Is iTV the Next Digital Marketing Frontier ?

August 24, 2009

Engagement, conversation, interaction. Whatever you call it, the web has ushered in a new era for Marketers to not just preach their gospel to consumers, but to actually engage in a more meaningful two way dialogue.

But, there’s another digital frontier beyond the web, and one that also has vast potential to change the way Marketers interact with customers — interactive TV. iTV marries traditional TV with digital interactivity–by using your TV remote to “point and press.”

iTV -- The Next Digital Frontier ? (visual courtesy of bobrien.com)

iTV -- The Next Digital Frontier ? (visual courtesy of bobrien.com)

As Meg Brossy, SVP Marketing at Brightline iTV, an iTV consulting firm and services provider, says:

“Consumers are being pulled in many different directions today. Done right, interactive TV allows marketers to feed viewers’ desire for entertainment through compelling ad experiences – when, where and how viewers want to encounter them.  When a consumer voluntarily opts-in to engage with the brand in this way, not only does ad effectiveness jump, but product/brand recall and purchase intent is heightened and the consumer embraces the information. The results our advertiser clients see from iTV speak for themselves.”

Did You Know ?

  • 75MM U.S. consumers now have digitally capable iTV
  • iTV reaches 7MM more consumers in the U.S. than broadband
  • 7 major satellite/cable TV companies can now provide iTV
  • “Time shifting” is growing, continuing traditional ad erosion

Implications for Marketing

TV no longer needs to be a passive medium that is in danger of irrelevance as consumers time shift and avoid uni-directional one to many broadcast ads. Instead, iTV creates opportunities for brands to interact with consumers in a variety of ways. An interesting view of this is “TV ads that refuse to be ignored” at ECommerce Times.

iTV -- Extending Interactive Marketing Beyond Web and Mobile to TV

iTV -- Extending Interactive Marketing Beyond Web and Mobile to TV

Most Marketers seem vaguely aware of the theoretically large potential of digital TV, but largely unaware that it’s moved from “potential” to “real, scalable and impactful.” With iTV, brands can expand the range of interactive platforms beyond on-line and mobile to include TV.

Brands are catching on. Unilever has 30+ brands using it. J&J and others are not far behind. And the medium isn’t limited to CPG, as TD Ameritrade, Nike and others are experimenting aggressively.

5 Ways Brands Can Leverage iTV

  1. Improved Targeting— iTV enables brands to tailor the message to the audience. For example, TD Ameritrade offers three different investor options for consumers to “point and press” to learn more about a particular investing style. Instead of a single message, it’s now possible to let viewers choose the message most relevant for them.
  2. Content Marketing — Suddenly, there’s a large opportunity for brands to create relevant and meaningful content to deepen and surround their brand promise–via the TV. Consumers can access educational content, games, or virtually any type of brand relevant content. For example, Hellman’s developed simple games and recipes to drive increased usage.
  3. Partner Marketing— Brands can partner their iTV creative content with relevant TV programs to increase viewer engagement. Consumers can now interact with a brand during a TV program about a similar topic — e.g. consumers can learn about sleeping bags while watching Man vs. Wild, etc.
  4. Direct Response Activity— Brands can use iTV to request free samples, sign-up for newsletters, etc. Viewer data is housed within the cable or satellite providers platform, so viewers don’t even have to provide personal info in reaction to direct response activity.
  5. Metrics and Measurement— iTV is digital, which means it’s measurable in the same ways as the web. ITV brings more sophisticated engagement and ROMI measurement to traditional TV spend.

Results & Impact — Encouraging

Brightline iTV claims CTR’s typically range from 3-6% vs. <1% typically seen on-line. Viewer engagement measured by time spent with brand typically increases dramatically. And, companies like Unilever seem convinced about the ROMI of such programs as evidenced by their increased participation in this new medium.

iTV — Too Good To Be True ?

So, what’s not to like about iTV ? Well, there are challenges:

  • Complexity— Each of the 7 cable and satellite companies have their own proprietary platforms and measurement approaches. Creative developed for iTV has to be modified across platforms. While these challenges are not insurmountable, they create cost and complexity and have deterred many Marketers in the past.
  • Opt-In / Audience Size— CTR’s are impressive, but there’s still an open question about consumer education and opt-in. iTV will only be as good as the number of consumers who know how to use it and are willing to opt-in. To date, it’s unclear what fraction of the 75MM viewers are actually “engage-able.”
  • Organization Skills— Where does iTV fit ? Is it creative or media ? Who drives it–ad agencies or clients or special service agencies ? What works and what doesn’t ? Like any nascent technology, there’s a lot to learn.

The world is moving digital — but not just on the web. iTV is arguably the next digital frontier for Marketers. CMO’s need to ask a very simple but fundamental question:

Should my brand be exploring iTV ?

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Guest Post: 3 Things Marketers Need To Do Now

August 20, 2009

This is the 2nd in a series of periodic guest posts. Susan Kanefield Lauinger is a senior marketing executive, strategist and brand consultant with L’Oreal, Philip Morris and American Express.

**********************************************************

August, 2008:   Do you remember what you were doing this time last year?  You may remember gas prices going up, you may have heard of a friend of a friend who had been laid off from his job, but overall, things in the U.S. were pretty good. 

September, 2008:   Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy.  AIG requires a bailout.  Stocks plummet.

Flash forward to August, 2009:   The fallout from the economic crisis has touched every corner of the U.S., causing a significant shift in consumer confidence and a sea-level change in the way consumers think about their spending and consumption habits.  

Marketers -- What Do I Do Now ?

Marketers -- What Do I Do Now ?

What Should Marketers be Doing Now to Rebuild Consumer Confidence?

1.  Keep the Conversation Going — As the economy suffers and budgets shrink, it is tempting to look to marketing dollars for quick cuts.  However, brands that go dark risk playing into the fear and uncertainty that consumers are feeling.  In fact, Harvard Business School professor John Quelch stresses that a recession is the time to maintain, not cut, marketing spending.  He writes:

“It is well documented that brands that increase advertising during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times. Uncertain consumers need the reassurance of known brands…”  (Read a summary of John’s article here).

2.  Remember the Basics:  In these tough economic times, there is a driving consumer need to get back to the fundamentals.  Consumers are hunkering down to weather the financial storm and are looking to their brands to reflect that new focus on things like price, value, family and stability.  

Kraft Foods, for example, has added a “Budget Wi$e” section to its website, highlighting tips for feeding your family while watching your spending.  One tab of this section called  “Why Snackrifice?”  highlights snacks you can feed your family “for about a dollar.” 

Kraft -- Focusing on Value with Snackrifice

Kraft -- Focusing on Value with Snackrifice

Kraft has also focused its product advertising on value messages.  For example, their advertising shows the difference between the cost of a DiGiorno frozen pizza and a restaurant pizza, or the lower cost of Kool-Aid vs. soft drinks. 

Allstate is another brand that has done a good job of reflecting this shift in consumer focus with its “Back To Basics” campaign.  The Allstate advertising talks about the brand’s experience managing through recessions and their understanding of what consumers need “after the fear subsides.” You can read more about this campaign here.

Allstate -- Focusing on the Basics in a Crisis

Allstate -- Focusing on the Basics in a Crisis

 3.  Think About the Future —  Although the pressure is on brands to cut spending, raise prices and retrench in these tough times, the smartest brands will be looking to the future and laying the groundwork for the next 6, 12 and 18 months.  Brands that have held fast during the recession and who are actively planning for the future will have a distinct advantage over brands who will be trying to reboot their consumer relationships in the coming months.

Keep the conversation going, remember the basics, think about the future — these are good maxims for success in any environment. But in the current hyper-charged environment where fear, uncertainty and budget conscious actions dominate, they are especially important lessons for Marketers in any business.

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Susan Kanefield Lauinger  is a senior marketing executive, strategist and brand consultant with deep experience in health & beauty, tobacco, and financial services with companies including Helene Curtis, L’Oreal, Philip Morris and American Express.  Susan holds an M.B.A. from Kellogg and a dual B.S./B.A. in Economics and Communications from Wharton/The University of Pennsylvania.


What’s Wrong with Word of Mouth Marketing

August 17, 2009

It’s common knowledge that word of mouth (WOM) by people you know is the most effective advertising. Research corroborates this:

Word of Mouth -- High Impact But Low Spending: Why ?
Word of Mouth — High Impact But Low Spending: Why ?

Yet, most Marketing organizations don’t behave as if it’s very important. According to PQ Media, 2008 WOM spending was $1.7B, +10% over the previous year. Estimated U.S. Marketing spending ranges from ~$500B all the way up to $1 trillion; WOM represents only 2-4% of total spend. So, why the impact vs. spending disparity ?  The answer, I think, is two-fold:

  • Word of mouth remains a black box for most Marketers — it’s really hard to figure out and even harder to do well.
  • It hasn’t been easily scalable–either within a persons social network or beyond.

Word of Mouth vs. Viral Marketing

Some people differentiate between WOM and viral. WOM is described as one to few, viral as one to many; as well, viral includes sharing and resharing–usually via the web. I think this distinction is largely false as WOM can become viral–e.g. the recent United Airlines guitar video (4.9M views).

Word Of Mouth Marketing
Word Of Mouth Marketing

WOM should build your brand. The mainstream media love to report on highly creative viral videos–e.g. the T-Mobile sing-a-long in Trafalgar Square, etc. These videos do generate incredible amounts of viewing, but are they really building the brand ? Do they engage consumers to better understand how and why the brand is better than alternatives ?

Word Of Mouth — More Scalable in Two Directions

WOM is changing as the web enables two simultaneous phenomenon:

  • Vertical Scalability — The web continues to enable new ways for consumers to share information  both within their social circle and beyond. Sharing opinions and ideas through blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Social Networking sites, etc. has vastly increased the scalability of WOM, as one person can now reach most people within their social network instantly and of course, people well beyond.
  • Horizontal Scalability — The rise of social networks and OpenID, Facebook Connect and similar services will enable personal network portability. This means that friends and families–and their opinions–will be able to flow with consumers as they traverse the web and interact with products and services. So, WOM from your social network will now become available in places it wasn’t before.

Basic Elements of Word of Mouth

Given the rising importance of WOM, how can you harness this powerful opportunity for your brand ?

1) Define Who’s Talking — Within your brand users, there’s almost always a group of 10-15% of users who are “amplifiers.” These consumers have unusually large social networks and form part of their self-identity from sharing new information with friends and family. Similarly, there are important non-users who need to be identified as well — bloggers, heavy Twitter users, etc. who can disproportionately impact your brand.

2) Define What They’re Talking About — Amplifiers don’t just randomly talk about your brand. In fact, they tend not to talk about your core mainstream messaging. Why ? Because everyone already knows about it; they get no psychic reward because there’s nothing new. They tend to talk about and share things that are important to them and also new and surprising about your brand–positively or negatively. Conduct research among amplifiers to understand the main themes they are talking about.

3) Determine Which Mediums They’re Using — Where are amplifiers talking about or sharing your brand ? Off-line in casual conversations ? On-line via Facebook ? Understanding which mediums amplifiers are using to talk about your brand gives you insight into how to facilitate or enable these conversations. Do research to find out.

4) Understand What Receivers Are Doing Next — Understanding receivers is just as important as understanding amplifiers. Without a receiver there’s no WOM. Most important is to understand what receivers do after hearing a theme. Do they visit the store ? Search on line ? Visit the web site ? Consult another friend ? Share via Twitter ?

5) Test and Qualify WOM Stimuli — If we know who is sharing, what they’re talking about, in which channels, and what receivers are doing after the conversation, then what ? Using WOM themes, develop a range of stimuli — e.g. customer experience “moments of truth,” white paper/special user content, tips/how-to’s, personalized web micro-sites, etc. to help drive accelerated word of mouth. Run a small test versus control. Did you get more people to talk or share your stimuli ? What did listeners do afterwards ? Did you build your brand equities ? Increase consideration and purchase of your brand ? Which stimuli worked best ?

WOM is hard work. Like most Marketing, it starts with really understanding your consumer. But the consumer understanding work is not well understood. And WOM is even harder to drive in a systematic and disciplined way. As WOM becomes more important, it becomes increasingly important for Marketing organizations to increase their WOM capabilities and most have a long way to go. What’s your Marketing organizations WOM IQ ?

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28 Provocative Advertising Visuals

August 12, 2009

In a previous blog post “Turn Down The Volume to Improve Your Advertising,” I made the point that brand and business building advertising almost always visualizes the benefit in a dramatic and provocative way. Too many brands ignore this basic, but important truth.

Pringles --- A Hot & Spicy Visual

Pringles --- A Hot & Spicy Visual

In response to that post, a reader shared some great examples of compelling and provocative visuals in ads. I don’t even know for sure that all of the ads were actually used, but I do know they are very entertaining. To see for yourself, check out the following print ads: 

 28 Provocative Advertising Visuals

They range from Axe deodorant to Heinz Ketchup to Save the Children, but they all have one thing in common–great visuals of the product feature or benefit. Need I say more ? Seeing is believing.

How provocative are the visuals in your advertising ?

 

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Why Your Brand Needs an Acoustic Identity

August 10, 2009

We’re all aware of the powerful nature of music in our personal lives. Music instantly conjures up long forgotten memories, and in fact, we can usually complete the melody of any well know tune after hearing only a few notes. As Tolstoy once said: “Music is the shorthand of emotions.” How many brands actually understand and leverage this power in their marketing efforts ?

Acoustic Identity -- Does Your Brand Need One ? (visual courtesy of museum of the gulf coast)

Acoustic Identity -- Does Your Brand Need One ? (visual courtesy of museum of the gulf coast)

I recently met with Susan Aminoff, Managing Director at EliasArts, an acoustic identity and branding agency, to talk about the role of acoustic identity in brand building. Susan made the point that there is now a sizable body of research which validates what we all intuitively know–that an acoustic identity can be a key element in your branding and an important means of reminding consumers of your brand. As Susan noted:

“Not taking advantage of audio from a brand (vs. a commercial) level is a huge lost opportunity, on so many different levels.  Every brand needs an established and distinguishing voice, so that it can engage in dialogue with its consumers.  Sound is the most enduring and sustaining of all our five senses and our brand messaging; it is a powerful transporter of the brand’s emotional values…and it has the ability to unleash the whole brand story — the one that you’re spending millions of dollars telling — in just one note.”

In fact, Martin Lindstrom discusses this phenomenon in some detail in his book “Brand Sense–Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound.” This book and others have documented the growing literature which support the ability of music to powerfully engage humans in a myriad of ways–not the least of which is branding.

Why Acoustic Identity is Becoming More Important to Your Brand

Beyond the science, there are other reasons to be thinking about an acoustic identity for your brand. In particular:

  • Media Fragmentation — Fragmentation means complexity. Complexity makes it even more important that there is a simple, common theme–or “red thread”–to your marketing efforts. Your brand promise is the ultimate red thread, but music can augment it.
  • Print to Digital — Consumers have been moving on-line and until recently, spending less and less time with off line media. This means there are more opportunities to engage them not just visually–but with sound as well.
  • Brand Proliferation — The past decade has seen a blizzard of new products, many of which are not significantly differentiated. Consumers are overwhelmed with sameness. Acoustic identity represents another potential differentiator.

Acoustic Identity — Benefit Focused or Attributed Meaning ?

Just to be clear. I’m not just talking about the use of music in advertising. I’m talking about using an acoustic element as an important part of your brand signature–everywhere the consumer touches it. There are at least two schools of thought on creating an acoustic identity for your brand.

  1. Benefit Focused — The most obvious approach is to create an acoustic identity which directly supports your brand promise. The idea is to architect the sound or music so that consumers naturally associate it with your brands benefit–even without knowing the product or service. A great example of this is the piano music scored for the UBS “You and Us” TV spots. The music is peaceful, serene and intimate. It directly supports the brand’s promise to understand you and your needs so you have more confidence in your financial decisions. The brand demonstrates it’s value proposition through advisors 1:1 listening (intimacy) and client’s confidence (peace of mind). The music evokes these feelings even when heard without the UBS context.
  2. Attributed Meaning — The second approach is to create a sound, or leverage an existing one, into an acoustic identity that you attribute meaning to over time via use in your brand building activities. An example of this would be the NBC 3-note ding-ding-ding, which used to signify “station break.” NBC took this instantly identifiable station break ID, and turned it into a real acoustic identity with many variations and themes so that it’s now instantly understood as “NBC.” Other examples include Intel Inside and United Airlines well known use of “Rhapsody in Blue.” Each has come to represent its respective brand through repeated and consistent usage.

Acoustic Identity — Creative or Brand Driven ?

This naturally leads to the question: who or what drives the need for an acoustic identity? Historically, it’s often been driven by the creative process and the development of new advertising. Think of the United Airlines example above. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but I’d argue that it’s way too narrow.

Given the vast array of potential customer touchpoints in most business models, and the almost limitless ways to utilize sound and music, an acoustic identity should be a key marketing driven activity–and not relegated to the agency creatives. So, who drives it ? Whoever is leading the brand.

Music has the proven ability to remind us of a brand, differentiate it versus competition, appeal to our deepest emotions, and encourage us to engage with and ultimately purchase it.  Given the media fragmentation, print to digital trend,and brand proliferation,  it’s more important than ever that Marketers begin to think of their branding not just in terms of a visual and logo, but an acoustic identity as well.

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Is the New PR Really Just the New Marketing ?

August 5, 2009

Is PR becoming more like Marketing ? I recently read a fascinating white paper by David Meerman Scott,  “The new rules of PR: How to create a press release strategy for reaching buyers directly,” an insightful dissection of the changes digital and social media are driving in the world of PR. David notes that:

“Today, savvy marketing professionals use press releases to reach buyers directly…The media has been disintermediated. The Web has changed the rules. Buyers read your press releases directly and you need to be talking their language…Your audience is millions of people with Internet connections and access to search engines and RSS readers.”

Now I don’t know about you, but it sounds like PR is evolving to be more like Marketing. Why? Because traditional media is no longer the key intermediary it once was. PR is becoming more direct–just like Marketing.

Is the New PR Really Just the New Marketing ?

Is the New PR Really Just the New Marketing ?

What is PR ?

Historically, PR has been differentiated from Marketing in several ways:

  • It communicates with multiple stakeholders, many of whom don’t buy the firms products or services — e.g. media, analysts, NGO’s, etc.
  • PR addresses topics of public interest using mediums that don’t require direct payment, unlike advertising.
  • PR often occurs thru 3rd parties that provide legitimacy that traditional marketing doesn’t have.

It’s clear that Marketing and PR, always uncomfortable bedfellows, are becoming more, not less, similar. For example:

  • The rise of social networks is increasing the influence of opinion leaders who don’t buy the products or services, but are influential nonetheless. Someone needs to be tasked with engaging and influencing them–but who?
  • Digitally enabled news releases, social media, and corporate web sites have created numerous opportunities for companies to communicate with consumers without paying anything for media. Is this PR–or Marketing?
  • Traditional media is under assault by the twin forces of non-subscription based alternatives and the democratization of information and news via blogs, Twitter, etc. Who manages these new “gatekeepers?”

The Erosion of Traditional Media as Gatekeeper

The key point is that the traditional media no longer hold a near monopoly on media and publishing. Marketers can often go direct to consumers with tools long associated with PR, but without the barriers to getting published. Again, to quote David:

“The news cycle has changed…With Web-based access to information, consumers have real choices for how they learn about the world around them…Not too long ago, the only way for corporations to influence news was for their PR people to issue a press release (intended for media only)…Editors and reporters were in a power position as the filter between organizations and the public. With the old news cycle, all PR people knew the rules: The ultimate goal was to get some magazine or newspaper to write a positive story that would appear weeks or months later…No more. Information control is decentralized.”

What Does This Mean For Marketing ?

  1. Marketing Must Take A Leading Role in Understanding Consumers PR Needs — In the past, PR could be trusted to know what the media wanted and what would get published. With the disintermediation of media, the need to understand consumers PR needs becomes more important. This is a task uniquely suited to the Marketing function. Segmenting various stakeholder groups, understanding their different needs–opinion leaders, users and non-users may all have different motivations–is a critical first step.
  2. Marketing Must Adapt its Communication Style — News releases and other PR like channels–even direct to consumer–are not advertising. While Marketers are trained to understand how to use advertising to communicate effectively with consumers, this training is lacking when the mediums are PR centric. Consumers have different expectations of these channels and communication styles and tonality need to change with the medium. Marketers need to listen to consumers and learn what works and what doesn’t.
  3. Marketing Must Drive a Content Publishing Strategy –– A simple recitation of the brand promise is unlikely to be very effective with these channels and mediums. Marketing needs to drive a clear content strategy that springs from the brand promise. Content that surrounds, supports and deepens the brand promise becomes an integral part of the PR communication strategy. Marketing needs to define and drive this.
  4. Marketing Needs to Optimize the Web Site for PR — Part of the new PR model is ensuring that your web site and web capabilities can enable the appropriate new PR efforts. This includes posting news releases in a news section on your site, ensuring your news posts are search engine optimized, enabling RSS feeds to key distribution channels, optimizing brows-ability so readers can find new information, and optimizing links to related content.
  5. Marketing & PR Need to Define New Governance Models — These changes beg an important question: what is the right organizational structure and governance model for the Marketing and PR organizations? Are they one or separate ? Does PR report to Marketing ? is there a division of tasks? If so, who owns what? The CMO and Chief Communication Officer (CCO) need to have a joint and aligned game plan for how to play in this new environment.

PR is going through many of the same transformational challenges as Marketing. The disintermediation of the traditional media means that Marketing will play an increasingly important role in PR going forward. CMO’s need to take notice and define how they and the CCO will tackle this new Marketing challenge.

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