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Archive for the category “Leadership”

A learner’s resolution. Guide to surviving the new world of advertising.

I was fortunate to meet with the great Sanjay Khare a few days ago. For those who don’t know Sanjay, he is an advertising veteran having spent over three decades in the business. He is now reinventing himself as a digital marketing specialist at Pinstorm. Sanjay was speaking to a bunch of students at a college do, telling them how he always wears an “L” board every time he goes lecturing.

In a world that’s changing every day I think everyone of us could do with Sanjay’s attitude.  Hang a metaphorical board around our necks, step out to embrace change by understanding new ideas and concepts as they emerge and get drawn into the mainstream.

So here folks, for whatever it’s worth, my game-plan to learn and stay relevant as things change around me. Over the years I have put down a process, a ritual as I call it, and if I have not already bored you to death at a party with my theories, maybe worth spending the next few minutes on.

When I started out in this business, the world was still analog. We relied on expensive award show annuals from One Show, British D&AD, Art Director’s Club or magazines like Communication Arts, Archive, Print and rare issues of Creative Review and Admap to feed our need for knowledge. Today the world of learning comes to us at broadband speeds, and free (mostly).  With sites like Ads of the World, The FWA, The Inspiration Room, The Dieline and not to miss out on a very important plug, this very website Campaign India.

Now I have never been a person who only looked at other advertising for inspiration and knowledge. So part of the learning process involves devouring magazines like Wired. I started out with second hand copies bought off the pavements of Brigade Road, Bangalore. Pop Sci. Reading authors like Tom Peters (don’t forget to check out his brilliant collection of PPT slides under the resources link), Ries & Trout, hell I even read their lame duck tome, Horsesense. Edward De Bono. Sun Tzu, Martin Lindstorm

By the late 90s, the web became my feeding ground. Using bookmarks and later a MyYahoo page, I dived deep into the endless pool that the information revolution had created. For a guy interested in new things, there was no end to know much he could read and understand. Soon blogs were upon us and some of the best minds whose books I waited for, for months and years, started to write their own blogs. Seth Godin, soon Tom Peters and Sally Hogshead.

Then in around 2003 I discovered RSS. Or Real Simple Syndication. For a learner, discovering feed readers was moment of nirvana. From a forager of information, feed readers like Bloglines brought stuff I liked onto my desktop. Instead of me looking for stuff on various sites, knowledge was waiting for me everytime I opened my browser. At the peak of my feed addiction, I was reading up to 700 blogs and RSS enabled websites a day (now it’s a more manageable 56). From ones that posted a few times a month to others like BoingBoing and Metafilter that posted many, many times a day. Glancing through some 2000 bits of new information a day, reading some 50 pieces or so that interested me and absorbing, sharing and using a dozen or so a day.

On a personal level I have had to make a few adjustments too. First and most important to set aside some time every day for learning. It’s easy to make excuses. We are busy, working hard, travelling, making presentations, pitching. Yawn.

For me, the fear of irrelevance, even worse obsolesce motivates me to get off the bed early every morning. And I do this every morning, every day, no matter how late I have slept, whether I am in town or on holiday. If I can have net access, I will clean up my feeds by the time I head out of home.

These days, Twitter has become a rich source of new stuff. G+ from being seen as a Facebook killer has become more like my Bloglines killer, where people I know and respect post interesting links and videos. I pick up an odd bit or two from Facebook through the day. As information and content sources grow online, I feel I am using other people as filters to filter what reaches me.

So what do I take forward into 2012 as a learner’s resolution? To glance less and read more. To read more books. The brilliant Brain Picker Maria Popova reads as many books a week as I have read all year. To seek out and find new semantic reading tools like Zite to help me discover more of what I will like and what I would skip. As Lord Alfred Tennyson captured in this pithy little line in Ulysses: “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”

Thanks for reading everyone. If you are sober in the weekend, do go out and make an L board for yourself. And have a great 2012.Image

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We need to save digital from the IT department

A few weeks ago we got a very strange request. Could you please make our IT guys the admins on our social media properties? The mail was innocuous in its tone. A simple request you could accede to you’d think. A little digging revealed what was coming. There were multiple names in the mail, and each one of them had to be made admins.

Our team promptly set about working on the request. Looking for the said individuals on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.  And when we could not find them, we wrote back asking for handles and URLs. Promptly the response came. What is a Facebook URL? Why do you need a Twitter handle to access an account? While yes in the case of Twitter, many people can use the same log in credentials, in the case of Facebook, you need to have an account, we replied.

We don’t want to be on Facebook, we just want backend access, our client pleaded.

I hope you are getting the drift. People who had never used Facebook or Twitter, never understood a platform like Linkedin now want to be choreographers of the space. Ah. Make that an effing Ah!

Can you please tell me what I should do with this button that has like written on it? I am getting emails from people I knew from long ago who want to be my friend now…

See I have nothing against IT guys. But for companies who still have policies like “all IT related services should be managed by the IT department” guys you need a relook.

Digital is not about IT, they are about people and social is not so much about media, but about behavior (I borrowed this from @metaxas). Users have never had to worry about the IT behind the digital platforms that are so part of our lives today. Which is why my Mom DMs me these days rather than call me. She has done a cost benefit analysis of the two platforms and figured it out.

If I could give IT guys some advice, learn up as much about people and behavior as you know about hardware and software. Play around on the platforms you want to manage and control. Lean to give up control rather than put locks and admins. You guys could be the most sought after people on this planet, or you could work for Mom.

And the TV Commercial Came in Last

Anyone who’s been following the incredible story of Tony Williams (Adam Schweigert has a detailed post on how the story unfolded) the homeless man with a golden voice from Columbus Ohio will notice how sluggish brands and agencies have been in responding to the story. The moot question here could be; should brands and agencies really react to such a thing at all? But now that Kraft has, well this post…

The story began, as Adam writes, on January 3rd when The Columbus Dispatch posted a video on their website. This video was later reposted on YouTube by an anonymous user, which then blew up the internets and in a day raked up over 6 million views.

Adam goes on from being a homeless man to a national and now an international celebrity that once again demonstrates the power of the net, word-of-mouth marketing and social media.

Somewhere in this all, came Kraft. Who had this TV commercial in production perhaps, and thought why not ride the viral and get some buzz for itself. The funny thing is that due to the nature of how traditional TV works, the actual made-for-TV commercial will only go on air later today. While the story developed on the internet and is now beginning to die out, the Kraft ad will go on air as a paid for advertisement. In fact the YouTube posting of the ad has already notched up some 300,000 views from around the world. The Kraft ad, dad in the doghouse has nothing to do with the man and the voice himself, and is at best a corny attempt to ride the wave of sympathy that Tony Adams is getting at the moment.

In a world of breaking news, reality television, and more importantly trending topics, how can brands be more inventive in taking advantage of the moment, in more unique and original ways?

Social Media’s New Gold Diggers

Sitting on the fringes of some social media campaigns I am noticing an interesting bunch of players. Fans who have made it their business to win prizes that brands offer online.

You see them again and again and again. The moment a contest is announced by a brand, they swoop down, powered by their personal networks on Facebook, Twitter and 4sq.

Free keychains, no problem, Tee Shirts, we will play! Mobile phones bring em on…

Anything that is thrown down at them, they are game. The same names, the same faces, similar styles. Their theme is familiar. As if telling brand and community managers – you play, we are game.

The “9s” in the 90/9/1 rule of social media they are. They don’t create much on their own but they are ready participants on games simple and tough. Sharing, joking, heckling, flaming, cheering – they seem like a virtual band of brothers and sisters sharing tips as they move from network to network, game to game.

We have heard about Chinese Gold diggers and their subsequent ban on online. Virtual millionaires on Second Life and this excellent story in Wired Magazine that tipped us about this demographic some years ago. Others who help you farm better on Farmville and stuff. But these guys are not that intense. Afflicted with ADD as it were, flirting between many contests at the same time, day in and day out.

It’s a privilege to be a fly on the wall to watch these online merchants ply their trade. Young people from cities and small towns who have learned tricks, shared tips and how tos online.

Would be fascinating to bring these new age netizens together for a tete-a-tete. Understand their real world lives, virtual avatars, online strategies, motivations and more.

In the connected world, anything is possible and I could be a digital anthropologist. Dig, dig, dig

Advertising. Not Like the Music Industry.

There have been many stories in the media in the last few weeks about the decay of advertising. There was this long one about The Future of Advertising in Fast Company. BusinessWeek countered it with this one on how Big Dumb Agencies may not be going away anywhere soon. The most provocative one, however was by Adaptive Path’s Peter Merholz. It was a brutal piece, one that tore apart our business as one with a “poisonous core”. While there has been a lot of debate and discussion around the post – in fact Peter has posted a rejoinder explaining various points on his original one, I thought the last item on his first rant to be a bit off key.  Advertising Agencies are the New Music Industry, he wrote.

I am not sure if the music industry analogy is the right one for the advertising business. While just like the music business, traditional advertising is being run over by the arrival of the Internet and other digital mediums, unlike the music industry, which went down primarily because of the growth of file sharing, I think advertising will evolve thanks to a combination of many smaller changes.

Search Marketing. While Google and others in the search marketing business are seeing exceptional growth, search marketing alone will not end advertising as we know it.

Social Media. Yes it is hot at the moment and will be extremely important in the years to come. Social media engagement will be one of the many things that marketers will need to help manage a brand.

PR. For years PR was a discipline that marketing had little influence over. Bougsky’s allegedly famous quote “…write me the press release” aptly describes how PR has become an important mover of marketing messages. Recently Pepsi’s Shiv Singh tweeted about wanting a partner who was a combination of a digital agency, a traditional agency and a PR company.

Video. BMW films showed us what can be done when branded messages are played out in digital media. There have been many experiments that have followed. The age of video, though, is just beginning to play out.

Mobile. Mobile devices will have as much or more impact on the marketing business as computers, TV and radio have had in the past. Always connected, always on phones are a tsunami that will change traditional messaging, but will need to do more to completely annihilate brand messages.

Location Based Services. These new and emerging concepts will add another dimension to real-time marketing. There are some simple and straight forward “Minority Report” kind of possibilities that location based messaging can do. These concepts will evolve and amaze us in the years to come.

Reality Enhanced. Ideas like augmented reality are just being experimented with at the moment. There will be more we will do by overlaying smart digital ideas over real things in the future.

Gaming. In an attention starved world, inventive new branded or brand embedded  games will give marketers access into the minds of people.

Crowdsourcing. Not so much a concept as much as an approach to producing ideas. Crowdsourcing will chip away advertising agency strongholds and change advertising in many ways.

Amazement. For decades, advertising had this knack of creating jaw-dropping moments. Not anymore. Anyone with a digital camera can now. Ads now have to fight even harder to be seen and talked about.

Marketers, marketing messages and the ones who create them, advertising agencies, will have to change to stay in touch with people who have lot more to do. The reason for this change will be many. All of them equally relevant.

Hecklers in the stands

The joke is on someone else. Every status update. Every check in is an open invitation to show the world how smart you are. A gentle rib. Mild sarcasm. A joke whose ripples reverberate across the social sphere. You enjoy the digs and so do some of your friends. LOLs often, rarely ROTFL…

You soon forget the remark you made and move on.

The web doesn’t.

As it builds up its collective semantic intelligence, your digital diatribes are being tracked and silently backed up in a giant database of actions.

Now comes the interesting part.

You are out in the market looking for a job your prospective employer looks you up online. The new-age profiling database, it’s no Vault of third-part comments, it’s trolled through your handiwork. Your tweets, facebook updates, comments and such. And it throws up your online personality. You are extremely social, highly connected, your Klout ratings are impressive. But hey what’s with your personality types? The No Asshole Rule search engine has tipped your scales into the red.

You are no Edward Boches. Not as mature.

You have built your reputation for rudeness and negativity and have been found out in chunks of 140 character posts.

Search engine optimization is not going to help you hide.

A Great Customer Service Letter

Jackie Huba at Church of the Customer blog writes about her recent experience with Apple customer service and how this once again proves why the company is such a great brand. She has reposted a follow up letter that she received from Apple service:

Dear Jackie,

This is Stacy, with a courtesy follow-up. I haven’t heard from you and wanted to make sure that your request was handled to your satisfaction. You’ve truly been a remarkable asset to the iTunes Store Family and as such I don’t want to leave you without any type of resolution, so if you do not respond, I will be closing this request. I hope that you continue to enjoy the iTunes Store and would like to thank you for being such a wonderful member of our family.

Please remember if you require any further assistance I’m only an email away. Have an awesome day!

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you. You may receive an AppleCare survey email; any feedback you provide would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Stacy
Tier 1 iTunes Store Support

While she thinks it may be a form letter, she is impressed at the use of emotional words; truly remarkable, family, wonderful, awesome. More on the Church of Customer blog.

Ask The PM

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s has a YouTube Channel that features exclusive content online. The interesting bit about this experiment is that he gives ordinary people the ability to ask questions which he will respond to on the channel.

Life Without TV. Will Radical CMOs Reshape Marketing?

As the upfronts loom many big brands – like General Motors and Citibank – are slashing their spends on television advertising out of necessity. But another factor to consider is the maverick CMO who is willing to spend a lot less on TV advertising or cut it out entirely. Partially, it’s a response to market conditions, but some marketers say the economy is prompting them to take a chance on new forms of marketing. Susan Lintonsmith, CMO for Red Robin, said the economy is definitely one impetus for going without TV. “It’s a little of everything,” she said. At Best Buy, CMO Barry Judge has another view: TV advertising is important, but can be undermined by a bad consumer experience, so he cut his TV spends by 40 percent and opted to spend it on increasing staff in the company’s stores and on improving the company’s Web site. Other marketers are moving away from TV because they feel that there are other needs their communication budgets need to fulfill. Like in the case of Century 21st, where the CMO felt that the brand had 98% awareness, and that their customers were looking for information in other areas. Research has shown them that most potential home buyers or sellers—about 87 percent—go online before making a purchase. So they took money out of TV and are reallocating it to online—namely paid search, display ads and social media. Read the full story in BrandWeek.

Bank Of Twitter

Bank of America becomes yet another bank to embrace Twitter with a customer service stream. Manned by customer relations specialist David Knapp, customers can tweet him if they have problems with their accounts or general questions. Wachovia, which in August started an account to seek out and serve customers on this micro blogging platform, now has over a thousand followers. While some banks have active twitter accounts, there are others who have created accounts and not followed up on it. Read more in Finextra.

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