Archive for the ‘advertising’ Category


Creating a path of least resistance

July 22, 2010

eMarketer just posted an article titled Where to Reach Women Online. What caught my attention was the bar chart (on the right) showing what women are most likely to notice on the Internet. There isn’t anything surprising about the responses here, but digital strategists should take note. The chart is actually an engagement funnel.

Using this funnel, marketers who are trying to engage women online would start by offering a discount, not by eliciting questions/opinions about the product. The idea is simple: invite consumers to participate in each subsequent brand activity in the order of their interest.

  1. Provide a discount, then invite participation in…
  2. An opportunity to win a prize, then invite participation in…
  3. A survey or quiz, then invite participation in…
  4. A social/chat feature to share opinions, then invite participation in…
  5. Viewing a video about the product or company…

Whenever possible, give consumers a path of least resistance.


Attention and Intention

July 2, 2010

Bob Hoffman, the provocative blogger at asks “After 15 years, can anyone name even ten serious non-native consumer-facing brands that have been created by web advertising? Is there a brand of coffee, butter, beer, bread, chicken, gasoline, soda, peanut butter, dog food, milk, tires, potato chips, life insurance, lawn mowers…don’t make me go on, you get the point…that has been built primarily by web advertising?”

Although “non-native consumer-facing brands” is quite a caveat, and Bob forgets to mention the Internet as a mainstream advertising media is barely over a decade old, AND less than 10% of all ad dollars are spent online, he still has a point.

But the takeaway isn’t ‘web advertising is a failure.’ Far from it. To understand the role of digital marketing you need to understand the mindset of Internet users.

Marketing via traditional media is mostly about attention. Media planners are interested in demographics and relevance. They ask ‘does this programming sync with consumers who are most likely to buy the product being advertised?’ Media planners have few clues whether or not a viewer has any real intent to buy the product/service being advertised. I’ve watched hundreds, maybe thousands of TV ads by Geico and Progressive, and I have zero intent to purchase any of their fine services.

Internet users have an intention mindset. That explains why over 60% of online ad dollars are spent on search. When people are in the hunt for a particular product or service category, then tend to seek out product information, authorities, and reputations via digital media. They don’t sit in front of their TV sets to see which advertisement is most persuasive before making a purchase decision.

I realize I’m making some broad generalizations here. Most people don’t go online to research a candy bar or dish soap, and many brands move the awareness needle via web advertising. The point I want to make is marketing goals, user mindsets and media attributes should be a driving force behind any marketing strategy.


Exposure is just a means to an end

March 11, 2010
The basic idea behind marketing communications hasn’t really changed much over the years, but it’s amazing how this industry continues to miss what’s important. We also seem to miss there’s an actual progression to achieving a marketing goal.

The goal of marketing communications is to change the way a group of people think or feel about a brand. Ulimately, we’re trying to change what people do. Usually, buy the brand.

There’s a natural progression to changing thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and that’s where most marketers seem to stumble. Marcom always involves three basic steps: exposure, attention, and engagement. Without attention or engagement, you can’t ever hope to change a behavior.

Traditionally agencies and media firms have been rewarded based on exposure metrics like impressions and GRPs. Oddly, exposure to a marketing communication activity doesn’t mean the consumer had any awareness of the brand message. In fact, advertising agencies rarely know how many people exposed to an activity actually exhibited any awareness of or engagement with the activity.

There are many levels of awareness and engagement, and awareness tends to bleed into engagement. Engagement is a bit easier to measure because it requires an action from the user, but measuring awareness can be difficult.

We know higher levels of awareness and engagement translate into greater opportunities to change thinking, feelings, and behavior of a consumer. We also know awareness and engagement translates into sales.

Marketers should be placing much more emphasis gauging the effectiveness of their marcom by measuring awareness and engagement, not by relying on what’s easiest to measure: exposure.

TV Ad Exposure Exposed

February 28, 2010

Over the past decade or so there has been a lot of talk about the diminishing efficacy of TV advertising, but I’m not sure how much of this criticism gets to the heart of the matter. According Nielsen the average American still consumes over four hours of TV programming everyday and ad skipping via DVRs still seems to be negligible.

In 2009 Sequent Partners, Ball State University’s Center for Media Design, the Council for Research Excellence, and Nielsen reported findings of a ground breaking research project. If you want to get a better understanding of how Americans use media, I highly recommend reading the full report.

The study reported “TV users were exposed to, on average, roughly an hour a day (61.1 minutes) of live TV ads and promos.” This figure may be a bit inflated, but still stunning if you consider the average participant’s total exposure to computer and mobile screens was only 2 hours and 43 minutes a day. As a comparison, the average daily exposure to television clocked in at 6 hours and 3 minutes. For some reason participants in this study consumed two more hours of television everyday than the Nielsen panel – as reported in the Nielsen Three Screens Report.

What really troubles me about studies like this is the phrase ‘exposure to TV ads’. I submitted a request to the CRE for their definition but haven’t heard back yet. From what I can deduce, ‘exposure to ads’ means being in close enough proximity to a TV to see and/or hear the advertisements. Exposure doesn’t necessarily mean looking at the TV or actively listening to the audio. And there lies the problem.

“Exposure” is not a useful measure of consumer attention or engagement, and without at least a minimal level of attention, one would assume a TV advertisement would have little if any effect on the user.

So what do we know about TV ad exposure and a viewer’s level of attention? Not much, and I’m not so sure our industry is eager to find out.

Page 46 of the VCM final report includes a chart illustrating ‘concurrent media exposure’ during regular TV content and advertisements. The diagram is cryptic, but its obvious concurrent media exposure is significantly elevated when TV commercials are running. I assume environmental factors such as conversations, etc. are accounted for in the data represented by the blue triangle.

Concurrent media exposure sounds benign. Most people assume they can “multi-task” and successfully consume multiple media streams simultaneously. As I noted last November, researchers at Stanford University study found media multi-taskers cannot process more than one information string at a time. A 2007 MRI study reported similar findings.

Based on the VCM study and other studies, I diagrammed my hypothesis of how much attention viewers pay to TV advertising. During TV advertisements, the percentage of viewers who are highly engaged is quite small. How small? We don’t know for sure. To my knowledge, nobody has done a comprehensive study to find out how attentive viewers are to TV commercials. And that seems quite odd given billions of dollars are spent on television advertising every year.

So what does this all mean? Every marketing communications activity should be evaluated by attention and engagement measures, not exposure. CPM (cost-per-thousand) can be extremely misleading when comparing one marcom activity to the next.


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part IX) – Developing Your New Mindset

February 10, 2010

This is the last post in this series. I wanted to leave you with a list of things you can do to change your mindset about marketing communications.

Become an experienceologist – Spend time observing and thinking about what elements makes something a great experience. And then study the methods professional experience designers use to create experiences. When creating marcom experiences, think more like a game designer, theme park designer, or product designer.

See people as participants – Stop thinking of people exclusively as a passive audience. The user mindset is far different than the viewer mindset, and if you don’t adapt to the participant mindset, your work will fail to engage consumers.

Discard old ways of doing things – invent new ways. Too many agency practices were designed specifically to create one-to-many messages. Agencies need to introduce practices that promote making experiences.

Add human factors expertise to your agency – Human factors, usability, cognitive ergonomics, whatever you want to call it, agencies need a much better understanding of how people actually interact with technology and the world around them.

Think value and utility – Ad people have been conditioned to see themselves as artists, storytellers, and entertainers. Ad folk of the future will be charged with creating activities that provide true utility and value to consumers.

Incorporate marcom into the brand itself – Nike+ was a great example of extending the value of a physical product through information technology. Are there ways you can add value by extending the way people use your products?

Think long term – Because brand managers and CMOs are rewarded for short term results, we’ve fallen into a trap of short term thinking. Brand equity is snowball, and long term brand success only comes from developing long term relationships with consumers. Every activity you create should provide real connections with future activities.

Invite vs. interrupt – Transitioning from an interruption mindset to an invitation mindset is a huge challenge for most marketing people. Marketers who invite more than they interrupt have a much better chance of engaging more consumers over the long haul.


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part VII) – Marcom as an Experience

February 2, 2010

I’ve touched on these ideas in previous posts:

  • Brands are experiences
  • Winning brands are the best experiences
  • Extraordinary experiences are interactive and provide pleasure or meaning
  • Brand experiences can happen on many levels beyond product use

So what do experiences have to do with marketing communications?

Marketing communications (Advertising, PR, etc.) is rarely an experience, or sometimes even a bad experience. Marketing usually interrupts what people are doing. It’s loud, condescending, or irrelevant – a barrier between us and another experience – an experience we chose.

Most marcom isn’t pleasurable or meaningful either. It provides no benefit or value to our lives, and as a result it isn’t something we choose to engage with.

Most marcom isn’t interactive. Marketers still see consumers as a passive audience, calling them readers, viewers, or listeners, and continue to see their job as creating and broadcasting commercial messages TO them.

What can marcom people learn from products and services?

Marcom folk can learn alot from the products/services they’ve advertised and promoted for decades.

Marcom needs to be more like brands: An experience. Something people choose to engage in over other experiences. This is a mindset shift of monumental proportions, especially for those who’ve spent years creating 30 second spots and print ads.

Marcom an experience? Something people do? Something people will choose to do instead of avoid?

These ideas might sound a bit strange, but the old Marcom mindset of creating and pushing commercial messages to the masses isn’t going to cut it in the future.

Next time: Mindsets are Hard to Break


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part II) – Understanding Brands

January 12, 2010

Before discussing how marketing communications needs to change, we need a better understanding what brands are, and why people buy one brand over another.

There are two concepts marketers need to grasp in order to change their current marcom mindset.

1. All brands are experiences.

I don’t care if you’re a toothpaste or bakery shop, every brand is an experience. Until marketers and agencies realize brands are experiences, their mindset will be a barrier to creating marcom activities that can change how people think or feel about their brand.

Fortunately, most large brands, particularly consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers already understand they’re selling experiences. Some brands even hire people with titles like Experience Designer. The important thing is to understand is every touch-point with the consumer is part of the brand experience, and the brand experience goes far beyond the time a consumer spends using a product or service.

2. Brands that create the best experiences win in the marketplace.

Think about it. The best brands in every category are the brands that create the best experiences. Southwest Airlines, Apple, Zappos, etc. When you start to think about brands as experiences, you really begin to understand why certain brands are winners, and others are losers.

A choice of experiences

Brands also compete with experiences that may not be in their category. A bag of chips competes with a milkshake, concerts compete with books, a great dinner competes with a new pair of jeans, and a new car competes with a kitchen remodel.

People are constantly seeking and buying experiences that provide the most pleasure and meaning in their lives.

How we find and choose experiences

Traditionally, brands attract new consumers by promising their experience is more pleasurable or meaningful than alternative experiences. Marketers use one-to-many channels like TV, radio, and print to communicate these promises, to paint a picture for consumers: ‘you could be part of this experience’.

Today, we learn more about products and services, ‘good experiences’ if you will, from friends, family and acquaintances. We also rely on the opinions of complete strangers, from the celebrities we admire to online reviewers. I point this out to tease a subsequent post – the experience of finding an experience also matters. Consumers now have better tools, better experiences to find better experiences.

Next time: Experiences and Interactivity


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part I)

January 11, 2010

The marketing communications industry is ending a long decade of anxiety and bewilderment, mostly stemming from the increased importance of digital platforms, consumer control, media fragmentation, “free” content, and the waning confidence in the ability of traditional advertising to influence sales.

And while marketers find it increasingly difficult to generate awareness, trial, or loyalty through traditional marcom methods, they’re also struggling with a whole new array of tools.

It’s the mindset, stupid.

The biggest obstacle we’re facing is one of mindset – a one-to-many mindset, where most marketers and ad agencies still believe their job is to deliver commercial messages to large groups of consumers. Because of this mindset, our industry has been slow to adapt or embrace a new mindset, where marcom is something consumers seek out versus avoids.

Can we change?

This is the first in a series of post where I’ll outline my thoughts on where marketing communications is going…or where it should go. My guess is only those who change their mindset now will prosper in the next decade.

Next time: Understanding Brands


The Price For Attention…Going Up?

November 28, 2009

Out of the hundreds of RFPs and briefs I’ve read over the past several years, the majority of them say creating ‘increased attention’ for a particular brand (product or service) is their primary goal.

Our industry doesn’t have a reliably accurate awareness metric like Cost-Per-Attention. Sure, we can commission recall studies, or extrapolate neuromarketing results to ad exposures, but no one can truly measure the cost for generating attention or recall, let alone attribute those costs to a specific marketing activity. But if we could…

Will marketers pay more or less to generate attention in the future?

My sense is marketers are an optimistic bunch. They see technology as a cost-cutter, providing advances in media mix modeling, behavioral targeting, and results attribution – things that should lead to greater efficiency. They also see developments in digital media and what has been touted as Web 2.0 as an effective, low cost method of engaging consumers and generating awareness via word of mouth.

On the flip side, we’re seeing an avalanche of content, media, and activities competing for attention. Media costs aren’t getting cheaper and consumers are increasingly successful in avoiding advertising. We’re also seeng more SKUs and services than ever, all competing for our attention.

Add to that the cost of agency services. Margins are falling as brand marketers adopted a cattle-call/jumpball approach to selecting agencies. What brand marketers don’t seem to understand is they’re paying bloated rate cards to offset the increasing cost of prospecting and pitching. Every time a brand manager does an agency search, or sends out an RFP to a dozen agencies, they’re burning tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in agency costs. Those costs need to be made up somewhere, and in the end, they’re paid in hidden fees by the agency’s customers – the brand.

My guess is price for attention is going to increase over the coming years, but unfortunately nobody will be measuring it.


Fugliness and attention

September 18, 2009

I couldn’t resist sharing this – one of the ugliest banners I’ve seen in a while, but it sure got my attention. Ironically this banner comes from a company that trains people to plan, buy, and sell interactive media.


Differentiation is the most important factor for getting attention. One way of getting attention is by being visually obnoxious, and Laredo Group sure scored big with this one. However, getting attention isn’t of much value if your creative results in a negative impression of your brand.