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…

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…

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.

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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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.

Holiday Solicitation Emails, Part 1

November 28, 2007 at 6:02 am | Posted in Boomers, Communication, Email, eNewsletters, General, Generations, Marketing, Online marketing, Usability | 5 Comments
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A friend suggested that I post about holiday solicitation campaigns. Not to sound prideful, but I have done a lot of these campaigns – both online and offline – and seem to be pretty good at it (the checks have come in, at least). I will outline what I think are good things to keep in mind; less of a definitive checklist and more a list of handy tips/opinions. Five important notes:

  • Most of my experience is in the non-profit/advocacy/political realms, so give proper weight to a particular tip depending on your industry.
  • This game is always changing. What works online (or offline for that matter) is not static.
  • I will meld as much as possible the online and offline strategies. They are similar, obviously, because the goal is to persuade someone to give. Some of this will be evident (i.e. message length will effect your number of pages in direct mail – not the case with email). I will attempt to point out if a tip is applicable solely on the online channel or in direct mail (DM).
  • If you find these tips useful, subscribe to this blog (see the gray box on the right side) so you don’t miss part two and three.
  • Forward this to your development department. It can’t hurt.

Timing:

Ideally, you would have started this process at least a month ago (sorry, I had just started the blog then). Give yourself a month to plot out the strategy, meet with the decision-makers to get their support, do several drafts, etc.

One email does not a campaign make. Since email doesn’t cost anything, send out several (as long as you have new content and something to say). However, do not send out the exact same email twice unless you segment your list to suppress any people who opened it the first time around.

I like a strategy of one email per week for four weeks. It gives four touch-points – enough to highlight several aspects of the work you do, yet the campaign is short enough not to drag on.

Font:

Let’s get granular! Your choice of font should be decided by 1) your conventions – keep things consistent, and 2) how your organization should be viewed. I recommend serif fonts (Times New Roman, Garamond) for a professional portrayal and sans-serif font (Ariel, Verdana) to seem down-to-earth. (Sans-serif is easier to read online, but decide for yourself depending on your org.)

Shoot for 12 point font. While your eyes may be spry, more mature adults have worse eyes and more in the bank. You do the math.

Some folks prefer the antiquated look of Courier – reminiscent of typewriter days of yore. These are usually people who also enjoy multiple font colors and garish backgrounds. We’re not selling used cars folks, we’re selling ideas and those are worth money. Like your Momma said, don’t go out looking cheap. (And if you even think of using Comic Sans, heaven help you.)

Overall Design:

  • Small paragraphs are easier to scan than long ones. If this isn’t the first blog you’ve ever read, you probably know what I’m talking about having seen what is out there.
  • Vary your sentence structure – no bunches of complex sentences or tons of semi-colons.
  • Short, emotive sentences are good. Remember that you have about 1.2 seconds to snag the reader or your email goes into the trash.
  • Bold and italics are OK, but only here. You need to communicate quickly and that means occasionally grabbing eyeballs. However, chose your emphasis sentences (or words) carefully and don’t go crazy.
  • Is your logo visible across the top or in the upper-right corner (save the left for your salutation)? The eye and brain of the reader are able to discern in a split second whether s/he is affiliated with your organization and trusted org emails get read. Everything else is trashed.
  • Check what your email would look like with images turned off. Is some text still above the fold (high enough to be read in a standard computer screen)? Needless to say, do not rely on HTML images to communicate your message. It may look pretty, but what’s the use if no one sees it?
  • White space is your friend. If you stuff in a ton of text, you end up looking like harried Ralph Nadar rather than classy Frank Sinatra. Go for classy.
  • Put your graphic designer on alert. You may want to show the incremental increase of funds from week to week in a visual form. See Howard Dean’s bat for an example. You could have them put together different images for each week of the campaign prior to its launch if you know they will be busy (i.e. closing a magazine issue) or they can gauge it from week to week in respect to the money coming in. Either way, give them some advance notice.

Tomorrow, I will cover content and then Friday I will wrap this up with tips on delivery. I hope this is helpful and I hope this post does not sound like I know all about raising money online. I just know I’m pretty good – not necessarily the best. Use the comments section to send me your own suggestions or links to helpful articles.

Panic

November 12, 2007 at 5:39 am | Posted in Boomers, Communication, Decision making, General, Generation X, Generations, Marketing, Net gens, Online marketing, Personal Responsibility, Responsibility, Tweens | 1 Comment
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Drew McLellan at MarketingProfs asks, “Can We Outgrow Marketing?” My first comment is here, Drew responds a few comments down, and then I reply here.

Because everything in marketing is changing at an amazing rate, will the older folks among us become unable to keep up? Is there an anxiety present now that never used to exist before? Or is it imagined pressure that drives us?

How Gen Xers Will Save the World – The Obligatory Digital Generation Divide Article

October 23, 2007 at 6:31 am | Posted in Boomers, Communication, General, Generation X, Generations, Online marketing, Tweens | 1 Comment

I have been thinking lately about how I never got much out of career day in elementary school. It’s no surprise considering that almost no aspect of my current job existed at that time. The most high-tech thing I did before college was to program a massive computer to synchronize red-white-and-blue flashes while “Yankee Doodle Dandy” played. (Heck, it was the Midwest.)

So what can marketers do to prepare young children for jobs that don’t exist yet? Do we sit them down in a dark room with a computer and expect the Sergeys and Zuckerbergs to emerge some years later? If anyone has ideas, I would sincerely like to hear them. Perhaps a non-profit for the future online marketers of America?

As a marketer in my late twenties then, I am stuck in a strange generational divide. On one side is a huge group of Baby-Boomers and on the other is a huge group of Tweens or Generation Y’ers or whatever we’re calling them these days – and the largest population group since the Boomers. And Generation X folks are crunched beneath the two behemoths. We are going to be the ones to take of the jobs of the former and be tasked with managing the latter. It’s not like the interwebs are going away – so how do we all get along and make a tidy profit?

Just read the metrics like a barometer: 51% of marketers find that “lack of organizational support is a barrier to their use of new media” and 43.5% cite “culture of the organization” as the impediment to investing in more conversational marketing. (I’m looking at you, Boomers…)

While I’m surprised the numbers are this low, there’s still far to go to create a business culture that rewards younger staffers. And there is no doubt that Tweens are going to have to learn that Boomers have valuable business lessons to teach, that not everything can be solved online, and that there is something to be said about learning from your elders.

It is at least our responsibility to clear a path – to have something to say to those grade-school kids on career day. But we also need to admit that we’ll never know exactly the next thing coming around the corner and be flexible enough to build that into our marketing strategy. So, in my mind it begins with trust. Tweens need to respect that Boomers know a little something about business and participate in mentorship programs to learn and grow. Boomers should hire Tweens and not hold them back, while insisting that they back up their ideas with metrics and research.

Generation X’ers are in the middle, but doesn’t this offer worlds of opportunity? We have the most time to learn from the Boomers while experiencing technological updates over time. (While I am a little jealous of digital natives, can you imagine being hit with this all at once? I think MS-DOS, Commodore 64, and Atari benefited us more than we knew.) And we are more adept at talking to and interacting with Tweens. We can conduct business through memos or IMs, we can write a check or use PayPal, we can seal a deal with an email or a handshake. These are among the qualities that make Generation X invaluable in the workforce.

P.S.: Taking a little more confrontational stance, Ruth Sherman has some good things to say from an old FC blog post.

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