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Project 100: Marketing in the Social Media Era


I recently participated in an interesting project as one of 100 marketing authors to contribute to a book called Project 100: Marketing in the Social Media Era.  This is a topic that is relevant to anyone in the marketing profession today.  Social media is about two way conversations, interaction, story telling and authenticity.  It is having your own private media channel to talk to your customers and prospects without the filter of traditional media.

The project was the idea of Jeff Caswell who recruited the authors and produced the books.  One of the best aspects of this project is that all profits will go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, global leader of the breast cancer movement, with a goal of raising at least $5,000.

Please check out the site and consider purchasing a book for only $19.95 to get 100 unique opinions on social media marketing and make a donation to an important cause at the same time.

Brand Journalism – The Dark Side?

Here is a very interesting take from David Meerman Scott on the possible movement of journalists from traditional media to creating meaningful content for companies.  It seems everyday media companies are cutting back and sacking writers and journalists.  (Old joke – When does a recession become a depression?  When journalists lose their jobs)  At the same time the content marketing/custom media business continues to grow.  More and more companies are creating their own content and private media channels to talk to customers.  Here is a clip from the Mr. Scott’s posting:
“Many organizations -- corporations, nonprofits, government agencies, and educational institutions -- finally understand the value of what I call "brand journalism," creating interesting information online that serves to educate and inform consumers. People in companies now realize web marketing success comes from creating content-rich web sites, videos, podcasts, photos, charts, ebooks, white papers and other valuable content.”

He gives advice to journalists to be thinking about taking their skills to brand journalism where they can tell stories and impart information to a different set of consumers.  It is pretty sage advice when looking over the current media landscape.  While we can joke about it being the “Dark Side” the fact remains that companies have grown far past the old fashion “advertorial” to creating compelling, rich content for customers and prospects.  Companies like Cisco are maintaining full-fledged news rooms online while leaving the advertorials to Vince the Sham-wow/Slap chop guy.

It is pretty clear which way the market is moving, so come on over to the “Dark Side” you may just find yourself a new career.

Will ads fail on the Web? Is Custom Media the answer?

Check out this article: “Why Advertising is failing on the Internet” written by Professor Eric Clemons of the University of Pennsylvania.  He makes a case why an ad supported business model may not work over the long term on the Internet.  One of his main themes is that pushing messages at consumers on the web is not a winning combination.  Below is a excerpt:
“Pushing a message at a potential customer when it has not been requested and when the consumer is in the midst of something else on the net, will fail as a major revenue source for most internet sites.  This is particularly true when the consumer knows that the sponsor of the ad has paid to have this information, which was verified by no one, thrust at him.  The net will find monetization models and these will be different from the advertising models used by mass media, just as the models used by mass media were different from the monetization models of theater and sporting events before them.  Indeed, there has to be some way to create websites that do other than provide free access to content, some of it proprietary, some of it licensed, and some of it stolen, and funded by advertising”

In addition he thinks that ads will fail because of the following:  consumers don’t trust ads, nor do they want them.  And, they don’t use advertising for research on the web since there are so many other sources of information available.

He goes on to talk about some models that may work, but I think the critical point is that marketers can’t rely on concepts and tactics that worked off line by merely porting them online.  It makes more sense to build a relationship of trust with customers and prospects rather than jamming advertising at them.  Additionally, marketers should take advantage of the fact that people use the Internet to search for content and information.  Unlike magazines where people browse passively, the Internet is interactive and active.

It is that dynamic that makes the web ideal for content marketing and private custom media channels.  Talking directly to consumers with relevant content provides them with information and builds trust.  When marketing on the web, content marketing is a better tool to engage consumers than pushing out advertising.

How to fix Detroit: Own your media channel. Part II


GM and Chrysler have presented business plans to the government in return for more bailout cash.  I don’t know if a new ad/marketing strategy is in the mix, but here is a take on what they are doing wrong and how to fix it.  Click here to read part I.

1. The auto makers over use rented media channels with interruption style advertising, and the basic auto ad has not changed in 50 years. The ads show the car being used by one of their stock cliché characters – the executive, the harried mom, the twenty something on the go, the tough guy truck owner, the hapless suburban dad, etc.  The ads are slices of life showing our heroes using the product.  This is ineffective because there is much waste; and the creative is boring and unmemorable. The auto companies are big at buying sponsorships that just slaps their name on anything and everything.  Chevrolet spends big bucks to sponsor the “player of the game” during televised college footballs games.  Why do they do this?  Awareness?  How many men watching football have not heard of Chevy?  I am sure it makes the Chevy execs happy, but has it ever sold a single car or truck?  In fact, has anyone ever bought a car based on a TV ad?

2. American car companies sell with price, price and price.  The ads always stress the price cut or financing incentive.  If you train consumers to wait for the deal you will never get full price.  That is a problem when your union contracts give you a $2000/per car disadvantage against the Japanese automakers.  They need to stop the addiction to price selling and sell value.  They are two different marketing messages.

3. All the auto companies are out of balance when it comes to customer acquisition and retention marketing efforts.  The majority of the marketing budgets are aimed at convincing new customers to buy their cars while they give lip service to customer retention.  Some of the manufacturers have custom magazines for their owners but they seem half-hearted.  I used to get a magazine from Acura and it was full of underwhelming content.  This year I leased a Mercedes and bought a Honda Accord and the follow up communication from both brands and been almost non-existent.  I have received a few weak emails that are selling me accessories and their overpriced service.

It would be more efficient to create long term customers rather than trying to sell new customers over and over.  This is an area where I would suggest the biggest changes for the auto companies.  They should peel off some the budget they are shoveling at TV to create private media channels to talk directly to their current customers to create a long term relationship.  This private media channel needs to have high quality original content from subject matter experts and great writers.  They need to create a real relationship based on affinity and trust with their customers, not just send them a magazine with travel articles and offers to buy floor mats, mugs and logoed junk.  In addition, try working in some new media – interactive webcasts for owners to get more from their car, and social media to connect owners and build community.

4. I would suggest more live test drive events where people can get inside a car and try it out.  It is a better experience without a sales guy breathing down your neck asking “how much do you want to pay per month”.   I went to a Mercedes test drive event about six years ago and decided on that day I would someday own a fine German auto.  In the time since that event Mercedes has probably hit me with a few millions dollars worth of rented media ads via magazines, newspapers, television, radio and billboards.  All those ads combined didn’t have a fraction of impact of the afternoon I spent getting to touch and feel the product and have a direct educational dialog the company.  On that day they built a level of trust and affinity with me that no traditional ad could ever duplicate.

The bottom line:  They need to stop renting media and own their own media channel.

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