Tag Archives: digital

The speed trap.

By now we all realize that technology has taken over. Information can be obtained at the speed of 4G. Mobile devices with GPS can pinpoint our every step. Not sure about something? Find the answer with your smartphone in a snap. These are all very convenient tools, and we would be hard-pressed to think about life without them. They have given us the ability to do more, but at what intellectual price?

As producers, we are getting information out there faster than ever, but what is sacrificed is the ability to connect and communicate with others in a meaningful way. We keep hurling more fill dirt into an ever-widening void. We’re like gluttons feasting on so many empty calories. It’s commonplace now to visit the home pages of most major news sites and see numerous “articles” about how to lose weight or top ten lists of the best sitcoms of the ‘80s, all replete with typos and the occasional nonsensical phrase. It’s classified as content. But, where’s the value? Do we really need to know these things? I’ll admit I quite often click on these items, not because it betters me in any way, but because it’s easy. What’s the harm? I think to myself.

None, really – at least not to the consumer of this information. The harm comes to the producers. The speed at which all this data is generated leaves too many opportunities for errors. And those errors will slowly diminish the credibility of a company. Being up-to-the-second and fresh is one thing, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the bigger picture–your brand.

Although we all feel the pressures of this digital age bearing down, it’s always a good idea to pause and take inventory of what we’re putting out there. Dig deeper, if necessary, to find at least a little piece of information that stands out and resonates with your audience–something that will stick to their proverbial ribs. The extra time will pay off in how your company is perceived and whether they come back for more.

— Kurt Miller, EVP, Executive Creative Director

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Do QR codes make great marketing tools?

In a recent post, I asked what people thought would be the hottest trend in 2011. A lot of responses discussed the popularity of location-based social networking sites, but there were also quite a few mentions of QR codes.

QR codes are those interesting, fuzzy-looking squares that you may have seen pop up recently on

qrcodeproduct containers, convenience store shelving, or even online. First established in Japan in 1994, the QR code is a 2-dimensional barcode consisting of black elements arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The intent is to scan data at very high speeds, usually with a camera phone or barcode reader. Due to an estimate projecting that, in 2012, more smartphones will be sold than PCs, QR codes are going to affect the way websites are designed and products are promoted.

Take an athletic shoe product, for example. At the next World Shoe Association trade show, a company can add a simple QR code to its handout, which links to a sweepstakes landing page providing key information or even a special offer. Or perhaps it can be taken further to incorporate the product and the use of a durable hiking shoe by creating a QR scan treasure hunt – where each scan links to a new splash page featuring a clue to the next one.

QR codes can be used to swap contact information. Instead of exchanging business cards, a single QR code can be scanned, and the contact information will save to your smartphone.

As this technology becomes more and more popular, there are a few ideas that should be considered to optimize results:

  1. Offer exclusive prizes, offers, or information to those scanning the QR code that are different than what is available to everyone else.
  2. Optimize the website for mobile-browsing.
  3. Include an obvious call-to-action so that the audience is encouraged to scan the code.
  4. Establish a plan to engage people who scan the code over time, rather than a one-time promotion.

The important idea to remember is that QR codes create a new opportunity to enhance the relationship with a customer/prospect who has already engaged with the brand, building positive word of mouth or even a future sale.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Senior Account Executive

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Filed under Digital, Online Adveritising, Social Media

Surviving the Social Media Storm

It snowed in Atlanta this week.

To a native Atlantan, that statement deserves a line on its own. Once “Winter Weather Advisory” is heard, people flock to grocery stores to prepare for the worst. An innocent bystander unaware of how much snow was on the horizon may think that Atlanta was about to be hit with enough snow to collapse the Georgia Dome. Instead, we only got 5 inches. But again…

It snowed in Atlanta this week.

And I mention this because snow in Atlanta can be as foreign to Southerners as social media is to marketing executives with little experience online.

Grocery stores are mob scenes before it snows. People don’t know what they need or how much they need; they just know they want it. And the same can be said about social media. Many companies know about social media. They know they want to use it, but they don’t know what, or how, or why. Without a plan or a goal in mind, social media results will just fall flat.

Now that it’s 2011, more and more companies are finding the need to use social media. And yet, some still don’t know why.

My suggestion? Stop thinking about Social Media as MEDIA. It should really be called Online Interaction. Accounts are created to strengthen the communication with customers. Yet, companies are creating accounts without thinking of how to get the most benefit from it. A marketer would never say, “We need to be on TV,” without knowing what kind of ROI would justify spending that much money. Before jumping into the latest fad of Online Interaction, take a minute to map out the purpose for being online, be it to establish dialogue with those already engaged with the brand, or to provide customer service to those seeking it.

And, while trying to figure out the purpose, establish goals for what being online will accomplish. Is there a desire to have comments posted about what is posted? Will there be an opportunity to talk with the consumer in order to establish dialogue? If Web traffic is increased, what should these new visitors do on the company site that will result in a positive return for being online? Let this new online interaction be an open door to further the consumer experience.

Once the purpose and goals are set in place, share it with employees. Let employees talk about it on their own online accounts. If there is a strong purpose with clear goals in place, but poor promotion of the online existence, then results will be weak. This may sound silly, but an online interaction continuously feeds off of, just that, interaction online. And the more that fellow colleagues can develop, the better the results.

Establishing a strong presence online is an ongoing process. Companies cannot create an account and leave it, hoping that friends, followers, and fans will continue to build. This is done through a constant stream of discussion. Once that has been established on the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), explore new ways to connect with the audience. The age of Social Media is only 6-7 years old, so the “right” way for a soft-drink company may not be the best way for a shoe company. By experimenting with different sites (GoWalla, Digg, Flickr, Friendstr, Groupon, etc.) the online interaction may prove even more suitable than Facebook.

Social Media isn’t new, and is always changing. But having a plan, setting goals ahead of time, and letting fellow employees participate will increase the results of social media efforts. And it won’t feel like you’re scrapping around like we do down South due to winter storm warnings.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Sr. Account Executive

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It’s Déjà vu all over again

As long as I have been in this business, I’ve heard the saying, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” I think we’re seeing that played out again with regard to test marketing. A staple of the direct marketing industry, it had fallen out of use by other marketing disciplines in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

When I started in the agency business, testing was a priority for a number of accounts that the agency handled.

I’ll throw out a few terms: “Little U.S.” and “As-It-Falls” (which one coworker thought referred to an actual market in the Midwest called “Acid Falls”). These referred to the methodologies we media folk used so that results from any test could be projected to a larger area, most often the entire U.S.

Test markets were selected based on their ability to replicate what the U.S. as a whole looked like. Additionally, they needed to be smaller in geographic scope so as to limit out-of-pocket cost. A few of the more popular test markets were Fort Wayne, Green Bay, and Tucson.

As the business moved into the ‘80s, testing seemed like an afterthought. One of the reasons may have been that the cost of production started to increase dramatically, and running expensive spots in small, inexpensive test markets may have thrown the media cost/production cost ratio out of whack. In any event, I can’t remember a single brand that I worked on during that time that did any testing.  And I find that interesting, given the primary reason for any test is to limit financial exposure.

Fast forward to the turn of the century and the spread of the Internet, and what’s back in style is the concept of testing, analyzing, and optimizing. An idea whose roots are firmly entrenched in the earlier days of advertising is making its way back in a big way. And that’s a good thing.

Testing should be an integral part of any plan. The more we learn, the better we are, and the better our clients are as a result.

The advent of the Internet has only strengthened the case for testing. As I said at the beginning, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” But a good idea always has a place.

— Dave Capano, EVP, Director of Media Services

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Social Media doesn’t mean traditional word of mouth is dead

These days, it seems we can’t make a purchase decision on our own.   We literally have the world at our fingertips, and can seek out the opinions of like-minded individuals, subject-matter experts or data aggregators before we pull the trigger.

In fact, there’s so much talk that some speculate it has watered down the impact of buzz or chatter about a brand.  We “like” things at a frenzied pace, we post and comment, tweet and re-tweet, subscribe and forward.  But as volume increases, so does our desire for more, and our need to know what others think.

Consider these stats from independent research studies conducted earlier this year:

  • When asked what sources “influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product,” 71 percent claim reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence.
  • 53 percent of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with 48 percent of them delivering on their intention to buy the product.
  • The average consumer mentions specific brands more than 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family, and coworkers.

If you don’t trust statistics, just think about the power of word of mouth (WOM) when something bad happens with a brand.  In this age of social media, word travels so fast that damage can be done in a matter of minutes.   As Winston Churchill put it, “A lie will travel half way around the world before the truth even has a chance to put its pants on.”

So, WOM is powerful.  But what exactly constitutes a WOM program? The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has been kind enough to provide a list of 11 types of programs:

  1. Buzz Marketing: Using high-profile entertainment or news to get people to talk about your brand.
  2. Viral Marketing: Creating entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion, often digitally or by e-mail.
  3. Community Marketing: Forming or supporting niche communities that are likely to share interests about the brand (e.g., user groups or fan clubs) and providing content for them.
  4. Grassroots Marketing: Organizing and motivating volunteers to engage in personal or local outreach.
  5. Evangelist Marketing: Cultivating evangelists, advocates, or volunteers who are encouraged to take a leadership role in actively spreading the word on your behalf.
  6. Product Seeding: Placing the right product into the right hands at the right time, providing information or samples to influential individuals.
  7. Influencer Marketing: Identifying key communities and opinion leaders who are likely to talk about products and have the ability to influence the opinions of others.
  8. Cause Marketing: Supporting social causes to earn respect and support from people who feel strongly about the cause.
  9. Conversation Creation: Interesting or fun advertising, e-mails, catch phrases, entertainment, or promotions designed to start word-of-mouth activity.
  10. Brand Blogging: Creating blogs and participating in the blogosphere; sharing information of value that the blog community may talk about.
  11. Referral Programs: Creating tools that enable satisfied customers to refer their friends.

Some may argue that not all these programs should fall under the WOM umbrella.  I would argue that it really doesn’t matter.  Programs like these will get people talking about your brand.  And the more people are talking, the more opportunities you are creating to sell!

— Ellen Repasky, SVP, Account Director

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The Internet Summit—One point worth repeating

I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Internet Summit, held in Raleigh, N.C. Two days of wall-to-wall presentations and conversation on the future of the Web, social media, mobile marketing, online video, privacy, security, you name it and someone was talking about it.

One of the keynote speakers at an eye-opening 8 AM was Chip Perry, president and CEO of AutoTrader.com. AutoTrader.com generates over $500 million in revenue each year and has an eye-popping 3.5 million new and used vehicles listed. AutoTrader.com is part of Cox Enterprises, which also owns Manheim, a client of ours. In fact, Mr. Perry was asked by Manheim to launch AutoTrader.com and was its first employee, back in the day. The company is now considered to be the world’s largest online automotive marketplace, and Mr. Perry is recognized as a pioneer in the industry.

What I found the most fascinating about Mr. Perry’s presentation was one simple point. It was quite striking, especially in light of the venue and reason we had all gathered together.

He said, “Success is more about business fundamentals and common sense than it is about the Internet.”

The point should resonate with brands, businesses, and marketers in the throes of the technology tsunami. It’s easy to get caught up in your underwear over the latest widget, gadget, etc. The basics still remain the basics. Know your customers. Respond to their needs. Use technology as a tool, not as a strategy in and of itself.

– Chris Schlegel, Principal, Chief Creative Officer

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Drowning in data? Start with a clear strategy to effectively measure your marketing.

Analytics, Dashboards, Scorecards, ROI – these are some of today’s hottest marketing buzzwords, yet the industry still struggles to achieve true accountability.  It’s not that we don’t aspire to it:

  • Increased accountability is a key aspect of the ANA’s Marketers’ Constitution
  • 31 percent of respondents to the CMO Council State of Marketing Study indicated that they intend to improve marketing performance measurement in the next year
  • Another 32 percent of study respondents said they will also be looking to upgrade customer data integration and analytics.

Marketers are not suffering from a lack of information – we’re drowning in Google Analytics reports, Webtrends data, Social Media sentiment charts, Facebook friends, CPCs, and CTRs.  The issue is more a lack of actionable insights.  Just because something can be quantified, doesn’t mean it is valuable.

Data and analytics are only as good as the objectives that drive them.  Data without strategy is nothing more than the analytics equivalent of an Oscar-winning Sally Fields (You like me, you really like me, or as she actually said, You like me, right now, you really like me.)

Effective measurement must start with clearly stated, strategic marketing objectives.  Your plan will be even more actionable if those objectives are quantifiable, realistic, and aligned with business goals.  Most marketers would benefit from thinking in terms of KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – because the language itself demands an articulation of the performance that is expected as a result of the marketing efforts.

So, how can marketers achieve their accountability goals in 2011?

  • Focus on strategy before diving into the data
  • Don’t assume that the information is valuable just because it is a number
  • Identify and measure the path from engagement through conversion
  • Hold yourself accountable to real business results

And finally, heed the warning of the Cheshire Cat, who said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

— Pam Alvord, VP, Chief Strategist

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