i like coffee terribly much. much of the time i rail against starbucks, it's charmlessness and experience while still visiting (does that make me a hypocrite?). in fact i refuse to use starbucks lingo like venti or grande. i typically only go on a friday (why, i don't know) and maybe a saturday. i usually get a vivanno, which are quite lovely (and healthy) and an apple fritter (unhealthy), which are superb and the real draw for me (baked good fiend). that and free wi-fi.

as i place my order of a 'medium' iced coffee with lactose free milk, i was asked if i had a starbucks card. i did not. the barista pressed on and asked if i wanted to buy one. i declined. pressing on further he pointed out to me that there was an extra charge for lactose free milk but that if i had a starbucks card, it would be waived.

hold on.

so first i'm being penalized for having a disability - lactose intolerance. okay, so a disability is an exaggeration. maybe a condition. and that the only solution to my defect is a starbucks card. i guess as far as afflictions go, the cost of $0.50 is paltry. but all the same, my lack of a certain bacteria in my bowels has relegated me as a customer who must pay for his shortcomings.

of course i'm exaggerating here (makes for interesting storytelling). is it silly that i pay extra for milk that costs only slightly more than regular milk - probably. it's negligible. is it silly that i pay that much extra for it - definitely. a whole carton maybe costs that much more than regular.

now we get to the lesson and insights and away from the hyperbole.

having lactose free milk is a value proposition. it's servicing your customer's needs. maybe even a differentiator. tim horton's doesn't have it. supplying lactose (and not charging for it) is an opportunity to stand out to customers, not burden them *(passing on more than the cost). it is the small things that go a long way with people.

the most important part of starbucks is what happens in-store. from the baristas, to the decor, to the products, to the cleanliness, to the other features and beyond. your entire time there is comprised of a series of micro-interactions that culminate in a total experience. failures, even minor ones, in any area can displace the satisfaction in all the others.

the point is a company like starbucks, who has had their share of difficulties as of late in their identity and corporate nature, should be assessing all levels of their business. going back to basics and ensuring that the place it matters most is in the shops themselves. that the customer service and experience is at a high level. analyze every possible micro-interaction or permutation of how the business operates and find ways to improve.

how not to be a faceless and uncaring corporation is to go the extra step. in my case, the barista was kind enough to waive the additional charge, but only with further imploring for me to 'save some money' by buying and using a starbucks card. but it's a kind gesture that shouldn't have had to be made were there not a charge in place that was potentially a point of contention.

my aim is not to be that social media story that explodes and gets massive coverage in traditional media and is held as a corporate failure. or that i suddenly get starbucks for life. just that i'm a believer in brands. and the starbucks brand hinges on point of purchase. all brands can learn from all other brands.

just to be clear, i'm not upset or peeved. i thought it was silly and for others, potentially a bigger problem (me 5 years ago). i also thought it was interesting with a lesson to be learned. of course i hope they change, i still want to go and having something with my apple fritter.

who wants to start the #lactosefail on twitter?

winning the interruption game

August 11, 2009 · 0 comments

part of what aggrevates consumers about traditional media is not necessarily the interruption part, but the length of interruption. as i've said before, the interruption is a necessity and after so many decades of it being a reality in broadcast mediums, it's accepted by people when consuming free media. but that sheer length of interruption is very problematic to the experience and the business model.

we're now in an attention economy. that means as technology pervades, our attention becomes fragmented between the myriad of content and devices so the struggle for us marketers is in being visible to our consumers with so much clutter and choice in ample supply. and not just visibility, but relevance and engagement with the messages.

having 2 minute commercial breaks interspersed with programming is an antiquity from when programs were really appointments and had captive audiences. where you locked yourself in to that channel for the length of the program. in our attention defecit present tense, this is seldom the case. compound that by the vast plentitude of choice in media consumables.

a half hour of tv programming has 6-8 minutes of commercials which is a program to ad ratio of 20% to 25% adverts. doesn't seem like much on paper, but the experience of it is more telling. print media is just as bad with the ratio going upwards of 40% advertising. radio is just as guilty. there are still 2 minute breaks at a time, which if you think about it, is the opportunity to hear almost a whole other song.

we know that breaks are coming and it's going to be there for a period of time, so we have trained ourselves to zip, zap, switch, fast forward, flip the page, buy the dvd, on-demand it, leave altogether, whatever. it gives us time to tune out, opportunity to ignore.

i'd venture to say it isn't the displeasure or animosity toward advertising (entirely anyway - but that's a different post altogether about how our marketing messages need to evolve too), it is that we have better things to do than watch all those ads in a row. so we turn to places and means that truncates the length of commercial breaks.

online video is succeeding and growing with singular commercial breaks (mid-roll) of :15 seconds or so in between program segments. they could probably double that with little more dissonance. as an interruptive model, it puts the value back to the consumers in being limitedly commercial heavy as opposed to value for the advertisers in being just an advertising vehicle.

we're also stuck in these handy half hour or hour timeslots that are a vestige of appointment viewing when you had to remember the time and date of your show or you missed it. also to made it easy for programmers to make a schedule that had variety, but not excessive demands. not the case anymore. not with the volumionous amount of content available online or the preponderance of specialty channels on tv and satellite radio. many a show gets watered down because they have to make it fit within the confides of either a half or full hour.

where i'm going with this is to offer a model that's a radical shift to the existing broadcast model, but closer to an online model that is proving successful.

  1. program length - a program is a program, whatever length it needs to be. better to be shorter (think robot chicken) but if it's entertaining, quality, engaging programming, than length doesn't matter. the problem is we have 2 lengths now and those don't fit for everything.
  2. commercial breaks - keep it to :30 seconds total time each break. any more and you lose your audience.
  3. on demand - expand the offerings but actually monetize it
  4. work with providers - the cable companies control the box with which all your content goes through. without you the broadcasters, they have nothing. use that leverage to expand the on-demand offerings, subsidize better delivery technology, improve timeshifting to allow for more viewing opportunities and create custom experiences that are digital, interactive and complimentary to the shows.
  5. in program opportunities - open yourself to new opportunities of brand integration from the online world: animated overlays, skins, product integration, banners, etc. but be careful in implementing and overusing. it's a fine line. there's lots of ways to do it right, but more ways to do it worng.
part of the issue is the dearth of quality programming that consumers would be willing to sit through commercials. networks haven't embraced a model of diverse interests and low cost production. nor have they accepted the new way of lower-fi production that still retains high values and doesn't have the encumbering celebrities.

as broadcasters figure out their new business models in the era of the internet, taking into account how commercial interruption is done should be a big consideration.

the era of segmentation marketing

August 6, 2009 · 0 comments

we're coming to the end of an era where we target market. where we hone in on the one specific group of our consumer base and tailor the communications (primarily) at them. this goes as mass media goes - by the wayside. this has been talked about some in the last few months, with people in both camps. i find it very difficult to see how this isn't the way of the future.

target marketing was a byproduct of an inability to do anything but shout at consumers in a singular way because the channels couldn't accommodate anything else. we were forced to identify that one group who are the best prospects, highest user base, or most receptive and build campaigns for them and hope everyone else still gets it and continues using the brand. this would often be coupled with a strategy of watering down the message to have a broader appeal without being focused on the core. well, that's changing and so must our perceptions about who and how we talk to people.

we know our products and services have a broad consumer base, yet we only service and message a portion of them. the shift is that we'll be able to communicate with different groups in a meaningful and dedicated way. so it isn't target marketing anymore, it will be segment marketing.

there may still be a core group (one of the segments) by which there is more concerted focus (for instance experiential where it is costly to execute in multiple, specific iterations), for which priority is given to invest against, and with which the beliefs and personality of the brand are realized to the fullest. the other segments become executionally different, with the same tone and manner, in channels of their specificity or delivered individually. there could be an egalitarian approach too where all segments are deemed of equal value and invested accordingly.

segments don't have to be drawn along demographic lines. not anymore. increasingly the data is available where we can layer in different targeting types or qualifications that make people a group beyond their age or gender. behaviors, mindset, product life cycle, purchase history, and others are ways that we will be able to bundle people into addressable segments.

the number of segments any brand can have is variable. there are as many as a brand can support in a meaningful way. the good thing is that segments don't have to remain constant forever. they can be dynamic, shift over time all with research to validate these decisions.

the beauty is there is no crossover with digital. we can't alienate anyone when the ad is tailored to them, nor can we aggravate people because it's only being seen by the people we want and who want to see it.

aside from maintenance and/or growth against your target market (which is being done now) segmented marketing opens up two other scenarios:
  • protecting - there's likely a number of segments any brand currently has that are vulnerable to leaving your stable because you don't maintain them (engage with or speak to meaningfully) with communications. these are the consumers that are users, but not loyalists.
  • growth - by reaching out to other segments previously ignored (or at least not paid specific attention to) you have the ability to nurture them and grow their affinity and usage of your brand.
to a good degree, the technology is there from a media perspective. we have behavioral targeting, demo targeting, and a number of other ways that we can be fairly specific about who our message is in front of. that's good, but it's only one half of the equation. the creative needs to be distinct by segment to have full effect and to make use of the technical media abilities.

cost wise, this situation leaves us either flat or down to what currently exists, for the media side. right now we buy entire audiences, paid for against a specific target (often more broad than we really care to) but we still pay full freight for the whole lot. now we either buy the whole lot and segment it with different messages (flat) or only buy those specific segments we want (down). either way, far more ideal in our effective use of the media.

as for creative, well that side of the business needs to be revamped in a number of ways. just one of those being creative development and making effective segmented work. it's being done to a small degree with some online but the traditional media needs an overhaul. dead will be the notion of the one big, expensive, production intense spot. the value isn't there in doing that anymore.

this is a few years away, but doesn't mean we should wait until it's upon us to act. we can use this time to research other segments, get to know them, find valuable touchpoints, develop and test creative, and other work to make sure we can hit the ground running when the technology is fully in place.

measuring the true value of social media

July 29, 2009 · 0 comments

how do we measure the true value of social media? what are the metrics to know it's working? these are the questions that have plagued social media for some time. my guess is that some executive threw this out as a challenge to something they didn't understand. then some well intended social media people answered this and it propagated. i don't know. at the same time it has plagued, it has also helped the industry come to accept social media's legitimacy in the marketing toolbox. so that's a good thing.

here's a list of the measures i see most often:

  • comments
  • retweets
  • google page rankings
  • followers/fans
  • reviews
  • ratings
  • trackbacks
these are good measures and valuable intractions by our consumers. but why are we so hung up on them? you have to admit that these participatory actions are likely the minority of total traffic.

these measures are all transactional and really just quantitative, but we've been professing the web to be more than a transactional medium for years now. we've touted social media as different because it's participatory, but that's not everything. social media is still a message stream, just one that consumers CAN be a part of in a really powerful and meaningful way; one that is two-way. because they can, doesn't mean they will.

let's look back to the forrester technographics ladder. still the biggest areas are the 'inactives' (those who consume nor produce anything in social media) and 'spectators' (those who merely take in, but do not contribute). i think it's safe to say that efforts in social media have an effect on them as well (positive or negative) but we're not capturing that effect by focusing on participatory measures.

i don't mean to belittle consumer interactions in the least, it's the cornerstone of this movement but it is just one aspect to the whole picture. more people will move up the ladder and become more involved with social media so they'll continue to be increasingly important. however, for that uninvolved segment, we need to still determine the impact our activations have. even for the involved constituency, we need to gauge the effect as well.

the measures i'm talking about are brand favorability, purchase intent, recall of specific messages and other brand equity benchmarks. we need to start talking about these and establishing them for our brands. it's a uniform way with which we can ascertain the effectiveness of our activities across the board, in conjunction and in isolation.

only with measures like these can we truly get at the efficacy of our activities against the broader audience, not just the select few deeply involved. if social media is the game changer in communications with our consumers, then we need to know exactly how our involvement in social media with them is changing their perceptions, actions and purchase decisions.

it's probably safe to say that the involved set have been positively affected and have altered perceptions, but do we really know that? and i hope that our efforts are reaching more and affecting more than the 10 people who commented. we need to start talking about and evaluating our social media presence in these terms, validating against them and adjusting our activities in response.

getting real with iphone apps

July 10, 2009 · 2 comments

one topic that i see talked about in my job almost daily and that for sure i read about daily is the iphone. specifically, applications for said device. i see why all the excitement abounds, but i don't really get it.

yes, there are some great apps. they are few. most are simply non-uttilitarian, briefly novel, limitedly functional or just pointless. while that is opinion, my issue is simply a numbers game. from my particular standpoint as a media planner, there is a signifficant gap in the value equation. i have to weigh investment in one thing to another because no one can do it all.

the simple number is 4%. that's the penetration amount for the iphone here in canada and in the usa. that is the total available market for your app. i should rephrase that: potential market. is that critical mass? further, you're likely only going to get a fraction of that to actually use it. how's that as an audience for your $50K+ investment? that's what i find hard to digest and rationalize.

of course, the response is: develop an app for each platform. android (even lower penetration), windows mobile (why even bother), blackberry (getting better) and palm (does this even matter). that's nice for the production houses who can get paid for making the same thing five times. that undoubtedly leaves the majority of the market underserved as non-smartphones are a huge contingent of the mobile market.

i'll also just throw in these other small issues that make it more nonsensical. varying carrier technologies when the iphone only supports one. exclusivity carrier agreements that will limit it right at the outset. there is only one distribution point - the itunes store.

what amplifies my troubles with iphone apps and developing for multiple platforms is the alternative. of course i'm talking about WAP pages, a universal applicaiton. something any even poorly web enabled phone of the lowest common denominator can access. as for cost, probably less than the cost of making in app for one platform.

sure there isn't the flashyness of an iphone app, but it sure is functional, efficient, cross-platform usable and broadly accessable. sorry you can't use the accelerometer. sorry that your shiny new object need can't be allayed.

my other stumbling point is how iphone apps are a trend unto itself when it eschews the general technology trends. what i mean is we are at a time when everything is moving to a web based model and desktop programs (the apps equivalent) are slowly going the way-side. building an isolated platform (as is the iphone) is counterintuitive. what makes mobile any different? why are we forgetting about the semantic web, another leveragable data collection point.

all this is not to say we shouldn't invest in these. not at all. it's being smart about it. not doing it as your only mobile initiative or having expectations set really high for them. it's the attitude around these from agencies selling them through to marketers demanding them.

thinking inside the box pt. 2 - what broadcasters and cable providers become

July 3, 2009 · 2 comments

so if the value of a broadcaster (need to find them a new name) is not what it once was (a start to finish, media, content and distributions company) what is it going to be? i see them playing in two places:

  1. content creation
    simply, the broadcasters become a production house. no different from a movie studio. they'll continue to make the content, brand it as their own and sell it to the cable companies. so the tv monetization model shifts from selling the media within themselves, to selling the rights and cable companies sell the media within. of course there is still the money to be made from integrating brands into the programming so that revenue stream survives.
  2. on the web
    the cable companies have no play on the broadcasters websites, so this is still their own territory to own. they control the delivery system and thus can sell the media within, however they choose. same as now, but they'll still have to rethink this model too.
then there's the cable companies. they, in essence, become the new broadcasters and barons of media selling. there is one problem though; it creates giant monoliths, controlling content, advertising, and reams of consumer data. of course, it needs to be regulated, either by the people or the government, or both. because the linchpin of all this is the consumer data, the government will step in, under the auspices of privacy, to ensure there's no foul play.

interesting things happen in this situation:
  1. the basis of buying
    because it's no longer a speculative model, based on audience estimates, we are buying impressions. it's no longer buying a whole audience, but buying individuals and as much or as little of them as you want. a person, is a person, is a person. this leads to a standardized cost and then buyers will be able to select on various levels of granularity to targeting and a premium at each incremental one.
  2. the whole audience
    with everything being sold based on the box we can now sell things as a whole so it is the totality of a show that you can access and cable companies can monetize. live, on-demand and pvr. though, read below in that the future really only holds one type, but for now we would buy it wherever.
  3. dynamic ad placement
    as i alluded to in the previous post, ads are not part of the stream but dynamically fed in by the box. there's a host of great new ways this can be used. more timely ads, live ads, dynamic copy ads, interactive ads, and many others that are similar to current web models (overlays, skins, companions, etc).
  4. content abundance
    there's so much potential for a massive influx of diverse content. because we're still on a model of a broadcast stream, it's limited to 24 hours per channel. lose that constraint and we're no longer limited to content from those channels. new content from all kinds of production houses, from studios to independents, can flood in.
  5. the data store
    again, as mentioned before, all the data we can enter to personalize and all the data that is collected based on viewing patterns is available (within reason) to marketers for relevant placement of ads.
  6. micropayments
    as a way to fairly charge users for the amount of programming they consume. now users who are light watchers aren't paying the same rates as the heavies.
i'd call that a compelling situation for us advertisers and agencies. even more compelling for the cable providers. yes, it brings us to a potentially orwellian future, but i'm not sure there is another way to continue marketing effectively, and serve consumers' needs (content as they want it and relevant ads) through tv. are there other options?

so to complete the thought, my full vision of where tv is headed goes like this. there are no more time slots, there are no stations, there is no appointment viewing, there is no constant programming that is 'on', there is just content you can access. when you turn on your tv, it goes to an interface and you navigate to where you want, either by browsing shows or just calling up the ones you know. probably voice activated eventually. live programming (ie. sports, news) still happens, it's just not constantly streamed, you just open up a stream of it. surfing doesn't happen anymore, we're actually engaged with what we want 100% of the time. you favorite shows for easy access. there's a random button that gives you options based on other programs you watch. you set up your own playlists. you buy right from the program. branded content is interchangable with programming.

thinking inside the box pt. 1 - the set top box: the future of broadcasters

July 2, 2009 · 0 comments

i was in the midst of writing a post about new models for tv broadcasters when it dawned on me - it's not about them anymore, they're not in control. not for the tv anyway. you're saying, 'duh, tell me something new.' i'm not necessarily talking about consumers being in control, but the cable companies.

the blog post was supposed to be on how broadcasters could reboot their model to address the digital future and changing consumer behaviors. it had its points, but something just seemed to be missing, though i couldn't pinpoint it (hence why i didn't post last week). then i just realized, what i'm proposing is outside of their capability in a meaningful way.

where i got hung-up was the ever-expanding on-demand side of the media consumption world. save for the online world, they had no presence. you may say: 'but everything is moving online anyway.' yes, it's all going to be available online, but the point is more that it is going digital, which allows it to be online. you see, tv isn't going anywhere. it is still an unparalleled experience that will still be a centerpoint of homes. it will converge with online and all things digital, but as a content consumption platform, it is here to stay.

step into the past
broadcasters became media entities simply because they had their bandwidth (the signal) and controlled the product in all ways. they made the shows, cut them up, they sold the ads, inserted those ads in between, then produced the signal with which it was all carried, straight to the home. what they put out is how it was received start to end.

the shift that started before the digital revolution is in the delivery system. it went from being a signal through the air to being piped in through copper or fiber-optic cable. the cable companies disintermediated without ever altering the signal. this hasn't been an issue because the internet along with other on-demand and personalization technologies haven't posed the significant challenges to the system until now. that and the increasingly savvy, fickle and ignoring youth that have emerged.

what's impending is a massive power struggle for consumer attention between the broadcasters and cable companies. and it's a battle that the cable companies should win, both for us marketers and the consumers. here's why.

the signal is fading
the old way of broadcasters operating, that of one signal, sent out through the air,is dead. it just doesn't make sense anymore. even if it is a digital signal that they're implementing in the usa. there are no opportunities left for a sophisticated marketers or consumers by this means.

the airwaves don't provide an efficient system of delivery, nor the ability to implement anything but singular content and messages. it's all going to the set top boxes where technology is able to segment, personalize, target and be responsive.

no one broadcaster will do
this is the data level, the semantic level. the web 3.0 of tv. there is only one entity that will be able to take the vast quantities of data that we'll soon be able to collect about audiences; their demographics, behaviors, consumption patterns, and lifestyle and make it usable. it can't be a broadcaster because they are only one of many players and as any good company does, they only look out for their interests. no, it has to be a 3rd party and who better than the delivery system.

the cable companies are the ones who can aggregate all that data and package it into something that marketers can use. it's the sum of our activity, across all networks, stations, and programs that define us and make us valuable targets, not what we do on each of those in isolation to the rest. and because they generally also are the pipeline for the internet, it's even more interconnectedness.

targets of one, not targets of all
we're not a homogeneous herd anymore and we have to stop treating consumers that way. it just doesn't apply anymore. as consumers tune out more and more to mass messages, targeting becomes the savior. in order for content to be properly monetized the ads within need to be relevant to the audience to have any impact and show roi to the investment of buying time in said content.

the technology will be so it doesn't assume a potential audience of which you buy the whole of it against a very broadly defined segment of it. rather, it will be where you buy just those that you want. that's not possible over the airwaves. the cable companies can distribute the content, not as a uniform signal from the broadcaster, but as the content interspersed with their own data generated advertising.

the on-demand environment
the broadcasters never played here in controlling the experience. that is except for limiting what was available. i have seen limited monetization happening by the broadcasters as each program that was on-demanded had some kind of ad in it as it was basically a broadcasted stream. per the points above, that's not going to continue working.

where's it all going
so what arises out of this? let's leave that until tomorrow, i've already written enough words for one post (as i often do). i'll hypothesize about where both networks and cable companies will play and how the industry will shake out.

conversations contemplations

June 14, 2009 · 0 comments

for me, the most interesting post i read in the past week was from brian solis pondering is twitter a conversation or broadcast platform? solis asserts that

sometimes it’s effective to also maintain a presence simply by reading, listening, and sharing relevant and timely information without yet having to directly respond to each and every tweet – perhaps replying to only the critical or influential individuals that may need immediate information or direction to steer strategic activity.
this is something i've thought for some time. indeed, one of the promises of social media is speaking with our consumers not at them. to me that's not just about literally speaking with them, but also speaking where our consumers are speaking. that's still with them, just a different way. traditional media speaks at them in place where they aren't speaking. it's a semantic difference but two equally legitimate strategies.

a brand or company is but another voice in the 'conversation-verse.' no more or less rightful to be there than a regular person. whether that voice is just expressing themselves or dialoguing is irrrelevant. and not just because (as solis points out) right now, a small minority are actually doing it, but because conversations are not always appropriate, warranted or necessary. sometimes you just post something.

it's more about presence than anything. certainly a great brand presence is a mix of sharing and conversing that's different for each one. we needn't always be conversing with them, rather giving them something to converse about around our brand or company. if we feel it necessary to contribute to that conversation, then so be it, but it's more important that they are doing it amongst themselves.

socializing with other brands

June 9, 2009 · 0 comments

your website is its own little plot of turf, your own little slice of the internet pie. it's relatively small compared to a content site, or a social media site, and only a small portion of your total market. but it's yours. you worked hard to get it. every other brand has theirs too, of course. sure there's some overlap, that's bound to happen. for the most part, each brand dots the webisphere with their own ecosystem.

we message our communities, draw them back in with the latest marketing push. each push nets us a few converts from casuals and we hope they become loyalists. still, though, our galaxy remains small.

we use our media to expand our presence in the market and reach new prospects. most of these are impressions to an audience who largely ignore our efforts (any debaters can read anything on industry CTRs). this gets us attention and is responsible for that bump in visitors we get during active times.

those are the channels we have been using in our marketing so far. i think there is another untapped world for us to amass new customers. recall the graphic above, there's a whole galaxy of brand websites in this universe that sit in isolation with communities ripe for accessing.

we (and i mean the industry) talk about being social with our consumers and building relationships with them. what about socializing with other brands?

let me explain.

your communities, like any other, are comprised of a group of like-minded, highly engaged consumers, who have a certain degree of affinity for the brand to the point of wanting a deeper, ongoing relationship with it. just like the types of consumers we all want, right? well, if every other community is like that, don't we want to be there? aren't those more qualified prospects given the level of engagement they've already exhibited for another brand?

in overly simplistic terms, i'm talking about corporate alliances, though its much more than that or a web 2.0 version of it. the widely known incarnation of this partnership is mostly product related. ford with microsoft sync technology or intel with any number of computer makers. there's also the media partnerships that are commonplace. this could be in the form of a sponsorship, content syndication, advertorials, intellectual property sharing (think free downloads on a site with a record label deal) and most recently, application/widget embedding.

the situation i'm talking about here is, in effect, brand sites becoming a media vehicle for other brands.

before i venture into why this could be good practice, let's establish why it isn't practised currently. traditional marketing of brands has been fiercely protected. anything resembling a branded message is hallowed ground. every inch of a print ad, every second of a tv spot, every pixel of a website has to be dedicated solely toward delivering the brand. i think that's a somewhat outmoded notion in an open-source, sharable, digital world.

at least for a website, this is absolutely true, and that's the application i'm interested in here. the interconnected and limitless web leads to plenty of room on a brand website to be just that way with other brands.

to be clear, you're not saddling-up with your competition, but rather with a like-minded brand, in a different but complimentary category. i guess you're competitors for a person's time and attention, which is the new economy of marketing, but done right, the consumer is rewarded and doesn't object (or object as much). it ceases being competition for attention and becomes cooping attention.

so why consider this?
  1. well, there's the aforementioned access to a qualified and responsive group, predisposed to being in a brand's community and open to it.
  2. there's a value proposition to your own audience in having another like brand with something to say and offer your community and theirs.
  3. corporate goodwill is going to spring up.
  4. the companies can share and collaborate on getting the most from the relationship. this is in sharing data on marketing in general, but also specifics on performance of the co-venture.
  5. new ventures between the two brands/companies can arise that are mutually beneficial and valuable to the consumers.

how might this look?
  1. for starters, i don’t think this is an instance where you have more than a few partnerships going at any one time. you don’t want to whore your brand out and have your site look like the worst of cluttered content sites. i say focus on 1-3 really strong connections and building these up.
  2. this isn’t an ad or a banner on a brand site. it needs to have purpose, it needs to have value, and it needs to be strategic. think about the connection and how best to work it.
  3. it’s not just your website, but your other brand outposts as well. fan the brand on facebook and share that way. follow the other brand on twitter and have dialogue there. this has the added side-effect of humanizing the brands as they are doing human things.
  4. perhaps go so far as to extend this to your media units. if it’s a good partnership, it might be a good idea to exploit it through media.
  5. it should be reciprocal in some way.
  6. the partnership isn’t with just any brand, but with one that shares many common traits and target make-up.
  7. doesn't have to be incredibly long-term. maybe the partnerships rotate with some frequency, which just opens up more connections.
that’s my take on the matter. i think there’s room to do this and tremendous opportunity in doing so. brands are set to open-up in this new age of digital and this is another step towards that. if it's being done, it's not being done as cencertedly as i'm talking here. maybe it's a logo, but there's lots more valuable things to do than that.

what do you think? is this good territory for brands to dabble in?

$7 news (one time only & no connectedness)

June 2, 2009 · 0 comments

an article i was reading in today's techcrunch reminded me about this picture i took on the weekend. declining readership and plummeting ad revenue are the stories de jour and i think this image crystalizes part of the problem.

seven bucks for one edition (that wasn't even that big as you'd expect a sunday to be) makes little sense in this day and age. and it's a cost that is virtually eliminated with digital delivery. even an online subscription isn't close to this. the wall street journal has subscriptions for $2 a week. the new york times online edition is free. the printed edition is a cost equation i can reconcile.

i don't necessarily think that free should be the expectation. if it has value, then there should be some exchange involved (is that a hint to a model?). i will say that the shortsightedness of the industry to offer online as a free resource in the early days of the web (because it wasn't their core business and they didn't understand it) has really trained the populace to expect and seek out free news sources. so now the business has to adapt to a situation that they, in part, helped create.

i'm as tired as the next guy reading about the death of newspapers and the peril that industry faces. frankly, the next article i want to read about it is the one where they come up with a solution to their woes and forge a path to the future.

swept up in the wave

May 31, 2009 · 0 comments

what captivated me most in the last week was google's announcement of wave, their new communication and collaboration tool/platform (bing not even close). yes, i may be a little late to the blogosphere in talking about this, but a) i like to read a lot about something i'm posting and b) i'm not a breaking news blog, so i have no imperative in that regard.

i don't fawn over new software/platforms/apps/what-have-you much, but wave was different, it really struck a chord. it is just so radical, unexpected and a shift from the known and norm that it gripped me like darth vader's force choke.

you need to watch this video to get the full jist of what wave is all about. it's a big time investment, but you really get why it's a game changer. you'll really think about just how flawed our current communication tools are and question why we continue to use them.

i love everything about wave and what it supposes as the future of communicating and collaborating. but what is most interesting to me is that this is the dashboard to your life. this is the single source console to manage all your communication streams that i have been wanting for some time. i love all the different tools out there that are ideal for their special area, but i don't like managing so many accounts and tending to each one in a different interface or sharing each in different ways.

wave solves this, and solves it well. the most exciting part, though, is yet to come. now that it is in the hands of 3rd party developers, they are the ones who will truly make wave shine. but the promise of the framework is disruptive enough.

with my marketing hat on, within wave, there was talk of robots, and there is a lot of promise there. tech blog mashable had a great overview feature that talked a bit about robots. this is the social embedding & conversation embedding that i think everyone was promised, but hasn't happened yet. this is a really powerful proposition.

let me throw out a few examples to illustrate. say i'm organizing a trip to the cottage. within the wave is talk of supplies. any of the companies who make those supplies or retailers who sell them can access that and provide anything from suggestions, to price points, to locations, to coupons, to did-you-also-think-of messages. another easy one is travel companies and airlines embedding into a conversation about an upcoming trip providing all the necessary information for you to plan collaboratively. there's a lot more opportunities for a lot more advertisers.

to marketers, robots will be the new iphone application.

surfing commercials

May 27, 2009 · 0 comments

this was something i wanted to write about last week, but got caught up in my 3 part series. a company called ShortTail Media is introducing a new online video format called D30, which stands for digital 30. that's right, a :30 sec online video unit, and one that completely interrupts your surfing from one page to another.

from the first time i saw this, i was, for lack of a better word, queasy. for a number of reasons, this didn't sit right with me.

1) that it is a :30 sec spot is alone reason enough for this to be considered bad. that length of commercial should not exist online unless it is opt-in. the online world is about bite-sized chunks of information and consuming lots of them. this flies in the face of that. most of the time people don't even spend 30 seconds on a page to begin with so the time spent ratio is of. same as a :30 sec pre-roll ad in front of a short video clip, doesn't quite equate.

2) the flow is off. from page to page with video in between seems weird. it's mixing types of content. in tv it's all video, so it's expected. not true here.

3) i'm sure they downplay it, but what's the load time on a full-screen piece of video with a 30 second runtime? i'm sure it's not short and i'm sure there's plenty of room for delays in downloading that will only further detract from the whole experience.

4) then there's the company's flippant disregard for user experience which is arrogant. yes, we should be pursuing 'bigger, bolder creative' as the ceo puts it, but tempered with the user in mind, not disregarding them as he goes on to say in that we should 'be less sensitive to user experience.'

i think television is a great user experience. there's of course the screen size and often times communal nature of the experience and the commercial breaks add some tension, anticipation, a break to reality to have human interaction (you may have other reasons). it could be improved with shorter breaks of course. just because the tv model is good, doesn't mean it should be taken online and applied in the same manner. it's not the same medium.

i get the reasoning behind taking this tact and largely agree:
- it's easy to ignore standard online ads
- are small and typically in the margins of the page
- they don't interrupt the flow of content (as happens in other media)
- smaller size may lead to less branding opportunities

however, this is the wrong solution to these problems and the problems with current online video experiences. i am in complete agreement, we do need different ad formats online with better breakthrough potential. i want to answer these questions and come up with solutions (ie. actual value in reading this), but don't know the answer yet. if i did, i'd probably have a lot more money. i just know that this isn't it.

i think the sites who will support these ads will do a quick about-face once they see their visitors drop-off. this will be a short-lived venture.

the social media effect - part 3: tying it all together

May 21, 2009 · 0 comments

in part 1 and part 2, i purposely looked at interruptive/disruptive media (i/d) and social media separately. the point being for this third part to tie them together and arrive at how the two work synchronously. not how one will displace the other or how shortcomings are the detriment of using. as i hope to have established already, the two serve different purposes, and both are important for marketing success and will continue to be.

the old question (numbers vary) of what would you rather have, 1 million low engagement impressions or 1,000 high engagement interactions? isn't valid anymore. never was, really. there's no trade-off, you can have both. you should have both.

if social media is inhabited by interest, then it is i/d media that generates that initial interest. realistically, no one is going to find your place or seek it out in the social space unless they know of your brand, company or campaign. how will they know to go and engage if they don't know who you are or what you're doing? social media's success and growth needs i/d media.

this not only goes for getting new people into our communities, but also to bring them back. the i/d media informs consumers as to what to talk about, where to talk and when to talk. obviously social media does this job too, arguably better, only to a smaller set.

let's face it, not everyone goes to a brand website, not everyone goes to our social destinations and not everyone wants to actively participate. we still need to expose consumers to our brand and i/d media accomplishes that. yes, it is a somewhat shallow exposure, no denying that. so enters social media. i/d media does well to expose and social does exceptionally well to solidify the relationship and maximize what we get out of consumers.

there's always new market share to be had, and the tandem approach of i/d and social media is the recipe for success. not one or the other, we need to let them know our brand or company should be considered through i/d media and then use the social tools to seal the deal.

so that's my view. a holistic one where all channels are used in conjunction with one another. my goal was to stop the discussions about social media taking over the world and killing other media. that's just not the case. it's a game changer to be sure and a space i'm a huge proponent of. but i'm also tasked to see the bigger picture and every other tool at our disposal. sometimes we can be a little to narrow viewed and jump to too many conclusions.

so this isn't an admonishment of social media or making it out to be weak. on the contrary. it's to clearly show it's strengths and the role it can play in the whole of the plan. same for i/d media. it has its strengths and faults. it's how each makes up for where the other lacks.

the social media effect - part 2: social media's place

May 20, 2009 · 0 comments

as i alluded to in part 1, social media is just a new tool at the disposal of marketers. i don't want to belittle the importance though in saying that. social media is a powerful tool that dramatically changes the landscape and interactions amongst people and with brands. not saying anything new, just re-affirming in case you thought i had jumped to the other side.

the main shortcoming of social media right now is that it is a pretty small universe that a brand can speak to. i'll qualify this by saying 'directly.' including social sharing muddies the waters some. although it is one of the cornerstones of social media, and the technology makes this easier than ever, it always existed (the water cooler). to say this is all at the behest of a company is erroneous. it has always wrested with the consumer, regardless of ease and a company's influence.

the masses are social, but social media isn't mass.

the first part of that statement is easy. people have flocked to social media sites and applications in droves, and it's still growing. facebook has 200 million members, myspace isn't that far behind. twitter is approaching 10 million and is on fire. there's no denying it, social media has hit the masses.

it's the second part where the mass equation falters. these are strictly opt-in environments and access to brands is limited by interest. again, not a bad thing, just not a breadth thing. while the platforms are open to the larger ecosystem, any one community is only comprised of brand enthusiasts.

this is demonstrated by the 'Fans' or 'Followers' metric. granted, this is pretty shallow and doesn't show all who happen upon the community, but it is the best way to enumerate who is most deeply engaged with the brand or company. if that's the brand's audience, i wouldn't call that mass. yes, there's still growth to be had of these communities, but how high can they really go? certainly not the totality of your market.

here's a rough diagram of what i mean. the enthusiasts are your audience in the social media world. the casuals come by less frequently and don't do as much. then there's the whole rest of the potential audience that you're not talking to in social media.

if all this holds water, then social media efforts are geared at the brand's community, not a mass approach. you could go so far as to say social media is a CRM tool. of course, they already are your customers because they opted in and have shown passion for the brand. so social media seems more the retention side of things in entering an ongoing dialog with your consumers. that seems fair, no?

now i'm not trying to take anything away from the power of social media here, that's not my intention. i'm just a realist and pragmatist who is looking at the whole picture and seeing where all the pieces fit.

right now, the numbers and opt-in nature of social media tells me the place for it is on the retention side. and i see it staying this way, indefinitely. certainly there are tactics that engage and reach beyond those enthusiasts, but for the most part, the efforts are against the core of existing customers.

it works beautifully to engage a community and strengthen bonds with our consumers. i just don't like putting on it any more than is due. that's how the tools were designed, to enhance an affinity. but to go so far as to say it's the killer app and always be able to do a job it wasn't made for is faulty.

there are purposely some holes here and in part 3, i'll wrap this all up into a cohesive framework directly linking interruptive/disruptive and social media. i'm hoping to show a sustainable situation where they coexist, work together and each has a role in the mix. put each in its place as it were.

the social media effect - part 1: interruptive & disruptive media

May 19, 2009 · 0 comments

much has been made in the last while about how social media is the future of marketing (spoiler: it's a part of the future, but not the sole inhabitor of it). how it will shift the consumer and brand relationship (indeed it will in some aspects). how it will banish other media to obsolescence and there will soon be no more interruptive/disruptive brand messging, it will all be opt-in. and that's when i get off the train.

i don't believe this is going to be the case, not for a long while, if ever. there's no denying what potential social media holds or the shift in b2c, c2c, c2b interactions is powerful. what i can deny is how it will obliterate other forms of advertising.

interruptive/disruptive (i/d from here on in) media still has a role and will for some time. how long? who knows. it's not the point. the point is that i/d media is still very powerful (there's a lot of argument around it diminishing - a later blog perhaps), yet just another tool in a marketers box. just like social media is just another tool.

the chief reason why i/d media gets such a bad rap and seen as evil boils down to one main factor that is currently mostly absent -> relevance. it's a simple concept, but makes all the difference. you don't tune out or get outraged if it's a message you actually care to see. i also want to mention value here. it is a subset of relevance, but bears mentioning. if it's relevant, it's probably valuable.

i see relevance as having three components: appeal - informative - need state.
  • appeal -> simply that the brand or product fills an emotional or physical gap and makes you feel good when consuming.
  • informative -> the content of the message instructs your or informs you of how the brand or product will be good for you.
  • need state -> this is mostly timing. that the messge is received when most receptive because it's required (whether that's a true need or a want need)
relevance will find permanance through technology. it's almost here. soon will exist ways of formerly mass media to become much more targeted, and singular in nature. and thus relevance will follow.

a minority report or tek war (yeah, i'm throwing that reference out, watch it) type future of hyper targeted to the individual advertising is upon us. some examples: IP TV, the fridge that catlogs and reminds you what you need and of course, google adwords.

what's necessary to make this happen is the consumer and their opting in. from my perspective, it's a no brainer. who wouldn't want to? if i can now go through my life without having to hear or see tampons, birth control or hair products, then yes, i'm in (though that could be someone else's ideal). if i have to see something (and right now, you do), it might as well be meaningful to me.

this year's cmdc conference did well to extrapolate on this kind of future. in the final session of the day, three groups were taksed to give their vision of media in the year 2020. all three came up with a variant on the same basic premise; that of a device, carried with you everywhere, that identifies you, your demographic makeup, preferences, and product usage, amongst other leverageable by marketers data points. this then ties into everything surrounding you so as to serve you specific content or ads. and thus solving the relevancy issue.

and that's the cloud, right? the semantic web of interconnectedness and personally identifiable data. at least one extension of it.

part of understanding and accepting that i/d media will still be employed and be valuable to marketers is breaking our notions of what form it will take. the :30 sec tv spot isn't it, but is still what we use as our example of how that kind of media works. there's a lot of problems with holding that as our best form of i/d media. that in itself is a post for another day but to list them quickly: 1) length of spot, 2) long commercial breaks, 3) less informative ads 4) not interactive amongst others.

the future of i/d media is in it getting smarter and more sophisticated. we'll find more impactful, less invasive, more integrated and generally better ways of approaching i/d media. these will extend the life of these marketing channels and continue to make them valuable tools.

that's my take on interruptive/disruptive media. it's not going anywhere, anytime soon. that still doesn't fully address the social media implications or the whole notion of opt-in only advertising. well it does, in part. that's opting-in to see ads, not opting-in to certain brands.

that's part 2 coming in a few days. where social media fits in with the whole marketers toolbox. you probably also noticed that i haven't stated exactly how much i/d media there will be and the exact role it will play with the rest of the tools. that too is coming in part 3.

the marketing hourglass

May 3, 2009 · 0 comments

i got to thinking about the marketing funnel while writing another post and it occurred to me that there was something missing. that it didn't exactly capture the new reality of the new web 2.0 world.

the marketing funnel succinctly describes two interrealted continuums - from just a consumer to a customer and also the media used to get them there from broadcast to narrowcast. while this funnel is all nice and good, it leaves out one critical element - the consumer/customer. they should never be left out of the equation, especially now when they have so many tools at their disposal to impact brands and other people.

so i offer the marketing hourglass. maybe someone has thought this way already, but i haven't seen it. so i apologize if i'm just being a hack here, it was a new thought to me.

in this, the top half remains the same with whatever in-between stages you want to assign (i've seen many variations). what i thought was missing is the bottom part, the part that accounts for the consumer's active involvement in the process. what they initiate in the marketing of a product vs. that which the brand begats. this being both messaging points and conversion tactics.

i think it's fair to say that much of these social tools feed into the left side of the top funnel above, or were thought to reside there. that consumers are using these resources in determining how a brand fits a particular point in their need state. but i think it's important to call this out now because of the increasingly important role it is playing. 

this version distinguishes the control of the process that is shifting to the consumers. one of the main reasons to separate it is that the new web 2.0 world is often standalone. consumers are discovering and buying into brands without ever having seen corporate initiated marketing efforts. and that will only increase in prevalence.

the bottom funnel is much smaller than it's northern counterpart. that's because the process by which consumers market to each other is far shorter and also has access to fewer people. in this age of distrust with large companies, there is a lot more steps involved in overcoming the rather larger negative of monolithic corporations hungry for your money. but with consumers in charge, it's all about trust and influence. consumers have this, companies don't. so the words and actions of consumers carry far greater weight and leads others to adopt a brand quicker. 

you'll see how the consumer funnel is both distributive and procurative. it represents that this end of things simultaneously pushes out messages, but also serves the function of collecting consumers. the top funnel is all about the collection. the advertising and media served to move people through the consideration set. in the new model, consumers are making the messages to contribute to a community, to express themselves, and to serve their fellow man (or woman). this has the effect of also garnering new customers into the brand.

so what's the point, what's the take-away? what does it mean? mainly to spell it out, to crystalize the thought and show the value and importance of social media. to make the distinctions with the intent of having the full picture in decision making. it's also about showing the need for relevance with consumers. both ways into customerdom are valid, but this aims to exhibit how to form strategies to get them there and how to allocate resources. 

more on branded content

April 22, 2009 · 0 comments

yesterday i was in a q&a session at the iab online video day. the topic was branded content. as a planner who has brought this tool out of the war chest for his clients, i had some good insights to share (at least i think that's why they asked me).

the main point that i wanted to elucidate on more here was around why an advertiser should pursue this approach for their brand. i broke it down into two criteria that must be evaluated prior to pursuing. if it doesn't meet both of these, than other approaches should be considered.

starts with the brand

i know, it's not normally where i'd say it starts because it always starts with the consumer. in a way it still does, but i'm assuming we've already gotten past the assumption that you are pursuing a digital opportunity because that is where your consumer is and a preferred channel for them.

so to be more precise, it starts with a brand need or it fills some gap in the brand's ability to tell a story and communicate with consumers. a couple of principles go into the making of this first criteria.
  • the piece should link strongly back to the core platform or pillar program of the brand. it's not a one-off initiative that doesn't build off anything deeply embedded into the constitution of a brand.
  • doing branded content should come out of a genuine need to amplify the brand. not because you saw another advertiser do it or a case study at a conference that showed it was a good thing to do.
  • does our message require a longer form vehicle to communicate? if the product, it's usage or the story of it is detailed, yet essential, then branded content can be considered.
consumer checkpoint
once you've identified a brand need, which is probably often easy to say yes to, then we move to the side of the equation that is much harder to pass. that of the consumer. these are tougher and more subjective questions to answer, but the consumer is solely in charge of the success.
  • is it valuable to them? will they get something out of it that otherwise isn't met elsewhere?
  • is it interesting? have we really delivered something that our consumer will actually want to spend time with?
  • is it entertaining? have we made it enjoyable for them to consume?
  • is this something that the consumer will make a connection with our brand? will they feel better about our brand after having seen it?
it's an evaluation as you would evaluate any other media decision. it's an honest look into what your efforts are meant to accomplish and if you're setting yourself up for success.

you do have to be a little more careful (but still take risks in your execution) as it's a tricky space to master. consumers are fickle and discerning about these things. it's not like a tv commercial that is 30 seconds long with the absolute expectation in the consumer's mind that it is a commercial. this is a much less hard selling piece and a fine line to walk because consumer perceptions in this area are murky. not to mention there's a lot more ground here (longer than a :30 sec. spot) and potential for missteps.

some other considerations around branded content that are also essential into the decision making process include
  • measurement: how will we know it worked and delivered to objectives?
  • promotion: the notion of 'if you build it they will come' is a fallacy, so how do you want to use media to make sure your consumers see it and it has a chance to succeed?
  • distribution: what channels will carry this for maximum reach and impact potential?
  • overtness: probably best practice to not shove the brand in the audience's face. find a way to subtly integrate, but not so far as the brand is completely lost.
the last thought is around collaboration. this is not the area of any one agency or client. it is a cross-functional process that will deliver best results if it is. media, creative, client, site, producers, all need a seat at the table and a say in what happens.

Dapper vs. Google

April 20, 2009 · 0 comments

today google announced intentions to go after the online display market, a break from it's core business in search. as the link indicates, google analyzed it's content network and found it to be more cost effective than search, though still a smaller component to overall revenue and searches. where this data leads google is to say that the content network holds a lot of potential for more than returning just textual, search ads.

meet dapper, a tech that contextually delivers advertising based on page contents and inner-site searches and other data based content. much like google, dapper scans the page for relevant keywords and determines the context, then serves ads based on that.

at last, a marriage of the highly effective, and cost efficient search world with brand building image ads. but does it deliver?

immediately, i love the notion of an ad being more relevant to the environment. as a planner, the context is probably my biggest input in site selection and media placement. to add another layer of that is a real sweet spot. it makes the placement a beacon for consumer engagement and interaction.

this holds tremendous potential for a number of advertisers and industries. dapper's video shows some real easy examples of how to dynamically push ads. as with search, the primary benefactors are e-commerce companies. what about true brand advertisers?

where i'd like to see it go is graphical ads where images can be pulled from a library into preset animations with text generated all from input from the contents of the page? doable? hard to say. maybe. will it look good and just how many iterations can really be made? i don't have answers, but it's exciting to see where it goes and how far it can be pushed.

don't get down in a down economy

April 14, 2009 · 0 comments

it's getting pretty repetitious seeing all the doom and gloom of the economy in the media everyday. it's a reality, but it's also pretty tiresome. in my particular industry, it is being felt just as much, but thankfully not much of the doom (as of yet), just a lot of gloom.

but i'm not letting it stop me or the work of my clients. reading in between the lines of this downturn, i see opportunity. here's my take for the advertising world.

now's the time to push the envelope. publishers and suppliers are hungry for any revenue and are likely more open to different approaches that break from the norm. or at least they should be if they like income. on the client side, it may be a little harder to justify trying something new and perhaps unproven when every dollar counts so much more. but it is those leaps that can propel a brand when all around them are stagnant. think crazy, think big. challenge the standard and staid.

in a similar vein, hungry media companies will work in other areas as well to make it attractive for advertisers. it's not bullying, but good deals can be struck. when faced with a lower cost of the media and heavy bonusing or no revenue at all, the choice is clear. and it saves them the erosion on their own brand perceptions of a thin book, lots of house ads or worst of all, ugly credit ads. we should always be innovating and not using the economy as an excuse to postpone.

social media
as this is a relatively lower cost space to play in, social media could take precedence in the marketing mix. when times are tough, it's your core consumers that will keep you in the game and this is the right channel to build that out.

don't stop spending
there's a lot out there to say that curtailing spending on your brands in a recession is harmful to brand growth (or even maintenance) in the long term. the short term impact of putting back to the bottom line is faulty long term. i know this is the hardest to adhere to, but most significant because it is the whole of the brand at stake.

it's too easy to get down in the dumps about a recession. it's the same as with a personal brand as it is with a corporate brand. i read that people have a tendency to go into the doldrums in these times and that is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. people should be even more active to prove their worth and stand out above the others to continue their growth and keep their jobs. brands should be no different. rise above it and do your bes not to stall.

social media won't kill tv

April 8, 2009 · 2 comments

today i had the good fortune of being on a panel at mesh conference for the 'managing your ad buy' session. during the session i made the above claim. i thought it warranted more context and explanation than the short panel allowed for.

i can't recall how this came up, but i do believe the truth in it. i also can't remember if i did mention a :30 second spot specifically, because that i do not believe. the :30 second spot is becoming a dinosaur and will likely die off. how soon, i don't know. i just know our attention to and desire to watch that length of advertising is waning. shorter length tv ads is the future of that medium. but this change won't be because of social media. it's just changing consumer preference and control over their experiences and time.

the greater context here is in traditional media vs. social media and if the latter will eliminate the former. while i don't think this will ever happen, if it does, it won't be soon. some media will definitely die, no question. i'm looking at you printed media. at least not in their current format. magazines or newspapers may well survive, they will just be digital devices and not pages. that is if publishers ever decide to change before their brands stubbornly perish because they won't adapt. i digress.

tv will no doubt evolve and the advertising model will no doubt as well. but that screen will remain or some form of it to view video content for a while. the main reason is that tv is too far ingrained with our culture - yes, even youth culture. as long as there are viable audiences, it can be monetized with ads in some way. it's going to take far more time than even just one generation for tv to expire.

i would also venture that social media is the best thing for tv. social media is about conversations and conversations around content (ie. tv shows, music, movies, sports, etc) are part of the fabric of the space and society as a whole. social media is just a better version of the water cooler. that content just needs to be good enough to warrant conversations. so in that sense, it's fuelling it, not killing it.

there's no doubt people are spending a huge amount of time with social media. it's diminishing tv's importance and the time spent with it. or is it? somewhat, but the proliferation of two-screen activity is such that both are alive and well and used at the same time.

i'd be remiss if i didn't also inject online video into the mix. while not social media, if anything could kill tv in the digital space, it's online video, not social media. but even this is a long way off as the online video experience pales in comparison to that of tv. and computers and tv are going to converge even further so that online video (or on-demand video in general) could end up back on the tv anyway.

tv is on the cusp of a rebirth not death. technology is coming down the pipe that will really rejuvenate the medium and make it more powerful. all the great things about the web and social media are coming to tv and it will change the experience for advertisers, broadcasters and most importantly, consumers.



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