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.

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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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