The glass is half full

recession cartoon

I know it may surprise some of you to learn that The Genius is actually a relentless optimist. Critical as I may sometimes be, the truth is I have a natural tendency to look for the positive in people and situations. It’s just not as entertaining to write about the nice stuff. Sorry.

Given my optimistic nature, it’s been rather annoying to watch tv, read magazines, or even make small talk with my neighbors lately—because everyone has their panties jammed waaaaaaay up their @#$*! as a result of “the current economic situation” [insert melodramatic music here].

Listen, people. I understand that the sh*t has hit the proverbial fan. I’m not denying the facts. We all had one big over-indulgent party together, and now we’re suffering from one MASSIVE hangover. But it doesn’t do us any good to dwell, now does it? Does complaining all day about how much your head aches make things better?

Genius that I am, I’m fairly certain that “this too shall pass” and in the meantime, we best not PANIC. Which is why I took the time out of my very busy and extremely important schedule to throw together a little bit of thinking aptly titled “The Glass is Half Full.” Lest you dismiss it as yet another martini-induced rant, I assure you, it’s got real data. Naturally, it has a few curse words. And most definitely, it offers some fresh perspective.

I hope you’ll enjoy it, and… if you’re so inclined, perhaps you’ll even pass it on. Because just about everyone could use a bit o’ good news.

Advertisements

Breast implants wont hide the fact that you’re not very creative

And neither will a really fat media budget… but we’ll get to that…

Two days after returning from the AdAge Digital Conference, I’m still stuck on the Earned vs. Paid Media discussion that kicked off the event.

It all started with Fred Wilson’s opening keynote which proclaimed:

paidvearned1

In case you’re new to the “paid” vs. “earned” debate, here’s a handy little diagram from David Armano, VP of Experience Design with Critical Mass:

Nifty, eh? And applicable not just to digital media but to ALL media (IMHO).

But what’s really interesting isn’t the rising trend toward earned and away from paid [a hotly debated issue!], but the bizarre skewing of creativity vs. spending within the two models (also from Fred’s presentation which can be downloaded here):

tvearned

Is it me or does it appear the Paid Media approach is um… a little bit o’ cheating? A la “Just in case I’m not creative enough… I’ll BUY enough visibility to hammer the goddamn message home.”

WTF????!!!!

So all this thinking was percolating in my teeny weeny brain when Simon Clift, CMO of Unilever stated rather bluntly (and probably to the great horror of his media planners):

I’m convinced fat media budgets help make people lazy, and we’ve thought about [whether we] should cut media budgets on some specific projects in order to force people to come up with ideas.”

It’s no secret that the very best, most compelling “case studies” in marketing, advertising, and PR are those that succeeded in spite of tiny [or non-existent] media budgets—not because of them.

Yet the model that our industry was built on demands—and most certainly relies—on EXPOSURE, REACH, EYEBALLS, IMPRESSIONS [insert synonym of choice] doing the bulk of the heavy lifting.

I’m sorry, people, but that’s so 1999.

Which is why, true to character, I shall now throw down the proverbial gauntlet:

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A JOB IN MARKETING, ADVERTISING, OR PR 5 YEARS FROM NOW, PLEASE STOP COUNTING ON A FAT MEDIA BUDGET TO COMPENSATE FOR YOUR LACK OF CREATIVITY.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news (or do I? Jury’s still out…), but better be honest now than sorry later.

Earned media is here. It’s aggressive. And it has no respect for its elders.

So instead of fighting it, why not give it a big ole hug?

The end of advertising as we know it?

laptoptv

I guess this is “old news,” as the data I’m about to share comes from a 2007 IBM Global Business Services study (aptly titled “The end of advertising as we know it”)—but perhaps that makes it even more compelling. Here goes:

71% of the 2400 consumers surveyed across five countries said they spend >2 hours/day on the Internet—not including work-related activities. In other words, almost 3/4 of this global sample spends several hours DAILY of their precious leisure-time online. [side note: do any of these people have children? Because if they do, what business do they have with 2 whole hours of daily leisure time?! I don’t get it.]

Meanwhile, 48% of the folks surveyed said they spend >2 hours/day watching TV.

In 2009, I’d bet my britches that the gap between those numbers has only grown larger with web use (fueled by time-intensive destinations like Facebook, YouTube, MMOs, virtual worlds, etc.), iPhone apps, on-demand TV, TiVo, DVR… and more(!) encroaching at a relentless pace on the Grandaddy of all advertising mediums.

The question is, as a brand, agency, or marketing professional… what are you doing about it?

Three heads in the sand

The “pretend it’s not happening” approach, while popular, is ill-advised. The music industry tried it a few years back when digital music first appeared on the scene. Now they’re hemorrhaging money and market share and being outsmarted by downstream vendors who responded to the shift toward digital.

[sigh]

Please don’t follow in doomed footsteps.

Even if I’m totally wrong about the increased gap (and we all know, the Genius is rarelyif ever—wrong), you can’t hide from the fact that you’ve still got a few disruptive forces that aint going nowhere, notime soon. Namely:

1. Consumers want control.
And not just of what they watch but how they watch it—and interact with it—as well as how they filter what they view, including ads.

And young people? They’re not having any of the “I WILL YELL LOUDLY AT YOU TILL YOU BUY SOMETHING” strategy of old. By next year, young Americans will outnumber Baby Boomers and make the shift toward digital (which they were BORN using, wanting, understanding, and expecting) a fait accompli.

I do hope you’re ready.

2. “Impact” is the new “Reach”.
Admit it. You’ve grown used to a world where “Reach” was the Holy Grail of marketing. For years, it’s been all about “impressions”, the idea being that the more eyeballs you snared, the more sales would result.

Now that the drugs have worn off, many marketers are dealing with a nasty hangover called “REALITY”. Just because you show up at a party looking wicked hot and flirt with EVERY guy, doesn’t mean you’ll go home with a ring on your finger. Get my drift? Same logic applies to the “spray and pray” philosophy of Old Marketing.

The party is over, folks. And the rulers (those funny things you measure stuff with) have come out.

Well… maybe not rulers per se. We’re all still trying to wrestle that nasty Metrics Monster to the ground. Oddly, I think he likes the wrestling and is growing fond of a good Full Nelson. [Dear God, it’s the drugs talking again…!]

Ahem.

Fact: Virtually all of us are enduring the joys of recession-mandated “rectal exams” in the form of account reviews, lowered credit limits, tighter budgets, and greater demand for true ROI. Impressions, clicks, even those new-fangled “engagement” metrics aren’t cutting it. The question is how did those impressions, clicks, and “engaged” consumers translate into increased brand awareness, positive word-of-mouth/mouse, and purchases downstream? If you haven’t figured out how to measure that yet, you’d better hop to it. Quick.

2/3 of the advertising executives IBM polled expect 20% of advertising revenue to shift from impression-based to impact-based formats within three years.

Yep. P.S. that research was published 2 years ago.

And last but not least,
3. The Consumer is also the Creator.
Thanks to technology, consumers have been empowered not just to choose their own destiny—but to create it. In the same way that we’ve seen the rise of “Reality TV” over the past several years, so User Generated Content is becoming The Dominant Force online. IBM’s previously referenced survey, for example, already showed in 2007 that UGC sites are the top destination for viewing online video content.

Look out, Mad Ave!

Which leads me back to my earlier question: Time’s are changin’. The masses are moving from one screen to another… to many. As a brand, agency, or marketing professional… what are you doing about it?

Recession? What recession?

Recently, my pal @MarketerBlog drew my attention to this post which suggested that brands that INCREASE their marketing/ad spending during a recession stand to gain a SUBSTANTIAL competitive advantage.

Skeptical? Of course you are. Still—take a moment to consider these tasty data points (from Innovating through a Recession by Professor Andrew J. Razeghi at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University):

  • Increasing advertising spending during economic expansion often yields no improvement in market share, because 80% of your competitors are also increasing their spending.
  • Businesses that maintained or increased their advertising spend during recession averaged higher sales growth during the following three years
  • Within four years, the businesses that maintained or increased their advertising spend during that recession experienced a 256% growth in sales over those that had cut back on advertising
  • A decade later, aggressive recession advertisers increased market share 2½ times the average for all businesses during the post-recession

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. It’s your basic, “Buy Low, Sell High!” strategy. Nothing new here. The problem aint that we don’t know better… it’s that we’re too busy behaving like lemmings to do what we know is right.

Hell, even the guys at The Economist are preaching a “spend more on advertising” strategy. Granted, they might just be hurting for sales… Still, they make some pretty compelling points in this well-designed, cleverly-executed pitch (worth a read, I promise):

My take-away message? Getting through this ‘recession thang’ is a bit like driving through a blizzard. When you hit a patch of ice, instinctively, you want to turn your wheels AWAY from the direction of the skid. DON’T. Even though your knuckles are turning white and every cell in your body is screaming “TURN AWAY!!!!! AWAYYYYYYY, YOU IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Turn IN to the skid—or kiss your sweet, scared ass goodbye.

The Holy Grail of Marketing

Golden goblet

In the past, I’ve been more than a little outspoken about the potential impact of social media as a marketing and brand-building tool. And I’ve taken my fair share of abuse from traditional marketers who’ve accused me of being stupid, drunk, insane, or all of the above (love you guys!)—but I stood my ground.

Today, I’m here to tell you not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

First of all, babies don’t like that.

Second, while the value and impact of social media as a tool for connecting with current and prospective customers continues to gain momentum (and validation!), there’s still something to be said for taking a strategic, integrated approach to building and maintaining your brand.

The truth? Some tools are better than others. For some audiences. And some products. Sometimes.

And sometimes you won’t know which marketing program will get you the best result—until you’ve tried and either failed or succeeded.

Products change. Times change. People change. Technology changes. Your job? Keep on your toes and always, always be improving.

But Genius, do you still think traditional advertising is f**ked?

Yes. And no.

Yes, it’s under threat like never before.

No, it’s not going to go away completely. Rather, it will EVOLVE. So, get ready.

My point? There aint no silver bullets, people. If you’re looking for the Holy Grail of Marketing, stop. Social Media is awesome, but it’s not going to cure cancer. And it aint going to save you from recession-induced “downsizing” if you don’t know your marketing basics from your butt crack.

So let’s review. The Basics (Genius-Style):

  • Know your audience. Don’t assume, because we all know what happens when you ass-u-me. Actually get to know them. Social media is an excellent tool for that, by the way!
  • Set clear, measurable goals. “Generate more revenue” is not a measurable goal. Just sayin’.
  • Be strategic first; tactical second. If this statement makes no sense to you, go to amazon.com and buy yourself a copy of Marketing for Dummies. Please.
  • Don’t think “marketing”; think “entertainment”. Think “value”. We’re over-saturated,  over-multi-tasked, and over-tired of being marketed to. The only chance in hell you stand of making an impact through marketing is by weaving real value into the marketing itself. Entertainment value, competitive value, social value, functional value, expressive value… any or all of the above will do.
  • Plan. Yes, plan! In writing! So other native-speakers can understand it! YAY!
  • Test. Live and breathe data. If it works—do it again. Do it bigger, better, faster. If it doesn’t—cut bait.
  • Never, ever, EVER sacrifice design. Don’t even get me started on this one.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just try not to make the same old ones.
  • Give people something to talk about. Often.

Don’t get me wrong: I love social media. I’d rather give up chocolate than Twitter. I can hardly restrain myself from getting on my soapbox when the question, “What the f**k is social media?” is asked.

At the same time, I don’t believe in “One Size Fits All” marketing. And as a Genius—and a female one at that—you KNOW I’m always right.

At least we agree on something. 😉

“Do 39% of Internet users REALLY subscribe to RSS feeds?” and other social media marketing myths dispelled

Today is the last official date for voting in the “World’s Best Presentation Contest” on SlideShare. (Speaking of which… if you haven’t yet voted for “What the F**K is Social Media?!”, DO IT NOW!!!)

Shameless self-promotion aside (but only for a minute), I thought this was a good time to address some of the questions and understandable skepticism that emerged in response to the not-so-subtle messages in said presentation.

So—let’s separate fact from fiction (or at least fact from hyperbole), shall we?

The first batch of “that can’t be right” criticism (and downright bitch-i-tude—you know who you are) was doled out in response to the following statements (from slides 11-16):

  • 73% of active online users have read a blog
  • 45% have started their own blog
  • 39% subscribe to an RSS feeds
  • 57% have joined a social network
  • 55% have uploaded photos
  • 83% have watched video clips

And now, for the shocking truth:
The Genius herself was more than a bit surprised by these numbers. You might even say they were the inspiration for the big ole “F**K!” that became the content of slide 46.

But the fact is, I didn’t pull them out of my cute little ass… they actually came from Universal McCann’s Comparative Study on Social Media Trends, April 2008, and they’re based on a series of surveys they conducted with over 17,000 respondents across 29 countries.

In Universal McCann’s own words:

“All surveys are self completion and the data collected is entirely quantitative. Every market is representative of the 16-54 Active Internet Universe. In this Wave 17,000 internet users in 29 countries were interviewed. To be included you need to be using the internet everyday or every other day.”

So, there!

The next pile of skeptical poo was flung at these juicy tidbits:

  • Only 18% of TV ad campaigns generate positive ROI
  • 90% of people who can skip TV ads, do.
  • Only 14% of people trust advertisements

And did these little beauties come from betwixt my perfectly peach-shaped buns?

Again—NO.

They came from a useful little book called Connected Marketing: The Viral, Buzz and Word of Mouth Revolution by Justin Kirby and Paul Marsden (buy a copy here).

Just for giggles, take a look at some of the other painfully compelling data you’ll find within its pages:

  • Average return in sales for every $1 spent on advertising: 54 cents!!!
  • The increase in TV advertising costs (CPM) in the past decade: 256%
  • Proportion of B2B marketing campaigns resulting in falling sales: 84%
  • The increase needed in advertising spend to add 1-2% in sales: 100%

Say it with me now: YIKES!!!!!!!!!!

Last but not least, a few people got their panties all in a bunch about the use of http://www.mystarbucksidea.com and the apparent lack of “real” case studies or ROI data.

[Here’s me rolling my eyes]

So, fine, I’ll satisfy your incessant and moderately annoying need for numbers by providing you with a few details on NikePlus.com (others to follow in future posts—maybe). If you want to learn more NOW, you’ll just have to hire me or invite me to speak at your next event.

Here goes:

The Genius Behind NikePlus.com!

Nike’s social media play did two things that most brands fall shamefully short on:

    1) They created a playground for anyone passionate about the activity enabled by the product (whether they owned Nike products or not)
    2) They enabled relationship-building with consumers who do own their product(s) that goes way beyond the initial purchase.

And here’s how they did it….

First, the smart folks at Nike recognized 3 simple things about their target audience:

    1. People who love to run, love to listen to music while running
    2. People who love to listen to music while running typically use an iPod to do so
    3. People who love to run like to measure and track their distance/time

Next, the smart folks at Nike created an online experience that caters directly to these three user objectives. They partnered with Apple to bring iTunes into the mix, offering celebrity running mixes (and a whole lot more), and developed products and online tools (like the ability to track runs, challenge other runners in the community, and engage in competitive events locally) that supported and enhanced the offline experience.

Since its launch in May 2006, the NikePlus.com community has not only grown but THRIVED, earning the brand a much-deserved Cannes Lions 2007 award and lots of positive press.

“But what about numbers? Where’s the ROI? WHERE’S THE BEEF?!”

Feast your eyes on this, my friends! As of February, 2008, Nike+ members have:

• Run over 50,000,000 miles
• Logged over 14,000,000 runs
• Issued over 450,000 challenges
• Created “the world’s largest running club” with >75,000,000 members!!!!!!

And here’s the crown jewel:

  • 40% of community members who didn’t own Nike+ ended up BUYING!
  • 94% of consumers agreed to recommend NikePlus.com to a friend

When was the last time your marketing campaign yielded a 40% conversion-to-sales ratio?

I rest my case.

Now, if you STILL haven’t done so, it’s time to go ahead and vote for the Genius’ presentation here.

The Secret to Overnight Viral Marketing Success

Catchy title, no?

Utter horseshit, yes?

YES!

I’ve said it before—and I’ll probably have to say it a zillion times again before anyone listens: YOU CAN’T CREATE “VIRAL.”

Viral is the happy by-product (or the unfortunate side-effect, depending on your perspective) of a campaign that artfully blends 6 key ingredients:

  1. Value
  2. Fun
  3. Creativity
  4. Timing
  5. Distribution
  6. Magical pixie dust

Ok, I’m kidding about ingredient #6. But the other five are not optional—they’re MUST-HAVEs. And they’re anything but “one size fits all”.

Recently, I had a client look me straight in the eye and say, “We need some good viral. And we need it FAST.” Some time between my desire to laugh hysterically—and cry hysterically—I found a moment to Tweet about my frustration with this ridiculous and ubiquitous request.

Here’s a quick sampling of the responses I got:

@mdurwin: Did you here this: Client asked for a viral video, I collected best ones showing kick to the groin, then asked for volunteers.

@meggiepoo: amen sister. i love it when a client says “i want to make a viral video.” it’s so adorable i want to smoosh their cheeks.

@mdaniel79: you mean there’s not a “Create viral campaign” key on your keyboard?

Sadly, no, my Mac did not come with the “create viral campaign” key. Perhaps if I upgrade my operating system?….

The next time a marketing pro or agency tells you they “do viral,” my suggestion is to run away. Fast. Or, just for giggles, ask them to show you the “create viral campaign” key on their keyboard.

Because it just doesn’t work that way. Your campaign might be brilliant, original, artful… but have no intrinsic value to the target audience—and it wont ‘catch’.

Or it could be immensely valuable but poorly distributed (read: Facebook aint a silver bullet)—and it wont catch.

It might even be useful AND strategically distributed… but boring as a conference room full of narcoleptics. If you don’t have all 5 of the first 5 ingredients… you’d better get yourself some pixie dust or kiss that promotion goodbye.

And speaking of promotion… let’s pause for a brief moment of shameless self-promotion, shall we?

The Genius is more than happy to help you—yes, even YOU—whip up some “really good viral, really fast”. So to speak.

At the very least, I’m happy to knock some sense into your boss/colleagues/clients about what viral really is and demystify the process of crafting a campaign that has the essential ingredients, and therefore, the potential to generate “tech-fueled word-of-mouth momentum” (a.k.a. BUZZ).

Gotta run… phone’s already ringin’…!