Digital Strategy

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The 4 Ps of marketing have always been sacrosanct. If you don’t take care of the Product, Price, Place and Promotion, you aren’t paying attention to the total marketing mix. You can certainly be successful without attending to all 4, but it won’t sustain. For the last 10 years I’ve had this gnawing feeling that the web has altered the 4Ps, but haven’t been able to put my finger on in. I’ve written how the web has collapsed the steps to a sale (awareness, interest, desire and action) into a single one-experience process — certainly a big change — but has it really changed the 4 Ps?

I was reading a Slideshare by Translation’s John Greene today on disruption in the music business and landed on a point about “transaction”…which gave me pause. Readers who know my “Twitch Point Planning” thesis, know twitches used properly, can lead to or be transactions. Communications planners know the value of the transaction. Is it possible that transaction can replace the Place P? Place being the channel, e.g., the retail store, mail order, ecomm website, mobile device? Or should transaction be added to the 4Ps?

As technology plays with place and pricing and makes purchases as convenient as a swipe, scan or click, the transaction may trump all other Ps. Are we as brand planners and comms planners thinking enough about the transaction? Thoughts me droogies?




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I was on the Wells Fargo home page this morning, don’t ask, and counted the clickables above the fold.  There were 46. In my lifetime there is no way I’d be interested in 46 different pieces of information on banking from Wells Fargo or any bank for that matter. Imagine walking into a bank and having 46 questions? (Too many clicks, for those Bush Tetras fans.)

The irony is that most bank home pages have a similar number of links. Citibank does a good job, providing only 18 clickables…on one of the cleaner pages in the category.

I advocate using your home page to convey the company Is-Does and brand value. I recently had a major difference of opinion with a company over this approach. The executive team at regional (non-financial) brand with national aspirations and a changing business model, felt it more important to use the homepage as a navigational tool than to explain the complicated business it was in and what made it different. Similar to the bank approach, it organized upon the home page an array of things it thought customers would want, by target. It’s the “me” versus “you” argument I often have in reverse when discussing advertising. (Good ads are you focused, a good home page is me/brand focused.)

Cory Treffiletti a really smart colleague once told me, “If you give customers too many choices they will make none.”   To that I will add, if you don’t tell people what you do and do differently than competition, they won’t make a choice. Certainly, not an informed choice that is.

Even in a category as generic as banking – when simply removing confusion can be a differentiator – companies need to use their home page to convey their brand story, their soulful difference. Homepages that are simply navigation-driven are tofu and a lost, lost opportunity.  Peace!

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Over a decade ago, I wrote a creative brief for Newsday, a large metropolitan newspaper covering Long Island and Queens New York, using the insight “We know where you live.”   Newsday liked the notion but didn’t completely get the insight. They reframed it and turned the words into their tagline of many years “Newsday. It’s where you live.” 

“We Know Where You Live” was meant to provide residents of Long Island  — a diverse, but captive audience – with a reason to buy the paper in addition to The New York Times…and in place of The New York Post and The NY Daily News. Many of LI’s hundred thousand plus train commuters buy these other 3 papers every day for world news and sports and “We Know Where You Live” was intended to make them feel a bit out of touch with their local community news and home lives. (Sneaky, but true.)  It was also a means to create greater loyalty among current readers.   

This brand idea, if properly acculturated throughout Newsday, would have made every employee hypersensitive to providing an editorial experience that only a LI-based paper could deliver.  

Fast forward to 2010 and the underperforming  “We Know Where You Live”, though long gone, is still a powerful rallying cry for building online readership and participation.  The owners, architects and builders of the website, should be brainstorming how to deliver that experience. Instead, I submit, they are probably in brainstorming meetings chasing the latest social media twist, the next community promotion and the October program intended to build time on site. These are tactics, not strategy.  “How” is tactical. “Why” is strategic.  Newsday and need to revisit their brand strategy.  And let those 34 new reporters they’re hiring in on it. Peace!

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Cambio is AOL’s first big bullet in the content strategy war with Yahoo. It makes me think AOL just may win this thing. I love Carol Bartz’s decision to go with the content approach for Yahoo, but still think her approach a bit too diffuse. They still possess a start page mentality over there – start page meaning, set your personal home page to Yahoo.

AOL, on the other had, spent enough time with Time Warner to learn a thing about packaging content.  They probably own a camera or two and kept some producers and directors around, so by signing the Jonas Bothers and their music company to a deal with the new AOL online music channel Cambio, cranking up some new content quickly may be very doable.   This is a transformative move. It may be the first real melding of music and new media we’ve seen; think Little Steven’s Garage (dot com) for kids. And, with a big, scalable company surrounding it.

AOL, BTW, should bring Little Steven and his garage over to the fold. No brainer. Why?  Because he’s a great curator, a special personality and he has a loyal following. The radio doesn’t do his project justice. I like this move for AOL — and though Cambio may only be the learning ground for something bigger, it’s a great idea. Tim Armstrong is human, but he’s beginning to hit stride.  Peace! 

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Here’s how retail works.  You build, lease or buy a store, fill it with stuff, promote it and people come and buy its wares.  Or they don’t.

Here’s how TV works.  You build, lease or buy a program, fill it with entertaining or informational stuff, promote it and people come. Or they don’t.

Here’s how the web works. You build, lease or buy a site, fill it with stuff, promote it and people come and buy its wares…if you happen to be selling anything.  Sometimes the web is used to help people decide if they want to buy your stuff, because it’s sold elsewhere.  And other times the web is about entertaining visitors encouraging them to come back so ad revenue allows the site owner to buy stuff.  And sometimes still, a website is created to just simply to impart knowledge, altruism and community. 

That’s the thing about the web — visitors don’t always know if they are on a site to be sold, entertained or informed. Sometimes the builders of websites don’t seem to know either.  And when that happens the sites tend to provide a little bit of each.  And a little bit of each often leads to a lot of none. Fruit cocktail. Tricky stuff.  Focus is your friend.

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