08 February 2012

Spider Charts Are Just Wrong

If you work in marketing or advertising, chances are you’ve seen a spider chart. These are supposed to impress upon us the vast number of consumer touchpoints reached by your IMC plan.

Although actual arachnids have eight legs, most marketing spider charts have many more. The more the merrier! Surround the consumer! I call this spidermania. You can see some examples, here, here and here.

There is a corollary effect to spidermania: Matching Luggage. This is the persistent belief that all marketing communications for a brand or product must look exactly alike.

Where did Spider Charts come from?

In the days of Ye Olde Marketing the media landscape was known territory and easy to navigate for clients, agencies and consumers. Even if your map went beyond broadcast and print media to include public relations or sports marketing or – remember this one? – guerrilla marketing, the task of budget allocation was straightforward.

When cable TV exploded, direct marketing matured, the Internet emerged and shopper marketing was invented, the landscape looked like those parts of Medieval maps warning Here Be Dragons. We tried in vain to organize everything in a way that made sense. Spider charts became a widely used tool.

Spider Charts illustrate how Clients and Agencies Use Media

The problem is that spider charts represent how marketing and advertising people use media. This perspective distorts your view in three ways:

1. You can’t guarantee a consumer will see all these things. They may look nice on the conference room wall, but what if the consumer only sees one or two executions? Will you still achieve your goal?
2. Assumes a “push” approach to marketing communications. Reach. Frequency. Penetration. These are important but we can no longer succeed with them alone. Some legs of the spider don’t work that way.
3. Misses the role of dialogue among consumers. Word-of-mouth has always outperformed any advertising, it was just hard to know how – until now. Social Media is not “push” nor “pull” but friends recommending things to friends. Spider charts miss that.

So what’s a better way?

Gigantic Venn Diagram Illustrates How Consumers Use Media

Marketing communications today is like a Gigantic Venn Diagram, its design constantly shifting from client to client, and from project to project. It would be nice if all the various media would just stay still for a moment and let us plan a client’s marketing communications. But it won’t. There will always be some new medium, platform or tactic bubbling up in the minds of programmers, entrepreneurs or venture capitalists.

By the way, this is wonderful. The Gigantic Venn Diagram may be confounding, but it should also be exciting. This is the best time in history to work in marketing communications.

It’s also reality. Consumers use these different media interchangeably and simultaneously. TV and Social Media. Mobile and Retail. QR codes and Direct Mail.

So what looks good on the conference room wall?

You may like spider charts for presentation purposes, and if it works for you, at least proceed with caution. Here are three other ways.

· Divide according to the purchase cycle. Many of you use the path to purchase or a funnel diagram to describe how the different media work together. We have been working with McKinsey for the past three years utilizing their Consumer Decision Journey.
· Organize according to media usage. Imagine a chart that divides advertising (communication that interrupts and/or persuades) from information or entertainment (communication that invites participation). Consumers use these very differently and so should we.
· Draw a Gigantic Venn Diagram. Honestly I am not sure yet if the GVD is a good presentation tool or maybe just a way to think about things during the planning process. It has definitely helped immerse me in a particular project, but only after I’ve done my homework.

That homework is critical. The same consumer insight that drives a creative brief should drive a channel plan. If you haven’t done that work, then you won’t get anywhere.

In any case, my hope is that phony spidermania has bitten the dust.

02 February 2012

Why You Should Care About Pinterest

My daughter and I have joined Pinterest. We’re not alone.

For me, Pinterest is a fast-growing social medium that knows how to build a community. My 13-year-old daughter was interested in what she had read about “pinning” things that piqued her interest like design, art, fashion, recipes and clothes. It looked like a perfect opportunity to do something together. So we created a joint account which you can see by clicking here.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest has been described as a social bookmarking site (a more user-friendly del.icio.us perhaps), a social photo sharing website, or, simply “like having all your favorite pages of magazines in one spot”. One of my tweeps says “it’s like getting a new magazine to peruse every day.” Pinterest says they are a “social catalog” or a “virtual pinboard”.

Like a real pinboard, it’s visual and instinctive. Pinterest asks its pinners to pin big images, with thoughtful descriptions, of “things you really love.” It’s obvious that people are following these guidelines, because the result is a visual feast. You instinctively go to those images you find most interesting, informative, entertaining or appealing. Our first image clicked? These baked shoestring garlic fries.

We also “liked” a book about social media content, a photo of Paris, my daughter’s favorite actress, a great dessert, ballet pictures, and that great currency of social media, cat photos. Looking back over our activity, I was surprised to see we had “liked” 42 different pins. It seemed like a lot for our first hour using Pinterest, far more than I “like” things on Facebook.

How will people use Pinterest?

In fact this personal experience teaches me something about Pinterest: It invites a lot more interaction because of all the options you see as soon as you arrive. Somehow it doesn’t come across as too cluttered. The things you like stand out easily. It’s also new every time you log on, so there are always new things to – as my friend put it – “peruse.”

Perusal of magazines and catalogs is the behavior Pinterest leverages. (My daughter has a file folder of all her clippings from catalogs and Martha Stewart magazines.) What’s new is that Pinterest gives you a place to store it all and to share it all.

The sharing part will be the subject of a future post because we haven’t followed anyone yet. Sharing will make Pinterest, like any social medium, strong. Witness the story of Kate, a North Carolina hairstylist.

Why does Pinterest matter to Marketing?

Inevitably, among the plethora of options is some content that represents a brand of some kind. We saw very little branded content, just things that people liked enough to pin for all to see. Some of those things can be bought, like this fashionable wristwatch. It’s not there for you to buy, however – it’s there for you to admire.

“Pin things you really love.” People are following that guideline, so Pinterest can show you the wisdom of crowds. When it comes to brands, people will only pin you, your product or your messages if they really love you, your product or your messages. Marketing was never a substitute for great products anyway and that goes double for social media. (Mashable recently ran a breathless headline about Pinterest driving retail traffic, but the evidence looked kind of thin to me. See for yourself.)

There is another factor to consider with Pinterest, one that I will call “catalogability”. That is, a brand will fit better with Pinterest if it already has or understands a catalog business. Brands like Etsy and Gap make sense on Pinterest because you might pin their products anyway. (We might caution Gap for selling a little too hard, however). Less intuitive examples – for me, anyway – are the Today Show, Chobani and Whole Foods.

There’s no telling where Pinterest will go from here, so I’m quite willing to be wrong about how people use it and how marketers infiltrate it. We can safely predict that word-of-mouth will drive Pinterest’s development. As those tens of millions of new users start connecting with one another, communities will form. Brands should proceed carefully, but at least get familiar with it.