Archive for the 'Marketing' Category

Obama and Old Spice – the future of internet marketing

The Obama campaign’s use of social tactics in the 2008 election not only changed the way politicians run for office, it gave us a peak at what social media advertising can be at scale.  The popularity and apparent sales success of Old Spice’s re-branding efforts, while for a very different purpose, parallel the work Obama and team did in 2008.  Consider the parallel principles guiding both initiatives:

Have a consistent voice but optimize the expression of that voice for multiple platforms. Obama had an website and a carefully planned and executed message but the Obama team also devoted significant energy to their Twitter Feed, Facebook page, platforms like  The thematic issues of the communication were “on message but each platform took advantage of the unique reasons people used that platform.

Old Spice’s recent marketing work did the same.  What was a very clever concept that could easily have simply been a popular series of TV commercials became the heart of a much broader messaging platform that included facebook, twitter, youtube, AND their own site.

Give over the microphone to the people you want to influence. One of the things I most respected about the Obama campaign was the fact that they allowed these platforms to be a place for dissent as well as support.  They responded to both and made it available as a tool for support and dissent.  When Obama changed his policy on some issues during the campaign, many of his supporters responded negatively on his campaign site’s forum.  While the team certainly was aware of this activity and had the ability to bury it (think Apple in their customer forums when there are complaints) they left it up and actually pointed to the discussions and participated.

Old Spice listened for and responded to comments about their campaign.  For example, this video in response to a tweet.

In both cases the exchange was dictated by customers/voters and not the creative.  Even more powerful, the responses to customers actually generated the buzz.  The only thing more exciting than an amazing shot in a tennis match is the subsequent amazing shot in response.

Style is important but content is king. This is not about sub-par production values but it is about content.  But the effort there.  Agree or disagree with the content (that is the conversation) but production values without something to say is a recipe for disaster.  The responses to customers in the Old Spice campaign looked good but had none of the visual effects of the initial TV campaign.

Make it sharable but promote like mad. So many “social” efforts are discrete initiatives with success/failure almost solely dependent on whether the effort goes viral.  If you have something to say and it is important to your efforts, support that effort.  Online advertising, TV, print, etc. were a part of both programs. The social aspects focus allowed for easy sharing but people didn’t rely on sharing to accomplish reach.

Finally, both initiatives have a home base. Don’t expect your customers/voters to connect the dots.  When they come to you, curate the conversation you’ve been having across these platforms.  This is not a YouTube campaign, a blogger outreach campaign, a TV campaign it is a messaging/marketing campaign.

The success of the efforts speak for themselves.  The lessons gained from that work seem to be clouded by parochial arguments (“see, TV is social!”)

“Powered by the web, not advertised on it.”

Interesting (albeit very long) presentation on Obama’s campaign and white house online strategy.

Revolutionary concept that brands of all type need to understand:

“Powered by the web, not advertised on it.” Regardless of your political position, Obama’s campaign is one to be studied.

Conversational Media is a Discipline, Just Like SEO/SEM

Until recently, most major brands either ignored search marketing, or, at best, considered it a ‘lesser’ discipline than other marketing programs.  In some cases it still is, but by and large, marketers now recognize that search is an integral piece of any integrated marketing strategy.

Conversational (Social if you prefer) media and marketing seems to be following the same trajectory. Conversational marketing is loosely defined as a marketing discipline that helps brands join and engage with communities in an authentic, transparent way that adds value to the ongoing conversation that is the social Web today.

Most brands are still very new to the conversational marketing discipline and its underlying concepts, even though it is every bit as important as a robust search marketing strategy. The case could be made, in fact, that conversational marketing is the more valuable of the two. When done well, conversational marketing has the ability to create connections with customers and elevate the organic search rankings of brands in a way static messages simply can’t while also creating stronger connections with the brand outside of the search realm.

Why?  Because search loves conversational content.  If the conversation is negative, your presence in search is equally negative.   Look at the launch of Blackberry and Verizon’s Storm smart phone. The phone launched to much fanfare and incredibly robust sales. But, they appear to have a problem. Many consumers are unhappy with the product and they are returning it in droves.  Take a look at this screen grab of Google search results for “Blackberry Storm Returns.”


Both Verizon and Blackberry voices are represented on this page but the top result is a blog (Silicon Alley Insider, a site I represent through my employer Federated Media)  discussing the high return rate for the device.  Imagine the person who is researching the return policy before making the leap to buy the Storm….

As another example, take a look at the search results for “Unilever.”


Take a look at the 5th result.  It points to the following video on youtube:

This isn’t the conversation Unilever is looking to stimulate around their brand.

Can you eliminate these situations?  Of course not.  But your brand can and should be addressing these situations and focusing on creating a conversational platform that allows for authentic responses to negative conversations as well as stimulating conversations that reinforce your brand position and promise.  In the future, I predict that conversational marketing techniques will be universally incorporated into every marketing strategy just as search and SEO are now considered necessary techniques. Many brands already have and they are reaping the benefits.  Just like brands that have incorporated search into their broader marketing initiatives, brands that embrace and incorporate conversational marketing techniques will have a distinct advantage over brands that choose to ignore or segregate their work from broader messaging.

Social Media Marketing Isn’t Free but it is Terribly Efficient

Given my position at Federated Media I get to see a lot of client and agency professionals.  Many of these people share a common frustration.  Their clients (internal or external) think social media marketing is free.

It isn’t.

They also expect it to produce amazing results so they are saddled with expectations that are unrealistic in addition to no real budget.

Social Media marketing isn’t free.  But it is terribly efficient.

Social Media Marketing is like entertaining in the physical world.  If you want to share an experience with a group of people (either personally or professionally) you need to go to where the people are and get their attention or entice them to come to you.  In either case, you have to invest something to get a return.

Extending the simile, there are ways to reduce the cost entertaining. Let’s look at some potential executions and the cost associated with them.

$$$$$ You could rent a space, spare no cost and have the finest chefs and entertainers pulling out all the stops to make your party a success.  Let’s say we get performers from Cirque du Soleil, Paul McCartney/Radiohead/Jay Z/Foo Fighters/ or similar with Wolfgang Puck doing the cooking… want to come?

$$$$ Instead of renting a hall/room you can have the party catered at your house/office.

$$$ Instead of hiring a caterer you could make the food yourself. Of course, you must know how to cook.

$$ Instead of making food you could have your guests bring the food.

$ You could meet in the park/beach/coffee shop and just hang out.

As the cost goes down, the investment in the relationship goes up with those that attend.  I’m quite confident I could fill a hall with people if I had the best band, chef, location, etc.  The number of people who would meet me in a park to hang out is much lower but the people who would come mean much more to me.

That is the trick with Social Media.  It isn’t free but the low cost of the tools make it feel free from a distance.

If you go to where the people are (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, the “blogosphere,” etc) you must invest time, money, and energy to stimulate a conversation.  Marketers can and do create fan pages, groups, and even applications for very little money.  But creating them and getting people to use them are two very different things. The people who become a fan of you your brand within Facebook or subscribe to your brand blog’s RSS feed are the people your brand has already converted.   To grow beyond that base you must invest money, time, and energy.  If you are the social media equivalent of a fantastic chef the out of pocket costs are still relatively low.  For most brands, they will need to invest in a private room at a restaurant or a caterer.

Does that make Conversational Marketing less attractive? No!

The benefit of Social Media isn’t the initial cost it is the return.  If you invest time, money, and energy into a conversation with your potential customers you build equity with prospects at a scale that becomes extremely meaningful.  As you build these relationships, you gain the ability to get more out of that relationship.  They will share their feelings with new prospects, they will defend your brand in place you can’t, and they will amplify your message.

Marketers, I share your frustration of many with the expectation that social marketing equates to (virtually) free marketing and the unrealistic expectations that come along with this.  This commonly held perception does open the door to a very compelling discussion around efficiency and value and that is one we all must engage in.  Let’s have that discussion.

Agency Mashups the Path to Growth for Marketing Agencies

collisionMarketing agencies are facing a lean year ahead and it is accelerating the Mashup of the marketing world.

So here’s the agency pitch for 2009:

Creative agencies – This isn’t just about the copy and visuals.  It is about where and how they get to potential customers.  Mr. client, you don’t need media buying services, we’ll do that.  The placement is too important to the success of the program to be separate from the creative. Our creative is so good, it will generate buzz, give us your PR budget too!

Media Buying – Finding the right audience and the way to reach your target is more important than ever.  Media placement is so important that we need to do the creative too.  Oh, and when we do a good job, this will go viral.  We’ll take that PR budget too! Creative falls flat unless it is in the right place.  We’ll give you a good program based on the environment.

PR – Ads limit your ability to reach your customer.  PR is no longer just pitching journalists and dealing with formal requestions and emergencies, it is about creating buzz.  Your media and creative budgets would be so much better spent with us.  The PR is too important to the success of the program to be left off to the side!

They are all right.  With budgets shrinking the fight will grow.

The Underlying Issue with most Online Display Advertising

If you were accosted by annoying salespeople upon entering a store (say an electronics store or a car dealer) would you go back?

If a restaurant served whatever they wanted to serve instead of letting you order would you return?

The online advertising industry often acts like the store and restaurant I describe above.  And it is a real problem.

The problem is one that speaks to the heart of the differences between online and offline advertising.  Offline advertising is about making the most of a limited space or a fixed period of time.  Online advertising may rely on ad units that are relatively small, but the ad provides frictionless access to almost endless information.  The online ad industry has not taken advantage of this.

In fact the effectiveness of online advertising is directly impacted by the typically terrible user experience that occurs when someone clicks on an ad.  The subsequent experience – typically called a “landing page” by those in the industry – tends to be one of three things:

  1. An overly produced experience long on polish and short on information.   People click for a reason and it is rarely to see another ad.  These landing pages often fail to satisfy.  Typical customer reaction – “Now what do I do?”
  2. An experience that has only minimal relationship to the ad creative that prompted the click.  (Think an ad that dumps you on a corporate home page.)  Typical customer reaction – “I’m close, but do you expect me to dig for more information?”
  3. A poorly conceived user experience.  Unclear navigation, insufficient explanation of content, bad url structure, dead end pages, etc.  We’ve all been there.  Typical customer reaction – “You’re wasting my time.  I’m sure what I need is here but I can’t figure out where.”

I believe these bad user experiences do two things that generally diminish the effectiveness of online advertising.  First, they cause people viewing ALL online ads to believe that clicking on an ad will result in one of the experiences described above.  It is like going to a car dealer, I don’t expect to be helped I expect to be hassled.  Sure, some dealers are helpful but I don’t expect it.  Second, bad user experiences prompts advertising creatives to focus on becoming more and more disruptive so as to deliver the information typically found on a landing page without having people click. Kind of like the telemarketer that won’t stop talking because if they do they know you will tell them to shut up.

There are instances where I can imagine putting up with annoying salespeople.  Say the store had great prices or had a selection unrivaled by other stores.  There are restaurants I would go to and blindly let the chef serve me a meal and many super high end restaurants do just that. But generally, I would imagine that most people would avoid the store and restaurant described above most of the time if they had a choice.  And they almost always do have a choice.

Is this why interaction rates with ads continue to decline?

What to do?

If you are a brand marketer, you may not like it but it is necessarily true – you are now also a publisher. Gone are the days where you could create compelling ads and then rely on other groups (your retail partners, your sales force, your event team, etc.) to then expand on your static ad message.

If you work on online advertising creative, hire or become a UI expert.  A rich experience isn’t often the prettiest but it is the most useful and effective.  Talk to publishers about what makes their audience tick and give the audience what they love. Think about how to get people to come back because they want to come back.  Earn their attention and they will give it to you.  You landing page is a website.  Your customers don’t care about microsites, landing pages, sitelets, etc.  Make a great web site.

If you are a publisher, you know how to do this.  You make properties (one would hope) that engage with a market segment and compel people to come back.  You can no longer expect your advertisers to support your site simply by playing within the space or time you’ve set aside for their message.  There is more ad space and time than advertisers need.  You will need to help them understand how to engage with your audience.  You are a solution provider rather than the provider of a solution.

If you are the target of advertising, and we all are, demand the providers you support with your dollars to respond to you.  Having a problem with a product?  Tell people about it or let the company know via Twitter or another service.

Of course I’m being harsh.  There are great online advertising user experiences produced all the time.  I’m painting with an intentionally broad brush because a majority of programs aren’t good and it is causing everyone to expect an extended ad experience rather than a rich, fulfilling, useful exchange.   While online advertising was borne out of the print/tv business it actually has much more in common with event marketing and/or telemarketing.  Create an experience that can inspire your customers to dig deeper and you will earn their attention.

Oberkirch: “Marketing is not a Tax You Pay for Being Unremarkable…”

Great post here from Brian Oberkirch. A snibit:

Marketing is the method by which your product or service becomes remarkable. The phrase is only true if you equate marketing with marketing communications, which is pretty shallow & ignores the vast majority of marketing that works.

(Thanks Deb!)