Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Problem is that there's no universal standard for creating stellar conversations today. We do know one thing for certain, word of mouth product, service or political perspective recommendations score higher than anything else in the marcom practitioner's tool bag. With a host of new social media options evolving on almost a daily basis, new conversation starters would seem to be a no-brainer. But that's not what I've found.
As director of programs for IABC Chicago, I opened a luncheon session the other day to 75 Fortune 150 communicators by asking how many were involved in emerging media - blogging, Twitter or podcasting - on some regular basis. Only a few hands went up. I should have been shocked, but I wasn't because I'd heard almost the same answer in the graduate IMC class I teach at Northwestern when I asked 23 new students the same question.
If conversations about products and services are so effective at changing behavior - and I believe they are - why do so many communicators still understand so very little about the value of social media?
One reason is that no one is quite sure where social media fits in the traditional corporate structure. Should the brand manager be Tweeting or is that the role of corporate communications or marketing? Or should they all be blogging too? And how do you control the conversations with a variety of departments chiming in?
The big guys upstairs are also afraid of social media simply because it is so well … social. They're afraid that dipping their toes in the social media stream means opening themselves up to critical feedback - it does - when all they want to really do is sell products. To them, the best solution is to do nothing right now.
Here's why I think that's rather short sighted. People chatting all over the place - as in all over the globe - about a product or service is much more likely to result in a positive conversation than a negative one. The most important element corporate communicators and marketing folks miss, however, is that these conversations don't need us to happen. They're taking place right now with no input from any of the company people.
Sure there's a good chance someone might rather buy a BMW than a Ford, but Ford on Twitter participating in the conversation anyway. They understand that taking part, as risky as that might seem to some traditional marketing folks, is a far better alternative than standing on the sidelines hoping conversations convince people to buy.
Finally, it's work to stay on top of the new media game.
You need to be open-minded about the possibility of new ideas and new methods of convincing people that your product or service should be the choice right now. That means reading, quite a bit in fact, to learn more and develop new strategies. It means subscribing to blogs and reading them to better understand where they might fit into your business. But you don't need to participate in blogs, Twitter or any of these in order to watch and listen.
There is much to distract a business from social networking right now. But the poor economy won't be a great excuse a year from now. The smart communicators are learning the skills and developing strategies now that will help pull their companies out of the slime as the recession ends.
So can you afford to ignore social networking as a marketer? Only at your peril.
--Guest Contributor: Robert Mark
Robert Mark is an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and CEO of Evanston-based CommAvia. He's is the past-president of the Chicago chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators and publisher of the Webbie-award winning aviation blog Jetwhine.com.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Since 1917, thousands of Girl Scouts dressed in a signature green sash or vest have been pounding the pavement to sell cookies to their relatives, neighbors and parents’ coworkers. The annual Girl Scout cookie sale has provided millions of dollars in funding for local Girl Scout troops and councils, in addition to major brand recognition for the organization as a whole.
This year one eight-year-old scout, Wild Freeborn of Asheville, N.C., decided that knocking on doors would not get her to her goal of selling 12,000 boxes (the cost of sending her troop to summer camp). So, with the help of her web designer dad, she decided to post a video on YouTube and sell boxes online. Right away, Freeborn sold 700 boxes.
Obviously with the great realization of online orders, Freeborn was able to tap into an unmet consumer need – quick and convenient online shopping of Girl Scout cookies. Even at a young age, she was able to observe current buying behaviors and realize that if consumers would buy anything from shoes to groceries online, they would certainly do the same for Samoas, Tagalongs and Do-Si-Dos. No longer would the Girl Scout cookie market of Asheville need to wait with cash on hand for a knock on the door or the chance set-up on a busy sidewalk.
But, when the local Girl Scout officials got word of her new media selling tactics, they shut her down. According to Freeborn’s interview on NBC’s Today Show, the Girl Scouts of America have a policy against selling cookies online since it believes online retail takes away from its wholesome and traditional brand identity. But, with a recent USA Today article reporting a 19 percent decline in pre-order cookie sales during this year’s annual drive in January and February, one may wonder why the Girl Scouts of America would impede one young entrepreneur’s goal. At $3.50 a box, that’s a large chunk of change is lost Thin Mints.
--Lauren McCabe (Hudson County, NJ Troop #76 1987-1993)
Friday, March 13, 2009
Last week AIGA Chicago hosted “Designing Obama” where Sol Sender and Scott Thomas (SimpleScott) discussed the creation and evolution of the Obama logo and Web sites.
The break from traditional design and tactics used in political marketing truly set the campaign apart from competitors and predecessors. While the logo development process was interesting, the most fascinating aspect was the successful use of IMC principles.
A strong focus on the consumers (supporters) led to the “we” instead of “he” philosophy and drove marketing tactics.
The logo was a tangible way for supporters to connect with the campaign. Everyone became manipulators of the logo. It was easily recreated, transferred, and transformed allowing consumers to express their individuality as well as their support for Obama—and supporters took full advantage of it. The campaign Web site even provided the logo and downloads for assisting with creating items such as t-shirts and promotional materials.
The campaign effectively used the Web and social media to not only connect with supporters, but to empower supporters and connect them to each other. The BarakObama.com Web site provided value added content for supporters including educational materials and tools for becoming involved. My.BarakObama.com was a social network site where supporters created profiles, accessed resources, create personalized fundraising pages and blogs, and utilized simple tools for connecting with other supporters. Other social media tools such as Myspace, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter were also utilized.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Last night, P&G held an experiment combining digital marketing experts with the power of social networks for a cause. The first-time event, called Digital Hack Night, hosted 40 people from Facebook, Google and several agencies to share the hands-on experience of reaching a market digitally through viral means.
Instead of marketing the Tide product, the teams were competing to see who could sell the most vintage T-shirts; proceeds benefited the Loads of Hope program which partners with Feeding America to provide clean clothes to victims of natural disasters.
*image from www.polyvore.com
Information about the event showed up on popular blogs, on Facebook, and on Twitter with the tags #pgdigital and #tide. In just a few hours sales of the shirts reached $50k and Tide matched $50k, raising $100k before midnight.
Partnering with a cause can be a great strategic move for a company, as both sides reap benefits. P&G has been actively using cause marketing to enhance the value argument it is making for its products in this recession .
Using social media for good is an increasing trend. Coupling this action with a marketing effort just might be the next big thing. If used appropriately, causes may help companies show authenticity to their customers and improve the strength of relationships.
IMC campaigns embrace the power of social media for marketing. By leveraging the power of word of mouth and the instant responsiveness of networks like Twitter, messages can spread quickly and reinforce a brand's image. However, social media must be utilized correctly in order for a campaign to be a success. Not every channel is appropriate for every company, brand, or campaign.
P&G set a great example with this challenge - marketers need to engage with social media to learn best practices to incorporate into future campaigns. The best part about this event was that it was organized by P&G, not an agency or a social media expert. And P&G chose a cause that fit with the Tide brand. By making the effort to learn how social media can best be used for its products, P&G went straight to the best minds in the industry, and emerged with knowledge it can use to market its other products and a successful charity event that will bode well with its consumers. I know I'm more likely to purchase Tide or other P&G products now - how about you?
Friday, March 6, 2009
This year’s MBA Media & Entertainment Conference held at Columbia University in New York focused on how new technology and emerging audience behaviors are changing the media industry at a historic pace. With a keynote discussion by NBC Universal president and chief executive officer Jeff Zucker, the conference gave attendees the opportunity to learn how media conglomerates such as NBC Universal are attempting to utilize these variables in order to advance their audiences’ experience and the company’s bottom line.
Zucker focused his discussion on the changing revenue streams impacting NBC Universal and how the corporation’s economic model will need to evolve in order to capitalize on the new digital environment. Because of the increasing popularity of online streaming video, NBC Universal teamed up with News Corp. in March 2007 to create Hulu.com. Zucker said that with this initiative and their other digital platforms, NBC Universal has been able to realize “a trade of analog dollars to, now, digital dimes.” While this means that there may not be the ability to pull in comparable advertising revenue in digital media than what traditional mass media has seen in the past, NBC Universal’s response to viewers’ growing desire for new media platforms may make the company better positioned in the future.
So, the multibillion-dollar question for Zucker and other media executives is: Will paying attention to consumer behavior lead to greater profit going forward? As long as media companies can effectively analyze the impact of their business decisions, IMC theory suggests so.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
There is a future for companies that take sustainable development and/or green issues seriously. With environmental concerns taking precedence in today’s businesses, political and personal agendas, the skies look pretty bright for green marketing. In fact, businesses investing in green efforts are seeing rapid growth, as mainstream consumers demand green products across all industries. For example, SC Johnson developed a more environmentally-sound version of Windex.
Even the financial sector has developed green products and services (e.g. green mortgages and green financing). In the UK, green financial products are ubiquitous. Green products have captivated consumers’ fleeting attention, but there is always the question of authenticity. Due to “greenwashing” in the past, consumers are becoming more skeptical. A plethora of businesses have jumped on the bandwagon and consumers quickly sneer at those who do it for publicity. However, the advantage lies in developing legitimate green/ethical products, not in merely branding them as green.
The IMC process starts by understanding consumers. Today, consumers are more informed and aware than ever before. Since there are now plenty of segments within the green market, marketers also need to know how green or ethical their consumers are, in order to target them appropriately. Are consumers making behavioral and lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprint? Or, are they just beginning to learn about green issues? How do they feel about paying more for green products? What are their attitudes regarding sustainable development? How do they perceive the quality of green versus conventional products?
Marketers need to be cautious in the way they promote products and services, because consumers often know more than what marketers assume - never underestimate their love for the environment.
--Guest Contributor: Lynette Villalobos, IMC Graduate Student
Monday, March 2, 2009
When the Snuggie showed up with the above 60 second infomercial on high-rated prime-time programming, jaws dropped. It was the ultimate sign of an economic crisis in the U.S. In relation to how marketing is all connected, this signified a dramatic change in marketing behavior. IMC seeks to understand how marketing works together and is affected by changes in consumer and market behaviors. The following chain of indicators reflects a nationwide crisis on a very significant level.
Last June during the beginning of the 2008-2009 upfront, everything was business as usual. Television CPM’s were up – and advertisers were shelling out hefty budgets. A few media companies were even going so far as to hold back some of their upfront inventory in hopes for even higher scatter prices later in the year. It was a bold move, but why worry? By the time the upfront closed in August, advertising budgets for most networks met or exceeded expectations. It wasn’t long before that decision to hold back inventory came back to bite the media companies in a hard way. The network’s projections of lofty increases in the scatter marketplace turned to begging. Couldn’t anyone buy up some of that unsold inventory? Enter the Snuggie.
What about the rest of the advertisers out there – why aren’t they buying? In February 2009, P&G decided to take nearly all of their available upfront options, despite promises days earlier that budget cuts would not occur. This pulled millions from the market and started what MediaWeek would call “The Start of the Stampede.” Combine unsold inventory with increased budget cuts, and you have a very nice buyers market. Enter the Snuggie.
What is really concerning about the Snuggie on primetime was the fact that it was an infomercial. Previously, major networks like CBS and FOX would have scoffed at the idea of cheapening their image with QVC-type advertisers. But considering the issues discussed, beggars can’t be choosers. Desperation leads to difficult decisions – and desperation doesn’t come from a mild economic downturn. It implies a full blown crisis at hand, something the Snuggie has helped all marketers come to terms with.
--Guest Contributor: Jeffrey Mulcock, IMC Graduate Student