No One Cares, You Are Doing It Wrong, And That Is Awesome

August 7, 2008 at 6:27 am | Posted in Advertising, Blogging, Boomers, Business, Communication, Generation X, Generations, Leadership, Marketing, Net gens, Online marketing, Public Relations, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments
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Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr

Marketers are confused these days. The things that have worked for decades aren’t working anymore. Can you imagine if you worked for 30 years in your given vocation and then, almost over night, all the rules changed?

In truth, marketing is only now becoming what it truly should have been – a conversation. Less lies, less spin. Marketers have been shoveling marshmallow fluff down the mouths of Americans and telling them it’s broccoli. And suddenly, as quick as you can confuse metaphors, we find that the emperor has no clothes.

I admit I’ve been frustrated with the old-school marketers. “What is with these guys, and why can’t they get it together?” But that’s not fair. Their whole world has shifted beneath them. I came to a better understanding watching a recent Robert Scoble interview with IBM engineer Mike Moran. (I highly encourage you to check it out: Robert Scoble’s interview with Mike Moran. It’s only 12 minutes long and well worth your time.)

Moran gives a cogent explanation of why marketers are having such a difficult time in the new web 2.0 environment. Here is a small sample:

“The change that’s really happening is you have to learn how to attract people to your message rather than pushing it at them. You have to figure out how you’re going to listen when they talk back. And you also have to watch what they do. Those three things are really critical because once you do them, you have to figure out how to respond.

Those three things are really critical because once you do them, you have to figure out how to respond. When I say ‘Do it wrong quickly,’ it’s not you trying to do it wrong, it’s that you kind of admit that what you’re doing is probably wrong because it usually is. And then you have to look back at the feedback from your target market to see how far off it is so that you know what to do next. And that’s really a tough change for a lot of marketers.

That seems really simple, but think of it: a whole industry has changed in a matter of what, less than a decade? That is pretty outstanding. It’s going from monologue to dialogue, from lecture to conversation, from directing to caring, from crossed fingers to metrics.

Continue Reading No One Cares, You Are Doing It Wrong, And That Is Awesome…

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5 Essential Tips To Jumpstart Your Marketing Career

July 25, 2008 at 6:12 am | Posted in Business, Communication, Generation X, Marketing, Net gens, Online marketing, Social Media, Tweens | 3 Comments
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Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr

My syndication through BrazenCareerist has made me think a lot more about my career path. In part, my vocation (online marketing) did not even exist when I was in college.

How did I get here? And how can I help others find success in their marketing careers?

I posed the following question to my friends in the WordPress Marketing Bloggers Network (WMBN): “What was the most important lesson that prepared you for your marketing career?” Their replies were insightful, honest, and practical. Here are 5 essential tips to help you on your way to a career in marketing.

I guess I would boil it down to two words: Don’t Stop. Don’t stop writing, thinking, learning, meeting people, whatever. Once you stop, you’re done. Try something new or different and if it doesn’t quite work, don’t stop, just try it a different way. Marketing is about constantly tweaking, even when it’s working.

-Rick Liebling, eyecube

As a creative guy (copywriter), it was sometimes frustrating to see the client change something that I’d worked really hard on. But then a creative director sat me down, explained that my passion was admirable, but it was their money. It’s important to state the argument, but if they don’t agree, it’s their money.

Then, we went for a beer.

-Matt Hames, Share Marketing

Continue Reading 5 Essential Tips To Jumpstart Your Marketing Career…

ROI Of Social Media For Gen Y Audiences (And How To Convince Your Boss)

June 25, 2008 at 6:41 am | Posted in Blogging, Books, Communication, Facebook, Forrester, Generations, Li, Charlene and Josh Bernoff - Groundswell: Winning in, Marketing, MySpace, Net gens, Online marketing, ROI, Second Life, Social Media, Tweens, Twitter, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments
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Generation Y – roughly those aged 13-29 – are among the strongest consumers and influencers. And while social media like Facebook, delicious, and Flickr have garnered media attention, many businesses are still wary of dipping a toe in the social media water.

I argue that we can gauge return on investment (or influence) for Gen Y by looking at their buying power and online behavior and therefore that it is imperative that (most) businesses participate in social media. Plus, I will give you the research to back up these assertions so you can prove it to your boss.

Flashback: Ohio

Growing up in pre-internet Ohio, I spent a good chunk of my allowance and lawn-mowing money on comic books at the local pharmacy. If they were sold out of my usual books, I was SOL until the following month. Scarcity of goods required that I go where they were (and quickly!) or I would miss out.

Fast-Forward: Today

Now, post-internet, these stories sound quaint. Given a bank account, any kid can get any comic book from anywhere in the world. So what does this have to do with social media and Generation Y?: proximity to resources.

Today, consumers expect businesses to come to them. Long gone are the lazy summer bike rides to the pharmacy – today, young people expect to be able to spend their money just about anywhere. And where are they? Online, in general, and on social media, specifically.

Maybe this shift isn’t a surprise to you, but let me prove it with research (easily printable for timid bosses or humbugs).

Continue Reading ROI Of Social Media For Gen Y Audiences (And How To Convince Your Boss)…

Social Technographics: Forrester And The ROI Of Social Media

May 13, 2008 at 6:04 am | Posted in Communication, Facebook, Forrester, General, Generation X, Generations, Marketing, MySpace, Net gens, Online marketing, Research, ROI, Second Life, Social Media, Tagging, Tweens, Usability, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments
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Last week, a lot of you read my guest post about the ROI (return on investment) of social media. There is no doubt that social media is changing the ways people interact online and hence, the way companies communicate with their customers.

The thing that is still missing is quantifiable data about these interactions. We’re in a theory stage – we know what’s right because we have experienced it – but we are still waiting for proof in numbers. Forrester Research made a giant step in the right direction when they introduced social technographics.

Social technographics is an analysis of consumers’ approach to social media – not just which ones they use, but understanding how they use the medium in their daily life. You can download the full report on Forrester Research’s website (there is a fee) or read the book on the same topic published April 21, 2008: Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. (There is also a ton of free goodies at the Groundswell blog.)

I sat in on a webinar last week where Charlene and Josh expounded on their work. Josh summed up the goal of this work: “Think about what you want to accomplish, not the technology.” There is so much fascination about what technology can do that marketers often forget the question is what technology can do for you. The webinar came back again and again with the message to use this data to inform a strategy for your clients. (You can find the resulting Q&A published post-webinar here.)

How’s It Work?

Charlene and Josh categorize web users into six sections based on the level of their activity, from Creators to Inactives. I have not seen a clear but simple ranking system like this before and I certainly hope it is accepted as an industry standard. The real value, however, comes from their detailed analysis of each category’s activity.

Continue Reading Social Technographics: Forrester And The ROI Of Social Media…

Ogilvy vs. Godin: Is The Big Idea In Advertising Dead?

April 29, 2008 at 5:28 am | Posted in Advertising, Books, Boomers, Communication, Generation X, Generations, Godin, Seth - Meatball Sundae, Marketing, Net gens, Ogilvy, David - On Advertising, Online marketing, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments
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Is the concept of the Big Idea dead in advertising? How much has the internet and Web 2.0 specifically altered the fundamentals of the industry?

In his 1983 book, On Advertising, master David Ogilvy held forth on the central tenet to sell products:

“You can do homework from now until doomsday, but you will never win fame and fortune unless you also invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product…Research can’t help you much, because it cannot predict the cumulative value of an idea, and no idea is big unless it will work for thirty years” (emphasis by the author, page 16).

And yet, almost the very same day as I read this from Ogilvy, I find myself almost stunned off the treadmill as new master Seth Godin holds forth on the big idea in the third disk of his audio book, Meatball Sundae:

“There’s a difference between a big idea that comes from a product or service, and a big idea that comes from the world of advertising. The secret of big-time advertising during the 60s and 70s was the big idea…Big ideas in advertising worked great when advertising was in charge. With a limited amount of spectrum and a lot of hungry consumers, the stage was set to put on a show. And the better the show, the bigger the punchline, the more profit could be made. Today, the advertiser’s big idea doesn’t travel very well. Instead, the idea must be embedded into the experience of the product, itself. Once again, what we used to think of as advertising or marketing is pushed deeper into the organization. Yes, there are big ideas. They’re just not advertising-based” (disk 3, minute 48).

Of course, we should probably define a “big idea.” As explained, a big idea is an advertising tool to sell products. It stands the test of time. It originates with the company and is distributed far and wide. It is inextricably linked to the product and the experience of the product.

In my mind, big ideas include cut-out coupons. By-mail Sears catalogs and mail-in rebates. Tony the Tiger and the Trix Rabbit. Toys in cereal boxes that had kids begging Mom to pick that one! (Why cereal innovation is on my mind this morning, I have no idea.) Shopping malls. Radio jingles. Anything that fundamentally affected people’s decision about whether to buy a certain product or not.

So where do I stand?

Continue Reading Ogilvy vs. Godin: Is The Big Idea In Advertising Dead?…

Why Innovation Is More Important Than Expertise In Your Marketing Career

April 23, 2008 at 5:27 am | Posted in Boomers, Communication, Generation X, Generations, Heath, Chip and Dan - Made To Stick, Marketing, Net gens, Online marketing, Tweens, Web 2.0 | 6 Comments
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I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living until I was almost thirty. I knew what I didn’t want to do: the same repetitive tasks day after day, anything that involved lots of numbers, and in a place where I didn’t learn new things.

For me, the answer was marketing. But I can’t help thinking about the college student unsure of how to get paid for their odd smattering of talents.

I imagine that starting a marketing career these days is daunting. I would venture that more has changed about the business in the last 10 years than did in the 50 years proceeding it. How can a college student compete with elders with decades of experience behind them?

Continue Reading Why Innovation Is More Important Than Expertise In Your Marketing Career…

It’s Online Branding Time

March 20, 2008 at 5:46 am | Posted in Acura, Advertising, BMW, Communication, Companies, General, Generation X, Generations, Marketing, Net gens, Nissan, Online marketing, Scion, Tweens | 2 Comments
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Written by today’s guest blogger: This is my first post here on the OnlineMarketerBlog. I was asked by our kind host to share some thoughts I have about online branding. By way of credentials, I work in the marketing department of a large national company. I’m a copywriter by training with internet, print, and broadcast experience. And now for the disclaimer: These ideas which I’m about to share are of course mine, and don’t reflect the ideas of this blog’s host or my employer.

I was at work the other day when I came across this Acura landing page. It’s a robust landing page that touts the features of the car. And these types of pages are everywhere. Nissan, Toyota, Honda, GM…they all have them. And they’re all really boring. They do serve a purpose. These sites let prospective buyers learn about and price out a car. But they don’t tell a prospective owner anything about the brand.

And then I started thinking…why don’t car companies spend some of their immense marketing budgets on online branding efforts? The car market as a whole is perfect for online branding. Since cars are aspirational, a branded message speaks directly to how people should feel when they buy a specific car. In a lot of ways the brand message is just as important as a car’s features to a consumer. I tried to think back on examples of online branding in the car market and I came up with two, a Scion advergame and two Nissan Rogue videos.

So where are the online branding campaigns? Is it purely that these companies are focused on the active consumer? Someone who is currently researching new cars? Is it because they are scared that they can’t track the value of a branding campaign?

Continue Reading It’s Online Branding Time…

3 Marketing Disasters (Sort Of)

January 29, 2008 at 6:29 am | Posted in Advertising, Boomers, Communication, Companies, Decision making, DTC, General, Generations, Marketing, Merck, Online marketing, Personal Responsibility, Pharma, Politics, Responsibility, Schering-Plough | 2 Comments
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I started thinking about this blog entry in response to something I saw while standing on the Clark and Lake El platform.

Adventures in Stupidity

The last train car was wrapped up in advertising for the new Samsung Blackjack II. And the URL? http://www.blackjackll.com. That’s right, they used Roman numerals in the URL! Does anyone there know the internets? Are those written as ones, or “i”s, or “l”s? Or just a two? Guess what? None of these addresses work. Samsung spent all this time making a phone and didn’t think about how to communicate it. Fire your marketing people.

The Old Way: Marketing Lies

When I got to work, a friend emailed me Dan Froomkin’s new article. The Center for Public Integrity (a non-partisan and highly regarded beltway watchdog) assembled 935 instances in which members of the Bush administration lied or mislead the public regarding Iraq. Despite what side of the aisle you reside on, you have to admit we might have gotten sold a pack of false goods there.

Froomkin’s article is different from a marketing perspective though. The folks at Samsung just made a stupid mistake; they didn’t think about the arena in which they were operating. The Froomkin article is about flat-out lying. And it relates to a trend that has been going on for several years: people – highly intelligent, well-educated CEO-types – do not seem to understand that you can’t lie anymore.

The New Way: Leveling With The Customer

Marketing is changing. While there is still a healthy serving of “spin” (or “creating a compelling narrative,” as I prefer to think about it), this is changing because of the massive amount of information online combined with incredibly advanced search capacity. There is a glut of information available to the customer. (My job in the future will be more about creating value for the customer and my next blog post will be about the yet-to-be-created position of Chief Conversation Officer – subscribe so as not to miss it.)

Yet still, these old-school guys think they can lie and steal and no one will find out about it. Sometimes they get the money before someone finds out (see: Enron) and sometimes they just get busted (see: following paragraph). Forget the subterfuge: just tell the truth. If you make a quality product, you won’t need to lie about it. And if you don’t make a quality product, why are you working for those people, anyway?

Poison Pill

Which bring me to my third marketing disaster. Much like the Froomkin example, it deals with a huge organization knowing that it is lying to people. It turns out that Vytorin (with the eye-catching ads comparing people to food) does not work and is actually worse than a generic worth a third of the price. This isn’t the debacle; this is simply a bad product. The debacle is that 1) Merck and Schering-Plough continued to spend millions on marketing this drug after they knew it was ineffective and 2) that S-P execs allegedly sold stock after the trials failed.

Of course I care about the health risks. And of course I care about the older folks who bought this useless drug instead of food or other medication. But for right now, let’s focus on the sheer stupidity in a company brazenly lying to the public. The halls of business are positively littered with the bodies of executives who thought they could get away with it. And maybe in the old days, they did. But this is a new world.

It makes me wonder if (especially younger members of) the marketing department brought up the uselessness of lying. Surely they do Google searches of their company, they know the regulations involved in pharmaceuticals, and they’ve heard all the stories of companies being discovered of lying. Did not one of them raise the issue? “Maybe we should just confess? Instead of spending millions marketing a junk pill and making thousands from shady stock deals, we should consider the billions we may be fined or that will be lost in company stock after this is exposed?”

Instead, they kept quiet. Now, in addition to losing their own jobs and likely an executive or two, they risked countless lives and have further degraded an industry already in peril. What kind of golden parachute do you get for those results?

The Gist

I know this is wearing on a bit, but my point is this: there is an epic change occurring in business. The marketing guys are no longer the sniveling spinmeisters. Now, we are responsible for good business and good communication.

Feel free to comment on either other marketing disasters caused by stupidity (Blackjack Deuce) or dishonesty (Bush, Merck/S-P). Or, better yet, comment on how the marketing department saved your company’s ass through honesty or open conversation. Those are the stories up-and-coming marketers really need to hear.

Online Life Game Amalgamations – Marketing To Detectives

January 7, 2008 at 6:03 am | Posted in Advertising, Communication, General, Generation X, Marketing, Net gens, OLGAs, Online marketing, Tweens, User generated content, Video Games, Web 2.0 | 4 Comments
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Have you ever played an ARG? You might have and never known it. And it could be the most addictive thing in marketing in the last few years.

ARG stands for “Alternate Reality Game”, as written about in the January issue of Wired magazine. Just this past weekend, I stumbled upon one while trying to figure out what the heck the movie Cloverfield was about (after clicking the link, see the “viral tie-ins” section at the bottom).

First, let’s get rid of the name. Alternate Reality? This ain’t the mid-90s. Besides, it’s not even accurate; there is nothing alternate reality about this process. I propose Online-Life-Game Amalgamations: OLGAs. Besides being more accurate (that these products operate online, in real life, and within a game in tandem), from a marketing perspective, doesn’t OLGA present a more pleasant image/sound in the mind than ARG?

OLGAs differ from other marketing efforts because rather than trying to breach the consumer’s interest through volume (push), they draw people in (pull). As the Wired article states, “That’s why [Weisman, the ‘creator’ of OLGAs] opted for a ‘subdural’ approach: Instead of shouting the message, hide it.” Thus, the consumer becomes a detective. Much like National Treasure, The Da Vinci Code, or anything by the immanent Paul Auster (especially The New York Trilogy), the author becomes part of the story, deciphering clues s/he had not realized were in plain sight, and needing to know not just where to look but to look at all. Again, from Wired:

“These narratives unfold in fragments, in all sorts of media…the audience pieces together the story from shards of information. The task is too complicated for any one person, but the Web enables a collective intelligence to emerge to assemble the piece, solve the mysteries, and in the process, tell and retell the story online. The narrative is shaped – and ultimately owned – by the audience in ways that other forms of storytelling cannot match. No longer passive consumers, the players live out the story. [my emphasis]”

You can read the article for background, examples, and a history of OLGAs, but I would like to flesh out three principles in this emerging field.

  1. Definite entry points: All of the OLGAs I have read about have definite entry points, though ideally multiple mediums would be used. The examples of the Nine Inch Nails Year Zero campaign used multiple websites, a message on an answering machine, and flash drives hidden in restrooms at concerts. The multiple mediums almost act as second opinions – they build off of each other and support the legitimacy of each other.
  2. Seamless integration into life: OLGAs derive some of their appeal from the way the games fit into a player’s life. After a threshold of suspension of disbelief, these games feel very real. You are not going to a “puzzle” webpage and “playing.” You are solving puzzles in real time with other people online.
  3. Less Is More: OLGAs succeed from a marketing standpoint not only because they do not feel like marketing, but because they do not beat their message into the head of the consumer. In this instance, whispering is better than shouting.
  4. OLGAs must be fair and have (some sort of) a conclusion: OLGAs tap into a primal human desire to solve things. From a dissertation on Paul Auster’s novels: “As another version of teleological classic art, detective text is obsessed with closure; the end comes not only as a salvation of the reader but at the same time gives reassurance that the reader is not be wandering in a wilderness of ambiguous signs. Everything that happens in a detective story must be placed under the perspective of a final truth.”

      OLGAs are not for everyone: both creating and playing. Companies should realize the immense amount of work involved – from scheming it up, to creating content, to placing clues in the real world, to monitoring players’ progress. OLGAs burn through a lot of time and money. Likewise, companies should understand that their OLGA may not reach a huge number of people. Gauge response less on the number of people involved and more on their fervor. Remember that the fanboys are the ultimate evangelists.

      Finally, here’s an article from MTV detailing some recent OLGAs. The critic confuses OLGAs with stupid publicity stunts, putting them both under the rubric of unconventional marketing. Truly unconventional, yes; but also in a class all of their own.

      Marketing Done Right or How Miley Cyrus Showed Me The Future of Marketing

      December 11, 2007 at 6:05 am | Posted in Boomers, Communication, Companies, Disney, General, Generations, HP, Marketing, OfficeMax, Online marketing, Tweens, Usability, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments
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      [If you like what you read here, be sure to subscribe.]  

      I have a confession: I attended the Miley Cyrus – Hannah Montana show on Saturday evening. I am not a fan – suffice it to say I attended for the benefit of others. My future cousins in-law had a blast and I got to see a friend doing what he does best (thanks Jason!). Though difficult to concentrate in the midst of 10,000 pre-teen girls shrieking at top volume, I did see some rather striking examples of marketing done right. All of it was so smooth and so integrated into the show, I think it was an example of what entertainment will be like in the years to come.

      • Props to sponsor HP for recording video segments run during breaks in the show that integrated their sponsorship with their (and Miley’s) charity work. It was the normal thing (“X percent of your new printer will be donated to Y”), but the production value was great and both kids and parents got the message.
      • Award for the most ingeniously simple marketing scheme: OfficeMax. You might be asking yourself why HP and OfficeMax would be sponsoring a kid’s show, but the sheer volume of well-off parents was proof enough. I saw more limousines (Hummer limos included) than I have for any rock show. Regardless, OfficeMax was giving away signs at a table outside the main doors with a word balloon printed on the front. The idea was that the kid wrote something (“We LUV you Hannah!”) and held it up during the show. However, OfficeMax also included their logo prominently on the back of the sign. That way, each little kid was jumping up and down promoting OfficeMax to every person behind them.
      • I noticed several un-uniformed young adults handing out what appeared to be surveys so, of course, I grabbed a couple. They start out pretty innocuous – age, gender (boy or girl, rather), frequency of interaction with Hannah Montana/Disney.com, excitement to see the show, etc. Then it asks you to name the sponsors of the show. A little weird, but ok. It only started to perk up my interest when out of the blue it asks about my printing frequency. Then the subsequent four questions are about my printing habits, with HP prominently in the first position of the multiple choice. The survey is a great touch-point, makes the child (or more likely the parent) notice HP’s sponsorship, and it provides valuable information to the sponsor.

      In all, well done by the sponsors of the show. None of the marketing was too invasive, but it certainly did not get lost either. There were lots of chances to wrote down the URLs displayed on the video screens during breaks, most of which included a situation where the sponsor was providing content or an opportunity, rather than encouraging parents to visit the website and see our exciting new line of, uh, printers (snore…).

      Of course, no Hannah Montana marketing article could fail to mention the PR stumble regarding MileyWorld.com getting sued for false promises, but let the parents fight that out. And I learned that the t-shirt sales (occurring inside the venue) were not sanctioned by the Miley or Disney – so the bootleggers were making tons of money off her image. The girl might only be 15, but her handlers should be all over this if it is true. They are needlessly tarnishing her reputation and losing tons and tons of money.

      But regardless, I commend the marketing at the show. (And if you haven’t seen MileyWorld.com, check out the great benefits of membership – click on the “Tickets” tab, for instance.) Plus, I never would have listened to those songs otherwise, but many actually had a good message for kids, especially little girls. There was a song entitled “Nobody’s Perfect” and others that talked about the power of friendship and self-confidence. Sure, it’s a little schmaltzy, but the kids ate it up. And that’s what matters.

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