Tuesday, February 24, 2009

If Startup Thinking is Wrong, I Don't Want To ...

I've never really been sold on the ideas coming from AdAge. That said, much of the information is nice to know. Yesterday, they ran a piece aimed to help Marketing Chiefs think more like startups. There is enough wrong with this post that I don't want to cover the details.

First, what was right.

Marketing Chiefs think like Marketing Chiefs. Always have and probably always will. When we get some new thought, we'll create a new title and let the Chiefs die off thinking the success was their credit. Kudos to the author for speaking to these heavyweights in terms they understand - you do good work but something can be learned from startups.

So what kind of advice do we have for these Marketing Chiefs? I mean, so long as we're going to debase ourselves and look to startups for success tips, what kind of insight can we gleen?
  • Tell people why you're important
  • Worry about the detail
  • Always think about leverage
  • Be bold
  • Prepare for the unexpected
Is this a joke? If not, what the hell have Marketing Chiefs been doing these past years that these points have escaped them? Sometimes I take the advantages of marketing in a digital world for granted. Then again, sometimes I take the intelligence of Marketing Chiefs for granted.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Agencies have the Talent but do they have the Mindset?

The troubling thing about digital marketing is the ease it can be implemented. Thousands of companies every day start their journeys online. It can be done by one person sitting alone under the glow of a desk lamp. In fact, just last night, I witnessed someone not at all familiar with technology create their own site. The only problem was the file naming conventions being used. Rather than explain, I just changed and off they went.

So why do agencies have such a difficult time adopting technology. Before you argue that they already have - email and viral videos do not equate to technology adoption. There's a giant blue ocean stretching far and wide with few recognizable names bobbing around.

Recently, Ford has been lauded for its incorporation of social media. But what's really going on behind the scenes? Jalopnik has an interesting take on this. Notice that Scott Monty has even been banned from the message boards. To a lesser extent, James Andrews arrival in Memphis to present to FedEx shows the gap we have yet to overcome.

In one case, we have a company representative that is not representing a brand. On the other, we have an influencer still believing that the circle of influence is restricted to in person meetings.

Agencies have to get away from ego.

Ok. Let's get a bit more realistic. Ego is fine and has driven many great campaigns. We need to move beyond the mindset that is about ownership. I'm still confounded by the idea of an AOR. Unless we're going the way of Enfatico, there's little reason to single out one effort. All efforts working in concert generate the results we're looking for. Sometimes it takes Tweets. Sometimes it takes emails. Regardless of the delivery system, we have to be ready to hand over the messaging.

Agencies do not own messaging. Brands do not own messaging. Only customers can own. All we can do is respond.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Digital Marketing is Not The Dark Arts

I don't mind questions. I don't mind studies. I don't mind diving deeper into digital technologies to uncover the possibilities that lie beneath the surface. What I mind is the attitude that digital technologies are somehow inferior or mystical when compared to traditional media.

I don't think I'm alone here. For those that live in the world of technology day after day, this can be a surprise. There are those that inherently understand the power of communication. An entire generation now exists that has been brought up expecting digital communication as the norm. And yet, we see story after story in the mainstream media about how this new generation will remain unprepared to face the challenges of tomorrow. The story revolves around some kind of inability to connect and engage individuals face to face.

The point is missed on the mainstream media as well. And it's not the first time.

What digital technologies offer is the newest way to communicate with people. We used to love the telephone. Before that, there were books. All of these were new and novel at some point. I'm thankful we I don't run the risk of being burned for practicing the mysterious power of writing.

Yet, I get the feeling that there's a street war happening between those that had carved out comfortable holes for themselves and those ready to adopt a new world order (and I actually mean that in a good sense).

Let's get down to details for a second - or lack thereof. So there are few models for successfully churning out digital campaigns. There are few metrics to measure the effectiveness. There remains an elusive formula for calculating ROI for the web or mobile or applications. And somehow, the shit still works. Last time I checked in with the statisticians, we were still estimating the metrics for print campaigns. The margins of error for many of the projections were quite high - given a 50 year head start.

So what's the hold up? Why can't we begin to adopt digital technologies as marketing vehicles?

I get the sense that there's fear. And a lot of it. The last thing any of us wants is to show up at the office one day and learn that we know nothing. Everybody has a value. In this business, your value is tied to what you can contribute to the BIG IDEA. A vile, ego driven business it truly is.

Us digital guys (and dolls) remain relatively young. Not a lot of gray hair showing through the Twitter profile pics just yet. Put yourself in the shoes of someone that has worked years in this industry to get to the top. And then what happens? Guess what? The game just changed. Not on my watch you'd think and try to get the most out of what you can.

This is not any offer of forgiveness - only understanding. If you happen to stumble online curious about what these interwebs are and read this, I have just one message. You're holding up the future of this industry.

Imagine if we could put the same minds that have cracked and refined the existing models for the past 10 years. Imagine if we put that effort to a new medium that's cheaper, faster and more powerful than any communication channel we've used in the past.

It's not sorcery. It's real, but we need your help.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sign o' The Times

So here we are. Confronted by a landscape that's changing daily. And the best advice we can offer is to hold tight?

How can anybody in the industry today still defend television as the best buy? I've seen the statistics and understand that television still has a broad reach. In fact, we're discovering that multi-channel efforts increase the effectiveness of a television buy.

But this doesn't defend television as the best option.

Let's think about this claim for just a moment. We're surrounded by studies that show us that customers are spending more time online, more time watching digital video, slightly less time watching television, more time working, less time on vacation and you can add anything I'm sure I've left out. What it adds up to is about a 32 hour day (finally time for sleep).

Take a look around and find someone participating in a singular task these days. It's not uncommon for customers to be watching television while also online. In fact, they are often doing this while engaging with family or friends. It's naive to think that we focus our attention on one item anymore.

Whether this is a result of a new digital culture or perfect timing for a technology in our lives, the reality is that we spread our attention around.

Let's top this off with a heavy dose of real time communications. New technologies have made it possible to get all of our news and information in real time. Where televisions strength once reigned - the ability to deliver news and entertainment to everyone at one time - is eroding due to our access to the same information as it happens.

What's better is our ability to receive this information from our close, personal contacts. Nothing against the pretty, tan ladies and gents that grace my nightly news programs, but they don't know me like my friends and family. Even the digital connections that I've never met have a better understanding of me. They have at least heard my voice whether through video, typing or uploaded photos.

In fact, what's the point of newspapers and television? They certainly were not created to sell to us. They would have never taken off in the first place. Now that digital technologies are replacing the original use of these devices, why can't we expect them to be relegated to second tier status? Is the fight to keep television as the best mass medium about defending what is likely to be or what we wish it could be? And are our predictions based on evidence or fear?

I think you know my opinion.


Amen. Video highlights this wonderfully. Though I wouldn't agree that these are *new* revenue channels. Let's just call them recently discovered.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Where to Start? Attention or Engagement

With frustration implementing digital solutions mounting, a good question to ask is where to begin. We certainly have enough buzz around many solutions. What we don't have is a consistent way to measure.

So what's more important, attention or engagement? On one hand, the ability exists to reach a great number of individuals. With reach comes an opportunity for persuasion. On the other hand, engagement offers individuals a high degree of value. While more limited in scope, engagement often creates lasting memories.

I believe engagement is the key. Concentration on engagement allows you to speak better with the customers that are currently taking an interest. They get a high degree of relevance and you get positive word of mouth. Broad reach will come. Proper engagement allows individuals to create their own benefits. They will share these benefits with others. In other words, you don't have to sell to a broad base. Your devoted customers will. But only if they are currently engaged with what you offer.

That being said, most digital campaigns should start with awareness. The way today's marketers justify expenditure and chart success revolves around these numbers. How many people is it reaching? Who is being converted? How many total conversions do we have. With the end game still being about quantity, awareness provides a fit.

We all talk a great deal about engagement. We understand why it is the more logical choice for digital marketing. Yet, there is very little to justify the opportunity in today's market. Using an awareness campaign as a stepping stone for smarter (engagement) efforts down the line can lead to both understanding and success. And success is not what is currently standing in the way of a new form of marketing. Understanding is.

Friday, February 6, 2009

CMOs Grow Weary

And so CMOs are growing weary of the 2.0 world. I got good news and bad news. I work and live in the 2.0 world and I'm weary of it as well. The good news (that wasn't it), is that it's about to get a whole lot better.

In fact, it can't get much worse. Nothing new is really being adopted, we have no way to measure the success of anything and the most production comes from coining terms to describe the new technologies. I know we love our copy in the marketing world, but sometimes (and I only mean sometimes) we have to deliver something of substance.

The end game is upon us. Budgets are shrinking. It's no longer good enough to run rampant over the 2.0 world with nothing but buzzwords. In fact, buzz is no longer enough if it doesn't lead to results.

I can already see the gears turning. Digital marketing is returning to the geek where it belonged all along. Sure, banner ads are great. They're fun to build, require a great deal of creativity and are relatively cheap. But us geeks have known for years that they just don't work. How do we know? We don't use them. A little common sense goes a long way.

There's suddenly a new (I don't know why it's taken this long) school of thought on digital marketing. We are also users of this technology. If we wouldn't do it, why do we expect customers to use it? I'll wait a moment for the answer.

Intuition leads to great ideas but not great execution. The numbers are starting to fall into place. By that, I mean that there is actually some measure of accountability being cooked into the work. This goes beyond Omniture tags. This is about engagement.

Are the numbers right? Absolutely not.

But that won't matter in the long run. The models will be refined and eventually lead to greater production on digital work. For once, we will have models to defend the buzz - or relegate it to the proper pile where much of it belongs.

I, for one, am looking forward to the day where we stop talking about 'viral' and start talking about a good placement for digital video that generated a 20x return.

Imagine that.

CMOs already are. They're just waiting for us to deliver. And like the pizza you grow impatient waiting on, the chance for something revolutionary is growing cold.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Do You Google Yourself?

A local reporter in the Twin Cities area ran a story on the news a couple nights ago. Jason DeRusha has a solid grasp of newer technologies and the way digital conversations work. He maintains a blog, Twitter profile and personas on a number of local sites. His question for the other night was - Do you Google yourself?

Good question. I was expecting a number of responses on what the best way to track your online presence would be. I anticipated results pointing to SocialWhoIs, WhosTalkin or even just straight Google Alerts. What I saw for responses was very eye opening.

So much for hope that we're moving into a more connected age. All the more reason to get another laugh out of The Onion's report of a the new site "The Google" for older adults.

What was most striking was the thought that there was a cost associated. First, the basic premise of a search engine is the ability to find terms. This is not a Yellow Pages. Anything and everything can be archived. What's the difference between searching for 'Homemade BBQ Sauces' and a name? It's nothing. There still seems to be a stigma to digital technologies that they only exist for business purposes.

Second, and most striking, is the notion that many of us have taken for granted. If there's a way to monitize errors through digital mediums, it's being exploited. And by Google themselves. If you're curious, try the search for yourself. Take away any notion or experience you may have with digital technologies. Look at the page. Notice the search results filled with so much nonsense. What about the right column that promises information on that name. Voila - it costs money to Google yourself. No distinction between the actual results and the promises to find additional details.

Other than that, I don't know what to make of it. Technology marches onward separating the young from the old. I used to be the only one that could program the VCR in my household. Now, my son knows how to make the television do things I never discovered in 5 years.

Thanks Jason for bringing us something interesting and entertaining. As a bonus, here's a little insight into my now favorite reporter in town.