Posts filed under ‘marketers’

Wheel of Marketing Misfortune

I loved this article by David Armano and his Wheel of Marketing Misfortune. It’s a fresh way to exhort everyone in the digital marketing business to just, you know, chill out a bit.

Read the whole thing here.


July 9, 2008 at 4:33 pm 1 comment

On PR 2.0 and killing version numbers

In our network, we also have a global PR agency. Recently,we have been working more closely with them, and it’s been a great experience that has given me insights about a totally different way to work on brands. In this collaboration, I’ve come to notice the changes that are going on in the PR world too. Obviously, the fact that everything has changed for traditional marketing communication because people have been empowered by digital technologies has also arrived in the PR world. In fact, the say they knew it before the old traditional agencies even started thinking about changing their ways.

And some of that is true. If we look at Al Ries’ book “The fall of advertising, the rise of PR” which was authored around 2000, we can see that the trend was there for many to see. And it is true, that in the type of brand work PR agencies do, they have always focused on the more immediate human opinion and context in which they can positively influence brand opinion. But the thing is: it’s not that PR agencies were rising by because their work got better, or their approach drastically different. Isn’t it more likely that traditional agencies, which were the main mass media opinion shapers for brands started sucking? Or to be fair: ad agencies were conveniently repressing the fact that mass media started bleeding its effectiveness to digital channels and 1:1 and social media interactions.

What will be interesting for me to observe is: will PR agencies make some of the mistakes that ad agencies made? Like: “Hey, here’s an idea, we’ll just start an interactive agency that can adapt our stuff online,” or will they be less prone to the “channel-adaptation” mistake? I think they might. Why? Well, since the PR guy’s job is to influence opinion of people in a way that is different to regular mass media communication (the staple of the ad agency), it has always been about word-of-mouth, even before the web. Think about it: if, on one side, you have an expert of influencer opinion and how to use it to influence others, and, on the other side, an expert on creating single-minded propositions for mass media: who has an advantage in a landscape where single-minded messages are being fragmented, spoofed, barely measureable, and generally ineffective and where everyone can have an opinion, influence product design, brands and author about everything on a free blog? Yes, it’s definitely the PR guy, not the ad guy. So this is where they have the leg up, but I think they’ve had this advantage rather unconsciously. Now that the web is mainstream, even traditional PR (even if it was more modern than the traditional ad business by design), has to think about PR 2.0 just like advertising has to think about advertising 2.0. And they do, and they might want to break some of the negative PR stereotypes as they go along.

Okay, you say, but digital agencies obviously knew before. Yes they did, and if we again look at Al Ries’ book, you will notice it doesn’t even go into any detail of the potential of how digital channels are changing peoples’ behavior. And here is my point: while some PR agencies had started working closer to the context of the people in order to influence human behavior than traditional ad agencies, most of them still did it in a traditional channel mindset. The reevaluation of what a traditional ad agency has to do, or if in fact, it is still advertising it needs to create, is also taking place consciously in the PR world now. In fact, the question is: if the word “advertising agency” is passé, is “public relations” also a bit yesteryear?

The funny thing is, as the process of redefining the ad agency and the PR agency is underway, look at the schools of thought out there on this topic:

  • Markets are conversations, not messages
  • it’s about listening not talking
  • Engage people on their level, not as abstract consumers, insulting their intelligence
  • and so on and so on…

Doesn’t that sound all too familiar? Isn’t everyone saying the same thing?

Yeah, again, nothing new to anyone who worked in a digital agency, in, say 1995. The only difference is: now everyone is talking about it and it’s mainstream, oh, and bandwidth is better. This is good, mind you, but it also let’s me beg EVERYONE who works in this industry, whether they are in ad agencies, PR agencies, media agencies, digital agencies and even marketing people: don’t we all say the same thing, no matter who said it first, or who put out the best “integrated” campaign? Can’t we just decide that communication is a people business, not a brand business and that therefore everything we do should start with people, not brands, or products or categories or marketing toolkits?

And for chrissakes, can’t we stop putting version numbers on our respective displines (advertising 2.0, web2.0, PR2.0 and media 2.0) just because we want to tell everyone that we finally got the fact that people are in control?

Acts, not ads!

PS: I will be off on a vacation, so there will be no posts for a while.. Cheers.

May 26, 2008 at 1:26 pm 2 comments

Stating the obvious: Online Social Media generate awareness, influences opinion.

Okay, sometimes I have to repeat stuff I’ve already said before, even if it is the equivalent of stating the obvious. I do this usually when I find a study with an air of scienctific credibility that supports something that is being talked about, but lacks the digits.

In this case, I stumbled upon an article in Adweek which states that a new study was release proving that some of the most desirable consumers use the opinions of others from blogs, and social media applications to make their purchasing decisions. In fact, 74% of people polled do this. Of course this means that the brand message and promise seems to be becoming less important than what other people say about the brand and customer experience they have had. Which in turn means, that mass media advertising is becoming less important. Thanks for the statistics, but as I said, it’s still a “duh-moment.”

Still, I like it when marketing people are quoted with something that is a Heureka moment to them. Here it is:

“This study indicates that there is a growing group of highly desirable consumers using social media to research companies,” said Ganim Nora Barnes, a senior fellow at SNCR, in a statement. This demo includes adults 25-55 with a college education, making over $100,000 a year. “These most savvy and sought-after consumers will not support companies with poor customer care reputations, and they will talk about all of this openly with others via multiple online vehicles. This research should serve as a wake-up call to companies: listen, respond, and improve.”

Yeah. Stop making advertising to generate awareness if you cannot listen, respond and improve. Otherwise you will get grilled and served with a slice of lemon on a nice “ineffective traditional advertising sampler platter.”

April 24, 2008 at 1:53 pm 1 comment

The Paradox of choice

I recently read a great book by Barry Schwartz, entitled “The paradox of choice” which outlines various scenarios to propose the theory that the more choice you have the unhappier you get. From my own life, I know this to be true in a lot of cases. I am not talking about existential situations where it is always nicer to have an option other than, let’s say, chemotherapy. I am talking about what marketers do with consumers everyday: providing choice, where there is none necessary or essential. As a result, the decision making process of making the choice leads to insecurity, stress and resentment, and even regret. If you can choose from 24 different pair of jeans, you either need a lot of time (which equals stress) or you will make a decision before you really know which one is the best for you, and before that you still need to narrow it down. Even if it is better than the pants you were wearing before, you still wonder: Is it the best one? It’s only natural that, in the last years, the trend to human simplicity and less choice has become a marketing strategy. However, it is a brand promise only a few can keep.

Anyhow, now I recently found this on e-marketer: a study and testimonials about this exact topic, essentially mirroring Barry Schwarz’s thesis, albeit in slightly changed framing.

Check it out

March 10, 2008 at 4:42 pm Leave a comment

Facebook “Social Advertising” plans already generating backlash responses

It’s not surprising that right after Facebook announced that they would open up Facebook to more to advertising, taking advantage of the referral-based nature of the web, true web freaks are responding harshly.

To me, “Social Advertising” is an oxymoron at best.

If Advertisers can’t change their mindsets from mass media messaging to conversations, including their brand management and marketing process, they will never be able to join social networks with a meaningful conversation with their customers.

It’s time to realize that within the Customer Life Cycle, generating Awareness is more an more something people do among each other and by themselves. It works  not because, but despite all the mass media advertising out there. Advertisers so far are just reducing brand intimacy by trying to join the fray with their mindsets unchanged. And yes, Facebook is risking losing its credibility to its users, too.

What marketers should worry about way more, is to invest time in understanding human behavior, improve their products and start owning the brand experience people have with their products. If you provide meaningful experiences people will do the advertising for you. Duh.

November 8, 2007 at 3:03 pm 2 comments

Testing Tales: Using Testing to ensure the delivery of vacuous, uninspired mediocrity in brand communications

I have been quite frantic recently, so I apologize for not providing endless tirades on the future of advertising as usual. However, the good news is, I do have a tirade that has grown like a bacterial infection in my strategic tummy and it needs a good antibiotic rant.

My question these days is:
What is this whole obsession with communications testing??

Not a day goes by, it seems, without unique campaigns being shot down because a panel of a few consumers chose the one “they liked most.” Or to put it another way: bland, mediocre and sterile campaigns do get chosen because they were the ones with the least potential to upset anyone.

Now, I am not saying there are no good big ideas with effective campaigns out there anymore. Also, I am not saying that testing is a bad idea. However, there may be a trend that more and more marketing decision makers resort to testing as a way to make a decision instead of using it to improve the execution of an idea. And really, comms testing can just help you improve the execution of an idea, not serve as a tool to make a decision on whether your brand idea is a good one or not. So if you shoot down a campaign after communications testing, you really shoot it down because of its execution, not because of its idea. Why? Because recruits can’t tell the difference. They will rarely go: “Oh, well, I really liked the idea behind this one, but I think the execution is way to urban and sophisticated for me, so if you’d adjust the tone-of-voice to be a bit more down-to-earth on this one, I would definitely go for it.” If they did, you’d have to fire your recruiting agency for letting agency hacks get through the screening process.

Alas, people see and judge the execution first, then they intuitively understand the idea (often much later, when they had a true brand experience with the product in question instead of being subjected to a test being stared at through a one-way mirror). It’s friggin common sense and should be obvious without going into a segue about the Heisenbergian Uncertainty Principle.

But wait, that’s not all! Within this already zany approach, what is being tested is often just one type of brand communications: mass media communications. This essentially means: we will test a TV spot to make a decision on which brand idea will work the best (mistake #1) without bothering to test brand interactions in other channels (mistake #2). Now why would you test a brand idea through a piece of uni-directional communication with a medium with the least amount of brand interaction? I am too tired to hazard a guess.

Now where did this come from? Why don’t some markters believe in their brand/product ideas anymore, why is communications testing misused for something it can’t really deliver, and why is there a surge of this kind of activity? There are probably a couple of reasons, such as blindly following marketing processes made for yesteryear, or inefficient hierarchies and budget structures, but how about this: maybe it’s the fault of them dang Internet people.

“Huh?” you might proclaim. Well, we all now how hyped up the whole web thing is, and how marketers and agencies (traditional ones, especially) are struggling to understand it, use it, sell it, scrambling to “upgrade their website to web2.0,” generating a plethora of buzzwords like “participative brands” “viral marketing” “user generated content” “behavioral targeting” etc.

You can definitely say that digital technologies have re-written the rules of how people consume and discover, and that the interplay between human behavior and receptivity to marketing has been significantly altered.

Because of this, and because everyone is trying to figure out what to do with the changed media and communications landscape before you, your CMO sends you to a congress on digital marketing and you learn that the “consumer” and traditional advertising” is dead, and that in the brave new world of the Internet, the customer is an active participant, not a passive recipient of branding. So, you (or your digital agency du jour) start coming up with community ideas, widgets, social networking tools and a Second Life Presence for your Brand, with little brand or business strategy behind it. And, this is my point: you even let recruits decide which brand idea you should go with.

Bad idea. How can you be a strong brand if you let them decide what your brand idea is supposed to be?

Just to be clear: by all means let consumers participate in how you can improve brand experiences in all stages of the customer lifecycle from store layout, orientation, information architecture of your digital offering, additive services, hotlines and customer service. Also let them help you improve your product through product testing and observe their true behavior when they interact with your offering at all touchpoints.

However, it is foolish to believe that customer-centricity means allowing people to chose what you need to say in the first place. Customer-centricity and the lore of the empowered consumer cannot be a chicken-hearted way-out of Brand Management, just because we live in a time where the consumer has the last word. Because, so what? You still need to make sure your brand has the first word. People need strong brands to make decisions, not brands that ask them what to be.

Just imagine this: How would you like to go to your doctor and hear this after he examined you: “Well, it looks like you have cancer. Would you like to have your leg amputated or would you like chemo with a lower chance of success?” No matter what you would answer, you’d be tormented by the choice and wonder: “Why didn’t he just propose the best course of action, he’s the doctor!”

Now, this may be a bit drastic as an example, but still: if you ask people what your brand is supposed to say, you are losing the function it has: Guidance and room for identification in a sea of options and choices.

So, all in all, hardly a good way to proceed, I think.

What you really need to come up with effective communications for your brand idea is is brave belief in the idea itself because you believe in the product, your engineers, your employees and your company and because you know it serves your brand strategy and business objectives, and because you have a good idea how it will resonate with consumers in real life. Then you test whether or not you can improve the execution to make sure that the message gets through. This has always been true and is still true whether or not digital technologies have changed consumer behavior. In fact, it’s even more important today to have a strong stance on what a brand is.

Therefore, I believe it’s time for brand balls, because balls is what has been missing.

  1. Today, authenticity and brand intimacy is not created through single-minded propositions, it is built through brand interaction, so observe human behavior instead of starting with the brand itself, the category or a marketing toolkit.
  2. Being a marketer or agency professional following a marketing process can become quite abstract. Don’t forget you are a consumer yourself and use common sense. It works.
  3. The only difference today to 15 years ago is that markets are conversations. Enable your brands to be listeners, but make sure you have a statement with which you can join a market conversation. You don’t want to be a moderator of market conversation, you want to be the driver.

September 30, 2007 at 2:27 pm 2 comments

The Problem with Viral Advertising

With all the web2.0 hype, many brands want viral advertising for their products and brands. To me, the word “viral advertising” they way it is praticed by marketers and agencies is an oxymoron. Sure, a great viral video can do a lot for a brand (both positively and negatively), but mostly when it comes from users themselves. While there are notable exceptions where brand marketers have shown guts to risk things with the help of creative agencies, to ask for a viral concept from an agency usually doesn’t work. You end up with longer cut TV commercial posted on youtube, or microsite concepts where the original idea has been eviscerated and censored down by corporate communications and lawyers to the point of irrelevance. It’s often canned, not participatory. So what are the factors?

  1. “Prosumers”: In a world where consumers have become producers of the content they consume, the content produced by other people “like me” is more credible, authentic and often even funnier than by a company that wants to sell me stuff.
  2. The catechism of the corporate identity: CD/CI guidelines that need to be followed encumber the creative and production process, and if they are adhered to, the production often looks too polished and not as authentic.
  3. “The Suits”: Legal issues and marketing guidelines constrain the creative process.
  4. “Mandatories”: Sometimes, marketing decision-makers will require the product communication mandatories to be forced onto a viral concept, and therefore diluting the directness of the message.
  5. Lack of channel and context adequacy: Often good ATL ideas with potential for online viral effects are shifted too literally to the web. The result is a complete lack of context-sensitivity and relevance in the eye of the user.

A recent random example: In Germany, the Drama Series “24” has been parodized by dubbing the voice of the 24 characters in Swabian dialect (a regional vernacular). This is extremly funny to most people here. (the video is posted below for all the Swabians here). Whether or not it helps the “brand” of 24 remains to be discussed, but let’s just say it is.

Question 1: Would certain creative agencies have been able to come up with that? I think so.

Question 2: Would they even gotten a brief in which to propose such a concept? Maybe.

Question 3: If they had received a brief to come up with a concept like this, would the client sign-off on it? Most likely no, only the wild and daring ones.
What is the consequence of this?

Because brands and even (inofficial, user-generated) brand communications are influenced more and more by the content producing consumer (prosumer), brands that are not innovative in their marketing communication processes and refuse to accept the consumers own role in brand communications will not just miss out on producing content that is relevant for the consumer, but also fail to actively build their brand in the digital space.

What can you do?

1) Accept the consumers new role and believe that the like your brand

2) Let him/her participate in brand communications development through more qualititative research and lead user workshop. Most people would even give their time for free, the reward of participating in your brand makes them feel special. Don’t stick them into a segment with millions of others.

3) Come up with governance and brand strategies and account for points 1+2 while securing legal issues and brand consistency.

The video:

June 20, 2007 at 9:11 pm 1 comment

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