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. 



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