Marketing Strategy

    Google is an Advertising Company.

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    I’ve written before about Google’s “culture of technological obesity” saying I think the company is taking on too much outside of its core mission.  Phones, productivity apps, the list goes on and on. The reality is — the dirty little secret no employee will readily admit — is Google is an advertising company.  (Google Doubleclick.)  Eric Schmidt and his peeps know this but it doesn’t play well at cocktail parties. The technology badge is what they wear most proudly.

    Of the $6.78B in revenue announced this quarter, the lion’s share was ad generated.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Google.  I’m not a hater. They need to succeed.  Google really is changing the world for the better. But they will Divest or Trivest at some point.  The company is a 3-ring business circus.  And because one of the rings — most profitable ring – is advertising, and because Google hasn’t been putting all of its efforts into providing innovation in advertising, it will lose market share. Ad revenue will still grow, but Google will lose market share. My bet is Facebook and Twitter will take share. Facebook is already doing it and Twitter has just begun.

     Advertising is about search, yes, but also about referral and context and point of sale (POS).  Twitter may have a leg up by combining all four.  To all the developers at Chirp…advertising still is da monies!  Peace!

    Rubel, Facebook and Fruit Cocktail.

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    There’s a pretty interesting debate going on over at Steve Rubel’s Posterous stream.  It revolves around his moving his stream (sorry, guys of a certain age) to Facebook.  He’ll continue at Posterous but feels Facebook gives him more visibility, a bigger audience and a richer discussion. 

    Mr. Rubel initially moved to Posterous because it was a place for him to aggregate his musings. Plus it was an easy and elegant interface.  (The aesthete in me likes the Posterous look better than the templatized Facebook frame.)  Sequestering most of his business and digital observations on Posterous and moving everything  else — business, personal, real time — to Facebook seems like a good strategy. But is it? Time will tell.

    Specificity

    In America and countries that look to America for tech and taste, specificity rules the day.  No one ever became president (of anything) being a generalist.  Let’s leave Mr. Rubel for a moment and use Ms. X as an example.  Say you’ve never met Ms. X but you think she’s a brilliant marketing mind. She may be a lousy partner, driver, dancer and cook but she can really mesmerize a room filled with marketers. You may be marginally interested in her meatball recipe but it is certainly not the driver of her attention.  The more meatball recipes in her stream, the less likely she is to be unique. By mixing all of her postings into one stream, Ms. X is not managing her brand very well. Her fame is diluted.

    Moving Toward the Middle.

    This is another example – common a couple of years ago when social computing companies were all trying to match each other’s feature sets – where everyone is moving toward the middle. It should not be. LinkedIn is about business relationships. Twitter is about real time info and immediacy.  Facebook is about friends and self and entertainment.  As Facebook moves to the middle, attempting to be all things to all people (brand fan pages included), it becomes like fruit cocktail — that can of fruit in the back of the cabinet where everything tastes like peaches. As quickly as Facebook is growing, I’m afraid it will mirror Google and turn into nothing more than an amazing advertising platform. (And then divest.) Peace!

    The Diffusion of Advertising

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    Advertising ain’t what is used to was (a little Southernism I made up). Creation of big selling ideas by highly paid creatives and marketing people, broadcast to millions via TV, radio and print was the ad business.  Today, thanks to technology, the ad business is undergoing a diffusion like never before. Digital agencies, though not yet offered a seat at the big table, are new and important players.  Google is the most profitable advertising agency in the world and Facebook is hot on their trail.  And when I say “mobile advertising” does any one company come to mind?  That one is going to be huge…but it’s still to play out.

    Buy or Build?

    Big traditional ad agencies clearly see the need to offer digital, social and mobile but are asking themselves “Do we buy or build?” Right now they’re doing both: hiring someone smart in each discipline and using them to select cottage industry players who are truly immersed.  Better than last year, which was all “Go out and get me a subservient chicken.”  Or “Find me those nerds who built the US Weekly Facebook poll.”

    I’ve long thought that mid-size agencies were poised to win in this diffuse advertising world, but now I’m not so sure. True, they can more quickly parlay a powerful branding idea into a market-moving integrated campaign but the model may not be extensible.

    Bud Cadell is right when he says the old ad agency model is broken. It will take open minds, forward thinking, experience, software, an understanding of brand building, and lots of money to fix the process. I’m of the mind that the successful model is more likely to come out of MDC Partners than WPP.  It will be fun to watch though. Peace!

    Don’t Market To The Middle.

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    Adaptive learning is an educational practice that tailors lessons to the learning level of each pupil. It is the opposite of the all too common pedagogical practice of “teach to the middle of the class ” where lessons are created for average, middle of the class students, not the highest or lowest performing. (Talk about no child left behind?) Adaptive learning is really individualized learning. As a term it has been taken over by technologists who employ computer software to identify a student’s learning level, via a battery of questions, and then create a learning scheme that best fits each student. It’s good pedagogy.  

    Responsive design is the new “big thing” in web development. It creates a valuable, though often singular, web experience for users regardless of the device they’re using. And we know there are lots of devices and operating systems out there. There’s big money in responsive design today.

    When we apply the tenets of adaptive learning and responsive design to digital marketing we recognize there is a long way to go before we’re not marketing to the middle of the class. Data people and ad serving jockeys will tell you they can serve up a special pieces of creative based upon user behavior or website visits, but this does not tell you where the customer is along the continuum of a sale (awareness, interest, desire, action and loyalty).  In offline and online we are still profoundly marketing to the middle of the class.

    Brand love and brand loyalty will ebb through boredom. Through repetition. Marketers who treat their most loyal customers like babies are forgiven…up to a point. (America knows that “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on your car insurance.”)  So what’s the 21st Century Challenge for marketers?  Adapt to your target. Be responsive to time and place.  And stimulate them with brand positive messages and deeds. But most importantly, do it in support of a brand strategy — an organizing principle that marries what you do well with what customers want.

    Peace!    

     

    What to Expect From Ads on Apple iPad.

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    Where to start?

    The ads that will adorn the Apple iPad on April 3rd are going to be pretty interesting.  First, if they are good, they’ll be more like selling applications than ads.  Those who create selling apps rather than Adobe InDesign and static display ads (iPads don’t take Flash yet) will have the early wins.   

    Selling Apps

    Selling apps that come from ad shops where the creative dept. was the lead (not the media dept.) will also win. That said, brands that team up on the selling app will do even better.  Those who team the objective, strategy, measurement, idea, creative, digital production and follow-up are more likely to have an app than an ad.   But that takes time, resolve and a new process…which is expensive.  Did I mention time?  If you started this week, you’re toast.  The best iPad selling apps won’t be the result of a great piece of “creative” or creative media buy, they will result from cross-silo efforts.

    Super Pasters

    Just being there on April 3rd will be a win for advertisers. There are currently 200,000 pre-orders for iPads. How may of those people do you think have taken the day off? Exactly.  Followers of What’s the Idea? know about Posters vs. Pasters. Well, in terms of the tech target, the first people seeing iPad ads will be Super Posters. Their blog posts, vlogs, podcasts and Tweets will abound. The iPad’s first audiences will be techies and those in creative businesses – a very viral and powerful target. And the world will be watching. Interestingly, the first big brands buying ads will be: Unilever, Toyota, Chase, Fidelity, and FedEx — not what you’d expect as a high indexing techie target. Korean Air, on the other hand, that’s a good fit. Should be very interesting. Peace!

    Category Experience Can Be Bull Shite.

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    I can count on 10,000 fingers the number of times I’ve come across hiring scenarios where people are looking for category experience. Steeped, repetitive, ingrained category experience is drawing the life out of innovation. That’s why the web and app-based tech sector is so vibrant. It’s only a few years old.

    I have a really smart friend with lots of marketing muscle who owns a consulting business. She is employing a team of business development “hunters” to grow business by targeting certain categories: healthcare, tech, automotive, etc.

    But what if she took a different tack? What if she looked at the business problem from the perspective of prospects? What if the hunters were organized not by business category, but by growth category? For instance, companies growing by 100% a year, companies growing by double digits, companies growing by single digits. Or how about companies holding at zero growth, or losing revenue by double digits?

    Then allow the hunters to devise strategies tailored to these segments. The marketing tactics for the high growth companies are immensely different than those of no growth companies. The strategies for single-digit growers differ broadly for single digit losers.

    The fact that a company is in a category presents neither a problem or an opportunity, so why do marketing consultants roll that way? Revenue growth and the speed of revenue growth are what companies need to learn about and affect. Freshies.

     

    Proof In Advertising.

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    Advertising isn’t ineffective because it’s a dying medium, it’s ineffective because it’s ineffective. Good branding is about “Claim and Proof.” Advertising, an important, controllable means of branding, needs to follow the same “Claim and Proof” dictum.

    Toyota, a company playing defense peppered with catch-up promotions, ran an ad in The New York Times paper paper today – a perfect example of badvertising.  All claim, no proof. Here’s the copy:

    No matter who you are or what you drive, everyone deserves to be safe. Which is why the Star Safety SystemTM is standard on all our new vehicles – no matter what model or trim level.  It’s a combination of five advanced safety features that help keep you in control and out of harm’s way.  Toyota is the first full-line manufacturer to make the features of the Star Safety SystemTM standard on all vehicles.  Because at Toyota, we realizes nothing is more important to you than your safety.

    I forgot the headline and I only read it 10 seconds ago. The call to action, where one might actually find the proof, is prominently displayed below the copy — Toyota.com/safety. This ad is one expensive call to action and a lot less.  Fail!

    Who is at Fault?

    I’m not sure who is responsible for this $20,000 piece of “we’re here” advertising but everyone is to blame. The creative person who said “People don’t read long copy.” The strategist who approved it, the client who agreed and paid for it. Frankly, The New York Times should be ashamed. Isn’t someone over there watching this stuff?

    This business is easy: Find a great claim and support it with compelling proof. Compelling proof. Compelling proof. Compelling proof. Peace!

    Silo vs. Integrated

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    In the advertising and marketing business, digital is its own channel.  Rare is the vendor that provides a truly integrated single source worldview of a brand. A really smart person once said to an important client “campaigns are overrated” which stuck me with a ferocity that shook my world, but he was right.  A campaign, when well-defined and well-equipped is a powerful selling mechanism.  It’s what people talk about. But translating campaigns across silos is not easy.  Heck, anyone who has ever worked at an ad agency knows campaigns don’t always transfer across media.  A great design-driven print campaign may not work well in radio or a murderously effective TV campaign may not work as out of home.  It’s tah-woooh.  And those silos are under one roof.    

    Competing Market Forces

    A bunch of hearty souls are trying to bring online and offline selling under one roof.  Yet a greater number of very skilled entrepreneurs are out there selling against the one roof approach — creating even greater and greater specialization.  A friend at CatalystSF told me that there are over 200 social media agencies in the New York area alone.  So what do you do about these two competing forces — the shops who want more pie and are trying to integrate and the shops selling best of breed, stand alone digital marketing specialties?  Well the planner in me usually starts problem solving by “following the money.”  In the case of integrated vs. stand alone I say “follow the strategy.”  

    If you find a potential partner with a sense of business strategy that transcends tactical discussions, listen. Business strategy first. Marketing strategy second. Message strategy third and tactical fourth.  I don’t care if its RGA or TBWA. Peace it up! 

    Control Your Marketing

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    Loss of Control is one of marketing’s 6 most motivating selling strategies. (I haven’t locked down on the other 5, though “save money” and “better service” have to be included.)

    I wrote a brief once for a home healthcare service catering to well-heeled, upscale individuals who didn’t need to rely on Medicare for payment. I called the target “Captains of the Castle,” a mixed metaphor indicating that not only were these people heads of household from a financial standpoint, they were one-time captains of industry.

    Let’s just say, back in the day these individuals were powerful, proud and in control.  Now in their 70 and 80s, Captains of the Castle are still proud, but in failing health and no longer powerful or running the show. (You’ve seen this black and white movie, no?)

    Most healthcare marketing in the home care category targets the caregiver. This brief was aimed not at the caregiver but at the care recipients — the Captains. The promise or offer was a specialized homecare program that gave them control back.  Control in their own homes.   (In fact, the brief generated a new product idea.) 

    As you are writing briefs and segmenting your targets, don’t forget to ask yourself about the loss of control as a motivator.  And, as you are selecting your media, message and proof, don’t cede control to the consumer.  Media Socialists think that’s the haps and they are largely wrong. Peace!