Converged Media Imperative

Converged media has been a hot topic the last two years and is picking up speed in 2013. This concept represents a blurring of the lines between the three types of media: paid, earned and owned.

I don’t think there are many who would disagree that this is happening and will continue. But another important issue is: What type of marketing professional will flourish in this environment and bring added value to his or her brand?

A word that comes to mind to describe this professional is: diverse. Fluency only in a single area, be it advertising, public relations, social media, branding or others is career and brand limiting. The value add comes from multi-disciplinary professionals who understand all of the converging types of media at the strategic and tactical levels and can fit them into a bigger, more seamless picture.

The disciplinary silos must come down. They should be replaced collaborative, cross-functional teams that can work together across the media spectrum.

All of this doesn’t mean specialization has no place. It simply means marketers must adapt and grow in their understanding of media, and work together more effectively. Converged media demands it.

We Have Seen the Brand, and It is Not Our Enemy

The explosion of social media hasn’t been good for branding. Somewhere along the way, branding seems to have developed a bad name (although still not as bad as public relations).

I saw a comment the other day on a social media platform to the effect that the concept of branding was outdated because “we’re all connected now.” It’s not an isolated comment these days, but rather it represents what many have stated over the past few years in one form or another. The underlying belief behind this is that any attempt by a company to develop and promote its brand is inherently based on lies. That there is some type of spin being created to trick consumers and lure them into believing something false.

This type of thinking shows really a lack of understanding about what branding is all about. That’s why I like this post about the Zappos brand because it tells the story of what a brand really is: an extension of the culture (people) that work there.

Branding is about taking what is true about the company and presenting that to consumers, not making things up. Ideally the true culture and values of the company add up to a distinct value proposition in the minds of consumers.

Because consumers can talk to each other now via social media doesn’t invalidate brand development and communication efforts. Indeed, it only make these efforts more important. Companies sometimes fail, because they’re filled with people that can make mistakes. That doesn’t mean the great lie of branding has been exposed.

Who Defines the Brand?

Does the age of social media and connectivity spell the end of “branding?” Many people claim this is the case. In reality, it’s not true.

Social media does present some unique challenges to brands. People can complain publicly when expectations are not met. These complaints, if they persist and spread, can also damage a brand. But, brands for the most part still control their own destiny.

The best definitions and concepts related to branding often come from company CEOs. I had the chance recently to listen to some great branding wisdom from Greg Brown, CEO at Motorola Solutions, a company that’s had great success developing its brand internally and externally.

Here are some of the insights he offered:

“Brand is the image you create and the experience you deliver.”

“Implement a brand framework around a cultural identity.”

“Create a brand purpose. Is what you’re doing fitting that purpose?”

“Determine ‘how’ the brand speaks, not so much what it says. Be concise, human and imaginative.”

These aren’t comments that indicate a loss of the ability to develop a brand. Much to the contrary, developing a consistent and powerful brand is still very achievable, despite the prevalence of social media.

22 Key Takeaways from the Program “New Social Media Marketing Tools and Rules”

I had the privilege of attending the Chicago American Marketing Association’s “New Social Media Marketing Tools and Rules” on Wednesday. Speakers for the program were Adam Lilly, Brand Director at Goose Island Beer Company and Nader Ali-Hassan, Associate Director, Social Media at Razorfish. It was an afternoon filled with actionable social media information, including the following key takeaways:

Adam Lilly shared:

  • Make time to connect with people on social media.
  • Generate new and fresh content; don’t say the same things over and over.
  • Social media is a destination. Participate in the conversation.
  • Enable others to talk about your brand.
  • Practice timely storytelling.
  • Social must be a commitment and ingrained in the culture of the brand.
  • Good brand social media frontline employees are good storytellers.
  • Metrics are not as important as engagement.
  • Share in a creative and meaningful way.
  • Weekly digital content meetings can help generate ideas.
  • Encourage widespread use of social media by employees.

Nader Ali-Hassan shared:

  • The story and how you tell it is important.
  • Social media is about creating and connecting.
  • People don’t want to connect to a brand, but the people behind it.
  • Think about utility: providing value to the consumer.
  • Have a consistent brand voice across platforms.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel; take advantage of the technologies that are available.
  • Think about social as a paid, earned and owned proposition.
  • Always plan ease and sharability into your content.
  • Trust your gut: If the shiny object doesn’t feel right, don’t use it.
  • Be willing to cede control of the brand to others.
  • Include social media in the overall marketing mix.

What would you add?

Extreme Brand Makeover: Three Key Elements

For some companies, rebranding is a smart move and it’s usually clear to see that it’s needed. For other companies, the decision to rebrand or to stand pat isn’t as clear. I think too many companies may be jumping the rebranding gun when they don’t really need to. Whether it’s needed or not needed put aside, it should always be undertaken with great care to have the desired impact of really moving the impression of the brand in a new direction within its market.

Having been through several rebrandings in my career, it gets my attention when a company chooses this path. Enter T-Mobile, a brand that has fallen on hard times of late and this week will launch its rebranding campaign.

Kunur Patel, reporter for Ad Age, recently wrote “T-Mobile Talks Tough for Its Comeback, Vowing ‘No More Mr. Nice Girl.’” In the piece she provides a helpful narrative of the creative:

Carly Foulkes, the leggy brunette who has starred in T-Mobile’s ads since 2010 and been dubbed by some a DVR-proof pitch personality, is trading her usual frocks for biker leather as the wireless carrier looks to halt mass subscriber defections and uncertainty following AT&T‘s failed takeover bid. The commercial, “Alter Ego,” makes its debut this week. It finds Carly, after tearing up her closet, emerging in a black-leather jumpsuit and riding away on a motorcycle.

Although there are many considerations when rebranding, here are three key elements that must be addressed with great caution, research and planning for a successful campaign:

  1. Identification of a strong value proposition that has significant meaning to the market and that will change perceptions and drive action.
  1. Ensuring there is brand ownership of that value proposition (does the product or service truly deliver the value proposition to at least meet, but better yet exceed expectations?).
  1. The supporting creative must be new and attention getting and reinforce a change in thinking about the brand.

To be sure, although T-Mobile is using the “face” of the brand, its creative is a radical departure for the company. We can only trust that the brand executives have completed their due diligence in making the choice to rebrand, selecting their value proposition and devising their creative. Will the campaign help the brand? Only time will tell.

What would you add?

Digital Advertising in Need of Innovation

An Outdated Model

When you think about it, given the speed of growth in the digital and in social media worlds, advertising really hasn’t kept pace. For the most part, many media sites continue to offer only standard ad units for displaying content. It’s a model that is badly in need of innovation.

Digital consumers today are bombarded with information. So much so that they are becoming more and more adept at ignoring old-hat advertising practices. Let’s face it, there’s only much so attention to go around. When consumers are online, they are usually seeking very specific content in the shortest amount of time. Brand advertising stands little chance of gaining far-reaching and meaningful attention in the decades-old format used now.

The Need for Change

The conundrum for brands is that there aren’t many new options out there. More and more people are spending more time online, yet they are usually seeking helpful content, not ads. Attempts to get attention, the first step needed in order to deliver a message, often go ignored. What’s worse is that attempts to interrupt, prevent or delay them from getting the information they want can annoy the consumer. I know I always very much enjoy the experience of a large display ad appearing after I expected to receive the content I clicked. Not so much.

Death of the Page View

Yet, brands have been content with page views as advertising metric. An article on Ad Age by Erik Farkas of appsavvy lays out a nice explanation of the shortcomings of page views. Here’s part of what he wrote:

“Historically the way to drive more ad dollars has been to increase page views, but this practice has invariably made ads less valuable. This style of page-view advertising is becoming a business model of the past. You’ve probably read the countless stats showing that a majority of display ads are being ignored by consumers, including: “31 percent of ad impressions were never in view of the consumer,” “43 percent of consumers ignore internet banner ads,” and “88 percent of ads in apps are ignored by users.” For the love of advertising, there’s a different study released every week that devalues online advertising and gives our industry a bad name.”

Matters of Importance

There are plenty of tricks media can play to increase the number of page views reported to advertisers. The number of times a page was viewed tells little. Of more importance are issues such as:

  • Was the ad seen and interacted with?
  • Did the ad impact brand perception?
  • Did the ad drive action?

Media need to be more innovative in the ways they deliver and measure advertising effectiveness. Brands need to assist in that process by encouraging the development of new advertising models and demanding the delivery of greater return on investment.

Leading Examples of Change

Social media currently is leading in new methods for online advertising. Twitter’s “Promoted Tweet” program and Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories” offer an advertising experience that features better integration with the surrounding platform, better user experience, less intrusion and solid targeting.

In fact, Facebook will soon take another positive step by introducing its new and upgraded Premium Ads. The new ad platform will include several features that will be much more appealing to brands, including:

More visually pleasing format

A more inviting content focus vs. brand messaging

More opportunities for consumer engagement

Clearer endorsements by friends

Greater opportunity to increase the number of brand page fans and overall engagement

The new ads should be very well received by advertisers and are a good example of what other sites need to begin to offer.

As it stands, being present online as a brand is better than not being there at all. Much more development of digital advertising models is needed however to offer brands the value they deserve.

What do you think?

Opportunity Knocks: Differentiate Through Customer Experience

There’s an opportunity being squandered by many brands today. It’s the opportunity to differentiate through a unique and exceptional customer experience. It’s not that many brands aren’t attempting to do this. Many are, or at least that’s what they’re saying. But the question becomes: Is the commitment to customer experience as high a priority as it should be?

Businesses-to-consumer brands, for the most part, are more adept at customer experience models than are business-to-business brands. Most products and services on the market in most categories are very similar. Sure, some have distinct features and benefits, but if the customer experience is problematic, any differences are quickly negated.

Brands that develop an outstanding customer experience and communicate that over time carve out a distinct market advantage. Being faster, more reliable, dependable, approachable, helpful, accommodating and offering the highest quality builds customer equity and generates positive word-of-mouth marketing.

The keys are developing the customer experience continually, being fully committed to it, communicating it and enabling customers to do the same. It’s a great opportunity, for B2B and B2C brands alike.

Here’s a good piece on customer experience, focused on B2B with specific cases, from MediaPost for further reading on the subject.