Thursday, September 27, 2012

We are talking to the wrong guy

Anyone in advertising has seen this a million times. You come in with a huge idea. I mean something that can blow the lid off the world. It involves an app, a few websites, an event at Piccadilly Circus, global partnerships that are ready to go, installations all around the world, a gigantic retail promotion, vendor training, changing internal processes, new pricing structures, changes to the packaging, and yeah, some advertising too.

And they love it.

It's great, it's bold, it's just what they were looking for.


They'll just take the advertising. "Maybe we'll do the other stuff in Phase 2", they say, which is code for "never-in-a-million-years".

The problem here is, that the people in charge of briefing ideas for agencies are the people in charge of buying advertising. It's an organizational issue. All this time the clients have been nagging for an integrated agency model and yet most clients live in little boxes, looking at one thing at a time. "Oh, that stuff belongs to the website team, but it was a good idea anyways."

Advertising ideas aren't clean-cut. The best ideas are messy and they will not match the organizational conveniences of any company. You need a bull-dozer as a client. Someone who can get all the right people to sit down and agree to pull it off. Someone who hasn't booked a bunch of television time and is only interested in filling that slot. Someone who can analytically crunch numbers, but also once in a while take a leap of faith because it feels right in the general groin region. You need someone other people will listen to.

I think that guy is more likely to be the CEO than the CMO. You know, the Steve Jobs school of managing marketing.

Okay, maybe you don't have a Steve Jobs available, so at least the marketing teams should act as interfaces into the organization, not just catapults shooting material out into the wild. They should help find all the right people and get them on board something crazy. I'm talking about operational people. People who make things. Business and process owners. The finance guys. The IT-people. That one guy who is in charge of all the brand dashboards. Agencies need access and backing from marketing organizations in order to execute great work.

And unless that happens, I'm afraid that we're stuck talking to the wrong guy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Your brand is here

Your brand is not a shiny plaque in your corporate office.

Your brand is sure as hell not in the brand guidelines.

You can't decide to change it in a committee.

Your brand is not delicate to semantics.

In fact, you don't own your brand.

Because your brand is here.

It is in my head.

I made it.

You just helped.

If you are not happy with it, you'll have to talk to me about it.

What I care about is simple.

Have a heart beat.

Heart: Empathy. Personality.

Beat: Do things. Interesting things.

Tell me a good story.

Help me get my shit together.

Make me see new possibilities.

Because your brand is here.

It is in my head.

I made it.

You just helped.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The thirsty man

"And we did it all with zero paid media dollars!" was the ending of every second case study video in every digital award show I saw a while back. The notion that by coming up with something that could grab the attention of an audience for a fleeting second, without actually having to pay for it, had captivated the digital marketing community. It seemed like you were getting something for nothing. Which is great.

But unfortunately not true.

Most likely you were getting barely anything for a hell of a lot of effort. Spikes of interest based on an online stunt is a tactic that in my book should be used very rarely*. But for ongoing business-as-usual -situations, it is a gross misuse of what the web can do.

Advertising works because of repetition. You hear the same thing over and over and over again and it will alter your behavior. You will buy that brand of juice more likely than the other one if you see it often enough. You will consider Mexico as a travel destination, if someone suggests it enough times. But online gimmicks are one-offs. They most likely will not significantly change consumer behavior. "If 10000 people like this, we will shoot a cat into space" will probably get you the attention you want. For a second. But there is no continuity to it and therefore it does not do what advertising does, as the magic ingredient of repetition is missing.

But the good news is: we can do something better than just gimmicks and advertising.

The web is not only an advertising channel. It is an extension of what the brand has to offer. All products are digital products. Just think about what "a product" really is. A product is one collection of attributes that fulfills a need you have or solves a problem in your life.

It's a glass of water to a thirsty man.

It's exactly what he needs, just when he needs it.

Our job as marketers is to find that thirsty man and satiate him. When he's looking to buy jeans, what sort of thoughts and problems does he have? What can your brand do online to help him? This is the process of inventing the digital dimension for your product. What ever you do online becomes part of the product offering. His problem (or thirst to run with the metaphor) might be, for example, that he hates that all jeans are similar and generic. So your glass of water could be a service where he can customize the jeans to his liking. Or maybe he's thirsty later in the product life-cycle and he needs to have better information in keeping he's jeans looking great even after a wash. So perhaps you build digital jeans washing guide that give him what he needs to know.

You get the point.

And in case you didn't, I'll say it again: the digital attributes of a product are just as real as the physical ones. They are just easier to make and distribute, as a bunch of bits, or electrons, are less a hassle to move around, than a pile of atoms. I find this very exciting. Most "real-world" brands have not yet figured out how to serve the thirsty man online. And the ones that do, will be very successful. We will see many revolutions where big brands die as dinosaurs that couldn't adapt and small ones innovate themselves into relevance.

So I think that in the near future more and more case-studies will end with "...and it was all due to how we fundamentally changed what the brand has to offer", instead of how many "likes" you got with that online pie eating contest. Not because I hate pie. (I don't.) But because making a better offering is, by all means, better marketing.

(* And yes, I do think that stunts can be useful - sometimes.  They are probably most useful when trying to focus attention on a certain point in time - like a premier of a movie or a charity event, where there is a very specific reason you would need a spike of interest for that particular moment. )