16 posts categorized "Marketing"

04/07/2009 In Treatment: Marketers as Therapists

I’m glad HBO’s "In Treatment" is back. It was my favorite show last year although it was painful to watch sometimes. I love stories that feel real, as opposed to, say, reality TV. I’ve never been in treatment (yet) but this show felt spot on. And Gabriel Byrne is amazing.

So what does this have to do with marketing? Everything. Gabriel Byrne’s character is a perfect metaphor for good marketers. People always come to you with a perceived problem but our challenge is to dig deeper to find deeper meanings, reasons and measures of success.

Over the years, I’ve heard the following from different clients:

“Our Web site is an embarrassment.”
“We hated our former agency.”
“My wife didn’t like the TV we ran last year.”
“We need to do something new; jazz it up.”

Intreatment.good And just like In Treatment, we need to ask, probe and uncover the, often, painful truths. It’s a tough job and a lot of us don’t really want to do this so we don’t. We end up making pretty Web sites, have beers with the marketing director, make sure the boss’s wife signs off on the creative, and add cool designs to everything.

It usually lasts a year or two, because none of those topical things work without connecting with the actual process of connecting with people, providing them with something valuable and making sure we’ve set up systems that make it as easy as humanly possible to convert or buy.

We need to ask ourselves as marketers: Are we listening to our clients because they pay us, or are we listening to help solve an important problem? That might be the distinction between good therapists or bad therapists. Or it might be the difference between a prostitute and a great shrink.

Make no mistake: It’s hard work. You have to do it together. But the outcomes are so much better than the window dressing.

We marketers can do a better job if we ourselves are more transparent. Such as:

  1. Tell clients how you work – Explain to them your process of listening and why you’re not going to just be a bobblehead. In the upfront stage, clients will probably like to hear this.
  2. Reinforce this along the way – It’s one thing to say this, it’s another to do it in the middle of the process. Keep bringing the why to the table and continually connect it back to the end goals – business growth.
  3. Push the clients – But push gently. Unlike In Treatment, we don’t want big breakdowns, just small breakthroughs. Challenge the clients when you feel the small and personal issues are clouding judgment.

Of course, it doesn’t always works. But, it works an awful lot, in my experience, and it leads to some great work.

And just like In Treatment, we marketers have just as big problems as our clients, especially when it comes to alignment, goals and honesty. Luckily there are great business coaches out there to help us.

02/08/2009 The Noismakers

David Armano got me thinking the other day, as he usually does with his blog posts and diagrams, with a Tweet. Now on his blog, he was explaining the difference between paid media and unpaid media. I was fumbling to think of a response to that and I realized that the word “media” got in my way.

Maybe because I spent the last 9 years in an ad agency, in my head, media is something owned by someone else, like TV, newspapers and radio. Paid media meant buying a piece of that, usually advertising. Unpaid media usually meant public relations, where you get an article written without paying the journalist. Still, you have to pay the public relations specialist to get the article.

With Web and Digital, media has blown apart. Either everyone owns a piece of the media (such as blogs) or they own the content of the media (such as things like TripAdvisor.com reviews).

Instead of media, I thought, maybe, we should use the old term “voice.” But after reading Marcel Lebrun’s great post on share of voice vs. share of conversation, I think a better term would simply be:


There’s paid Noise (every time you pay someone to make Noise for you).
There’s unpaid Noise (every time someone you know or don’t know decides to make Noise about you).


I see Noise as value neutral, although dictionary.com might argue with me. A beautiful song is good Noise. Flatulence is bad Noise (unless you make the iPhone app iFart). Advertising is definitely Noise, some of it good Noise, most of it bad Noise. Customer reviews are Noise. We hope customers are noisy like a boisterous party and not noisy like a violent mob.

Paid Noise would include everything a company pays for marketing. Work like ads, PR, search engine marketing, event marketing, and guerilla marketing. Unpaid Noise is Noise that emanates from a customer experience. Reactions to products, customer services, physical locations, and services.

Where this breaks down is characterizing the response to paid Noise. If someone goes online and reacts to a Superbowl ad, is that paid Noise or unpaid Noise?  We’re not paying that person, but he or she responds to our paid Noise. In the very least, paid Noise gets an assist. Same with building a great microsite. When people pass on and talk about Elf Yourself, is that paid Noise or unpaid Noise?

I’m going to stick with this for a while and push on it. I like where Armano is going with earned vs. paid, though. It's also a great distinction between digital media strategy and social media strategy, something I'll have to try out on some clients.

We marketers are  Noisemakers. The question is: are we singing or farting?

01/27/2009 Getting People to Say “Yes”

I enjoy hearing “Yes” so much more than “No!” that when I heard an interview with author Robert Cialdini on NPR about his new book “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive” I hopped on to Amazon.com and bought it right away.

YES! All marketers want people to say yes. We want our bosses to say yes to our raises, our clients to say yes to our creative ideas, and customers to say yes to our sales and relationship pitches. Face it, we’re in the business of asking customers to change their behavior and do something different. If we can’t get them to say yes, we’re out on the street.

 While I never expect a book to give all the answers, I had high hopes for this one. Maybe it was the word “Scientifically.” All I’d need to do is craft my Yes brew and voila, a gaggle of Yes-sayers.

Of course the book doesn’t work that way. While all of the hypotheses put forward have grounding in controlled research, a lot of what I found in the book was common wisdom. Or would be common wisdom if we didn’t over think things so damn much!

That said this book has some good suggestions. I’ve found I’m using more than one of them in my digital marketing. That’s something I can’t say about a lot of other marketing books. What are some of the scientifically proven ways?

  1. Crowd Behavior – Cialdini and Co. show that you can impact behavior by showing how common the behavior is, or that a majority of people does this. People like to follow a crowd or a winner. Obviously this won’t work for a rebel brand, although Apple uses it in its switch campaign. I’m working for an industry leader, right now, and one of the things I’m putting at the forefront is the message that they are responsible for over 50% of their market worldwide.
  2. Rewards Programs – In an interesting study, the authors show that giving people a free head start on a rewards program increases their use and completion of the program. They used a study of clip cards where you needed eight clips for a freebie. The group that got an empty card of eight was far less engaged than a group that got a card of 10 with the first two clips free.

Other studies include the power of the word “because,” the value of unexpected and personalized attention, and the power of rhyming.

But you knew all that, right? Even if you do, it’s always good to have reminders to keep them front and center. Best of all, it’s a fairly quick read even if it has a lot of info.

I think that research based types and planners will love this book.

So go ahead and read what millions have already read because this book could help your marketing leap ahead.

11/13/2008 Warning! Sites advocate and market at the same time.

I’ve run into two sites lately, both who are warning of dangers while trying to increase sales. They take very different tacks in doing so. The comparison gets a little challenging, since one comes from a social welfare state and the other comes from an independent profit driven company.

The first is CrimeMedicine.com and comes from the Swedish Läkemedelsverket. It’s the equivalent of our FDA; they approve all medical products for sale in Sweden. “Aha!” you might say. “You can’t compare that with product marketing.” Well, yes and no. You see most, if not all, Swedes buy their medicines at state owned pharmacies. So their FDA has a clearly vested interest in driving sales through the state stores.

CrimeMedicine.com takes you behind the scenes of online pharmaceuticals sales. They do this through one of the best interactive video interfaces I’ve ever seen. At each step of the video story you can click through for more detail, including Google maps of illegal pill making in suburban apartments. It doesn’t look like there’s much there, but I was surprised at the depth of info. And it helps that the video feels right out of a solid investigative journalism tradition.


Of course, if you don’t know Swedish, it’s hard to keep up with the story. But it’s a pretty jarring site to drive home the point that there’s something dangerous out there, even if we don’t pay it much attention. I mean I’ve gotten so much of this type of spam, I’ve never really thought about the seedy underbelly of this stuff. Yuck.

And the intro screen is great. Not what you expect at all.

Seeing the CrimeMedicine site made me think of Seventh Generation’s new campaign at ShowWhatsInside.com. Seventh Gen makes environmentally safe household cleaners and they’ve been the leaders in this space for a while. Now that green is hot, all of the big guns, like P& G, are getting into the game. The new campaign wants people to take a critical look at what’s inside of the competitors’ products, because there are quite a few “green” household products that contain toxic material.

It’s a great idea to promote consumer activism in a way that helps consumers, and sells more products for Seventh Gen. But their approach is almost the opposite of the first site. No jarring realism here, but some very soft ideas, like build a tree, an ingredient widget and a fun customizable tee shirt with your own ingredients. Yes there is video, but it’s the kinder, gentler type.


Both sites have some pretty disturbing stories to tell. CrimeMedicine tells it in a hard-hitting way using some great interactivity.  ShowWhatsInside does it through some user-generated content. Personally, I had a hard time quitting CrimeMedicine; it felt like there were a lot of good layers there. It certainly made me react more in my gut than the Show site.

Surprisingly enough, neither site did a great job in providing tools to spread the word.

10/27/2008 Newspapers ads down, digital adds up

I read in our local paper this weekend that Gannett Corp. (which owns our local rag and was actually started by its old publisher) announced that their earnings declined compared with last year. The publishing side of the business led the downturn due to sub par ad revenues. USA today saw its paid advertising pages decrease by almost 12 percent.

According to news reports, other publishers will show the same trend as Gannett. On the bright side, Gannett’s digital business was a clear bright spot, with properties such as CareerBuilder and PointRoll.

You might say that the ailing economy is the reason and you’d be partly right. But think back and look at the fact that we’ve had a summer Olympic and a presidential campaign this year, two great ad drivers.

It’s clear that news ads continue their decline, while online ads continue their ascendancy. Microsoft just reported that they expect a 10 to 13 percent growth in online ads over the next year.

All of that is good news for us digital marketers and worrisome for publishers. What businesses need, however, is not just a shift into online marketing but an effective engagement strategy when they do so. We need to help develop dialogue branding, the key advantage of the digital space, rather than repeating the monologue branding of yore.

That means that newspapers, agencies and clients need to get past the moving billboards and splashy technology that plagues the online channel and step it up a notch.

I’ve noticed that a number of local newspaper sites are offering things like peelbacks or images moving across the screen for free now. While those technologies look pretty cool and are fun to play with, they simply follow the pattern of intrusive advertising we’ve lived with for so long.

If I were Gannett, I’d integrate PointRoll into every single online newspaper I own. Make it part of the product and let businesses and agencies have a PointRoll specialist help develop the creative. I think they’d end up growing their online ad revenue by twice as much while providing advertisers with great results.

The online ad space has come a long way, but it’s still got a long way to go. I’ll be talking about some of the things we digital marketers should push for to make this happen.

09/26/2008 Blood not simple

Red_cross_int I’ve been a blood donor since college. As I’ve become busier over the years, the challenge of finding a good time to give gets harder. The Red Cross calls me a lot, trying to remind me and book appointments. Given that the U.S. blood banks keep declining, and that critical need keeps increasing, you’d think that the Red Cross would be doing everything possible to attract new donors and make it easy to give.

Would you be surprised if I told you the opposite was true? If ever there was brand in need of a complete makeover, it’s the Red Cross Blood centers.

Today I walked in as the center opened. There was no other blood donor in sight. I waited 10 minutes while I watched the personnel mill around talking to each other (nothing wrong with that, but it was clear that my time was not that important). I then did the usual: I gave my name, birthday and social and did the normal screening tests. After I filled out long questionnaire, another person came in, asked my name and birthday, and asked other questions. Then she (I’m not kidding) asked my name and birthday again, and asked me more questions.

Then she took me to the actual donation chair and, once again, asked me my name and birthday. Now, she didn’t look like she had a bad memory. When I protested, she said simply “Those are the rules.”

Buddy_Blood_Drop The rules also include that no one who has lived in Europe, or is gay, can give blood (maybe those are the same to some people).

Now, it’s not like I’m making any money on the deal (like they do in Sweden, or so I hear). I’m really not into needles either. I’m trying to do the right thing for something that should be easy and important.

Instead it was more difficult than it should be. It would have been a lot better if I could have done most of the paperwork online, gone in quickly for the tests and donations, and then received something simple like a free song at iTunes for my time. It’s too bad they don’t put some strategy and marketing towards this; we could solve the blood problem in no time.

Maybe next time I’ll just send in a check.

My Web Sites