5 Ways To Promote Creative Marketing

Last night I was perusing an article from the Harvard Business Review by Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar, entitled "How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity." I was really struck by how their principles for inciting creativity are the very same I've written about here for marketers.

It shouldn't be surprising; anyone who has been in marketing for some time knows just how creative you need to be to succeed. Sometimes it's the "big idea" kind of creative. Other times it's a creative endeavour to include 10 message points in one sentence or create a feasible campaign in a week and a half. That's creative too, believe me.

There are 5 ideas in this article that Catmull speaks to that really struck a nerve with me. I'm going to link to some past articles that relate to these points - I hope you take a minute to read them. It proves that not only is marketing a creative field, but that creativity is an exercise only for the brave.

How Do You Promote Creativity?

1) Embrace Fear: Catmull says, "[I]f we aren't always at least a little scared, we're not doing our job...This means we have to put ourselves at great risk."

Not too long ago, I wrote about how risky marketing is, and how we should embrace the fear that comes from it. Today, as I read this quote, I think it's even more true now than it was when I mentioned it.

"Once you get over the fear of being different, of possibly failing, a world of possibilities opens up. Are you still worried? Well, maybe this will help tip the scales:

You’ve got no choice."

Embrace the fear. Everyone feels it. And fear can be debilitating or any amazingly creative stimulus.

2) Welcome Risk: We work in an ever-changing industry. It will never be the "same old, same old." If you don't want to risk your ass, you shouldn't have put it on the line by placing it in a marketing office.

Catmull has some advice for the leadership: "[W]e as executives have to resist our natural tendency to avoid or minimize risks, which, of course, is much easier said than done."

This reminds me of my "Failure Isn't Fatal" post:

"As I wrote earlier in the week, our job as marketers is not to mitigate risk by going along with the status quo. Our job is to manage the risk and sometimes we fail.

That stinks, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s inherent to the job. So it’s better to get in there and figure out your best odds of success (and learn from your mistakes)."

Which leads perfectly into...

3) Learn From Failures: You won't get rid of risk and you are going to fail at some point in your career. But the most creative marketers are the ones who figure out why they failed and learn from it. Failure is inherent in creative people.

From Catmull: "If you want to be original, you have to accept the uncertainty, even when it's uncomfortable, and have the capability to recover when your organization takes a big risk and fails."

4) Realize That Community Matters: Catmull contends that "community matters" in the sense that a group of highly talented creatives can turn out extraordinary things.

For marketers though, community is something outside of our team usually. They are the hordes we hope to influence (hordes in the nicest way possible, I mean). And we can't do that by simply interrupting more loudly or more often.

I think Joseph Jaffe is correct is his definition of the new creativity - one in which a piece of marketing is gauged by the community's adoption of it.

"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."

5) Always Be Excellent: Catmull states that the success of Toy Story 2 was, "[I]t became deeply ingrained in our culture that everything we touch needs to be excellent."

It's easy to be crass about excellence. "Blah, blah," you might be thinking.

But I've seen it happen a bunch of times: the kid who excels in everything he does - though he might fail and get scoffed at and underestimated - he eventually almost always reaches that gold ring he'd been shooting for.

It's intimidating to see someone so much an active participant in their success. Intimidating and awesome.

What Did I Forget?

What did Catmull and I miss? How do you promote creativity in marketing?

There's a lot to worry about, a lot of potential pitfalls. But that's never going to change. How are you seizing the awesome today?

tweet thisTweet This Post!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on diggStumbleUpon, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of scragz via Flickr)

Raising Awareness Is The "About Us" Page Of RFI/RFP Requirements

Do you really want to raise awareness? Does your "About Us" page really say anything about your organization? In the latest Marketing Minute video, I discuss a trend I've been seeing: an increasing focus on "raising awareness," whatever that means. It's vague, worthless, but prized by the C-level suite.

I believe we need more honest discourse. We need real communication, real requirements, real expectations.

I hope you enjoy this Marketing Minute video.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

tweet thisTweet This Post!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on digg, StumbleUpon, or the other social media tools found below.

The Freemium Option Better For Video Sites?

TV2

This week, I am writing a three-part series about business models for online video websites. Sites are changing. Online business is changing. Video is blowing up.

It's time we really thought about the best way to profit from creating and displaying video, while providing the best experience for the user.

Let's get to it.

(Quick note: Subscribing ensures you won't miss subsequent posts.)

What's A Hulu Subscription Look Like?

In recent days, Hulu – the NBC/Fox/ABC-backed video site – released and then recanted news that it intended to charge for service via News Corp. Deputy Chairman Chase Carey.

Carey said that Hulu would need to incorporate a "meaningful subscription model as part of its business." But he didn’t go into any more detail than that.

Most pundits assumed this meant a firewall-blocked subscription model in the works – a slightly backwards-looking model that succeeds best in scarcity: scarcity of quality content and scarcity in access.

But we don't live in that world anymore. The online channel has tons of quality content and most content creators/publishers are tripping over themselves to provide online access to their work.

The old version of a subscription model would be met with great hostility considering 1) there is no lack of free video content online and 2) it reeks of a bait-and-switch to start charging for something that had already been totally free.

So how can Hulu make money?

The New Creativity

I had already been thinking about this in my review of old business models (easily or not-so-easily) moving into the digital space. I detailed the changing business models in my post Why The New Creativity Changes Everything.

I advocated what Joseph Jaffe dubbed "The New Creativity" in The Beancast episode #76 around minutes 37-38. The short version is this:

  • The old creativity was centered around innovative ways that advertisers and marketers could loudly/rudely/creatively interrupt a consumer's day in order to push their brand message.
  • The new creativity requires that the advertiser or marketer create an experience so compelling that consumers share it amongst their peer groups.

So, instead of a one-way marketer-to-consumer system, we now have a system where marketers try to influence the influencers, while also realizing that they are in a dialogue with all consumers and potential consumers as well.

Sounds simple, right? It helps explain why we’ve seen the boom in things like social media marketing and the downward trend in direct marketing and TV/radio ads.

The "Freemium" Option

If Hulu is to succeed, especially when in direct competition to Google-owned YouTube, it needs to be nimble and creative. They need to think beyond non-contextual ads and firewalled content.

Largely embraced by social networking sites, a freemium business model hasn’t been adopted by many larger, more traditional companies. But it has the potential to provide a great customer experience and differentiate Hulu from well-known competitors.

A recent eMarketer study reported on an Abrams Research survey in which social media leaders were asked the best way to monetize social media (note: it doesn't say how they determined who was a "social media leader," but just go with me for a second).

The most popular answer? 45.5% of respondents answered that a freemium model would be most profitable – more than double the next most popular response.

Chris Anderson defines a freemium business model in The Long Tail:

"Already, one of the most common business models on the Internet…is to attract lots of users with a free service and convince some of them to upgrade to a subscription-based 'premium' one that adds higher quality or better features."

It is roughly a business where most of the basic services are free, but a percentage of uses pay for more/better/quicker elements of that basic package.

Flickr is a common example. Anyone in the world can start an account and upload 100MB of photos and 2 videos per month. This satisfies a great (happy) majority. However, a "Pro" account provides unlimited uploads, archiving, high-res options, and expanded groups.

The key is that the paying customers – the committed 10% let’s say – cover the cost of the 90% using a basic service for free.

A freemium model isn’t for every business. It favors businesses that are tech-centric, start-up/new, agile, and almost exclusively offering an online service. But what model could be more perfect for the era of social networks?

Let's See It In Action

Tomorrow, I will outline seven ways Hulu could package technology they already have into a freemium model users would willing pay for (heck, I sure would).

Sites like Hulu, facing competition from Google and a number of start-ups, will need to be nimble and smart. I hope you join us tomorrow to gauge for yourself whether my suggestions would be worthwhile for sites like Hulu.

tweet thisTweet This Post!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on digg, StumbleUpon, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of (A3R) angelrravelor (A3R) via Flickr)

The Most Difficult Conversation? - The Marketing Minute #2

Last week's Mad Men inspired my second Marketing Minute vlog. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

tweet thisTweet This Post!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on digg, StumbleUpon, or the other social media tools found below. You can also show some love by buying stuff from the nice people advertising to the right.

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.

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on digg, StumbleUpon, or the other social media tools found below. You can also show some love by buying stuff from the nice people advertising to the right.

(Image courtesy of AllyGirl520 via Flickr)

Beware The Discount: Gaining Market Share During A Recession

Discount

I was recently published in Alberta Venture, discussing how brands could tap into the recession zeitgeist.

It was a fun piece to write; it allowed me to review what brands were doing right - and wrong - to gain market share during the economic downturn. The gist of the article is:

There is nothing inherently wrong with tweaking your brand to reflect the recession. But like most things, it’s the execution that matters... “Dirt cheap” isn’t a long-term strategy; aspirational partner is. Ensure that brand tweaks make consumers feel like savvy shoppers, not scroungy skinflints.

I feel that recent campaigns by McDonald's missed the mark, but laud Target's "Brand New Day" campaign as an insightful way to make thrift a fun part of life.

Apple, A Luxury Experience

A good friend and former work colleague, Kristian Perry - also a great filmmaker, writer, and animator - emailed his response, and I was struck by what he had to say about Apple in particular:

In the computer world, I understand that there is a cry for Apple to make a cheaper notebook computer -- their cheapest one retails for about $1,000, but I think this would be a mistake.  Apple's real selling point is that you are not buying a computer, but an experience.

If they sold a cheaper machine, they might have to cut corners, and then you might see more breaks in the facade of the "Apple Lifestyle".  So unless they can maintain the quality of experience that comes with them being a computer luxury brand, they would be making a real mistake to sell a "cheap" model.

I think Kristian is totally correct. Not just about faulty products, but a cheapened experience; brands can harm themselves by falling into the "discount trap," especially during tough economic times.

A Lesson From Politics

It reminds me of an important lesson I learned during my time in politics. We were sending emails and soliciting donations for our cause. I noticed that when we emphasized the smallest donation, our overall yield was far lower than when we placed higher donation values above the fold.

Why was this happening? Didn't people want to know the value option - that we would take whatever we could get?

It turns out that they didn't want a value. Even in a pinched economy, our donors weren't giving away money to a worthy cause - they were investing in us, our candidate, or our mission.

When an ideal translates into tangible money, people don't want to toss pennies, they'd rather palm you $100 you can really use.

Try Angie's List Today!

The Discount Spiral

I'm not saying value or discounts are all bad; sometimes they can be very effective (Target is a perfect example). But if they're done all the time and that's the only message you really have - you're killing your long-term strategy.

Think about the last time you were in the grocery store: they probably had signage alerting you to their "discount price." But we all know their "regular price" was inflated and is never actually charged. Everything is discount all the time! So really, nothing is truly discounted, ever.

And if you're only talking about value and discounts, it makes your brand sound cheap. Whole Foods has experienced a stock dip just like other grocery brands, but two things separate them: their dip hasn't been as low as other retailers and they are far better positioned for post-recession spending (when consumers emphasize quality or variety over discounts).

What Do You Think?

Am I off the mark? Despite the recession, I believe you shouldn't hurt your long-term strategy for short-term gains. And all of you are thinking "No shit." But then why do many - dare I say "most" - brands ignore this advice?

Maybe it's a panic for good results each quarter. Maybe it's because CMOs have an average tenure of less than two years - the shortest time of the C-level suite.

Why do you think long-term strategy is losing out to fire sales? Why has your brand succumbed or how have you resisted the discount temptation? The community would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

tweet thisTweet This Post!

P.S.: Read the full Alberta Venture piece and check out Kristian's great work.

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on digg, StumbleUpon, or the other social media tools found below. You can also show some love by buying stuff from the nice people advertising to the right.

(Image courtesy of Jenny Downing via Flickr)

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.

tweet thisTweet This Post!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on digg, StumbleUpon, or the other social media tools found below. You can also show some love by buying stuff from the nice people advertising to the right.

Agencies: Don't Forget To Sell

Yesterday, I published a blog post at iMediaConnection's blog and I hope you'll check it out: The Modern Agency Still Sells, Right?

I am particularly proud of this piece because it has the potential to jolt agency employees out of their social media fascination. I contend that some agencies are losing their focus in the web 2.0 world.

They've forgotten to work for the sale.

The initial idea for my post came from Phil Johnson's Ad Age article, Agencies Should Be Defined by What They Know, Not What They Make. I was alarmed by the focus on marketing agency knowledge, rather than a focus on creating something (ads, copy, even social media opportunities) to fulfill a client's business objectives.

From my post:

Clients aren’t comforted by what you know. They’d rather see how you turn that into sales.

Agencies that use social media, then foster loyalty and trust, and then turn that into sales – those agencies will triumph. But agencies that dabble in social media without even considering ROI or sales…think Pets.com 2.0.

Marketers and advertisers who consider sales not lofty enough of a goal would do well to remember David Ogilvy’s number one obiter dictum from Confessions of an Advertising Man:

“We sell – or else.”

What do you think? Am I off base to warn agencies about their potential social media amnesia? Has the role of the agency really moved from selling in a web 2.0 world?

Check out the the post and feel free to leave a comment below.

tweet thisTweet This Post!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on digg, StumbleUpon, or the other social media tools found below.

Advertising Through The Years: Features, Benefits, And The Customer

OMB-Advertising_Over_Time-JPG063009

The header graph above illustrates a curious trend I've seen regarding advertising/marketing over time.

It's no surprise that our attention spans have decreased considerably. But over time, there have been interesting changes in the ways we communicate features and benefits.

I'm wondering: have we gone full circle? Do we care more today about products than in recent decades?

Epoch 1: Product Features Rule

Early advertisements featured a lot of text; consumers appear to have had more time and patience for ads back then. And the focus is squarely on the product's features.

Consider this 1898 ad for the Western Electrical Supply Company (courtesy of telmore.com):

1898_Western_Electric_Catalog

This ad fits into the first row of my header graph - it focuses on the product's features. In this case, simple brightening and dimming capabilities and the connection of a circuit sans socket or receptacle.

Epoch 2: Product Benefits Rule

This next time period focused on the benefits a product could provide, while still prominently featuring the product, itself. David Ogilvy defined it in his book, Confessions of an Advertising Man:

"The key to success is to promise the consumer a benefit - like better flavor, whiter wash, more miles per gallon, a better complexion." (page 25)

You can see an example of this in Oglivy's own "Head Over Heels In Dove" ad, seen on page 72 of On Advertising. (You can also find it as the first result in this Google search, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

The focus is on the benefit to the consumer, rather than the features of the product. Additionally, the text is greatly decreased (though still far more than we would have today) - indicating a decreasing lack of consumer attention.

Epoch 3: Consumer Benefits Rule

As shown in the header graph, epoch 3 is characterized by an ever shrinking attention span, and a shift of focus from the product to the consumer, herself.

Think about your quintessential '80s beer commercials.

Products no longer seem to just add to the consumer's life - they create something new, something totally outside of the ability of that product. In epoch 3, a light beer can create an insta-party, complete with co-eds, cult status, and catchphrases. Here is one example (courtesy of idsgn.com):

Cotler's Pants

These jeans do not come with an orgasm guarantee, but it'd be understandable if you thought that from the ad. Whatever the ad is trying to communicate goes way beyond any benefit of the jeans.

Epoch 4: Product Features Rule...Again?

So what's happening today?

I would argue that in this fourth epoch - our modern day today - we've actually gone back to an emphasis on product features. This might sound crazy, but hear me out.

Ads are now just the entry point. Instead of being the only means of communication as they were before, now ads point us to websites where we can explore whatever information we care to.

You'll notice in my header graph that this epoch is marked by an even shorter attention span, but a wider one as well - to accommodate the research consumers do online. Think about all the time you've spent checking out products on Amazon or specialty sites like AutoTrader before you've made your purchase.

Augustine Fou touched on this process in his ClickZ article recently:

Modern consumers will tend to go online and do their own research to inform their own purchase decisions, rather than rely on what a paid ad claims. Finding objective information from an advertiser or simply knowing what information is official, standard, or true, is far more useful than the superficial claims made in very brief ads.

Let's take one more look at that header graph:

OMB-Advertising_Over_Time-JPG063009

So, what do you think? Have we gone full circle - back to caring most about product features?

In each epoch (shown by the white numbers in black circles), there seems to have been a change in behavior in how we advertise the product to the consumer (the little green guy).

Does this make sense or is it all a bunch of bunk?

I'd love to hear what you think in the comments section below.

tweet thisTweet This Post!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on digg, StumbleUpon, or the other social media tools found below.

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.

tweet thisTweet This Post!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

Copywriters: Killers, Poets, Nerds, Or Something Else?

joshcarnival

I was figuratively punched in the gut by one part of Joshua Ferris' And Then We Came To The End, a book I highly recommend to anyone already in or considering a job in advertising or marketing.

Several characters in the book are copywriters, a title that has been present on my business cards, from time to time. Copywriters aren't just characters in the book, they're often characters, themselves.

Copywriters are often an interesting group. Well-read, imaginative, delightful at cocktail parties - it's practically written into the job description.

Baby, You're A Killer

And maybe it's imagination that allows us to create personas about ourselves. We are people who sit in offices, but frequently imagine ourselves as much, much more.

Consider this excerpt from Ferris' novel:

"'What's your idea?' asked Joe.

Her idea? We'll tell you her idea, Joe. To slaughter. Nobody talks about it, nobody says a word, but the real engine running the [advertising agency] is the primal desire to kill. To be the best ad person in the building, to inspire jealousy, to defeat all the rest. The threat of layoffs just made it a more efficient machine [page 109]."

Writers as killers? It might seem like a stretch, but consider this from On Advertising by David Ogilvy, father of one of the most successful advertising agencies ever and constant advocate of good copywriters:

"'Most good copywriters' says William Maynard of the Bates agency, 'fall into two categories. Poets. And killers. Poets see an ad as an end. Killers as a means to an end.' If you are both killer and poet, you get rich [page 32]."

Now, we're killers and poets? And we still wear ties?

Or Really Just Nerds?

And yet, something struck me about this quote from Almost Famous in which two writers are discussing their place in the world:

Lester Bangs: They make you feel cool. And hey. I met you. You are not cool.

William Miller: I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn't.

Lester Bangs: That's because we're uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don't have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we're smarter. ...The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool.

So Which Is It?

Personally, I can see all of them. Advertising and marketing agencies are highly creative, highly political, highly charged environments. So it's understandable to put yourself in any of these roles (sometimes all of them in a single day!).

What do you think? Which is most accurate metaphor for copywriters? Is it killer, poet, nerd, or something else? I anticipate your answers in the comments section below.

tweet thisTweet This Post!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of jbhill via Flickr)

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!

tweet thisTweet This Post!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(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.)

Avoid 3 Copywriting Mistakes That Make You Look Stupid

wamu

I've got to get something off my chest. Well, three things, actually.

Grammar mistakes are one of the easiest ways to show you're a careless writer. Of course, no one's perfect - I'm sure I have made a lot of errors over the years. But there are at least three that get stuck in my craw each and every time.

1. Literally vs. Figuratively

On the corner of Division and Ashland on Chicago's northside, there's a billboard above a Washington Mutual Bank. You can find a picture of it above. It drives me crazy everyday.

I'm not going to venture that shoddy grammar is the reason that WaMu went out of business, but it can't help that your bank's ads show your lack of sophistication with the English language. Personally, I only trust my money to someone that can handle high school English.

In our modern parlance, the use of "literally" is almost always incorrect. It's been so flogged and abused that you likely think you are using the correct word. Read the definition. If "monkeys are literally flying out of your butt" or "you literally choked on your words" or "your friend is literally the devil" - it's likely you have bigger problems to worry about.

So, let that be your red flag. If you feel the word coming out of your mouth, consider that you are probably making a mistake.

2. It's vs. Its

At the risk of sounding like an asshole, I'm not sure why this is such a tripping point. Here's the thing: an apostrophe means that something has been taken away. When we say "Danny's gone to the bodega for a slice o' pie," the apostrophes stand in for "Danny has" and "of pie."

The thing that might be confusing is possession. For instance, when I say "Danny's pie," I mean that the pie belongs to Danny, not that "Danny has pie."

But in the case of "it's" and "its," things are even simpler. All you need to know is that if you can substitute "it is" or "it has" then the correct word is "it's" (using the apostrophe = missing letters logic explained above).

If you can't make this substitution, then use "its." This might be confusing. To show possession, you would say "Danny's pie." But in this case, there would be no apostrophe showing possession (its).

If you can replace the word with "it is" or "it has" - use "it's." If not, use "its."

And if you get confused, check Its Not It's.

3. Yours vs. Your's

This problem originates from an errant apostrophe, but it's even easier than it's vs. its.

Normally, when showing possession, you use an apostrophe (i.e. "Danny's pie"). But simply put, this is never the case for the possessive "yours."

There is no such thing as "your's." Never was. Never will be. Erase it from your head.

"Yours" is the correct possessive. eLearnEnglish explains it well.

You could say about the Your's rule: Its as easy as pie, literally. Ha!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS or follow me on Twitter. Otherwise, I hope you share it on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

tweet thisTweet This Post!

(Hat tip to Copyblogger for the form of this post. Though, admittedly, these annoyance are neither new nor unique.)

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?

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of foundphotoslj via Flickr)

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.

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on Twitter using http://tinyurl.com/cxbh8k, StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of ralphbijker via Flickr)

High Hopes For Advertising And Social Media In Super Bowl 2009

high-hopes

Last year, I declared that the Super Bowl ads fumbled, but I think this year will be different.

Big name advertisers are getting the message that their audiences like social media interaction. Brian Solis announced that Anheuser-Busch developed AB-Extras, an entire site built to allow customers to "get up close and personal with the people (and Clydesdales) that make up its highly anticipated Budweiser and Bud Light commercials."

Sure, it's self-serving and lacks commenting functionality. It lacks in true dialogue, but the site is great for a behind-the-scenes look. It is certainly a step in the right direction.

Looking beyond advertisers, the NFL, Fox Sports, and the Super Bowl itself are getting in on the social media game. All of the ads are again featured on MySpace, but the page is designed much better than last year. Plus they added some great interaction opportunities.

The all-out winner for the pre-game blitz, however, goes to the NFL. They offer live video and instant analysis, but you would expect that. But they win big with their other offerings, including a replay re-cutter (where you can create your own highlight reel and rank other viewer's videos), voting on Bruce Springsteen's playlist, and they kill it on Twitter - lots of personality and incredible insights. Where else could you hear that Snoop Dogg and Kevin from The Office visited the NFL HQ?

Watching For Ads That Engage

Now, it's really up to the advertisers. Forrester Research declared that social media became mainstream in 2008. Does that mean this year's Super Bowl ads will be more engaging, with plenty of opportunities for dialogues with brands?

That's what I'm going to be watching for during this year's Super Bowl. Check back on this blog during and after the game for a summary of engagement, defined by instances of:

  • Pre-game engagement: User-generated content, selection of particular ad
  • During-game engagement: Live voting, website URL
  • Post-game engagement: Social media opportunities, broader engagement

I will post after each half of the game, listing engagement grades for each brand's ad. Or you can follow me on Twitter at @MarketerBlog for up to the minute analysis.

Feel free to leave comments below about your favorite Super Bowl ads from the past. What got you to engage the brand or have a unique experience? Which ads went beyond just making you laugh, but rather made you feel connected to a product? I look forward to hearing your responses.

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on Twitter using http://tinyurl.com/b7s32h, StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of gun_show via Flickr)

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...

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of Duncan Rawlinson via Flickr)

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.

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of Y-J via Flickr)

Top 5 Gift Books For Online Marketers

As you plan for Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holidays this season, you might have a marketer, writer, or advertising person on your list. If so, this is the post for you.

I've written before about the need for marketing folks to always be studying, constantly learning their craft. Here are the top five books that marketers on your list will need to succeed in 2009.

Top 5 Gift Books For Marketers

1. Groundswell: Winning in a World of Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff - This is my pick for best marketing book of 2008. Li and Bernoff explain social media marketing with more analysis, data, and charts than any other book on this list. Every page is filled with nuggets of wisdom, but be warned: this is not a book for the uninitiated. Readers should have a basic understanding of marketing and online behavior to get the most out of this book.

Who should receive this book?: Hard-core marketers, social media junkies, small businesspeople who already "get" blogging and Twitter.

2. Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath - You may have read the Heath brother's monthly article in Fast Company magazine. Like their articles, this book is always thought provoking, drawing from research that crosses the boundary of marketing into psychology and sociology. There is a science to persuasion and a commonality in successful marketing campaigns. This book does a great job of explaining why and how you can replicate that success.

Who should receive this book?: Young creatives at a marketing or advertising firm, psychologists turned businesspeople, marketers who want to understand how to "go viral."

3. Join The Conversation: How to Engage Marketing-Weary Consumers with the Power of Community, Dialogue, and Partnership by Joseph Jaffe - Jaffe is one of the leading thinkers and proponents of new marketing. As a thought leader, it's no surprise that his book is chock full of insight. This book is intended not just to teach marketers the particular skills they need to thrive in this new environment, but also to change their very way of thinking. It's not quite as radical as that sounds - it is always pragmatic - but it is certainly convincing that the ways of marketing have indeed changed forever.

Who should receive this book?: College students considering a career in marketing, retired marketers looking for new thoughts and ideas, businesspeople in other departments who are curious about the changes they may see in their own marketing department in the future.

4. Secrets of Social Media Marketing: How to Use Online Conversations and Customer Communities to Turbo-Charge Your Business by Paul Gillin - Gillin says that the book is intended for the 90% of marketers who are not yet comfortable with social media marketing tools. As a member of the 10% who are, I would disagree. I got a lot out of this book. It's full of examples and great tips, but most importantly provides a complete overview of the social media world. My personal copy is marked up and dog-eared - a sure sign of a useful book.

Who should receive this book? Old-school marketers pessimistic about this "Web 2.0 stuff," work-from-home Moms building a new business, the I.T. guy you fight with whenever you want to include more functionality on your website.

5. Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy - Do you notice how much shorter this title is compared to the others? The book reads the very same way. Ogilvy, likely a master of the art before you were born, says what needs saying and nothing more. Though the book was published in 1983, the universal truths provided in the book stand the test of time. It pays to know where your industry came from, in order to really move it forward.

Who should receive this book? Idealistic young advertising staff, copywriters of any age, the agency tough-guy who needs to hear advice from the original Ad Man.

Only For The Hard-Core

It's a little tough to imagine, but if the marketing person on your list is the hardest of hard-core, they may like a MarketingSherpa report under the tree. They're a little pricey, but the amount of money saved by taking their advice makes it worth it.

I recommend either the 2009 Email Marketing Benchmark Guide or the 2009 Search Marketing Benchmark Guide (on sale). Not for amateurs!

My Hope

My sincere hope is that you have friends and family to share the holidays with. And if you're able to afford gifts this season, I hope you consider the ones I mentioned above. They've truly helped me this year and I hope they do the same for the marketer on your list.

If this post was helpful, stumbles and re-tweets are like holiday gifts for me!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Note: I am an affiliate with Amazon and MarketingSherpa, but I've read every page of the five books I listed and think they are absolutely worth purchasing. My commission is like, 3 cents anyway.)

(Image courtesy of Randy Son Of Robert 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.

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of artfulblogger via Flickr)