29 January 2010

Message, Media, Creative

My first-hand lesson about how social media messages depend on content and relevance, posted on 11 January, reminded me of a successful client we worked with in the late 1990s.

This client had his own formula for marketing: Message, Media, Creative. The idea was to start by figuring out what you wanted to say (Message), where is the place to say it (Media), and how to say it in a way memorable, convincing, and relevant to the medium (Creative).

This formula works as well today as it did way back in the 20th Century. The greatest channel-neutral plan or the most entertaining creative don't mean bubkes if the message isn't appealing.

A modern example of this principle is the above Google diagram* describing how your SEM copy is everything when inviting consumers to your cause. It's actual advice is: "A successful link bait can increase inbound links, traffic and brand awareness."

In English: If you have a strong message, suitable for SEM and write it well, you can meet your objective.

* Hat tip: the blogress Little Miss Jen.

28 January 2010

It doesn't matter whether the iPad succeeds

My inbox this morning was full of marketing missives about the official announcement of Apple's iPad. There was Apple's own e-mail linking to the official propaganda. There was the story in the Self-Proclaimed Newspaper of Record. A couple of marketing news feeds (here and here). There are two important questions: Will it succeed like the iPhone? Why does it matter?

Will it succeed like the iPhone?

The blogosphere's commentary is mixed so far, mainly because this is a completely new kind of device and we can only talk about it in terms of known references. Thus you hear the iPad is "an iPhone on steroids", "a really big iPod Touch", "a Kindle killer", "an imitation Kindle", and even -- I am not making this up -- a feminine hygiene product.

The main thing for us all to keep in mind is that the iPad (snicker) is a mobile device. As my colleague Michael Fassnacht opined recently in a blog post about mobile marketing in 2010, "the definition of the mobile device will change dramatically." Regardless of whether Apple succeeds again, the iPad will definitely change our frame of reference about mobile devices.

The iPad is a big new product launch. One of the laws of Ye Olde Marketing that's likely to stay constant in modern marketing is the 90% failure rate of new product launches. Not even Apple can defy this law; see this list of the Top 10 Apple products which flopped.

One of Apple's secrets is to learn from failure. The road to the iPhone is littered with Newtons and Lisas that flunked with consumers. In the end, though, they changed how and when we communicate with others, receive entertainment, take pictures, shop and many other routines. (Along the way they transformed themselves from a computer hardware company into a consumer electronics company -- another harbinger of convergence.) It doesn't matter if iPad succeeds because they will have set the stage for a future success, either their own or someone else's.

What matters is whether the iPad permits engagement with consumers

What matters to marketers is whether the iPad permits engagement with consumers. There was a bit of a dust-up in the comments of an AdAge.com article this morning over whether the iPad will support typical online advertising technology. It seems the answer at this moment is "no" or "in some ways" but those are merely the answers of the moment. Everything in marketing changes so fast that it's a safe bet we will all find ways to engage consumers on the iPad. (For more on this, read Josh Bernoff's piece on the "Splinternet".)

If the iPad fails, you can count on three things. 1. Apple will learn from failure and invent something better and more successful. 2. We will all gain more experience with mobile marketing. 3. Mobile will continue to be an important place to engage consumers.

25 January 2010

2 CPG companies, 3 approaches to social media

I was amused by these two stories that appeared today on AdAge.com:

Based on these headlines, which company do you think will have more social-media success?

Wait! Before you answer "P&G", consider that we don't know whether Procter also has a social-media attorney.

We do know, however, that Procter's GM of interactive spouted some words that in print resemble a skeptical anti-social-media rant*. Quoting from the AdAge.com article:

"What in heaven's name," he asked, "made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?"

"Who said this is media?" he said. "Media is something you can buy and sell. Media contains inventory. Media contains blank spaces. Consumers weren't trying to generate media. They were trying to talk to somebody. So it just seems a bit arrogant. ... We hijack their own conversations, their own thoughts and feelings, and try to monetize it."


This is simply proof that we are all trying our best to figure out the landscape. Nobody has all the answers, not even a colossal CPG empire in Cincinnati.

* As opposed to an "anti-social, media rant."

22 January 2010

Wired to Care

Yesterday we helped a big client run an off-site meeting about empathy.

Empathy with consumers, that is. Sincerely understanding the people who buy, rent, use or refuse your product or service.

Empathy is critical if you work in marketing and advertising. The one main lesson of my career (learned and relearned) has been know your consumer. Knowing your consumer permits you to invent the right product, find the right message to sell it, choose the right media to engage consumers with it, and design the right ads for each medium.*

Before yesterday's off-site meeting we all read the book Wired to Care by Dev Patnaik. It's a great book and we had it brought to life by the author himself, who helped us run several workshops. (That's him in the above photo, flanked by two of the meeting organizers.)

I read very few business books but strongly recommend this one. In summary, it says (1) empathy matters, (2) as humans we have a natural ability to empathize, and (3) if we develop this ability in our professional lives, the business payoff is huge. Read the book as a way to start developing your own empathic abilities.

The book is just a start, however. Knowing your consumer is a simple concept to understand but a hard one to practice. My challenge to myself is to continue practicing these principles of empathy in my business going forward.

* Remember that the "ad" in Ad Majorem includes all marketing communications, from social media to direct mail to Internet gaming to TV commercials.

18 January 2010

Why Diversity is important in Marketing, and how you can help achieve it in the workplace

Diversity is critical to embracing the changes and challenges of modern marketing.

Today is a good day to think about diversity since we celebrate a U.S. holiday in remembrance of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist pastor and civil rights leader who personifies our country's struggle to establish equality for everyone in a very diverse society. You can read all about Rev. King on Wikipedia.

The importance of diversity in society requires no explanation. Why is diversity important in marketing, then?

Marketing has an influence on society

Marketing and advertising have an influence on society: our messages, images, words and music set the trends rather than follow them. This is often lamentable but it is almost always powerful and we dare not misunderstand it. Hence we should consider diversity when we prepare something for public consumption. A very tangible action, for example, is to hire diverse on-camera talent.

Diversity is also important behind the camera and in the office. We are more likely to present diversity in our work if we have it in our workforce. Much has been written about the need for our employee roster to match the diversity in our society, and I share the commitment to making it happen.

Modern marketing demands diversity

Diversity in the workplace is even more important when one considers that marketing plans and tools themselves are more diverse than ever. In Ye Olde Marketing the planning process was relatively straightforward because we had only three TV networks and limited other media available. Today, of course, there are hundreds of tools and millions of ways to combine them. If you appreciate the diversity of it all, your mind will be open to new creative possibilities.

The same applies to human diversity, be it racial , social or economic. If you appreciate the diversity of the people around you, your mind will be open to new creative possibilities. Diversity is not only a moral imperative; it's an ingredient in business success.

Modern marketers value diversity

How do we achieve a more diverse workforce? There are numerous corporate, government and other programs available, which I won't try to catalog here. I only suggest that if your company offers a course or workshop, take it -- and take it seriously. Many of these are high-quality, and it's never a waste of time to stop and challenge the way we think about our relationships with others.

This is akin to developing yourself as a Renaissance Practitioner -- someone who recognizes their own unique perspective but works hard to appreciate the perspective of others. Shouldn't we work just as hard to understand a colleague's life experience as we do their professional specialty?

My answer would be "Yes" -- and we must try to make a little bit of progress each day.

11 January 2010

Content, Relevance and just being a mensch

If you follow me on Twitter you know I used that platform over the holidays to conduct an experiment: What would happen if I signaled blog posts exclusively on Twitter, not using LinkedIn, Facebook, e-mail or any other means? It seemed like a good question since LinkedIn was driving most of my blog traffic even though I was consistently posting links on Twitter.

What did I learn?


As previously posted, content matters most and it only matters if it matters to the recipient. Reviewing the Twitter generated traffic of the past two weeks, a reflective, end-of-year holiday time period, it seemed clear the post about goal-setting mattered more than the post about Twitter vs. LinkedIn. In the same way, a post about writing attracted new readers who saw #writing as the signal of a mutual interest. In other words, it was relevant to them.


To say content matters also means the content is relevant. Relevance is a function not only of content but of placement. In other words, content may matter to you but it will only be relevant if you get the content at a moment when you are willing and predisposed to digest it.

Here was my own lesson in relevance. During the holidays I read an AdAge.com article about hiring and firing at ad agencies. One of the article comments suggested a link to some advice about finding a new job. I added a comment suggesting a link to my own advice about how to keep your job in 2010.

Boom goes the dynamite. The next day I had my highest-ever traffic for a single page, simply because people predisposed to the topic of job survival saw some additional helpful content. I wasn’t selling anything; I was just trying to be helpful.

The high traffic number was kind of fun for a moment, but it was illusory because many of the people stayed for less than a minute. The much more meaningful statistic was the number of new followers to the blog. In Ye Olde Marketing gross impressions mattered; in modern times it’s more about the relationships we start.

Just being a mensch

The cartoon above is Tom Fishburne’s tribute to a piece by Guy Kawasaki. These six types of Twitter users rang true for me based on almost three years experience. There was also a personal lesson, however. I realized that the perspective of my original experiment was type #1, The Brand trying to sell you a product. No harm done in this case since it’s just Steve’s blog but I will apply the lesson to my clients’ businesses. I’d rather be The Maven, but frankly that's not me; I’ve been blessed with many Mavens here at my agency (@scubachris, @chi_media_guy, @menocal, @lilmissjen, and of course the maven of them all). Instead my new year’s resolution on Twitter is to be The Mensch – someone who has some experience to offer for the benefit of those to whom the content matters and is relevant.

To most of you reading this post, the principles I espouse are not new – we’ve all read them in various online and offline business publications. Still, it’s much more meaningful for me to experience them for myself.

07 January 2010

PT Boats versus Battleships

Big agencies have always been faulted for moving too slowly, especially when it comes to embracing fundamental changes such as the advent of TV in the 1950s and digital in modern times.

We can all learn from small agencies, including ones outside the U.S., because they move more nimbly and adapt with the times much more easily.

Big agencies are not bad; they have a lot of benefits. They are battleships, however, with much to learn from the PT Boats.

They're remaking our old Super Bowl commercial

A few weeks ago we told you the behind-the-scenes story of how a legal problem almost killed the Michael Jordan-Larry Bird "Showdown" TV commercial.

17 years later, the spot is likely to have a new ending with an appearance by Bird.

Carla Michelotti is still general counsel at ad agency Leo Burnett, which is also handling the remake, so I doubt they'll fail to get the right building use clearances this time.

If this report is true, I'm looking forward to seeing the new version.