Empowering your interactive marketing team

shar

This blog post comes live from the Forrester Marketing Forum 2010, where the theme is adaptive marketing.  During a break-out session, Forrester Vice President/Principal Analyst Shar VanBoskirk discusses organizing your interactive marketing team to embrace change successfully.

First, she issues a caveat and overriding theme: the wrong priority is to pursue the right organizational structure.  In fact, there is no singularly successful approach.

To set the context, Shar asks, How is interactive changing the way marketing actually functions inside the organization?  She asserts that:

1. Budgets are continuing to shift from traditional to online media. For the first time, growth in online is actually cannibalizing offline as opposed to resulting from organic growth.   Why?  One big reason is that marketers love the accountability of interactive tools.  The recession has moved marketing spend downstream from branding to point-of-sale, performance-based activities — which contributes to the growth of interactive.  In fact, by 2014, more than 20 percent of all advertising will go digital. We’re also seeing a decline in advertising overall.  Dollars are going into more efficient interactive channels and marketing investments like innovation, research, customer service, and marketing-specific technology.

2. Social media is transforming customer relationships.  This change, well documented elsewhere, affects your organization. Consumers expect to have interactive relationships with their favorite brands via many, many social channels like blogs and online discussion forums — and consumers want the brand to talk back.  Insights from social channels can inform PR, customer service, interactive marketing, and customer intelligence.  And interactive can play a much bigger role harnessing the power of social.

3. Bid-based audience targeting is redefining media buying.  We’re seeing a greater proliferation of media impressions. You can buy advertising on someone’s flickr page.  And quality of data is improving.  There is also increasing competition for search-based ads.  The result is the advent of the demand-side platform — a buy-side tool that helps media buyers aggregate, bid on, and optimize display inventory across exchanges, yield management networks, and ad networks.

4. We’re seeing the emergence of the Splinternet, a new era of the Internet in which devices proliferate and social online experiences live behind a user log-in. Devices control the interactive environment, forcing marketers to figure out how to distribute content more effectively across devices.

But along with digital catalysts are some challenges.  For instance, marketers are operating with leaner staff.  Interactive teams are too often being pushed into tactical mode.  Teams are not comprehensive. Interactive teams are not necessarily equipped with skills to manage interactive marketing.  And tensions abound between interactive marketing and other departments like information technology.

Shar believes no organizational model addresses the challenges facing interactive marketing teams.  She believes the real challenge is preparing your team for “interactive maturity.”  Interactive teams need to support existing business functions.  They need to spread their interactive DNA to other groups.  They need to define interactive job descriptions and career paths.  Interactive teams must mature by establishing interactive program standards. And interactive teams should use their insights to inform offline marketing.

She believes interactive organizations should mature along a spectrum. Less-mature organizations use a “scattered” model whereby teams lack a champion and clear role.  More mature organizations use a centralized interactive team that supports brand groups, product groups, or business units — akin to a service bureau.  (Another related model is the eCommerce alignment model, in which the interactive team’s primary focus is driving online sales.)

Shar believes organizations need to mature to a distributed model — meaning that you distribute your digital marketingresources into the different business functions you support.  This is not an ad-hoc scattered model but rather a more thoughtful way to support different parts of the organization.  The distributed model is a way for marketers to share their DNA throughout the organization.  The model aligns the business, customer, and channel more effectively.

An example: Newell Rubbermaid.  Prior to 2007, Newell Rubbermaid had different interactive strategies and sites for its 30 different brands.  Newell Rubbermaid moved to a centralized model to create an enterprisewide strategy, common Web platform, and standard channel processes.  The company hired an executive to focus on e-business and interactive marketing, reporting to the CIO with a dotted line relationship to the VP of marketing.

Newell Rubbermaid also elected to use interactive marketing to support branding and commerce goals.  Moreover, the interactive marketing team shares costs and accountability with the brands.  The team also trains others across the company on interactive marketing.  Newell Rubbermaid has also standardized interactive team roles.

Another example: Meijer wanted to reposition its stores and brand against increased competition in core markets and declining consumer spend due to the recession.  The solution: Meijer moved interactive marketing from e-commerce into a cross-channel media team that supports loyalty, brand engagement, community, and online/offline sales.

Meijer also uses interactive to support multiple goals and organizes to support functions, not channels.  Meijer also uses digital insights to inform offline media strategies.

For more insight, contact Shar at svanboskirk@forrester.com

Should CEOs be social?

georgecolony

This blog post comes to you live from the Forrester Marketing Forum 2010, where the theme is the need for marketers to adapt constantly.  During a lively presentation, Forrester Research CEO George Colony asks a simple but provocative question: should CEOs embrace social media?

George indicates that Forrester studied the habits of the top 100 CEOs and found almost none of them are active users of social media.  This is true even among high-tech CEOs like Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison.  Even Mark Zuckerberg does not blog.  He asks, why are CEOs not social?  Many reasons:

1. For many, age is a factor.  Many CEOs were born before 1950 and simply do not relate to social media as a form of communication.

2. They have distinct constraints.  If  they run a publicly traded company, they need to follow regulatory constraints.

3. Many are risk-averse.  They might be quite justifiably risk-averse to potential litigation, for instance.

4. CEOs have a different sense of time. For them, embracing social with any level of commitment means carving out time they don’t have.  Seth Godin blogs 12 hours a week.  How many CEOs have time to blog even 1 hour a week?

5. There might be a mis-match to the medium going on. How many CEOs are willing to make six public statements per day via Twitter or one major statement a week via a blog? And how many are willing to adapt the provocative style that is often needed to blog successfully? How many CEOs are willing to be transparent?

George asserts that only a limited number of people can really succeed with social.  How many of us — whether CEOs or not — can really embrace social with consistently high-quality content? Today Einstein would have been a poor match for blogging, for instance.

Should CEOs be social?  Yes, if:

1. The CEO has something valuable to say.

2. She can navigate the minefield of constraints and restrictions.

3. Customers, employees, partners, and investors, are actually tuned into the CEO.

4. The CEO accepts a new construct of social.

And does the CEO really have the desire?  If the answer is no, then accept that reality. The CEO has to be the right person for blogging.

If your CEO is onboard to actually embrace social, then the marketer needs to support the CEO with well-researched insights into how one’s potential audience actually engages in social.  In other words, know your audience. Employ approaches like the Forrester POST Method. For instance, give your CEO objectives for participating in the social world — for instance, is simply becoming a better listener all that matters to your CEO?  (In that case, using Twitter to remain engaged might be a better approach to attempting to blog.)

George also says a new construct of social is needed to empower the CEO. For instance, it’s time to stop thinking of “social heavy” and start embracing “social light.”  Social heavy is all about a frantic race to get the most Twitter followers.  Social light means a social profile that stresses quality over quantity.  Think of social as a way to share your corporate values, not to chase followers.

And be choosy. George believes that Facebook is just too personal for CEOs to use as their social platform.

But, the new construct does not mean asking your marketing or PR team to blog for you.  Marketing and PR can and should be the coaches helping CEOs embrace social, but not the do-ers.  One thing has not changed about social: the need to be authentic, writing in your own voice.  Not ready to do that?  Then forget being social.

Get to know George on Twitter and on his blog.

Crowdsourcing Charlene Li’s new book

Conventional wisdom says that you cannot write a book by committee.  Charlene Li of Altimeter Group is trying to dispel that idea, to some degree.

As she’s researched and written her forthcoming book Open, Charlene has relied on her blog and Twitter account to collect ideas such as the title of her book.  It looks like her approach is to ask very targeted questions (“international examples of ‘open’ organizations and leaders needed”) to meet a need, which I suspect sparks better input than open-ended queries.

Crowdsourcing is nothing new, but I believe thought leaders like Charlene are taking the right approach in reaching out to readers and followers for ideas.  At the least, the very act of soliciting input raises visibility for her book in the early going, and I’d like to think that even rejected ideas might prove useful for another endeavor down the road.

Firms like Forrester are looking at ways to crowdsource their research.  The Forresters of the world (correctly) take a careful, measured approach, assessing whether it’s possible to actually create a valid sample through, say, the Twitter universe.

What’s the best example of crowdsourcing you’ve seen in the development of thought leadership?

MillerCoors: a bold product launch in a recession

Recently Christine Overby and Shar VanBoskirk of Forrester Research speculated that a recession is the best time to innovate — a theme of the 2009 Razorfish Client Summit and a position taken by BusinessWeek and WIRED.  MillerCoors is the latest example of a company that proves the point.  Rather than retreat during recessionary times, MillerCoors is plowing ahead with the launch of a new product, the cold-activated can.  And my employer Razorfish is helping MillerCoors through a bold digital marketing campaign.

As reported by Stuart Elliott in The New York Times, at the heart of the campaign is a playful website, the “National Glacier Tracking Center,” that allows you to follow the progress of a dramatic cold front in the Rockies that causes (make-believe) glaciers to break free and launch themselves across the United States.  You can follow the paths of the glaciers as they work their way to major U.S. cities in time for the launch of the cold-activated can on May 15.

The message: Coors Light is pretty freaking cold.

But the microsite is just part of the effort.  Content from the site will also be reproduced as banner ads on properties such as ESPN.com, Pandora.com, and Weather.com.

A glacier menaces Manhattan

As Razorfish Creative Director Tim Sproul mentions to Stuart Elliott, the campaign is all about making an emotional connection with the consumer.  Rather than explain the innovation behind the cold-activated can, the campaign uses humor to associate Coors Light with a refreshing break from the heat.  It’s an approach that Razorfish has employed many times for MillerCoors — for instance, the creation of a comedy video series, Callin’ It a Day, designed to raise brand affinity with young men of drinking age.

MillerCoors has something in common with Intel.  Both companies have worked with Razorfish to launch new products during a recession — the cold-activated can for Coors, and the Core i7 microprocessor for Intel.

Who says innovation has to wait until an economic turnaround?

Think Social Influence Marketing and innovation during the recession

According to a new survey by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), 77 percent of marketers will reduce their advertising campaign media budgets.

The ANA isn’t the only organization forecasting bad news for the marketing industry.  Forrester Research recently predicted that marketing budgets will see typical decreases of 15-to-25 percent as enterprises decrease their spend on information technology goods and services.  Basically the message to marketers and their agency partners (like my employer Razorfish) is this: we’re in a recession — deal with it.  In this blog post, I’m going to answer three crucial questions on the minds of marketers and agencies as we deal with the recession.

1. Are we witnessing an industry implosion a la 2001-02?

Times are tough, to be sure.  But we’re not experiencing the digital marketing sector meltdown of 2001-02. Back then, the industry was bloated with digital services firms, and, what’s more, they concentrated too much client work on risky dot-coms.  When the dot-coms imploded, we saw a natural winnowing out.  Today, the players are more stable, and so are their clients.  I don’t think we’re going to see a wave of business collapses as we did during the dot-com implosion.  Rather, as Razorfish Chief Strategy Officer Jeff Lanctot recently stated, we can expect big players like Razorfish to continue to grow via targeted, smallish acquisitions around the world.

2. What happens to social media during a recession?

Social media used to be perceived as the marketer’s nemesis.  Now suddenly social media is the marketer’s best friend.  Why?  Because marketers realize that amid an economic downturn, it’s a lot more cost-effective to use social media channels like Twitter to build awareness among influencers.

But that doesn’t mean marketers will take a smart approach to social media.  In fact, I believe that social media will separate the savvy marketers from the followers during the recession.  The followers will settle for remedial, poorly formulated applications of social media in the name of saving money (“Let’s just post a video of our new product on YouTube, link our company announcement on Twitter, and call it a day”). But savvy marketers will take a more systematic approach to employing social influencers and media to achieve their marketing and business objectives — a strategy that my colleague Shiv Singh identified as Social Influence Marketing in 2007.

Savvy marketers will emerge from the recession more effective for having embraced Social Influence Marketing.  They will move beyond the role of strategic counselor to the enterprise (although that role is important) and become active participants in Social Influence Marketing (e.g., by blogging and joining communities that matter to their clients).  Savvy marketers will figure out how to make their company brands more authentic and true to their cultural values by listening to their own employees’ blogs and Twitter posts.  They will stop worrying about employees “subverting their brand” through the proliferation of blogs and instead learn from their own brand ambassadors.

This journey is starting now as the recession forces marketers to take a closer look at deploying social media as a cost-effective way to build their brands.

3. What’s the best way to market ourselves in a recession?

Conventional wisdom says that during down times, you place more focus on ways you can help marketers achieve efficencies and measure ROI — like the Razorfish RIAx offering, which tracks the performance of rich media.  But a recession is also a time to innovate (especially if your competitors are not) so that you’re ready to flourish when a turnaround arrives.  In the December 2008 Wired, Daniel Roth asserts, “When the economy is in turmoil, the time is ripe for ambitious innovation.”  He cites numerous examples of companies like Siebel that took advantage of slack times to generate new ideas that helped them leapfrog competitors who were wallowing in cost cutting.

Moreover, when Intel announced its new Core i7 chip as the recession became more evident last year, Don Clark of The Wall Street Journal noted that the new product roll-out was “the latest sign that development cycles run counter to business cycles at high-tech companies.”  (Razorfish helped Intel with the effort through our involvement in the Intel Digital Drag Race, which generated buzz for the Core i7 among creative designers and games.)

So why innovate during slack times?  As Sean Maloney of Intel said in The Wall Street Journal, “You recover from a recession with tomorrow’s products, not today’s.”  And according to Daniel Roth during lean times, materials and labor required to experiment can be found for less money than during boom times.

At Razorfish, we’re using the down time to experiment with new ideas, too, like the Generational Tags we developed to measure consumer behavior on social media sites.  At our 9th Annual Client Summit April 21-23 in Las Vegas, “Art of the Idea,” we’ll examine the relationship between innovation and ROI.

How are you dealing with the recession?

Forrester predicts: consumer 2018

This blog post comes live from the 2008 Forrester Consumer Forum in Dallas, October 28-29, 2008. The October 29 keynote consists of “Consumer 2018: Separating Fact from Fad” by Forrester Principal Analyst Lisa Bradner. Lisa addresses a thorny question: what will consumers be doing 10 years from now? How do you recognize the absolute truths about consumers versus passing fads?

Lisa contends that in the analog world, marketers have done a pretty good job at making things convenient for consumers through mass marketing, witnessed by the ease with which products can be mass produced, marketed, and distributed to your local Target. But too many companies are trying to apply a mass marketing approach to digital, which is why the web is awash with spam. Consequently, many consumers navigate the digital world without marketers. For instance, six out of 10 are influenced by peer reviews.

Consumers trust themselves and each other. But they don’t trust marketers. So how do marketers adapt?

The answer is fairly simple: follow consumer behavior — don’t try to “manage” it. To help the marketer, Lisa introduces the four “Ps” of understanding consumer behavior in the digital world: permission, proximity, perception, and participation:

1. Permission: consumers derive comfort by managing with whom and when they engage. Example: Gilt.com is a closed, invitation-only shopping community.

2. Proximity: consumers tap into networks and affiliations based on on content and association. The notion of curated content is important here. Example: Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast content curator connects people with common interests. Daily Beast brings proximity to its readers.

3. Perception: consumers inhabit multiple personas. Marketers need to engage the persona consumers are willing to reveal and allow consumers to manage their own perceptions. Example: Apple enables consumers to customize our iPods however we want, and we pay Apple for the privilege.

4. Participation: consumers participate in order to feel connected. Example: Sprint and and Suave have collaborated to create In the Motherhood, a community managed by moms for moms.

Consumers use these 4 P’s to manage their fluctuations between core need states. We cannot “control” them. We have to let consumers guide us.

Lisa’s closing thoughts: if you’ve gotten permission from consumers to participate in their world, ask them to share their experience with others. Consumers will act as brand advocates for you – if they like you.

So what do you think of these four P’s?

Are you experienced?

Engagement-based marketing is all the rage. Forrester Research, Gartner, and JupiteResearch have all published major commentary on engagement in the past 12 months. Agencies like my employer Avenue A | Razorfish are talking about the importance of building brands through experiences that engage consumers, online and offline. David Polinchock of the Brand Experience Lab publishes a popular blog, The Experience Economist. In reality, marketers have been pursuing the holy grail of engagement since Starbucks proved that you could charge a premium rate for a cup of coffee if you provided a memorable experience (probably even before that). So why all the talk now – and why will agencies like mine continue to talk about engaging experiences? I can think of three reasons:

Continue reading

Are you experienced?

Engagement-based marketing is all the rage. Forrester Research, Gartner, and JupiteResearch have all published major commentary on engagement in the past 12 months. Agencies like my employer Avenue A | Razorfish are talking about the importance of building brands through experiences that engage consumers, online and offline. David Polinchock of the Brand Experience Lab publishes a popular blog, The Experience Economist. In reality, marketers have been pursuing the holy grail of engagement since Starbucks proved that you could charge a premium rate for a cup of coffee if you provided a memorable experience (probably even before that). So why all the talk now – and why will agencies like mine continue to talk about engaging experiences? I can think of three reasons:

Continue reading

Digital Darwinism at Cannes

Is there such a thing as a digital brand? Joe Crump certainly thinks so.

Joe is an executive in the strategy practice of Avenue A | Razorfish, my employer. On June 21 at the Cannes International Advertising Festival, Joe will unveil the top 10 digital brands based on a new scorecard (created by Avenue A | Razorfish) known as the Brand Gene Scoreboard.

Joe contends that brands need to view the digital world differently than the off-line world. In his view, digital is “ruthlessly Darwinian.” Consumers form impressions of your website in milliseconds. If they don’t like what they see, they can shut you out forever with one easy mouse click. Or tell their friends how boring you are you on blogs, review sites, and social hangouts like Facebook.

His view: brands must tap into the immersive and social nature of digital to survive. They have to be more fast moving than ever if they want to put digital at the core of their success. He’s decided to do something about it by developing the Brand Gene Scoreboard to help companies assess how digital their brands really are.

The scorecard identifies seven attributes such as immersion (how easy it is for a consumer to become engaged with your digital home), social (whether a consumer finds your brand worth sharing), and adaptive (how well a brand responds to a consumer’s digital environment), among other qualities. Flickr, Netflix, and Nike score well when measured by the scorecard. But some of the leading brands according to Interbrand, like GE and IBM, perform poorly when we apply the Brand Gene Scoreboard to measure their digital brand savvy.

Joe’s point of view is not without controversy. To the naysayers, there is no such thing as a digital brand anymore than there are digital people. You don’t need digital to make your brand “social” — good-old fashioned word of mouth occurs in the offline world all the time and will continue to do so. And brick-and-mortar stores like American Girl illustrate that you don’t need digital to be immersive.

And yet . . . digital is different. Yes, people have been marketing through word of mouth for a long time. But as Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff point out in The Groundswell, digital turbocharges inherently social behaviors and takes word of mouth — for better or worse — to a whole new level. What used to be a long, gradual process can now happen literally overnight because of social media tools like blogs. And there’s no question that a digital destination like shaveeverywhere can turn even the most mundane product demonstration into an engaging and fun experience that’s hard to convey in the offline world.

If you are at Cannes, you can see his talk Saturday, June 21, at 1 p.m., Debussy Theatre, Palais des Festivals. If not, you can hear a flavor of his ideas by viewing the presentation at the top of this blog post (this is a preview of the Cannes presentation, which Joe delivered at the Avenue A | Razorfish Client Summit in New York on May 14.) Check this out, too, for further reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree.

Digital Darwinism at Cannes

Is there such a thing as a digital brand? Joe Crump certainly thinks so.

Joe is an executive in the strategy practice of Avenue A | Razorfish, my employer. On June 21 at the Cannes International Advertising Festival, Joe will unveil the top 10 digital brands based on a new scorecard (created by Avenue A | Razorfish) known as the Brand Gene Scoreboard.

Joe contends that brands need to view the digital world differently than the off-line world. In his view, digital is “ruthlessly Darwinian.” Consumers form impressions of your website in milliseconds. If they don’t like what they see, they can shut you out forever with one easy mouse click. Or tell their friends how boring you are you on blogs, review sites, and social hangouts like Facebook.

His view: brands must tap into the immersive and social nature of digital to survive. They have to be more fast moving than ever if they want to put digital at the core of their success. He’s decided to do something about it by developing the Brand Gene Scoreboard to help companies assess how digital their brands really are.

The scorecard identifies seven attributes such as immersion (how easy it is for a consumer to become engaged with your digital home), social (whether a consumer finds your brand worth sharing), and adaptive (how well a brand responds to a consumer’s digital environment), among other qualities. Flickr, Netflix, and Nike score well when measured by the scorecard. But some of the leading brands according to Interbrand, like GE and IBM, perform poorly when we apply the Brand Gene Scoreboard to measure their digital brand savvy.

Joe’s point of view is not without controversy. To the naysayers, there is no such thing as a digital brand anymore than there are digital people. You don’t need digital to make your brand “social” — good-old fashioned word of mouth occurs in the offline world all the time and will continue to do so. And brick-and-mortar stores like American Girl illustrate that you don’t need digital to be immersive.

And yet . . . digital is different. Yes, people have been marketing through word of mouth for a long time. But as Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff point out in The Groundswell, digital turbocharges inherently social behaviors and takes word of mouth — for better or worse — to a whole new level. What used to be a long, gradual process can now happen literally overnight because of social media tools like blogs. And there’s no question that a digital destination like shaveeverywhere can turn even the most mundane product demonstration into an engaging and fun experience that’s hard to convey in the offline world.

If you are at Cannes, you can see his talk Saturday, June 21, at 1 p.m., Debussy Theatre, Palais des Festivals. If not, you can hear a flavor of his ideas by viewing the presentation at the top of this blog post (this is a preview of the Cannes presentation, which Joe delivered at the Avenue A | Razorfish Client Summit in New York on May 14.) Check this out, too, for further reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree.