10 posts categorized "Online Marketing"

12/21/2010 Is it (digital, social, marketing) worth it?

I just read a blog post encouraging the financial services industry to stay away from social media. The focus of the post was that social media was way too expensive and there was no proven ROI, so banks and credit unions should avoid it completely.

As I’ve written before: social media isn’t for everyone. But on the other hand a blanket rejection of it seems just as extreme as forcing it upon every business. The biggest problem I have with arguments like these (even though they do wonders for blog traffic and comments, see Mitch Joel’s post here) is that they provide convenient excuses to do nothing at all.

And the question is: is it better to do nothing, to do something or to do the right thing?

Nothing is always an option. Doing nothing won’t move you forward but it may not move you backwards (at least in the short term). In the long term, doing nothing will move you backwards, if for no other reason that everyone else is moving forward while you stay put.

Doing something is active, even if it’s not always correct. The challenge with something is doing too much of it without a plan, and not learning from it. Even if you don’t do the right thing, you can always learn positive or negative lessons by doing something. It should make you smarter the next time. If you look at something as a continuous test, you always win. Of course there are many instances of people and companies doing something that doesn’t work and then throwing their hands in the air while saying, “See, I told you we shouldn’t have done something!”

Doing the right thing requires careful planning, strategy, execution and measurement. Doing the right thing doesn’t need to be grand or expensive, it simply needs thinking before doing, and counting while doing. In one way or another, you always end up ahead when you do the right thing.

Saying that every company shouldn’t start grand, thoughtless, expensive social marketing campaigns is a non-starter. Why bother arguing with something like that? But as marketers in a changing consumer landscape, we need to adapt, learn and try, even if we fail. And the only way we do that is to do something.

I understand that some people are afraid of failure, change and risk. Most financial institutions, but not all, fit that description. It’s still not an excuse to ignore how people live and act today.


08/04/2010 The Microsite Strikes Back!

There are a lot of words online talking about the death of the microsite and the need to move away from big, splashy campaign sites with a short shelf life. Well rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. The other day I ran into two of them that made me feel like its 2007 all over again.

Vibram Five Fingers makes a very interesting, very buzz worthy product: A shoe or a foot cover (I'm not really sure how to describe it, they call it footwear) to run and exercise in. Their theory, backed up by many authors and scientists, is that the human body evolved to run barefoot and that all of these fancy running shoes with their super-duper technology actually make our legs and knees hurt more. For them, it's about running bare (foot).

Vibram recently launched a microsite called You Are The Technology. It features two attractive, nude models with text written all over their body. You can zoom in to read the slogan-tattoos (sloganoos?) that supposedly reinforce Vibram's message. There's really not much more to do here. The only real challenge with this site is to see if you can sneak peaks at hidden body parts, but I'm not sure the aim of the footwear is to bring out the voyeur in us.


There's not even a link back to the site, or anything interactive here aside from scrolling and zooming. There's no social media connection, even though Vibram is socially active. This microsite might not be dead, but it has a pretty low pulse. I have to admit; I'm surprised people still make things like this.

What did Vibram's Facebook fans think? They barely talked about it, because they're too busy telling Vibram how much they love their product. So, does this help, or just not hurt?

Crispin Porter also launched a microsite for Old Navy, The Old Navy Booty Reader. Again, it's throwback time. CP&B (can I still call them B?) looks to combine old hits using funky horoscopish personalization (CP&B's and Method's Come Clean or The Profiler) with the old product recommender. Very 2006.

Maybe the biggest difference is the use of the Web cam to take pictures of your butt. Seriously, it may sound exciting to some, but it's really not. Maybe if they asked us to take our clothes off like the Vibram models, it would add a little edge (although that would be off brand, right?).

The recommendations are pretty straightforward. Old Navy is asking you to create a proportional map of your derriere (hips, butt, thighs) to create a shape. It then matches the shape to a product line of jeans, and they have a lot of options. I wonder if there was an easier way to get there, or if the idea is that taking the pictures makes the recommendations more "real."

It's too bad they're not doing something like this in store as well, where you can have the mirror measure you and "measure" your shape, while recommending product.

But they did get a discussion going on Facebook that was all over the place.

Maybe the microsite isn't dead. But I'm looking for the evolution and I'm not seeing much here. I'm sure these sites were fun to concept and create. They just feel a little out of step with the times. Maybe I'm looking at these too early in the cycle and they'll connect with subsequent pieces. I hope so.

08/31/2009 Ads are like hookups; Social Media is like dating

It's amazing to see how businesses are going nuts over social media. Everyone wants to talk about it. Everyone wants to do social media marketing even if they don't really understand what it is. Robert Scoble had an interesting article about how he monetarily values Twitter and everyone I talk to in the industry says the same thing: All of their clients want Social Media.

While it's great that there's such a desire for this relationship marketing, the people asking for it often view it as the same type of quickie marketing they're used to: Create a sexy ad and let it run. It's like a hookup: Fun, flashy, not much commitment and you can walk away in the morning.  You have the idea that people are waiting for you to show up in a place they can't avoid you, too.

Social media might not cost as much as advertising but it takes a longer commitment and honest assessment of your brand. You might actually find that you need to change a few things (gasp!) to really attract the people you want and need. It's more like dating because it's going to take some time, you'll make mistakes along the way, and your ultimate measure of success will be how much you put into it. The end prize is also the same: A real relationship.

So here's my dating advice for Brands dipping their toes into the Social Media scene:
  1. Most people are not that into you - One of the most eye opening experiences for businesses is when they find out how little chatter there is about their brands online. Yes, if you have a big national brand that's done lots of advertising over many years, there's probably some chatter. But the reality is that once you start listening, you often don't hear that much. And why should you? Most people have much more important things to talk about beside your brand. Like their lives or their interests. You didn't honestly think they were obsessing over your product or service, did you? Like all self-centered daters, it's a challenge to realize that you're not that interesting naturally. You'll actually have to work at making yourself interesting so more people will talk about you.
  2. People tire quickly of other people who talk incessantly about themselves - One common mistake in dating and social media is that you burst on the scene and talk only about yourself. In social media, this can result in a stream of tweets and Facebook updates which are nothing more than small sales blurbs. If you run a discount business, or one where your value proposition is low price or deals, this may work for you. JetBlue and Southwest do this successfully with Twitter as does Dell. For people looking for a specific low cost deal, this is a good social media strategy.  For the rest, restating your marketing and sales pitches in social media is, well, boring. Hard to get a second date when you're boring us on the first one.
  3. Take the long-term view - Getting social media right requires planning. If you whisk your first date off to a moonlit dinner in the Bahamas, with champagne and calypso band, what on earth are you going to do on the second or third date? Taking a longer view means you have to have a content plan online on what you want to share and talk about. While this usually doesn't require lots of outside costs, it does require internal staff time, since they're the ones with the stories. You need to gather your stories, figure out how to tell them correctly, and decide how and when to put them online. Whether you're Scheherazade and the 1,001 nights or Salome with the Seven Veils (ooh, bad endings both), stretching things out to see what will happen next works. This is the hardest part but it's the one you need to keep your people coming back.
  4. Reward good behavior - Remember, in dating you want to show what parts you like too. If your date does something good, make sure you reward them, whether that's publicity, deals or letting them get to second base. You better start thinking about your reward system too, so they don't get unrealistic expectations.
  5. Own up to your mistakes quickly - Boy, the last thing you want is to have your date hear something bad about you first without addressing it. If you've made a mistake, online or offline, own up to it. Hearing it from you is better than hearing about it from others, especially if you're in denial. Things like this can be the kiss of death for a budding relationship. Make sure you have a process in place for dealing with this.
Of course, once you pass the dating phase and into a real relationship, you'll have to keep that spiced up as well. But that's really another blog post.

If you're the Eliot Spitzer of Social Media and just want to pay for it with no emotional ties, you can expect a bad ending. If you just want the quick hook up, well don't start complaining about feeling lonely or some unwanted "attachment" you might've picked up.


Social media is a commitment. If you're not ready for one, you should probably stay away.
07/29/2009 The Social Media Guy

Locally, when I run into people at business functions, I'm starting to get the "Oh, you're the social media guy!" On the one hand, it's good that people pay attention to what they read and hear. On the other hand, what I'm finding is that a lot of business people keep removing the word "marketing" from social media.

Yes, I do social media marketing. It's a small but growing part of what I do. The biggest reaction I get is when I talk about how social media marketing is a small but interesting part of online and offline marketing. Once that conversation revs up I notice something changes in the business people.

What changes? They're all looking for the digital silver bullet. I've seen this at it relates to online for the last 13 years, when the new "new thing" hits the streets. First banners, then things like search, forums, flash microsites, mobile and now, social media all blipped on and off the radar.

Boy.can.small I'm sensing a desire from marketers, as they search for the digital silver bullet, to have the same type of relationship with online media that marketers had with offline media - distance. When you made a TV ad, the agency took care of making it and placing it in the media. It was a very hands off relationship.

But online is all about dialogue. You can't have a hands off dialogue (well you can, it just won't work) in online marketing. A good dialogue, as any good marriage counselor will tell you, means showing up and working at it.

Social media is bright, shiny and a lot of fun! But it's not a silver bullet. It works best when you connect it with other online and offline marketing initiatives, if you have them. You need to connect to your customer service. While you won't have to spend big money on media dollars or creative, you'll have to spend time listening, responding, sharing and informing.

Marketers and companies have to personally invest in it, and they still need to keep doing other online marketing.

Really, I'm the online marketing guy. All of the tools I use aim to recognize the promise of digital - two-way, real people communication. Social media just happens to be the newest, and one of the most effective ways yet to do this.

04/01/2009 Can Selling Behavioral Data Save Online Marketing?

EXelate-logo I spoke with Mark Zagorski with Exelate today. Mark and his colleagues are trying to make online advertising work better by, as he puts it, “making selling data as important as selling media.”

Exelate buys your cookie information from Web sites, for example publishers of auto, parenting or finance sites, and sells that to ad networks and agencies. What it means to marketers is that when we buy that information, we can target advertising to show up on the page you’re browsing if we see that cookie.

It’s like this:

  1. You shop for travel deals to Paris on travel site. Your Cookie = Travel/Paris
  2. Travel sites sells cookies to Exelate
  3. Marketer selling 12 Language Translator Gadget is looking for people planning a trip overseas.
  4. Marketer buys your cookie from Exelate
  5. Marketer buys online advertising on ad network.
  6. You go online = Network sees Travel/Paris cookie and serves up Translator Gadget ad.
  7. Travel site makes money selling the cookie
  8. Gadget marketer gets higher response.

It sounds pretty smart and simple. You can work with the ad providers to get even more granular on a contextual level (only showing the ads on the Travel pages of the New York Times, for example) and I’m sure there’s a great play here with some of the multivariate providers, like Adroit.

One of the big issues firms like Exelate run into is privacy. While no user information swaps hands (no e-mail or IP addresses) there’s still a lot of touchiness in the industry about cookies and personal data.

It’s bizarre, actually, when you think of the amount of data snail-mail direct marketers collect about us and use on a daily basis, compared with what’s going on online. There’s something about online that just freaks everyone out about privacy, sexual predators, and data scams. Yes, we have all of that; it’s just that it’s a fraction of what happens offline.

Exelate lets customers opt out of their network, though, in case they don’t want people to sell their cookie info. Kind of like the do not call list. Only, it doesn’t mean that they won’t see any ads; it just means that they may not see any relevant ads. Exelate let’s people see the data they have on them and you can customize what you want to see.

Right now, from a customer standpoint, Exelate’s main promise is reducing something negative – irrelevant ads. It can’t stop bad creative and it can’t stop the ads themselves. It’s too bad there still isn’t a way to provide consumers with a clear upside, something to positive to gain rather than minimizing something unwanted.

While all of this could be help online advertisers and consumers, the biggest value may be in providing Web publishers an alternate way to monetize its visitors. Rather than simply selling more ad space, they can sell data. If it works, it could make the Web universe more stable for publishers and in a perfect world, might even reduce the amount of interruptive ad space.

It will be interesting to see how Exelate and some of the other behavioral data firms fare in this economy. Will online marketers try it? I know I’m seriously looking at testing this with a couple of clients. The cost difference is pretty minimal.

I’ll let you know what happens.

03/27/2009 How Fast Can Your Marketing Move?

One of the most touted benefits of online has always been that you could change your marketing more easily than other media. It doesn’t mean it won’t cost you anything and it doesn’t mean it won’t take you time to make the change. But it does mean you can move faster in the online medium more than you can print, TV or radio.

So now that we can move faster, do marketers truly take advantage of this? An article at Clickz.com got me thinking about this. They described a home repair service that optimized its paid search effort based on bad weather. 

American Residential Service’s marketing partner tracked weather patterns across the U.S. based on the understanding that the more extreme the weather, the more business ARS usually did. When storms hit certain areas, they wanted to make sure ARS was top of mind when people quickly, and sometimes desperately, needed help fixing their heating, air conditioning, sewers and drains. Face it, when one of these breaks down, you’re quite unhappy until someone fixes it.

So ARS’ marketing group identified the places where they would find those people. But they needed to be very nimble to take advantage of the opportunity. Once they saw the patterns, they shifted their paid search to those geographic areas hit by the bad weather. It was smart, fast, and, apparently, very effective.

I’ve seen and built online marketing that could tell where someone lived and could serve them geographically specific information. But those types of applications usually rely on a set logic. I’ve rarely seen marketing strategies that can react quickly to real time events.

Some, like Super Bowl advertising, don’t move at all, even when they know events will happen. There are many examples of missed opportunity around search, for example.

So how can you make your marketing faster? How can you turn it into Speedy Gonzales?


Look at what ARS did:

  • They set up a listening mechanism. If you want to react, you have to know when something happens. To do that, you have to listen. ARS listened through weather reports. Your brand could do the same, whether its watching markets, to news feeds or other social media listening tools.
  • They had an action plan. Once you’ve listened you need to have concrete steps to put in place once you have a trigger event. You have to map out the steps before hand, so that implementation is quick AND easy. Remember, time is of the essence here. The plan should not only tell you what to do, it should also tell you when NOT to do anything.
  • They had a strong conversion mechanism. Since you have a limited time opportunity, don’t use this as simply a branding exercise. Tie the problem you’re going to solve to a product or service you offer now. Make it easy for someone to convert; you should clearly show how you’re going to lift the weight off of your customers’ shoulders.

This type of marketing brings out the true promise of online marketing. While the examples focus on search, I think it would be worth it to examine doing so with online advertising networks as well. God knows they have the inventory.

Most importantly, put together a good strategic plan on how you’re going to move fast; how you’re going to act and why you’ll grow business doing so. Your clients need this. It also gives them a good reason to pay you for listening, a reason that’s clearly connected to ROI.

Maybe your business or clients don’t provide anything that has to do with outside events. Or maybe you need to use your imagination and you might uncover a missed opportunity.

Or, as Speedy said "Ándale! Ándale! Arriba! Arriba!"

03/06/2009 Skittles' Agency Strategy

The Skittles social media bomb went off this week, when the candy maker swapped its home page for its social media presence on various platforms. I’m not going to debate whether it was original or a rip-off, whether it was gimmicky or brave, smarter minds than I have already expounded on those topics.

No, I simply want to tip my hat at Skittles' new business strategy targeting creative and marketing people who work in big and small agencies. Yes, amid all the hoopla, I believe Skittles smartly developed and brilliantly executed a plan to grow its business through candy and junk food dependent marketers, designers, programmers and their ilk.

Face it; every agency has some snack strategy to keep its worker bees working harder and more productively. Most have bowls of candy throughout the workspace, they reward overtime with pizza and more than a few have beers or kegs on tap. When these aren’t enough, agencies sprinkle vending machines throughout the office.


Skittles made a play to be the snack of choice for those of us in the creative and marketing world, and they did a great job. Whether the rest of the country noticed or not, we marketers did notice, and we Tweeted, Blogged, Facebooked and chatted like never before. General Motors approached bankruptcy and the stock market dived to scary depths but all we had on our minds was Skittles social media play.

Watching the power and the fury on Twitter this week reminded me of my own Skittles story at my former agency. We always had some snack on hand: gumballs that were hard as rock and may have been up to five years old, Hershey’s kisses, and Jolly Ranchers, among others. We all snacked on them, occasionally. Then our admin had a stroke of brilliance and started buying bags and bags of Skittles at Costco.

The first batch disappeared in 3 days. The second batch disappeared in 2 days. We ate more Skittles over the first two weeks than all the other candy combined over two months! I admit I was one of the worst culprits. Chomping down Skittles (and chewing up the in-sides of my mouth) I developed more Web strategies, online marketing plans and RFP responses than ever before.

And then it stopped. The big boss was willing to spring for candy, just as long as we didn’t eat too much of it. Things went back to normal, and the gumballs came back.

This is what I think Skittles is up to this week. As we follow trendsetter David Armano on Twitter describing his own Sour Skittles consumption, can the rest of the industry be far behind? Watch for sales results around Madison Ave, Chicago, S.F, Boston, Portland, Austin and other creative mega-centers for March.

As for the rest of the population, Skittles still has more work to do. Like actually engaging with people and providing a direction for the noise they create, rather than just watching the noise happen.

In the mean time, we should expect to see some amazing marketing ideas and creative campaigns over the next several months as our Skittle highs kick in.

01/21/2009 A Good Online Marketing Campaign

Pepsi launched an online marketing campaign this week in time for Obama’s inauguration. The campaign, Refresh Everything, let’s people give messages and well wishes to the new president via online advertising, microsites and social media.


I found this on Yahoo! music. It was a rich media ad that let me send a message to the sites right from the banner itself. I can’t believe we don’t see more of this type of online advertising; it works so much better than the animate billboards we’re all sick of.  I may not have known exactly what I was getting into, but I was able to create and participate in the banner before clicking off of my page. Now that I created my personal message, I had to see what this was about.

You land on the Refresh Everything microsite, filled with video. There’s Eva Longoria in the corner; you have to see what she has to say. The microsite shows the TV ad (great) and has video of a symposium to refresh everything. This site is cool, but  Pepsi goes further on the social media sites.

The YouTube channel has five pages of personal videos. It’s amazing how many kids there are up there. The Tumblr site should have all of the text entries from the online ads, but I can’t find mine. Bummer.

Despite this personal set back, I love what Pepsi is doing here. Engaging online advertising and using social media sites for what they do best: content.

It’s so refreshing to see the online ad space used in this way.  Why, why aren’t other marketers doing more of this? There must be a brain cramp with agencies producing banners.

I just may have to switch from Coke.

12/09/2008 Social Media: Obama is King of KAOS

Yesterday one of my Triibe members sent me a link to a study about Obama and his use of online and social media during the 2008 campaign. This e-paper, by Yovia founder Jalali Hartman, is titled “Obamanomics: A Study in Social Velocity.”

One of the more interesting premises is that Obama wasn’t taking his playbook from Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign; he was taking it from Stephen Colbert’s fake run for the presidency in 2007! (I think a better role for Colbert would’ve actually been Maxwell Smart instead of Steve Carell, but I digress). That campaign spawned a slew of social media activism.

Hartman points out that Obama spent less than 2% of his huge campaign war chest online, and that McCain actually outspent Obama on paid search by 22 to 1! So how did Obama do so well online?

The study identifies four key components of what they call Social Velocity:
1.    Content
2.    Connections
3.    Community
4.    Conversation

Ultimately, Obama gave up control to his advocates and let them create something unique. I think the best part in the study is describing how Obama’s camp gave every graphic, speech and video clip to a rock band to make a video and to do whatever they wanted. They carried this “no-rules” content strategy throughout the campaign.

Read the report. It’s a great lesson in social media and creating grassroots movements.

In the end, Obama embraced the KAOS of digital and gave up CONTROL. Most brands lack the cojones to do so.

11/22/2008 Give people more ways of engaging

We’re all hearing how online, along with all other advertising, is going down, down, down with the economy. Without a doubt we’re heading for tough times. But it’s no time to head for the exits. General Motors chief Rick Wagoner told lawmakers last week that they’re shifting big dollars from traditional to online to gain efficiencies.

But most of our clients don’t have the budgets that even a wounded GM does. One of the things we can do for digital strategy and online marketing is to look at new ways we can help our client interact with prospects. Now is a good time to come up with alternative views of what we’re asking people to do online and help clients take advantage of the economic downturn.

“Take advantage?” you ask. Well, yes. With less disposable income, I’m predicting that people will spend more and more time online. Online is a pretty big bang for your buck. When you cut back, you’re probably not going to cut down on your Web use. Maybe you’ll work with your neighbors to share a high-speed connection and wireless network. Or maybe you’ll just hang out more at places with free WiFi. Changes, yes. Cutting back, no. We’ll see more online video, more news reading, and more interacting.

That will spell opportunity for online marketers who can take advantage of it. When people visit your clients’ sites, are you changing the way you talk with them?

Take a look at your clients’ online conversion points. Most companies focus on a few, like purchase, or signing up for e-newsletters. I work with one client who has a very low e-commerce conversion rate online. When we’ve dug into this, we’ve found that the when it comes to purchasing, people have too many individual questions. They need to talk to someone.

So we’re enhancing the focus to drive more people into Click-to-Call or even Live Chat. And yes, we are adding better answers to questions, but now we’ve expanded and shifted our conversion opportunities.

It’s a great time to show more online value in the face of bad news by increasing interactivity and giving choice and control to our customers.

Or, as Michael Jager told Microsoft, it’s time for “Less Hulk, more Bruce Lee.”

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