Has your marketing got engaged?

Last night I did something unusual.  I sat an watched TV.  For a whole hour!  It wasn’t live TV of course.  It was something recorded but still it was TV.  It was great.  I just got to sit there and be entertained and because it was off the DVR I could skip all those pesky ads.  My teenage daughter joined me for a while but she spent equal amounts of time engaged with the show and with her friends online.  Nothing unusual there.  But the experience really brought home to me the problem many companies are facing with their marketing.  For decades marketing departments looked at forms of media that were non-interactive.  Consumers simply looked and listened.  We read stories around which adverts were draped, or we watched shows interspersed with ads that we sometimes watched.  It seems many companies are approaching the challenge the online world has created by producing marketing that assumes we are passive consumers of marketing, rather than people to get engaged with.  This is strange because what I’ve just said is nothing that new.  People have been saying for a while that the online world is all about getting engaged with consumers, yet for some reason it seems the vast majority of marketing dollars are still spent on forms of marketing that are passive.  Why?  I think the answer has two parts:

1.  Brands are struggling with ROI – the new marketing model requires new tools to measure its effectiveness.  There are no shortage of tools but there is a shortage of any agreed standard when it comes to measurement. Furthermore the goal of linking campaigns to sales still eludes most marketers.  It’s definitely possible.  We’ve run some highly measurable and thankfully successful campaigns for clients but it’s sad to say that too many campaigns are still run that go unmeasured and therefore hard to justify.

2.  Failure to innovate – many brands view innovation in online marketing as some clever pop up ad that you can’t avoid.  We all know that’s not innovation.  Innovation is where brands start with a clean sheet.  Instead of taking their old world tactics and applying them to the online world, they start with an online mindset.  They create and/or find content that engages with their audience.  We recently created a campaign for AMD that involved a virtual scavenger hunt.  It is designed to engage with developers so it hooks in to that community in a way that appeals to their inner geekiness.  In other words we gave developers a reason to interact with AMD and thankfully it seems they’ve jumped at that chance.

Now as a consumer I should point out that I don’t want to spend my day interacting with brands but I do expect that when I am looking for, or at something online that brands will try and engage.  Brands that sit and wait for my attention will struggle to get it.  So ask yourself a simple question:  how engaged is my marketing?  As far as I know there is no agreed percentage that is the new standard but if the answer to that question is: less than my competitors, it should be cause for concern.  Another way of answering it would be to brainstorm how engaged your brand could be and then analyse the gap between where you are now and where you could be.  For many brands engagement will be a journey but one they have to get on board with fast.  Otherwise they will become as irrelevant as the TV ads I skipped past while I watched TV last night.


EBAY IS A MEASURE OF BRAND VALUE

There are lots of ways to measure brand value.  For marketers it’s a very important metric, which is why they often end up spending large amounts of money trying to measure it.  It occurred to me yesterday that, while not perfect, eBay provides a very good way to measure the value of a brand.  This thought sprang from the fact that the Blackberry Playbook is already being sold at a discount on eBay.  For a product that has only just been launched this speaks volumes for the current state of the Blackberry brand.  Indeed eBay can give you a very accurate read on consumer sentiment towards the ‘value’ of a brand through this kind of price analysis.  eBay can go further though.  The site gives you a clear sense of the popularity of a product both by the volume of products being sold and by the number of bids on each product.  Lastly it gives you a measure for the reliability of a brand.  Search on digital cameras and you will find a host of ‘broken’ items.  If you were to tally the number of broken items as a percentage of those for sale by brand you would a) demonstrate what a sad geek you were and b) get a read on how reliable that product was.  I’m sure people with more brainpower and time than I have could come up with a host of other eBay metrics that would help derive the value of brands.  At the very least though, I would highly recommend that marketers scour eBay to get a sense of the competition and of the community around their or their clients’ products.


Is the PR recession over?

Economists seem to agree that by and large the major economies of the world are no longer in recession.  But it’s clear that while some industries are back to growth, others are still mired in there very own recession.  So, is the PR industry one of the growth industries or is it still in recession?  The answer is potentially ‘yes’ to both of these questions.  I’d argue that the PR industry has emerged from the recession as a different business. It’s had to.

Pre recession, the PR industry was drifting towards digital and in particular social media/networks.  The recession accelerated PR down that path in ways that will change the industry forever.  Put another way the deliverables that clients rightly expect post recession are different.  Very different.  Post recession clients expect to understand communities and the conversations taking place in those communities.  They also want to take part in these conversations, or at the very least influence them.  They may also want to create their own communities.  This is real ‘public relations’ and it’s a huge opportunity for the industry.  Yet some agencies still view the world the old way.  They view PR as a process that drivcs headlines and creates events.  They think that a blog entry is effectively another headline.  In other words they are not measuring communities and conversations, they are measuring the volume a client can talk at.  These agencies are going to have to adapt and fast, or their recession will last a long time.  A very long time.

The agencies that are embracing a new way of measuring success are coming out of this recession with a great opportunity.  They are speaking the new language of marketing and delivering services to match.  They are not confined by what media or events exist.  Instead they create and influence communities and the conversations that are taking place using the best available tools.  Truth is the agencies that are on this path don’t really think of themselves as PR agencies anymore and they certainly don’t fear agencies that still deliver ‘old style PR.’  This is because the approaches they are taking require skills from a wider range of disciplines.  It’s also because they don’t measure success like they used to.

So, if you want to know if your agency is still in recession, ask yourself how you define success for a client.  The answer to that will tell you a lot about your prospects for the next few years.


PR agencies are obsessed with bullet points

Look at a PR plan from a PR agency and it will have lots of bullet points.  There will be three key messages displayed as bullets.  There will be three or four key strategies displayed as bullets. There will be a dozen tactics displayed as.. you guessed it.  And so it goes on.  Why the obsession with lists and bullets?  In part because it makes it easier for people to read but mainly because.. well that’s how everyone does it.  But why?  Why are we so obsessed with having these lists?  I may be having a senior moment here, if so please just ignore me but I’m starting to believe that PR agencies lack some serious self confidence. Why do I think this?  Well here are some reasons:

1.  We should have the confidence to have a really great creative idea that marries insight with a perfect message and which naturally lends itself to a tightly defined set of tactics and metrics.  In other words we shouldn’t always need some back up, some other idea just in case the first one fails to get the client excited.  In other words there need not be a number 2.  Now I appreciate that software applications like Word and PowerPoint love bullet points or lists but they’d get used to people not pushing that button I’m sure.

Take a look at that PR plan you wrote for 2010 and ask yourself if you really do need all those messages, strategies, tactics and metrics.  If the answer is ‘yes’ then either you wrote a really insightful or really bad plan.


If you had $500,000 how would you spend it?

Marketing budgets are tight, very tight in fact. It’s not, therefore, uncommon for CMOs to put aside a portion of their budget and have the agencies pitch their best ideas to get a share of that pot.  When it comes to PR, the idea de jour is to create some program that utilizes social media or digital in some way.  This is actually pretty sensible for many situations BUT the challenge comes when you have to justify that spend versus other, more traditional areas of marketing.  Let’s say you propose creating a vertical social network on Grouply for people that love mountain biking.  It’s a pretty targeted program and you could measure the success based on how many people join the network and how many actively engage with the community.  Great idea if your client is somehow connected to this community.  You  could suggest a blogger relations program to address certain misconceptions about your clients product.  Again, great as in this instance you can measure how the bloggers now talk about your clients products.  However, the challenge here is how does the client know that spending money on a social media program that would be a better use of his or her budget than say placing a piece in a trade publication?  The end metrics are very different and not easy to compare unless you’re very lucky and the client only does one form of marketing at activity at a time.

Right now some clients are leaping in to social media/digital because they inherently know it is a good way to spend money and they have a good enough reputation within their company/they are brave enough to deal with the consequences.  However, for all the ones that are doing this, there are still plenty that aren’t.  By this I don’t mean that they aren’t spending money on social media but rather that they are not spending as much as they could.  Clients still default to the tried and trusted that is easier to justify.  And frankly I don’t really blame them.    Having failed as an industry to convince our clients that they have to use measurement tools for every campaign, I fear we are about to repeat the mistake with digital.  If we do we will lose a lot more than the pots of money CMOs are putting aside right now.  We will have lost the opportunity to make PR truly the new advertising and that would be a real shame.


YouTube provides brand scorecard

The popularity of YouTube is undeniable. This promoted me to see if it could be used to rank major brands. While highly unscientific in some ways and slightly unreliable in others, I used the search engine in YouTube to see which major brands got the most clips when you search by their name.

The results were:

Brand Number of clips
Disney 224,000 <— I guess they ought to have a lot of content!
Google 97,000 <— they own YouTube…
Yahoo! 81,100
Apple 74,200
Microsoft 44,700
Coca Cola 34,400
Toyota 33,400
Nokia 27,700
McDonalds 22,000
GE 15,000
WalMart 10,600
Starbucks 7,200
Intel 6,280

Now this research took about 5 minutes and as you can probably tell was based on a list of brand names I pulled form an old Fortune article plus a few names I threw in. It wouldn’t be hard to do some more detailed research using the YouTube site and search engine to get a sense of how many clips are appearing each day by brand etc. As it stands I can’t find a way of seeing which brand has the most number of clips associated other than by trial and error. Perhaps YouTube could issue a press release with that data?

Anyway, for those people looking to help big brands with their marketing, it seems YouTube provides a pretty simple way to score companies. There are of course some difficulties and these relate largely to the way the search engines work. For example if you put in ‘Ford’ as a search topic you will get a lot of clips that have nothing to do with Ford Motor Company showing up. Conversely if you put in Ford Motor Company it will only list those clips where people took the trouble to tag the clip with the full name. So YouTube is far from perfect but once again we do at least have another quick and cost effective measurement tool available.

Just for fun I also checked to see what the numbers were like for the bigger PR firms. The results were:

Text 100 312
Edelman 295
Hill & Knowlton 18
BM 8
Weber Shandwick 4
Fleishman Hillard 2
Ketchum 2

As you can see, the PR agencies have some way to go to catch the big brands….


Google Toy Useful for PR

If you want to know whether Tony Blair has been in the news as much as George Bush, or Apple Computer versus WalMart then Google Trends can give you a pretty quick answer. For many PR execs wanting to know if their client is making as much noise as its rivals this tool will be very helpful – assuming their client is big enough to make a decent amount of noise. I recently saw this tool used to express a client’s ‘noise level’ versus other big companies and while it doesn’t allow you to dig very deep it is nevertheless useful. Right now most searches simply track the volume of searches for each item but for some the results also show News Reference Volume. For example, search Google versus YouTube and you will see what I mean. I can only assume that in time Google will make this technology more powerful and useful, much as they have with Google Maps. Watch out media measurement businesses, Google has come to town…

Oh and if you search on PR versus advertising, it looks like PR is slowly catching the old dog.
http://www.google.com/trends?q=advertising%2C+pr&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all