What is content strategy and why should I care?

You've heard about content strategy, but aren't exactly sure what it is. And you don't know exactly how it fits into the agency process. It's OK. We've got you covered.

The video below tells you everything you want to know about content strategy, but didn't know you needed to ask. It's only 3 minutes long. And it uses Post-It notes. Quick and easy.

Check it out below or on the OnlineMarketerBlog YouTube channel. I hope it's helpful - I'd love to hear your comments!

Don't forget to stay subscribed to videos via iTunes. Thanks!

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5 Things Napoleon Can Teach You About Strategy

BG and I love documentaries and she has been on a "royals" kick. This week is a tad different, with Netflix delivering a four-hour documentary on Napoleon.

Needless to say, our Friday night was exciting. War, intrigue, ambition, wine (OK, lots of wine).

You all know how much I prize classic strategy. I've quoted Sun Tzu. I sleep with a copy of Machiavelli's The Prince on my bedside table. (True story.)

Honestly, I didn't know much about Napoleon before this video. But I was particularly impressed with one of his first major battles as a General.

He'd been promoted to Commander of the Interior and given command of the French forces at the Italian front. No one expected much. The promotion was likely arranged by his new wife, he was largely untested, and this army had been in disrepair for over two years.

Things could not have looked more dire.

However, as you might expect, Napoleon turned this all around, starting with a rout of the Piedmontese who were aligned with the strong Austrian force just east of Nice. Napoleon entered this battle out-manned, out-gunned, and out-classed. There was no reason for him to win, but he did.

Here are some of the reasons for his victory. It's amazing to see how many can be applied to online marketing and the strategic efforts we make everyday.

  • He is cunning - Napoleon wanted to outnumber the enemy, even if he didn't have the bodies to actually do so. He separated the Piedmontese from the Austrians and went after the weaker of the two. Before the battle, he spread his forces out. Not knowing where exactly he is, the Piedmontese do the same. And at the last minute, Napoleon brings his forces back together and makes a crucial push - at that instant with more men on his side than the enemy's. How are you planning for success? How are you preparing for the next brand crisis or industry shake-up?
  • He is fast - Napoleon's army moves at 30 miles per day. The Piedmontese at 6 miles per day. With greater speed, Napoleon also understands the power of shock. He attacks when it is unexpected. How are you insulating your brand from the unexpected? How are you moving faster than the competition?
  • He is relentless - From the documentary: "He attacks everyday. He attacks when it snows, he attacks at night, he attacks when it's cold. It's not the way the game is played." Later, Historian Jacques Garnier says "He looks for the enemy, fights it, and when they assume he's going to stop - he continues! And the next day he fights again. It surprises them." When was the last time you surprised your competition with your relentlessness?
  • He is ruthless - Napoleon doesn't seem like a man who lost sleep over winning. A historian reports that a Peidmontese officer would later complain, "They sent a young madman who attacks right, left, and from the rear. It's an intolerable way of making war." When was the last time you felt blood on your teeth? How do you press forward ruthlessly for your clients?
  • He gets results - After defeating the Piedmontese, Napoleon insisted on silver and gold, with which he paid his army - the first money they'd seen in months, if not years. Results garner loyalty. He made no apologies for success and he expected his soldier to take risks, but he also rewarded those risks as well. Are you encouraging your staff? Do you recognize their sacrifices? Aligning them to your objectives can pay off royally for everyone.

Perhaps even more persuasive - and more ubiquitous - is Napoleon's near-insane ambition. But how refreshing too! I'd much rather hear about someone too ambitious than someone afraid to even try. On which side do you fall?

He was crass, intelligent, homicidally ambitious, but a professor of the highest order. There is a great deal marketers and strategists can learn from Napoleon.

When was the last time you were crushing, fast, relentless, ruthless, and delivered results? How about any one of these five?

One can easily poo-poo Napoleon. But wiser wo/men will learn the lessons that delivered him victory. How are you applying these lessons?

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Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? - For More Than Just Designers

Neuro Web Design cover Dr. Susan Weinschenk was the subject of one of my first blog posts back in November of '07, but I'm so pleased to again mention her and her book, Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?

Dr. Weinschenk is definitely ahead of the curve. In this era where every click can be counted, expect to see clinical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologist and other highly skilled professionals applying their craft to business, especially online. This trend arrives just as online marketer's palates are craving more numbers to show the ROI of their strategies.

A Formula That Works

Dr. Weinschenk usually begins each chapter with an easy-to-read explanation of a seminal study, then delves into the ramifications of the findings, and finally relates these findings to online business. It's a familiar formula as you progress through the book, but it definitely works.

It's easy to make the connection between the study and the marketing goal; it never feels forced or phony. There were, in fact, a few instances where I wanted way more depth.

This flow - from science to application - is smooth and natural. There were a few instances where more science would have been welcome rather than colloquial stories, but these instances were few and didn't take away from the major, and very pertinent, lessons.

Good For Everyone

Don't let the title of the book fool you: Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? is for more than just designers. Anyone who works in an agency - especially copywriters, content analysts, information architects and of course designers too - will get a lot out of this book.

In fact, I would agree there is at least as much here for copywriters and content analysts as there is for designers. Studies in human behavior can be applied to a number of disciplines, but copy's natural adherence to business objectives and messaging (usually a little more than artists) lends itself to this sort of rigorous study.

Science Or Theory?

One small note: I find that marketing books generally fall into two categories - think-y books without many citations like anything by Godin or Toy Box Leadership and then those with copious notes like Made To Stick.

Weinschenk's falls in a strange middle area. I understand this is likely an attempt to appeal to a broad audience, though I would have liked to see it fall onto the meatier side of the equation. She's so strong on the science, I hope her next book delves deeper into the studies, even if it's less accessible. I think many readers would find it worth the effort and it would be truly unique for the professionals who live and breathe online marketing.

Final Word

Get this book. It's accessible, compelling, and unlike anything else you're likely to read.

It doesn't matter your experience level or job title. Anyone who works in marketing, especially at an agency, needs to read this book.

Her Other Work

Read more about Dr. Weinschenk's work on her blog at http://www.whatmakesthemclick.net. She also has two podcasts (one audio, one video) on iTunes that summarize key stories in her book. Dr. Weinschenk - those are great, please make more!

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How Marketers Can Ruin Video Sites Like Hulu For The Rest Of Us

Smug1

A Brief Intro...

I started this three-part series with a discussion of "the new creativity" and asked if the freemium business model would be better for video content sites like Hulu. Then, I outlined 7 ways Hulu could benefit from a freemium model.

And finally, after all of this persuasive writing, I'd like to examine how a few boneheaded marketers will probably f*ck up the whole "free video content" thing for everyone.

Intrigued? I thought so. Let's get into it.

They'll Never Pay For It. Until They Do.

In my last post, I outlined a plan where Hulu could profit by packaging some already- (or mostly-) existing assets into an awesome premium package some viewers would gladly pay for.

Hulu would be happy because they'd be making money. Their free audience would be happy because they'd still get great shows for zilch. And their premium audience would be happy because they'd get a bunch of perks and cool stuff for a nominal fee.

You'd think everyone would be happy, right?

Peter Verna, senior analyst with eMarketer is pessimistic that these perks could be bundled together into a premium package. He was quoted in a November OMMA article, "Trim Marks":

"It's fair to say that consumers are generally not willing to pay directly for online video...

I also think that if Hulu and YouTube are going to start charging for some of their content, they should limit it to feature films. Virtually everything else they offer seems to work better in an ad-supported context, with the caveat that user-generated clips are challenging to monetize through any model."

True, most of the examples in "Trim Marks" were from digital studios creating original content. But comments like Verna's certainly apply to sites like Hulu and the lessons ought to be applied to any website specializing in video content. The history of online video over the past 10 years or so would support his notion that people generally won't pay for online content.

My point is that premium customers aren't paying for online video. They're paying for more flexibility. They're paying for the ability to suggest shows or brag to their friends. They are paying for a better user experience.

A Lonely Voice Crying Out From The Wilderness

Of course, not all agencies are going to challenge their clients to try new business models. Many are happy to pretend the world isn't changing.

In that same OMMA article, John McCarus, VP and director of brand content at Third Act, said "We have made an investment in this and we are doing everything we can to connect the stars in the content-creation community with clients that understand the space and have an appetite."

OK, that's McCarus' idea, but will this sit well with content creators? Isn't this the definition of selling out? If online trust is built through honesty, sincerity, and reputation, I don’t see how this will work long-term. Sure, one-offs will flock to it, but creators looking to connect will likely shy away from this business model.

But the suits go ever further! Studios need to "make room for advertisers to play an active role in the shape of a show," says Alan Schulman, executive creative director for The Digital Innovations Group.

Are you friggin' kidding me? So instead of advertising against content, they will dictate the content as well?

Schulman pushes it even further: studios "should expand their base of business from pure narrative storytelling to weaving other types of narratives like brand-centric edutainment into their offerings."

Edutainment? Yeah, nothing says viral video success like "edutainment." This is a guy with his finger on the pulse on the YouTube generation alright </sarcasm>.

Let me be clear: These are really, really bad ideas. It's wedging the old model (selling ads next to content) into a new form (online) while diluting the content that attracted your viewers in the first place (edutainment).

This is a recipe for failure.

Smart Video Advertising

If you're going to sell ads, you need to be smart about it. Here are a few hints about video ads you should know if you plan to be in this business 2 years from now:

  1. Ads need to be contextual. Since there is no AdWords for video, this means a lot of work either tagging or actually selecting the ads that run against your content.
  2. Users will not pay for content. As I mentioned in my last post, they will pay for a package of perks. They will also (for now) tolerate a pre-roll ad. But dictating the content? Good luck!
  3. Any product placement should be handled subtly. Yes, it was Nestea that was spilled on and gave magical powers to the keyboard in CTRL. But no one needed to shove it in our faces or “educate” us about how great a sponsor was. Just make it work.

In short, if you want to create business advocates – and you should – you must think of their needs first.

And that has been the point of this blog series. It began with a discussion of which business model is best for online video consumers. Then there were suggestions for Hulu to improve their user experience. And finally a warning against putting your desires before the customer.

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Why The New Creativity Changes Everything And Will Punch You In The Face

Sad Businessman

If you’re a marketer in love with the status quo, you should quit right now.

This isn’t a post about the fast pace of change or an “X is dead” post; rather, it’s an “I friggin’ love our business and evolution of marketing” post. Yeah, I said friggin’.

Fundamental business models are changing – you can see it everyday. We hear news all the time about another sacred cow being slaughtered (newspapers – Moo!).

But not everyone is losing money. Why?

Innovative businesses are using what Joseph Jaffe dubbed “the new creativity” to reach and connect with a new generation of consumers. It’s simple to understand, an art to produce, a feat when accomplished, and willfully ignored by most businesspeople.

This Blog Post Brought To You By…

In the old days, businesses bankrolled the creative process (“Welcome to Guiding Light, brought to you by Dove Soap”). Businesses placed their ads against creative work to cover the cost. Those 2 minute bathroom commercial breaks are the reason you could watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” for free (lucky you).

Other models came about, notably the subscription model, which offered the convenience of delivery by trading money up front and in advance.

The early days of the internet brought us contextual ads. Glory upon glory, we could now (sorta) sync up ads with the actual content. Sure, it’s awkward when McDonald’s ads show up against stories about childhood obesity, but whatevs.

Web 2.0 botched it all up though. People ignored or rebelled against ads in their social spaces. Impressions plummeted in value. The general public (hell, you and me) got used to free content online and no RIAA or anyone else would tell them different.

What Is The New Creativity?

Last week, I serendipitously caught up with back episodes of The Beancast and saw a new study released by eMarketer.

In episode #76 of The Beancast, Joseph Jaffe described “The New Creativity:”

“I don’t know how much originality is in the idea itself, but it’s in the execution where you see the real beauty of it. And ultimately that control and that power – and to what degree it becomes a meme and to what degree it lives on and gets a life of its own and gets embraced by the consumer – is ultimately in the hands of the consumer.

And maybe that can become the new definition of creativity.” (minutes 37-38)

The old creativity required advertisers and marketers to create something interesting enough (or loud enough) that would effectively interrupt the user’s day so that they’d pay attention to it. It’s a one-way street. And kinda inherently douche-y.

But the new creativity is a little different. Advertisers and marketers are encouraged to tell a compelling enough story to entice the user to tell their friends about your product. Plus, the marketer often gets the benefit of instant feedback from the user about their pitch/story/content.

It looks roughly like this terrible sketch:

Biz models 1

As you can plainly see, the old way involved a lot of yelling marketers and irritated consumers. (See those lines coming off the consumer? In the biz, we call those "irritation lines." They're usually accompanied by a "Grrrr!" sound.) With the new creativity, communication goes both ways between a marketer and consumer, and between a consumer and their friends. (Many thanks to Jonny, our 5-year-old neighbor for contributing this work of art.)

The Results

We see this everywhere.

We can see evidence of this in the obsession with (and success of) social media marketing, the decline of direct marketing, the spread of viral – it’s everything we used to do, but now the more profitable interaction is between friends (rather than between marketer and user).

The tools – and it’s important to remember that these shiny objects like Twitter, Flickr, delicious, etc – are just that: tools. Now, they can amplify each person’s voice. Blogs allow a personal publishing platform never conceived of in all human history. Influencers arise, the same way they do in your social circles. The only difference is that the bullhorn these influencers use is a hell of lot bigger.

And when the important (read: profitable) interaction is between friends, the old business models don’t work as well. Would you mindlessly slap an ad on the Starbucks table while sharing a cup of joe with a friend? Would you insist that friends “subscribe” to your future conversations?

Of course not. It’s weird. It’s anti-social. And it’s not working. (Cue marketer panic from recent years.)

That's why marketers in love with the status quo should quit right now. If you're not ready for it, the new creativity will punch you in the face.

Um, So Like…What Do We Do?

So while some Luddites continue to completely block content with a firewall and a few lucky ones have made a subscription model profitable (I’m looking at you, WSJ), most are waking up to the new world.

It’s time we look at another business model. Tout de suite.

But I’m going to make you wait for it (it’s OK, it’ll build tension and that’s fun). Later this week, I will suggest a business model that is showing great potential to marketers…especially those embracing new social networking tools (that's the eMarketer study I mentioned). Plus, I will apply this to a business desperately in need of a new path. Hopefully that application - the execution of an idea that gives power to the consumer - will be enlightening.

Please come back for that post (subscribing is uber-easy). And please leave comments below about the new creativity. Is it bitchin’ or bogus?

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Here's To The Rabble-Rousers

Rabble-rouser1

I failed last week.

I got into a big argument over a project I'm doing on the side. That's not the big failure though.

The big failure is that it took this long to have the fight. I'd acquiesced and tried to find parity and compromise. I had grown too tired too quickly of defending my ideas which, after so much work, have proven prescient.

My strategy was sound, but I hesitated.

It doesn't matter that the ideas were correct. Because I didn't fight for those ideas, they're long gone.

So, here's how I hope to ensure this never happens again. I'm making a public pledge today - to you and to other marketers who may fall into the same trap.

I pledge to offend the status quo for the good of my clients.

I promise to be a change agent, even though I may be blamed for the painful symptoms during that change.

I will ruffle feathers. I will not shut up.

If it's good for my client, I will spit on the path of least resistance.

I will be a rabble-rouser.

The client may not accept my ideas, but those ideas are what they're paying for. To give anything less would be tantamount to stealing their money.

Have you ever felt like this? What did you do to get yourself back on the right path?

Could you make this same pledge? Is there anything you would add? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below.

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7 Reasons To Stick With Agency Smarts Rather Than The Wisdom Of Crowds

Baby in bath

I was catching up with my Beancast podcasts yesterday morning at the gym and found episode 71 to be a real gem.

In this podcast, there is a fascinating story about Unilever's brand Peperami forsaking their agency in favor of a crowd-sourcing/consumer-generated content method (found around minute 53 of the podcast).

As this blog is a celebration of new media and consumer control of brands, you might think I'd laud this as a great move. Surprisingly, you'd be dead wrong.

Before I launch into why I think this is a bad decision, let's get a couple of assumptions down:

  • Yes, I work at an agency. But please presume that I am able to take an unbiased view of this story as (I like to think) I do of anything else I write about here.
  • I don't know anything about Peperami's agency, Lowe. They could have been doing a dismal job, but that's immaterial. The issue of this post is whether the wisdom of crowds (hat tip to James Surowiecki) is better than an online marketing agency.

On the Beancast, the guests discuss how Lowe, the agency in question, created the "Animal" campaign for Peperami which was terribly successful. But, once the campaign was up and running, Peperami felt that the agency was no longer necessary.

Crowdsourcing is really cheap while agencies can be expensive. Crowdsourcing is in; traditional advertising/marketing agencies are hurting.

So why in the world is it smarter to stick with an agency rather than outsourcing your marketing needs to the community?

Just like stage-diving, it's sometimes stupid to trust the crowd. Here are 7 reasons to stick with your agency rather than crowdsourcing your marketing.

  1. Repeatability - Your agency gave you the big idea - You've Got Milk, you'll Just Do It, you're Living Strong. What happens when you wake up the morning after that idea has gone stale? Where does the next big idea come from? Who knows the history of your brand? A 15-year-old with Photoshop? Good luck.
  2. Scalability - As in the Peperami example, let's assume a campaign is already established. What happens when it explodes on a global, rather than just national, stage? Are your servers prepared? Can you translate it? How many banner ads can you create per hour? How many consumers can you help? If your agency's ideas are as good as they should be, consider who manages these tasks when they're gone.
  3. Staffing - Speaking of help, who is doing the day to day work after you fire your agency? It isn't the crowd, believe me. Can you hire developers, designers, copywriters, and anyone else you need, all at a moment's notice? Agencies have experts like these ready whenever you need them. You...don't. (Not to mention needing someone managing the brilliant crowdsourcing experiment too.)

    Consider the Ajira Airways site. This airline doesn't exist - it was created solely as an immersive experience for rabid LOST fans, courtesy of ABC (only noticeable in the footer). That unique experience is simply impossible for a guy in his basement to create while aligning this creativity with business objectives.

  4. The Ruse of Savings - Bill Green, Publisher of Make The Logo Bigger, added this insightful comment on the podcast:

    "It's not that they [clients who drop agencies in favor of crowdsourcing] want better ideas. They want cheaper [ideas].

    Creative has always been the lowest priced - when you're doing TV, they're going to make their money on the TV end of it and the production end of it. You can't tell me that they aren't still going to have to go out and get a production house and buy the media. None of those elements are going to discount their price.

    They're not saving anything by doing [crowdsourcing]. I find it ridiculous to say that 'We'll go out and find a couple of kids just out of art school to come up with our ad campaign.'" (minute 104)

  5. Accountability - If you work for a public company, you probably need to clear this decision with someone. At the highest levels, that's the stockholders. Are you prepared to tell them that your marketing budget (though reduced) is now being funneled to a retiree who won your crowdsourcing campaign? Plus, if it goes sour, you just replaced your agency's head on the chopping block with yours. Have fun with that.
  6. Safety - The agency I worked for previously dealt only in online marketing for rare or orphan diseases. The writers and designers on staff had the experience to keep the clients from any trouble with the FDA or other regulatory bodies. The client often didn't realize this. Like a lot of other good pharma-familiar agencies, it was just a value-add. There are companies in many industries that need this kind of guidance from their agencies.
  7. Decency - OK, this is just my opinion, but I certainly would not work for a client who made such an illogical, but hugely impactful, decision. To make a move to a new, better agency I can understand, but thinking you can handle it all requires such hubris that I'd be hesitant to deal with that company. Ever. If other marketing folks are like me, you'd better pray that this crowdsourcing experiment works out.

Maybe Peperami believed the social media pendulum had swung far further than it has. By that, I mean the strength of the consumer in regards to ownership of the brand.

Wise up. From Mitch Joel:

"The idea that the consumer is now not in control is anathema to what most people think. The general drum-beating is that the consumer is in control, not the company. But it's not true." (page 94)

Someone still needs to guide the strategy. Someone needs to come up with the big ideas, the tag lines that seem so easy your mother-in-law could create them (but somehow, she never does). Someone needs to stay up to date with emerging trends, new technology, and the ever-evolving world of media.

Is that you?

If you're in charge of a big brand, or can't do it all no matter your size, perhaps you'd better take another look at your agency. Maybe it's not the right one for you. Great, change up - it happens all the time.

But throwing the agency baby out with the marketing bathwater - that's just crazy talk.

What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

P.S.: Brian Sheehan has some good comments about collaboration regarding this story.

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Mitch Joel's Six Pixels Of Separation: The First Post-Web 2.0 Marketing Book And Why You Should Buy It

MitchJoel

I attest that Mitch Joel's new book, Six Pixels of Separation, is the first (and best) post-web 2.0 marketing book.

Strong statement? Damn right.

Here's why I believe it and why you can't miss his book.

In A Nutshell...

For my money, Joel's is the first new media marketing book that assumes knowledge of the basic moving parts and launches right into how to use them for business. This book really is about how to market in a new age.

Most web 2.0 marketing books explain the basics (what is a blog/delicious/Twitter, etc), give examples (i.e. Zappos, ComcastCares, Amazon, etc.), and suggest you connect the theory and those examples in your own business.

And that's OK. There is plenty of room for books like that. (I recommend Scott Fox's e-Riches 2.0 or Chris Brogan and Julien Smith's Trust Agents).

These books help a lot of people and that's great. But there hasn't been a serious web 2.0 marketing book that went far beyond it.

Until now.

Why Is This Book So Great?

So why should you spend your hard-earned money on this book? Here are a few reasons.

First, Joel gives you the tough medicine you need to hear. It's not always easy or expected, but you're in the advanced class now, buddy.

I love the against-the-grain statements you get with Joel that throw the new conventional wisdom on its head. Gems include:

  • "The general drum-beating is that the consumer is in control, not the company. But it's not true." (page 94)
  • "The assumption here is that whatever it takes to get your message through all of the clutter is fine, as long as you disclose and are transparent about your intent. But that simply is not the case." (page 172)
  • "Until now, you may be thinking that everything we've talked about is about getting you and your business online. It's not. Getting online is easy." (page 187)
  • "[B]eing wrong suddenly becomes a powerful entrepreneurial force." (page 209)
  • "Let people steal your ideas." (page 213)

If those quotes don't pique your interest, you can stop reading now. Close this window and come back when I've got something better for you.

But I think it's more likely that thinking like this is interesting to most of you. It's not the normal stuff about community and the blogosphere and kumbaya crap. It's tough minded and it's about your business.

Another thing that is great about Six Pixels of Separation is that it lives up to the values espoused within it. Trust is a seminal aspect of web 2.0 and the future of business. But trust is rarely spoken about overtly (see pages 34, 123, and 125 for explicit mentions of trust).

Trust is less a topic point or chapter subject, but rather more of a moral to the story. And the book itself builds trust by building a case, point by point.

The Trouble With Link Bait

Is this a perfect book? Of course not.

I was particularly confused by his section on link bait (page 170-2). It was confusing and clunky. The section lacked a clear definition and I couldn't even tell exactly what he thought about link bait, much less his definition of it.

Having been on the receiving end of this topic before, I expected a refinement that was missing here.

But honestly, missteps like this are small potatoes in a book that is otherwise fantastic.

One Final Note As A Writer

I read a lot of marketing books. No really, like A LOT. (This is a small sample from just the last couple years.)

And no matter how good the author, new releases always contain at least a few typos. It's to be expected.

But this book has none! ZERO. This might not be a big deal to you, but to the writers out there, you know how cool that is.

The Final Word

If you know the basics, but want to be challenged, I wholeheartedly recommend Six Pixels of Separation. If not, this isn't the book for you.

If you agree or disagree, I'd love to hear your comments below.

P.S.: This book is available for the Kindle as well and you'll save a couple bucks. (Plus, Kindles are only $299. Just sayin'...)

P.P.S.: If you enjoyed this review, you might also like my recent reviews of other marketing books.

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Is Marketing Starting To Tone Down?

Brawndo

I saw this 5 hour energy commercial a couple weeks ago and can't stop thinking about it. It illustrates a trend I've noticed, but I am curious if you have too.

The commercial spoofs the type of young, skateboarding, scruffy-haired, Jeff Spicoli meets Sean White meets Andrew WK soda drinkers. 5 hour energy makes a convincing case by being the staid older brother - more able to make a smart decision about his choice of beverage.

It made me think - is marketing finding a better ROI by toning down the rhetoric? Are they gaining by using logic instead of screaming?

I don't know if you've watched Ideocracy lately, but Brawndo seems even more ridiculous than it did a few years ago. It was always a parody, but now it feel like a parody beyond its time.

Maybe it's the recession. Maybe it's a move from TV to online. Maybe people just got sick of commercial pitchmen who sounded like drag racing promoters (Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!).

Do you agree that marketing is starting to tone it down?

Try Angie's List Today!

Let's take a less adrenalin-prone product than energy drinks. Perhaps the most mundane is toothpaste.

I noticed a change in toothpaste packaging as well. A few years ago, it was all about which one could make your teeth the whitest. It was about the surficial beauty, the EXTREME clean.

Have you seen the way toothpaste is marketed today? The design colors are much cooler. They've swapped "extreme" for "total." There is an emphasis on health, rather than beauty. Check it out:

Toothpaste

Am I just creating patterns where none exist or are we seeing a shift in priorities? Is volume of message being replaced by quality of message? I have no scientific studies to back this up; it's just something I've been noticing and wondering if you have as well.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Feel free to use the comment area below to share your thoughts with the community.

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Your Secret Marketing Tool: The Daily Public Transit Commute

Commuters

BG and I took the train together yesterday morning and I had an epiphany.

The morning commute is the perfect marketing tool. And no one uses it (pretty much).

Yesterday was the first day I wasn't cocooned in my iPod and book. I was chatting with BG and had my eyes and ears totally open to the world around me.

I'm ashamed to say, it was probably a first.

A New World

I listened to the way people talked about current events, I spied what they listened to on their iPod, and I peeked over shoulders to see what people were reading (yeah, I'm that guy).

It was great! I picked up more details about human interaction than I would have after a week researching online.

How is this a marketing tool? Marketing is all about relationships, and becoming more so all of the time. As I mentioned in a post about how marketers are now anthropologists: "Now, relationships are a prerequisite to business, not vice versa."

On the train, I was able to observe how people related to media, other people, and the world around them. You can figure out someone's priorities pretty quickly in a packed train car.

For 30 minutes, I studied sociology, anthropology, and marketing all at the same time. And it was awesome.

Try Something New

What's the alternative? Enveloping yourself in the retreat of a car interior?

If you live in a city with public transportation, let someone else do the driving tomorrow morning. It'll give you time to study that elusive "public" marketers are always talking about. To paraphrase David Ogilvy, the customer isn't an idiot, she's your train companions.

If you've got the guts, we'd love to hear about your experience. Or, if you have another secret marketing tool - a place you go to check out human behavior - please also share it in the comments section below.

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Do You Lead With Your Eyebrows Or Your Mouth?

eyebrows

It's a summer Friday afternoon - let's talk marketing! Wahoo!

"Yeah right," right? That's why I'll keep this short.

I want you to make a commitment - just something to consider - no sweat or hard work due right now.

Starting Monday morning, I want you to think about the way you lead. If you're a boss, think about the way you foster your young employee's careers, about the way you inspire, about the very nature of how you lead. Same goes for mid-level employees with your intern oversight. Hell, even if you are the office intern, it's a lesson for you as well. After all, who is going to be the boss in 20 years?

Here's the gist: While I was on my honeymoon (just got back last night), I read some non-marketing books. Among them was Boss of Bosses, a story about the FBI's mob take-down during the '80s (it's the closest I got to beach reading...I did get through almost 2 marketing books as well).

This passage about leadership really struck me:

"[Paul] Castellano knew that the most powerful man was the man who needed to say the least. Neil's carrying on, his slapping of backs - it had a certain gruff charm, but it did not speak of power. True power resided in the lift of the eyebrow, the barely discernible nod of the head. If ["Neil"] Dellacroce wanted to play the emcee, fine - that only showed the relative weakness of his position." (pg. 107)

So, what about you? Do you berate your employees with screams and threats? Do they know exactly how to make that vein in your forehead dance the jig?

I've always respected my bosses who resisted tantrums. They were the ones that really seemed in control - unflappable, collected, above the fray.

If you have employees under you - or you will someday - you can learn a little something about leadership from the former  boss.

If you agree with this, I'd like you to (re)dedicate yourself to this style of leadership on Monday morning. Take the weekend to think about it. Consider what emotional responses might be chipping away your credibility with your employees. Then take a lesson from Paul and let us know how it goes!

Think about it over the weekend: do you lead with a careful lift of the eyebrow or do you scream your head off to demonstrate your leadership? Which is more effective? And how are you taking steps to make your style the most efficient?

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Small Business Owners: Your Customer Service IS Your Marketing!

yakov

Remember Yakov Smirnoff?

He was big in the '80s and used to tell jokes like this:

In America, you can always find a party. In Russia, The Party can always find you!

See the switch-eroo there? Clever, right?

I was thinking about that after I read the Network Solutions report I referenced in my last post about whether social media marketing was viable for small businesses. My riff off Smirnoff went something like this:

Before the internet, marketing hid poor customer service. In a web 2.0 world, customer service IS your marketing!

Not quite as catchy as ol' Yakov, but still possessing that kernel of truth, don't you think?

Where Are We And How Did We Get Here?

The Network Solutions data (PDF) showed that small business owners were largely successful with customer service, but that overall marketing and innovation was ranked the second lowest of six success attributes.

So, in my last post, I took the four lowest qualities in the marketing and innovation category (from Network Solutions data) and compared that with a large study of what social media marketing does well (Michael Stelzner data).

This comparison proved that social media marketing just might help your small business. (If you're shaking your head and muttering "No Duh" as you read this, hang with me.)

So What's The Next Step?

Logic then dictates that we examine just how social media marketing could help your small business.

If you've read Now, Discover Your Strengths you know that your best option is not to obsess about improving in areas you have little skill. Instead, you want to leverage what you're good at. And remember what Network Solutions' data said small business owners succeed in?: Customer Service.

What the hell do customer service and marketing have in common? These days, almost everything.

Here's the secret: Your customer service IS your marketing. If you take nothing else from this post, remember that!

Let me show you. I'll take those four worst attributes of small businesses' marketing and innovation and create scenarios where your customer service becomes your marketing.

A Closer Look

Problem: Finding efficient ways to advertise and promote your business.

Solution: Remember how Craigslist basically crushed the classified ad business? Likewise, don't think of advertising as a huge line item in your budget. Let your good work be your advertisement.

Ask your best customers to put in a good word for you on Yelp.com or Angie's List. Better yet, offer a small discount on a customer's bill - no strings attached - and just mention that you're listed on those sites. Some may not post about their experience, but evidence in Yes! says that a lot of them will. (It's a good book, by the way - read my review here.)

"Approaching the potentially cooperative relationship in this way [unconditional and no-strings-attached] should not only increase the likelihood that you'll secure their cooperation in the first place, but also ensure that the cooperation you do receive is build on a solid foundation of trust and mutual appreciation, rather than on a much weaker incentive system" (page 59).

Problem: Converting marketing leads into buyers.

Solution: Ug, "leads." Could there be a more self-serving term? They aren't individuals or customers or even users, but leads?

What if you could make them come to you? What if you spent less time cold-calling "leads" and more time being the go-to expert?

Become a resource on Twitter or answer questions on LinkedIn. Join an industry group on your favorite site or get active in a forum discussion.

Here's the thing: rather than trying to convince people to hire you, instead convince them about how good you really are. Isn't that the point? You didn't start your small business to become a salesperson (well, most of you). But if you become a resource for a community, you will be the first person community members call when they need help.

Problem: Positioning your organization as having the same capabilities as big organizations in your industry.

Solution: Again, maybe I'm missing something. Why are you trying to make your small business seem big? Why not focus on the benefits of a small business?

Have you been watching The Office in recent weeks? The main character left his corporate behemoth and started the eponymous Michael Scott Paper Company.

He didn't try to convince people he could do everything Dunder Mifflin did. Instead, he focused on what his small team could do: provide real value, excellent customer service, and those 5am paper deliveries in the Korean church bus.

What's the equivalent for your business? Be agile, hungry...and successful.

Problem: Identifying new prospective customers.

Solution: In a sense, you could use elements of the other three problems to attract more customers. You can also create a destination for prospective customers who would be interested in your product.

For instance, let's say you're an expert on high-end coffee beans. Start a blog and go relentlessly after keywords like Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain. Write posts about the product and show your expertise (just don't be a jerk about it). Prospective customers will search for those keywords and find your amazing posts - Bingo!

Readers who comment on these posts should be of special interest. Sure, they're even more likely to be prospective customers, but they could also be brand evangelists or someone who could teach you a vital aspect of the business.

Convinced yet?

Just yesterday, The Chicago Tribune published a story about small businesses who found success with social media marketing. Here's what Andy Sernovitz, chief executive of GasPedal, a Chicago consulting firm specializing in word-of-mouth marketing and social media, had to say on the subject:

"Because of the viral nature of social media, companies that take the time to communicate are likely to see their goodwill spread. One simple technique for building relationships involves responding to positive mentions by saying 'thank you' and following up on negative mentions with an apology and a solution to the problem, Sernovitz said."

Excellent customer service - even if the product is momentarily sub-par - creates goodwill, positive conversation, and might even improve your business.

Are you more convinced about my Yakov Smirnoff riff now?

Before the internet, marketing hid poor customer service. In a web 2.0 world, customer service IS your marketing!

What a country world!

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Marketing During A Recession E-Book

After many weeks of work, I am proud to release a new e-book: Marketing During A Recession: Economic Slowdowns Are Opportunities (PDF)

We're all worried about how the recession will effect us and our business. But there are a lot of misconceptions and downright mistakes about how to use marketing during this recession. This e-book draws from expert advice and provides you a path forward in these difficult times.

Please download it or check it out on SlideShare. (It's free, of course.)

I got some great help from Joann Sondy, a designer in the online community - she's the reason this e-book looks so much better than my previous ones. She was great to work with and knew the best design strategy for this particular material.

Consider hiring Joann for your next project. You can check out her portfolio at CreativeAces.com (seriously, have your annual reports ever looked this good?) and read her blog at OutsideTheMargin.biz. Some more information about her work is below:

Joann Sondy has an extensive background creating and delivering corporate materials for financial and investor relations. With more than 15 years, Joann has produced distinctive communications that help IR/PR agencies build audience awareness and confidence. If your strategy calls for a presentation, e-book, white paper, fact sheet and/or annual report, contact Joann today. joann{at}creativeaces{dot}dom or DM her via Twitter: @jsondy.

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When ROI Measurement And Actual Effectiveness Are Mutually Exclusive

roi-vs-effectiveness

In The 2009 Social Media Marketing and PR Benchmark Guide, MarketingSherpa explains a conundrum marketers are facing in a web 2.0 world:

What do you do when the ability to measure your return on investment (ROI) is mutually exclusive to the effectiveness of a particular campaign?

In other words, how do you sell a tactic up the chain of command that you know will work but can't provide definite numbers? Or conversely, how do you dissuade a course of action that has proven ineffective, but which your executives embrace because they understand the number of impressions or "hits" or lives interrupted by the campaign?

It's a difficult predicament, to be sure. And it appears that's the situation most marketers are facing.

Known Badness vs. Unknown Goodness

Traditional PR and marketing has never had much measurability, but it is a known entity. What was the return on investment for your PR firm to make unsolicited calls on your behalf? How many sales resulted from your Times Square advertisement? Traditional marketing has always had terrible measurability.

But, it's what your boss knows. Now, we have new technologies that can show an amazing array of ROI statistics, but they're new. They're "untested." They might fail. (Because that never happens with old media!)

Yes, I Can Back That Up

Don't believe me? Take a look at the report.

The executive summary shows that most marketers think the ability to measure ROI (also reported the second most significant barrier to social media adoption) has "nothing to do with the effectiveness of the tactic" (page 6).

In fact, MarketingSherpa goes on to say that:

"Marketers obsessed with only tracking social media results quantitatively are missing the point and may find themselves employing much less effective social media tactics for the sake of measurability."

How about you? Would you rather fail than tell your boss she's wrong?

Budgets Going...Up?

So, are marketers telling their bosses about social media? Quite possibly, yes. But marketers might not be educating their bosses as much as they need to.

MarketingSherpa reports that "social media and email are the only to tactics on which more companies are planning to increase spending than are planning to decrease spending" (page 4). This matches Forrester's recent report entitled Social Media Playtime Is Over. They report even higher numbers, saying that over 50% of marketers will increase their spending on social media in the coming year.

If you're a social media marketer and think this sounds great, think again. Just because marketers expect the amount they spend on social media to increase, that does not mean it'll be a lot. In fact, B.L. Ochman says that Forrester reports three-fourths of marketers expect to spend less than $100K on social media marketing tools.

Read the conversation B.L. includes at the end of a recent post. I think she correctly portrays a set-up for failure, where marketers are expected to spin social media gold from corporate hay, stymied by every other department in their company.

So What Do I Do?

As a social media marketer, you have the proverbial wind at your back. You must seize this opportunity, but don't forget to lobby for the resources and permission you will need later.

Personally, I recommend buying MarketingSherpa's Social Media Marketing and PR Benchmark Guide. Their research is among the best, their arguments are persuasive, and, to be honest, it's expensive enough for your boss to trust it. Or buy Forrester's report. Or another one like it. But, do something.

We have fought for so long to be taken seriously. Remember being scoffed at five years ago when you claimed Facebook would be huge and a decent marketing tool? Remember when Twitter was just a fad? You get it. You see further down the road than most people. (Strategy is part of your job, after all.)

Well, part of your job is also being an educational resource for your boss and her bosses, too. Buy them a report. Send them information from sources they trust. Hell, reserve time on their schedule and read the damn stuff to them. But make them listen.

Otherwise, you will be one of the poor marketers tasked with doing "something viral." If you hear "we need a Facebook page" and don't hear mention a strategy or goals, you are about to get screwed.

But this is your chance! We finally have the green light to participate in social media marketing in a responsible way! But leverage the resources you need (don't forget staff time!) and the backing to make it all possible.

Then, come back and let us know how it went!

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(Note: I am a MarketingSherpa affiliate which means that I make a little beer money if you buy the report. But I'd tout their work even if I wasn't. It's great stuff, period.)

Super Bowl 2009 Ads - Social Media Engagement In The Second Half

tigers-win

As you've probably read, I am reporting on social media engagement during Super Bowl 43. Here are the results from the first half. Let's get right into the second half here:

  • Coke (Avatars): No engagement
  • Bridgestone (Jump around): URL (Bridgestone.com) - very small font
  • Denny's (Serious Breakfast): No engagement
  • Monster.com (Moose head): URL (Monster.com)
  • Budweiser (Jake): No engagement
  • Race To Witch Mountain (Movie trailer): URL (Disney.com/WitchMountain)
  • Transformers 2 (Movie trailer): URL
  • Careerbuilder (Hate your job): URL (Careerbuilder.com)
  • Coke (Nature): No engagement
  • Kellogg's (Frosted Flakes): URL, vote where they donate money at FrostedFlakes.com
  • NFL (Usama): URL, NFL.com/SuperAd
  • Heineken (This is a sword): No engagement

Fourth quarter:

So what do you think? Will customers continue to interact with these brands after the big game? Was $3M per commercial worth it?

My Take

I'm shocked at the percentage of advertisers who shelled out $3M for a 30-second spot, but didn't even list a URL. Advertisers paid that much to get into America's living rooms, but did not take the opportunity to enter it again.

Despite my high hopes, this year's Super Bowl was not the stellar social media outing it could have been. Out of the 54 commercials shown during the actual game (kick-off to end of game), 17 had no online engagement at all - not even a URL. Almost one-third - 31.48% - planned for no interaction with their customers after the game.

Rick Liebling at eyecube has a great idea about other ways to spend that money. I think brands would be better off if their marketing departments cared more about creating brand advocates like Rick mentions, rather than a quick one-off during the big game.

I'd love to hear what you think. Which advertisers do you think used their 30 seconds to create a conversation with their customers? Whose conversation will continue in the coming weeks and months?

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Super Bowl 2009 Ads - Social Media Engagement In The First Half

family-watching-television

$3M for a 30-second ad?

Sure it's crazy, but unlike in years past, advertisers have the opportunity to make that $3M work for them long after Super Bowl memories have faded.

First, there's the initial press. TNS Media reports that Super Bowl advertising has huge holding power. Data shows that people do wait to see the commercials all the way through the game. Then for a few days after, you get tons of online conversation swirling around your brand. (TNS was also able to rank the total media coverage last year - it will be interesting to see if these 10 brands lead the pack in terms of social media integration this year.)

But, for all its holding power, the Super Bowl is over within a few hours. How do advertisers get their money's worth? How do consumers create dialogue with select brands?

Getting The Most For $3M

Of course, the real way to really get the most for that $3M is to engage your customer. I mentioned previously some of the ways to engage your audience online and I've been tracking these attributes during the game. Here is what I have been watching for:

  • Pre-game engagement: Could customers submit their own ads in hopes of having it shown? Was there any aspect of user-generated content (UGC)? Did the brand allow customers to vote on which ad was shown?
  • During-game engagement: Was a URL displayed during the ad to drive traffic and attention to the brand? Where there opportunities for real-time interaction? Were customers encouraged to vote or otherwise voice their opinion?
  • Post-game engagement: Were there opportunities to engage the audience after the game? Could customers join a social network? Could they sign up for a newsletter featuring advance product information?

The Run-Down

Here's my list for the first half of Super Bowl 2009:

Second Quarter:

  • Land of The Lost (Movie Trailer): URL (LandOfTheLost.net)
  • Doritos (Power of crunch): UGC (Crash the Super Bowl)
  • GoDaddy (Danica): URL, commercial continued online (GoDaddy.com)
  • Pepsi Max ("I'm good"): URL (RefreshEverything.com)
  • Pedigree (Get a dog): No engagement
  • Budweiser (Horse brings branch): No engagement
  • Budweiser (Horse love) - 60 secs.: No engagement
  • Star Trek (Movie trailer): URL (StarTrekMovie.com)
  • Gatorade (Mission G): URL (MissionG.com)
  • Cars.com (Confidence): No engagement in commercial, but ad protagonist does have Facebook page
  • Hyundai Genesis (Yelling):
  • eTrade (Babies): URL (eTrade.com)
  • [Good call-out to NBC.com and Hulu]
  • Pixar (Up): URL, Verbal ask to go to Disney.com
  • Bud Light (Chalkoard): No engagement
  • H&R Block (Death): URL (HRBlock.com)
  • Teleflora (Talking flowers): URL (Teleflora.com)
  • Cheetos (Pigeons): URL with prominent written call-out (Cheetos.com)
  • Monsters Vs. Aliens (Movie trailer): URL (MonstersVsAliens.com)
  • Sobe (3-D dancing lizards): No URL, but bought Google ads against Monster vs. Aliens and sending traffic to branded Sobe YouTube channel (hat-tip @Scorecard)

Did I miss anything? Feel free to leave comments below if I left anything out or misreported on an ad. If you'd like to follow along in real time, you can find me at @MarketerBlog. I will post the second half's analysis directly after the game.

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What A Handful Of Pepper Has To Do With Your Social Media Strategy

ground-pepper

Let me tell you a story about what a handful of pepper has to do with your social media strategy:

BG has two nieces who I absolutely adore, aged 2 years and 8 months. I know everyone says this, but my future nieces are really just about the smartest and most cherubic children I've ever seen.

BG and I were over for dinner last week and BG's sister was preparing the meal. The 2-year old (TYO) was standing on a chair helping her Mommy in the kitchen. This is when things got interesting.

BG and I look over and TYO was standing on the chair agog but motionless. Is she choking? Is anything wrong? "TYO, what's wrong?"

It turns out that TYO had seen the ground pepper contain on the counter and gotten a particular thought in her head. I imagine it went something like, "Things I put in my mouth around BG and Mommy and Uncle DJ are usually tasty - how bad could a big handful of this black, flakey stuff be?"  So she palmed a large handful of ground pepper and sent it down the hatch!

What Does This Have To Do With My Social Media Strategy?

It's early 2009 and many of you are planning your social media strategy for the year. Maybe you've planned out a blog or started a Twitter account. You have subscriptions to Chris Brogan and Joseph Jaffe, and you think everything is gonna go great.

It occurred to me last week that you are, in a way, similar to TYP contemplating her clenched fist. You are about to embark on a new and exciting journey, venture into unknown territory. What's in your hand? Is it ground pepper or M&Ms?

Personally, I hope to grit your teeth and swallow whatever it is wholeheartedly. I've said it before: Social media is not for cowards. I hope you go for the gusto with your social media strategy.

But Wait, It Was Freakin' Pepper!

Sure, for TYO, it was a handful of pepper, but that's not important. Maybe you'll get M&Ms, who knows? But you're looking down at your closed fist of social media and thinking, "This is going down my gullet right now."

Hey, you know what? You might fail. Like, really fail. Like, face-plant at the skatepark, fail. Like suck down ground pepper like hot coals, holy hell, I cannot believe that just happened, I think I'm gonna die, damn that hurts pain.

And you won't be alone. A lot of people will fail at social media this year. Honestly, that's not terribly important.

What is important is that you learn from it. In fact, I think you'll learn more if it turns out to be pepper in your hand.

I've said before that failure is not fatal and it's true. If you would have looked into the eyes of TYO the moment after it happened, you'd know that more important lessons were being learned - lessons about avoiding future missteps, about learning from mistakes, about what it means to not only learn from a bad experience but to change your behavior in a positive way because of it.

Like Nike Says...

With this new year still fresh, I hope you're contemplating bold moves. And while I hope you succeed, I hope that you learn from any failure you may experience. The weak will give up. They will swallow the pepper and run the other direction. My hope for your 2009 social media plan is that, if you should find yourself chewing back a mouthful of blisteringly hot pepper, that you take it and learn from the experience.

Anyone can experience pain, but if you want to succeed, you will learn from it. Maybe your pepper is a scathing article. Maybe it's a demoralized boss. Maybe it'll be your own stupid actions (I've been there, believe me).

Take it from TYO: everyone takes down their share of ground pepper. It's what you do with it that's important. I hope you turn your pepper into M&Ms. I know it's possible - I see it everyday.

Epilogue:

After TYO swallowed the pepper, an emergency glass of water and many kisses were deployed. I'm thankful to say no one was harmed in the incident and I think everyone learned something from the experience. That said, it was a pleasure to see TYO indulge her curiousity. I wonder what a handful of ground pepper would taste like to me...

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A New Business Model For A New Era

businessmen

I think Mitch Joel is one of the brightest minds in social media. But today, I've gotta take issue.

Mitch recently responded to a new Pew Research Center poll showing that television has been overtaken by the internet as a primary news source. I highly encourage you to read Mitch's thoughts here: Breaking News On The Internet. His concern is that new media (blogs, Twitter, etc.) has overtaken traditional media too quickly for a replacement advertising model to be accepted. After all, who is going to pay for all of the content online?

Now, I almost always think Mitch is right on target. But his recent post harbors some assumptions that I've been hearing more and more often from a lot of sources, but which I think are detrimental to social media marketing in its current incarnation.

In other words, it's not just Mitch - we all need to be careful about how we consider social media and how it relates to a business model.

Here are 4 assumptions I hear in the marketing community that need a good debunking:

  1. Traditional media and new media are selling the same thing: It's simply not true, so let's not talk about the two systems as though they were. TV and radio were made to sell ads; the internet is advice and expertise. Rick at eyecube said it well: "Television isn’t a medium for telling stories and disseminating information, it’s a medium for selling ads. As such, the goal is not to produce quality programming, the goal is to produce programming that will attract the most eyeballs." He goes on to make salient points about the quality that results as such, but my point is to take caution when comparing apples to oranges.
  2. The old business models were correct: Sure, advertising worked, but that didn't mean it was good. As long as a terrible product brought eyeballs or cash with them, do you really think the fat cats cared? In the old business model, marketers were shills. But now, good products tend to succeed and bad products tend to fail (and at a faster rate too). The old model sold people Ford Pintos. Now, we recommend Amazon.com to our friends. Who would want to return to the old model?
  3. Advertising is the only business model: The most surprising aspect of Mitch's post is that advertising is the only business model mentioned. There's no talk of a donation model (open source software), a merchandise model (Toothpaste For Dinner), a gimmick model (woot.com), a subscription model (The Bitterest Pill podcast), a community outreach model (Lululemon), a recommendation model (Zappos), or any other type of business model. None of these companies engages in advertising on a large scale (if at all), yet they are all very healthy businesses.
  4. The lack of a business model is a bad thing: Why? Unlike TV and radio, the content is already great. Mitch kind of admits this in both the Pew post and one from a few days earlier, named Bad TV, respectively:

    “Any idea how long it took channels like newspapers, radio and television to optimize their product to make it so appealing to advertisers? Most advertising professionals would argue that all of these channels are still working at it.”

    "[T]here is so much good content on the Internet that it is overwhelming. Where both [a DVR and an online news reader] enable you to avoid a lot of the noise, the Internet just has way too much relevant and good content - no matter what your varying interests may be."

    In other words, the hard part has been done: good content is everywhere! That's great! People find new ways to make a buck everyday online, so don't worry about it - the hard part is creating good content and cultivating an interested community.

Mitch says the internet is growing too fast - for whom exactly? Obviously not the viewing public, especially the young, if you read the Pew survey results. Obviously not us social media early adopters. So who? The suits? The record labels and the movie studios? Everyone else who tries to make a buck off of the content producer? Hey, screw 'em.

Out Of Whose Wallet?

Despite the assumptions I drew from Mitch's post, his main point is this: Who is going to pay for all of the content we consume online?

It's a valid question. Of course, good content has a price tag. But I think we've gotten too used to advertising paying for everything and it's turned advertisers into editors. That mentality won't work in this new era.

And Mitch and others get this, I think. In a post on Christmas Day, he wrote about a potential journalistic endeavor: "Hustling for banner ads is not going to generate the revenue that you were hoping for, and by focusing on this - instead of the quality and relevance of the content - it is only going to cause you to be distracted."

So let's not get distracted because of the business model. Tell business owners and old-school marketers this for now: Provide content, then build trust, then rake in new business. It's uber-simplified, but that's how you provide content at a profit.

This Isn't Personal

I count 10 blog posts in the last year alone where I had nothing but glowing things to say about Mitch. He and other new media folks are providing a light in the darkness to millions.

My concern is only that we keep moving. Sure, let's talk about business models and figure out how we can all provide the most use for our clients and make an honest buck doing it. But let's do it in a spirit that fits the new era, one where we don't get tripped up comparing things to how they were in the past.

Why? Because we're in a freakin' awesome point in time! Social media marketing is creating more honesty, value, and conversation - and I suspect that both Mitch and I would agree that's a wonderful thing.

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(Image courtesy of Y-J via Flickr)

Marketing During A Recession: Social Media Tipping Point?

Marketing during a recession is a multifaceted topic and that's why this week has been devoted to subjects like how recessions are opportunities to gain market share, the illusion of stability in marketing, the role of risk and of failure.

I would like to end this week-long series by asking whether the recession can tip social media marketing into the mainstream. Could we see a widespread embrace of blogs, Twitter, and other forms of social media? Answer: probably, but not positively.

Embracing New Media Out Of Desperation?

Budgets are drying up, but the online channel is cheaper and easier to measure than traditional PR and print advertising. Television and the automotive industry - not usually bastions of innovation - are two examples of industries putting a bigger percentage of their marketing budget into digital (despite the ever-shrinking total budget).

As Lisa Hoffmann says, necessity is the mother of bravery. She claims that "[t]ight budgets will prod [small businesspeople] to do what all the preaching and prodding won't."

Likewise, Julie Power states that "recession could transform Twitter from an influential fringe network to a mainstream marketing movement."

I think they're right - that the recession will cause business to look toward new media, that it could transform it into the marketing mainstream. That's why I predict 2009 as a year of false starts and quickly abandoned Twitter accounts.

Winner And Losers

Don't get me wrong - winners will emerge and knock our socks off with their social media campaigns. Heck, not even just "campaigns." They will understand social media in such a way that they'll forget a short-term campaign and just add social media directly into their corporate DNA.

But of course, others won't. And that's fine. I'm reminded of a quote from Bruce Barton, former Chairman of BBDO: "In good times, people want to advertise; in bad times, they have to." It's a prescient warning to go against human nature. You are not safer in the foxhole. Hunkering down will leave you with nothing when you emerge.

There are plenty of smart people claiming that marketers will stick with the tried and true methods in 2009 and they have valid points. Companies will still sink millions of dollars into Super Bowl ads and maybe that works for them.

But the ones who include new approaches, who take the advice of people like Lisa and Julie, who experiment and figure out now exactly how their audience wants to interact - those will be the winners after 2009.

Social media is the wild west and there is the opportunity to eat up some real market share. Remember, it was the early adopters who made most of the money in the Gold Rush of 1849.

Ending The Series

I hope you enjoyed this series about marketing during the recession. If so, I urge you to subscribe and send along these posts to your friends or co-workers.

And please leave comments or suggestions below. Did I get it terribly wrong this week? Feel free to share your thoughts with the community. And thanks so much for reading.

P.S.: Lisa and Julie are great folks to follow on Twitter, by the way.

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5 New Social Media Jobs You Will Fill In The Next 5 Years

Social media has already changed business profoundly. If yours hasn't, you are already behind the curve. If you have customers, their expectations regarding how they interact with businesses has likely already shifted dramatically.

So how will you deal with these changes in your business? They will surely impact marketing and legal, perhaps even I.T. But what else is on the horizon?

This is my list of five employees you might hire in the next five years (and whose positions didn't exist five years ago). Part of this equation depends on how big you are and how ingrained social media becomes in your business. Another aspect is your company's size - smaller companies may likely combine aspects of these jobs.

That said, it's likely that someone will need to fill the following positions in some way. How are you preparing?

  1. International Community Compliance Chief: Facebook and MySpace may be dominant in the U.S., but how much attention are you paying to social networks in other countries? Do you have a presence on Korea's Cyworld, Orkut (huge in Brazil), Mixi in Japan, Bebo in the UK, or Grono in Poland? Someone in your company needs to claim the company name on all of these sites, oversee even moderate design, set up unique referral links, and ensure that all of these efforts match your company's over-arching strategy. (Thanks to Paul Gillin's Secrets of Social Media Marketing for these examples, roughly on pages 101-106.)
  2. Community Manager: People are talking about your brand. If they do it within the auspices of the company, in a sanctioned forum, message board, or internal blog, you will need a community manager. This employee needs to both ensure (through personal interaction) that the community is a valuable assets without spammers or flamers (definition #1) and they need to set up the internal documentation with which you regulate employee interaction. These people are the face of your brand to the outside world and the customer ambassador to internal staff.
  3. Online Reputation Manager: While the community manager has a public presence and is sanctioned to act, an online reputation manager is wider-reaching in their scope, but largely hidden from public view. This is the person you turn to when you need to know which online influencers are talking about your brand. They need to have a comprehensive view of your competitors' online reputation. They need to identify openings in the market or current customers' requests. The online reputation manager is the spy agency (within reason) for your company.
  4. Blogger Outreach Manager/Blog Cultivation Expert: A lot has been said about the right way to approach bloggers and the wrong way to approach bloggers. Do you have an expert on your staff who already has relationships with bloggers in your industry? Everyone needs good PR or the occasional digg/stumble/sphinn/[insert goofy web 2.0 term of the day]. "[Bloggers] are a potentially significant new constituency for public relations efforts, and they are the engine that drives successful viral marketing promotions" (Paul Gillin's Secrets of Social Media Marketing, again.) Let the blogger outreach manager cultivate like-minded souls online and advise you to the up-and-comers. Allow this individual to build relationships with them now before you need their help.
  5. Chief Conversation Officer: This is the big kahuna of social media leadership in your company. The Chief Conversation Officer is an amalgamation of many of the roles described above. However, the CCO reports directly to the top and it is a soup-to-nuts position: they are responsible for finding the online conversation, documenting it, sharing it, analyzing it, and ultimately joining in on the conversation (in a non-creepy, non-"marketese" kind of way). Here are more details about the Chief Conversation Officer position.

How are you preparing for the influx of social media into your business? Are you cultivating leaders within your organization to help? Please share your ideas and suggestions in the comments section below.

(Image courtesy of preciouskhyatt via Flickr)

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