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?

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. 😉

Obsessed with Social Media… A Year Later.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:
The following blog post was written just over a year ago (November 8, 2007, to be exact), during a time when the economy was not yet in the crapper and this thing called “social media” was still rather nebulous for most. And since I’m too busy to write something new a lot has changed in the last 365 days, I thought it would be just chummy to revisit my obsession… which you may have guessed has hardly waned.

Being a Genius and all, it’s not surprising, really, that the words I wrote a year ago are even more true today. The coolest part? Those numbers I posted re Facebook etc—they’ve more than doubled—and show no sign of slowing down.

God, I love it when I’m right.

***

Is it just me or is the social media bubble expanding faster than Kirstie Allie’s waistline?

Between the buzz around Facebook’s recent $15 billion valuation, the hype about their much-anticipated advertising platform, and the steady stream of “one-of-a-kind” social media companies popping up daily, it does feel a bit like we’re all drinking the Kool-Aid.

Heck, even Oprah and Martha Stewart have hopped on the bandwagon.

With every Tom, Dick and Harry Venture Capitalist throwing their money at the next-best social media monolith, it’s easy to lose site of the fact that we’re not just in the thick of an investment-frenzy; we’re part of a revolution.

Social Media = Democracy
The internet is—in a very real way—becoming democratized (at last!). Not only can you reach virtually anyone, anywhere or get information about anything online these days… but you can actually participate! Have a voice! Share all of your [boring, ridiculous, unnecessary… or in my case, totally brilliant] opinions about everything from the HDTV you just purchased to the color of the lint you just found in your bellybutton.

It’s democracy in it’s purest form: everyone truly has a voice. No longer can we blame “the media” for drowning us in propaganda or tricking us into poor choices. (Instead, we can blame our friends, colleagues, and the self-proclaimed experts and “bonafide geniuses” whose blogs we foolishly read.) Where once you had to be famous, infamous, or very well connected to get in the public eye… now, you just need a live internet connection and a desire to express yourself.

Wrote a book? Self-publish it!

Took a picture? Post it on Flickr!

Aspiring filmmaker, actress, or musician? Whip up a sample video and pop it on You Tube!

Pissed off about the crap PC you bought and the even crappier Vista operating system that came with it? Post your raving mad feedback on Microsoft’s website!

Sure, everyone has a voice. But is anyone listening?
As the social media phenomenon gains momentum, so do the possibilities. The question is… beyond our own vanity and relentless desire to be entertained, is there any real purpose to all this “interaction”? Does anybody really care to watch, read, and listen to all this User Generated Noise?

Yes, yes, and undeniably YES!

Side note: I would assume that our sick fascination with reality TV is also responsible for fueling our fascination with social media (guilty!). If I were a geneticist, I’d place my bets on a single gene being responsible for both of these guilty pleasures—and probably for all the neck-craning that happens when we drive by car wrecks, too. But I digress…

Our appetite for new venues in which to assert our brilliance, our uniqueness, and our popularity is virtually boundless:

  • 50 million Facebook users
  • 3500 photos added to Flickr per minute
  • 55 million YouTube users (11.6 million of these are over the age of 55)
  • 713,00 daily active users of the iLike application on Facebook, which allows users to share, rate, and recommend music. Another 15 million registered users on iLike.com

Apparently, we have a lot of opinions and we’re not shy about sharing them. How very American.

Social media will save the world… Now what?
Even if I’m wrong about what drives our interest in both contributing to and consuming the social media bubble (though being a genius, I am very rarely wrong), this much is indisputable: it’s not going away.

If you’re a smart marketer (and let’s face it—most of you aren’t), you’ll get on the ball lickety split and formulate a solid strategy for leveraging this growing phenomena… bearing in mind, of course, that the rules ain’t the same old rules that have made you the fat, lazy dinosaur that you are.

For starters, forget about “positioning” or “packaging” or any of the other P’s you learned about in Marketing School. Social media scoffs at these! The power of User Generated Content embraces a more democratic set of values: like sharing, engagement, authenticity and community.

I’d love to tell you more, but I haven’t updated my Facebook status in at least an hour and my Photobucket upload is almost done…

More social media “hype”

No time to share much Genius today… too much excitement around the TechCrunch article highlighting Viximo‘s turnkey virtual goods solution as a “massive monetization opportunity” and the growing excitement around the launch of our first iPhone apps.

But I couldn’t resist sharing some fresh data in support of all the recent “social media hype”.

And so… at the risk of further alienating the readers who told me “social media is a crock” earlier this month, called me “warped,” and threatened to bite me (you KNOW who you are!)… I present you with these tasty nuggets:

  • 3/4 of US online adults now use social tools to connect with each other (compared with just 56% in 2007). On average, they spend one hour per week using these tools; however, 19% [and growing] are averaging 7 HOURS PER WEEK. [source: Forrester Research, October 2008]
  • 75% of Fortune 1000 companies with Web sites will have undertaken some kind of online social-networking initiative for marketing or customer relations purposes in the next year. [source: Gartner, October 2008]

But don’t take it from me, take a peek at Shiv Singh‘s (former colleague and current VP, Social Media, Razorfish) presentation deck from the recent Publisher’s Summit, which dives deeper into what marketers should know as the social media landscape shifts [and evolves!] around them.

When you’re done with that, hop over to Pete Kim’s blog (also a former colleague from Razorfish. Coincidence???) where he’s curating The Mother of All Lists of corporate SMM efforts (not to be confused with corporate S&M efforts. That’s a different blog). I suspect that curating this list will become a full-time job for a team of many in the not-too-distant future.

But then, I’ve been drinking “seriously poisoned Kool-Aid.” Ahem.

If you’ve arrived here quite by accident and are feeling cold, confused, and alone, I might suggest you start at the beginning—with a quickie tutorial on just what the f*ck this whole social media thing is (brought to you by Yours Truly).

Or, you could continue to bury your head in the sand. Your choice, tots!

Virtual goods. Real revenue.

My newest startup adventure has seriously cut in to my blogging time lately… which means the 14 MILLION(!!!!!) people who faithfully hang on The Genius’ every word have been left cold, alone, and without even a teeny tiny Genius Snack upon which to nibble. [sigh]

Spanking for you, @viximo!

No, wait—scratch that. There will be no spankings for Viximo. They’d like that too much.

Instead, I will intentionally NOT talk them up to my legions of followers.

I wont mention the fact that they embody the Next Big Business Model or that they’re building the most kick-ass community of Rock Star design talent in the history of the world.

I wont glorify the notion that Viximo’s platform will enable online communities, gaming sites, virtual worlds, and others to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in the next 12 months alone.

I absolutely will NOT point out that Viximo is enabling major brands and ad agencies to connect with young consumers in an experiential, immersive way that builds brand loyalty, cranks the word-of-mouth engine, and *bonus!* even opens a new revenue stream.

And dammit I will NOT describe the opportunity that Viximo presents to online publishers, retailers, ad agencies, and interactive designers alike as a chance to drink from the udder of The Virtual Goods Cash Cow.

No f**king way.

For those of you scratching your heads, wondering what the f**k a virtual good is, well… I’m sorry, but I refuse to help. It’s not my place to explain that technically, virtual goods are nothing more than a series of 1s and 0s on your computer screen… or that those 1s and 0s collectively represent a $1.5 Billion market—that’s expected to exceed $7 Billion in less than 18 months.

I wont explain that virtual goods provide functional, expressive, and social value—or that they increase social interactions, and hence user engagement and time spent online.

I definitely wont point you to this article which projects that Facebook is expected to rake in $100 Million over the next 12 months—entirely through the sale of virtual gifts and myriad other virtual items (including my personal fav, food and gifts for my Fluff friend, Mar-Mar). Or this one, which celebrates Gaia and IMVU’s success generating $1M/month through the sale of virtual goods “ranging from puppy dogs to lightning bolts”.

I wouldn’t even consider bringing your attention to Second Life’s success with virtual goods ($80M annually), let alone that of our Asian friends like Nexon, which sells more Mini Coopers (virtual ones, of course) than BMW; or Habbo Hotel, which sells more furniture (virtual!) than IKEA.

Last but not least, I won’t bother regaling the efforts of retailers like Kohls, JCPenney, K-Swiss, and Sears, all of whom have celebrated notable success selling branded virtual goods on sites like Zwinky.com, Stardoll.com and others. I mean, really, who would be impressed by numbers like these:

•    2.2 million visits
•    1.8 million items sold
•    97,000 click-throughs to Kohls.com
•    ALL WITHIN THE FIRST 16 days!!!!

Clearly someone’s been drinking the Kool Aide.

But I digress… the reality is, I’m simply waaaaay too busy to spend precious time discussing any of this, and the fact is, it’s Viximo’s fault.

I’m sure they’ll regret this unfortunate [and awfully selfish] little faux pas. But in the meantime, I’m standing by my punishment.

Yes, rather than divulge even a hint of how HUGE Viximo is poised to become, I’ll say only this—they HAVE done ONE thing right: They were smart enough to hire a Bonafide Marketing Genius.

Even if they have been a little bit grabby during these first seven days.

“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.