Changing the Marcom Mindset (part VI) – Experiences are Broad

January 28, 2010

Brand experiences happen on many levels. Let’s use beer as an example. There is an immediate sensory aspect of the beer experience: the chill of the bottle, the color and texture of the pour, the aroma, the taste…but the brand experience doesn’t end there.

The brand experience goes beyond product/service experience

Price is also an important factor in the beer experience, but the social and environmental situations in which a beer is consumed is equally or more important. If a brand can build a strong association with pleasurable or meaningful social situations, those experiences can become part of the brand experience.

Beer marketers recognize they’re limited in how they can improve the brand experience by what they put in the bottle, so for decades they’ve used advertising and promotion to suggest an association with other experiences.

But advertising is almost always passive. A suggestion of an experience isn’t an experience, even if consumers associate a particular beer brand with certain experiences in their mind. In the future brands will need to work harder by augmenting the experiences they want to be associated with.

Next Time: Marcom as an Experience


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part V) – The Nuances of Experiences

January 20, 2010

Brand experiences typically deliver pleasure or meaning through benefits:

  • Saves time or effort
  • Saves money or makes money
  • Provides security and peace of mind
  • Boost self esteem and social status
  • Provides fun or enjoyment.

Things that make experiences better

One way brands can dial up the pleasure and meaning generated by their experience is through personalization and customization, but there are other still other elements that can differentiate great brand experiences from the others. Brands that offer a sense of discovery, something new or unique, or something that is exclusive/scarce can set themselves apart from the competition.

Don’t forget utility

There’s one last thing I want to touch on before moving on. Many brands, if not all brands, offer an element of utility. Keep this in mind when we move on to a discussion of why most marketing communications provide no utility for consumers.

Next time: Experiences are Broad


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part IV) – Pleasure and Meaning

January 19, 2010

The second requirement of an extraordinary experience is the intensity of pleasure and meaning it provides. Pleasure is a state that is more about a sensation or feeling – something that is usually short-lived. Meaning is more about intellect and understanding – something that’s long lasting.

The lists below contain examples of both. The ‘meaning list’ is mostly borrowed from a presentation by Shedroff.

Intensity matters

Extraordinary experiences provide a high intensity of pleasure, meaning, or both. Brands need to think about what kind of pleasure or meaning they’re trying to evoke and find ways to dial up their intensity.

Next time: The Nuances of Experiences


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part III) – Experiences and Interactivity

January 13, 2010

So if brands are experiences, shouldn’t we understand the basic things that determine whether an experience is good or not?

What experiences are made of

Extraordinary experiences usually have two qualities: 1) they’re interactive and 2) they provide pleasure or meaning.

Almost every brand I can think of offers some element of interactivity. Consumers USE most products and services, so it stands to reason brands are interactive. The quality of the interactive experience is also important.

Most products and services also have a sensorial element. You can see them, taste them, smell them, touch them, or hear them. Interactivity that involves more than one of our senses can be very powerful.

Nathan ShedroffWhat is interactivity?

In the mid ‘90s Nathan Shedroff diagrammed an interactivity continuum. It does a great job of illustrating the factors that make something interactive. This continuum can be used to analyze different types of media, but also evaluate almost any human activity. High levels of interactivity plotted on the right and low levels on the left.

You can even use this scale to analyze how one brand stacks up against another. In almost every case, brands that provide higher levels of interactivity are more successful than their counterparts.

Some brands can even create interactivity that results in a flow experience, such as video games, adventure vacations, and toys.

Next time: Meaning, Pleasure, and Intensity


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.


Does A Media Mix Mindset Limit Marcom Effectiveness?

November 25, 2009

Should media allocation strategies continue to play a preeminent role in marcom planning decisions?

To answer this question, let’s begin with an analogy:  how investors make decisions.

Investors typically hold one of two basic philosophies: top down or bottom up. Top down investors analyze the markets, determine which asset classes (stocks, bonds, commodities, etc.) offer the best risk/reward opportunities, and allocate accordingly. Once the basic allocation mix is decided, these investors will allocate further within each asset class. For example, stocks have several characteristics: growth vs. value, large vs. small, emerging vs. developed countries. And within these characteristics lie various sectors: financials, healthcare, telecommunications, etc. The resulting portfolio of investments will ideally reflect this series of macro to micro decisions.

Bottom up investors see a market of stocks, not a ‘stock market’. They start their decision making process by analyzing a wide array of investments, and their portfolios are the result of picking individual securities – a bottom up process. Warren Buffet is a well-known bottom up investor.

When it comes to marketing communication decisions, most brand marketers adhere to a top down philosophy, relying on techniques such as media mix modeling to provide a framework for budgets and strategy. This philosophy makes a lot of sense when your marcom universe consists solely of one-to-many channels (TV, radio, print), where commercial messages are directed at a passive audience.

But does the top down philosophy break down when the importance of one-to-one marketing communications grows in importance, where the consumer is viewed as a participant instead of an audience? Do media mix models adequately weigh conversational marketing activities such as experiential marketing, social media, customer service, and sale training?

And what does a bottom up approach look like? Do we begin by imagining possible consumer experiences first and let the media mix chips fall where they may? Or do we create better media allocation models? Or simply continue using the current models while acknowledging their limitations?

I would hope marketers recognize the pitfalls of following an exclusive top down approach. We shouldn’t limit the potential of more interactive marketing communication channels by following a philosophy devised in a one-to-many media world.


Can Attention Really Get More Diluted?

November 22, 2009

According to the most recent Three Screen report from Nielsen 57% of Americans use TV and the Internet simultaneously. This may sound like just another media factoid until you realize media-multitaskers suck at media-multitasking.

In a recent Stanford University study researchers found media-multitaskers cannot process more than one information string at a time.

“When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” said Wagner, an associate professor of psychology. “That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”

Even when people aren’t consuming more than one media, they admit to being less than focused. A 2007 MRI study reported “34.7% of TV viewers and 16.5% of radio listeners report being “very focused” while using these media – compared with 54.6% for internet users, 50.0% for newspaper readers and 41.8% for magazine readers.”

What does this mean to marketers? More media touchpoints don’t necessarily mean a better chance of getting a consumer’s attention, and exposure metrics like GRPs, impressions, and views need to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

If most people aren’t very attentive to the content they’re consuming, just how attentive can they be to your advertising?


The Truth About Crowdsourcing

November 18, 2009

Nigel Hollis of Milward Brown had an interesting post on crowdsourcing last week, outlining how numerous brands and some agencies are using the concept. His post and the comments that followed cemented my opinion that crowdsourcing is really about the procurement of spec work from professionals, not the solicitation of ideas and content from typical consumers.

I’ve written about User Generated Content and Consumer Generated Content in the past. With few exceptions, most branded content worthy of any attention (by other consumers) is actually being produced by skilled amatuers and semi-pros, not crafty brand loyalists. We can add professionals and agencies to the list of producers.

Most brands continue to create an illusion that their crowdsourcing activities are consumer contests, but Mountain Dew’s recent campaign is fully transparent, listing agencies and independent film companies as their primary target audiences.

Crowdsourcing has become nothing more than a massive RFP drop based on the theory that creative is a numbers game. Get enough participants/entries and you’re likely to find suitable work at bargain basement prices.

Why would any agency, independent film company, or industry professional spend their time, energy and money on what amounts to the lowest pay spec work with poor odds? Because they see these activities as promotional and portfolio-building opportunities; a means to get noticed, build a reputation, and get hired for ‘paying gigs’. Apparently these participants feel no cognitive dissonance about crowdsourcing.

Will crowdsourcing become widespread or mainstream? Will agency fees for creative and production crater as a result? Nobody knows for sure, but what we do know is over time marketers run the risk of creating a patchwork quilt brand without the guiding hand of experienced marcom strategist.