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Case Study: “See What Happens”

Case Study: “See What Happens” Joseph Jaffe

To fully grasp Mitsubishi’s bold Super Bowl drive-to-web cliffhanger, it’s best to begin with the man in the driver seat, Ian Beavis, senior vice president marketing, product planning and public relations.

Beavis, former head honcho at FCBi, is no stranger to the world of interactive. When I heard he had joined Mitsubishi, I eagerly awaited the first fruits of his new role. And so, when I saw the Mitsubishi ad whilst watching the Super Bowl (laptop on my lap), I wasn’t surprised.

The story of “See What Happens” is enough to make people want to get back into advertising again. It has more drama, intrigue and suspense than an episode of “Survivor” and has the ultimate fortune of awarding the Immunity Idol to the art affectionately known as “branding.”

It all begins with a strong client with a clear and focused vision

Mitsubishi’s agency, Deutsch (under the tutelage of Donny, the other The Donald) responded to the challenge at hand – namely, name names. Throw down the gauntlet. Take on the rest.

While Beavis credits the agency with the idea, he also alludes to the fact that they came back with the obvious way to get the job done. “I don’t drop subtle hints about what I want to see happen,” Beavis says.

An otherwise straight-forward plan then got tossed out the window when it became known that a slot in the Super Bowl (you know, that little football game that people tend to watch because there’s nothing else on) had opened up. Beavis blessed the opportunity, but solely on the condition that the spot had to be something special. A normal 30-second spot was just not going to cut it, however a 30-going-on-50-second involving invitation would be just the ticket.

“Spending that kind of money to drive awareness alone is a waste of money,” says Beavis.

The solution was a cliffhanger approach, similar to the landmark Nike Whatever commercials from several years back. And so, engines revved to top speed and midnight fuel burned as post-production hit full throttle, wrapping up around 10 p.m. on the Friday night before the Super Bowl.

Forget click-through, try sell-through

Now came the truly hard part of the challenge: convincing the dealer network.

The route taken was one of total secrecy. Beavis estimates that no more than 50 people in the entire organization had any idea what was about to happen. As the countdown approached, every single Mitsubishi employee received a mini-football with a teaser along the lines of “See What Happens during the second quarter of the Super Bowl.” Finally, the curtain-raiser to the main event was a presentation to a small subset of dealer movers and shakers right before the Super Bowl.

As Beavis walked his internal constituents through the strategy and media rationale, he recalls wishing he hadn’t armed his audience with oval-shaped projectiles. But when the entire crowd burst into spontaneous roars of approval, he knew he was in pole position.

One week after the campaign launched, they’re still cheering.

So, will people really go to the Web on Super Bowl Sunday?

The answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Here are some proof points of validation:

  • SeeWhatHappens.com recorded 11 million hits in the six hours following the ad's debut as people logged on to see a Mitsubishi Galant triumphing over a Toyota Camry in a crash-avoidance test.

  • The site received more visitors in its first 24 hours than MitsubishiCars.com historically does in a month. That site averaged 294,000 unique visitors during a six-month period last year, according to comScore Media Metrix. Think about this for a moment – based on a single media exposure eclipsing the sum total of an entire month’s qualified traffic.

  • Two-thirds of these people watched the full 50-second spot two or more times. “That’s a 50-second commercial I couldn’t otherwise have afforded to run, a 50-second commercial I couldn’t otherwise have received network clearance to run—a 50-second commercial that two-thirds of visitors are watching 2-plus times,” explains Beavis.

  • Astonishingly, the resultant action rate (i.e. the rate at which people check out information, download a brochure, locate and contact a dealer, etc.) was greater than that in a normal month. This is really the real kicker – the fact that people who visited the site didn’t just view the spot and leave.

  • And they’ll go on Monday as well. Traffic to the Web site spiked within 60 seconds of the next wave of impressions, which ran Monday evening. Thereafter traffic naturally dropped, but thus far has remained consistently above the pre-launch levels.

The tremendous interactivity and involvement, coupled with the extended and repeat views, not to mention the water-cooler network-effects of word-of-mouth, made for a pretty profound proposition.

“We tried to calculate the total media value and we gave up. It was priceless,” Beavis says. (A MasterCard ad in the making perhaps, which certainly would have been an improvement on the borrowed interest of The Simpson’s)

A shot in the arm for branding

Amidst the tremendous response, it is worth paying tribute to the blocking and tackling that took place to get the brand to the touchdown in the first place. For some time, Mitsubishi has been positioning itself to gain credibility within its key demographic target audience. From “Days Gone By” with Dirty Vegas until “See What Happens,” the Mitsubishi story is one about a challenger brand that rose to the challenge with a comparative claim of quality and performance superiority.

Mitsubishi earned the right to run with the big dogs and so, when rubber hit the road, viewers got the message.

“People got the point really, quickly based on preliminary research,” says Beavis. “There was a method in our madness.”

If nothing else, the commercial was entertaining. But it’s certainly good to know that so much strategic thought was part of the process and even more encouraging that the audience got the point.

The end of online advertising

What you’ve witnessed is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another in the great book of integrated marketing. When an interactive client takes on integrated responsibility; when a risk-inclined company embraces change; when an innovative brand communicates with confidence, clarity and creativity, we really see what can happen: the convergence of form and function; TV and the Web; idea and execution; brand and business.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

iMedia: Where can a movie campaign be damaged by digital marketing efforts?

Caines: I think the biggest thing is really about how quickly word of mouth spreads. Even if there was a marketing effort or just an event that happened, word of mouth used to be me calling a friend, seeing a friend, or emailing a friend and talking to them. And now social media -- the phenomenon of microblogging, and updating your status, and talking to friends in real-time instantaneously -- is the thing that, when it works for you, it's phenomenal. But when it's working against you, it can be one of the most difficult things to overcome. That's why it's important to understand how the medium works.

All the measurement that we do ensures we can tell whether a sentiment that's developing or traveling is isolated to a group, a site, or a message, or whether that's the prevailing thought. We've never really had a campaign that we've launched that's backfired. We've never put something out and had it become viral in a way we weren't meaning for it to. I attribute that to the level of research and buzz monitoring we do before we create content.

If we understand where the strength in a film property is before we ever build anything, we're going to have much more success than if we respond to something emotionally and launch before we're ready. The great thing about buzz online is that before Twitter and microblogging really took off, the last guy who spoke online was typically the opinion that led the way. When you read, you're reading the last thing that was said, and then you're reading the past. So one of the things that we always seek to do is put content out in the world that generates the kinds of discussions that work for us.

When we find the message boards where people are favorable and they're talking about clips or particular scenes, give them more of the same and make those voices become louder than the other voices. We invest in it, but spend a lot of time and lot of care in understanding consumer perception before we ever go. Buzz is really hard to turn around and control, but it's the thing that, when it works for you, it's very cost effective, pretty low tech, and an important part of every campaign.

iMedia: How do you keep digital from destroying or harming a movie campaign's larger goals?

Caines: Preventing the harm is about understanding what the most important topics are for discussion. Rather than seeding discussion, it's about feeding content, feeding the video that generates the most positive discussion. It's a little bit of a science. The other thing that we do as well is throw some media into the mix so that consumers aren't left to form their opinions. Rich media can deliver pieces of content and an array of content that reach people where they're living on the web in a way that can be influential for us.

iMedia: Leaks have become a problem for all media. How can a consumer know when a leak is actually a leak and not a marketing stunt? Moreover, how does a film studio overcome leaks? How can you spin it into a positive?

Caines: Every device now provides the means to distribute word of mouth beyond its core phone capability or email capability. Because of that, movie sets become less secure. You hear about things happening, and sometimes you say, "Well how did people find that out? Wasn't that said behind closed doors?" The only way to manage leaks is to try to have consumers tune into conversations with you directly.

Like many of the other studios, we have a twitter.com/sonypictures account where we invite consumers to follow us. We try to make sure that the news that breaks is as real-time as possible. When you look at some of the followers of @sonypictures, they include some of the online journalists, webmasters, and other movie studios. And what happens is those folks become marketeers for our message. So something that is inaccurate, when we want to fix that news, we have tools at our disposal to get the correct news out as quickly and efficiently as possible. The same technology that can often turn on you is the same technology we rely on to sort of control how conversations are happening.

iMedia: What do you see as the most important and useful interactive marketing tools available to movie marketers today? Is there anything that you're looking forward to down the line?

Caines: As it relates to the continued development of social media, this is something really new because of the way people seem to be taking ownership of our brands. There are certainly intellectual property, trademark, and copyright issues that we all have to deal with, but if we can get beyond those, we can really enable consumers to share our brands in a way that satisfies them, doesn't feel like marketing, and at the same time, benefits us.

I really think social media has become somewhat of a killer app for us. And speaking of applications, I think we're still trying to figure out the best way to use applications. There was a period of time where we were all creating embeddable content, and I feel like there are too many choices for consumers. So we have to rely on getting into the communities that they're socializing in and making sure that they feel a real connection to our brands -- real relevance to our brands. We're still trying to refine. I'm looking forward to whatever Web 3.0 brings us, and we'll continue to work on the things we've been doing in the past.

Matt Kapko is the deputy editor at iMedia Connection.

The frenzy around social buying is palpable these days. With deals like 75 percent off a Pilates for Pets package, how couldn't it be? The real question remains: Is there heft beneath the hype? Let's see if our debaters think it's really wise for you to group on to this trend.

The brand: Leave it
The idea is smart -- give consumers a deep discount they can't refuse while sucking the life out of local businesses; they won't know any better. The idea was strong and worked well on a local level with two or three top-tier innovators in the space. That is, until more than 500 of them came along, and then the larger players started opening their database up to national deals. Once larger brands caught wind of the idea, all hell broke loose. All of a sudden, we have a whole new channel on our hands to navigate just like the ad network world of yesterday.

Social shopping cheapens brands, cannibalizes customers, and creates bad habits for consumers. I don't think Neiman Marcus or Apple will be doing a group-buy daily deal whatchamacallit anytime soon. That is because the company has a classy brand and strives to uphold the aspirational nature of its brands.

As soon as a brand does a large-scale deeply discounted daily deal, consumers see multiple signals. Is the brand having trouble? They might not have thought of buying from the company before, so they start to check out your competitors. And then starts the perception driver. The driver that they will only buy from you when you are on sale. Even when you wow them with your product at 80 percent off, they expect you to always woo them with your product at 80 percent off -- and you will probably have to if you ever want them to come back. They also tell their friends, "Go buy this product for X dollars, 80 percent off." Thus, the trail of cheap starts rolling in.

Not only will the new customers start off on the wrong foot, but your current customers will also perceive that they have been paying too much and begin to buy what they were already going to buy at full price -- for 80 percent off. The deal sites require such a steep discount that there is almost no way of getting around this. The technology is typically not strong enough to do very complex things like de-duping its list from your new customer list -- wow.

When your customers and prospective customers start to only buy from you or your competitors for 80 percent off or more, no one wins -- well, except for the social shopping site.

The agency: Love it
Clearly Google's $6 billion dollar bid to buy Groupon reflects Groupon's ability to make money off of businesses that use it, not for businesses that use it.

My friend Dan owns a chain of pizza joints called the Lanesplitter and was recently approached by LivingSocial to do a promo. "It sounds like a great way for me to lose a massive amount of money," Dan told me, "Am I missing something?"

Yes and no. If Dan takes time to do the numbers and is careful, he could gain widespread awareness for his new location (on San Pablo Avenue in Emeryville). If he's not careful, he could very well lose his shirt. I told him to pass.

But there's a reason that Forbes is telling us that Groupon is the fastest growing company ever. It's because the way people interact in a socially connected world has fundamentally changed forever. People like to participate, they like to give each other deals, they like to feel like they've won, and social shopping empowers them to do that.

And Groupon's not the only game in town. Many retailers are already experimenting with their own social shopping promotions. Taking advantage of social buying doesn't have to equate to giving 80 percent on Groupon or LivingSocial.

My brand antagonist makes great points about cheapening brands and creating bad habits, but there are loads of companies already doing that on their own by focusing their entire marketing programs on direct response and quantifiable ROI. Social shopping is a tactic, and one that marketers must use wisely like any other. But it's a powerful tool in the modern marketer's toolkit.

Love it or hate it, you'd have to be under a rock to have missed the media buzz about check-ins and location-based services such as Foursquare.

The brand: Love it
What is the best way to identify loyalists, spread word of mouth, and get them coming back without giving them any more than a sexy little virtual badge? For brick-and-mortar retailers and other marketers that are location based, this is one of the best opportunities marketers have under their noses today. For 2011, you will see marketers taking advantage of location-based check-ins more and more.

It is a great way to drive in store traffic with a press release or word-of-mouth sale. Gap has had numerous successes when it announced that a check-in on Foursquare would get the customer various discounts or even free jeans. With the true value of a Facebook posting unknown, marketers all agree there is value in word of mouth via Facebook and other social channels. When your friends see that you are shopping at the Gap, working out at a specific gym, or hanging out at a particular bar, it's like the brand being able to speak to prospective consumers but allowing their existing customers to do the work -- genius. Marketers in 2011 need to get creative about how they can use location-based marketing to drive in-store traffic.

When you use location-based check-ins to drive word of mouth, and loyalty, everybody wins.

Next big prediction: There will be a web-based version of Foursquare that is driven by where you are shopping online for e-retailers. There are some ways that this is currently happening organically online, but not in the way it is offline. It's a big opportunity in 2011.

The agency: Leave it
A year ago, I stood on stage at one of the iMedia Summits with a giant "douchebag" badge on the screen behind me and proclaimed that Foursquare would be the next big thing in digital. Some think I was right.

I don't.

I'm bored of checking in. The novelty has worn off. I'm still intrigued by incentives based on where I am, but on which of the two-dozen check-in apps should I check-in? That's frustrating.

And if I'm bored and frustrated with check-ins, so are other people.

Don't get me wrong. The ability to lure someone who checks in at the mall into your store through a Foursquare special is powerful -- but only if they check in. The potential for Facebook Places is huge. But there's no "there" there yet.

If you've got a big budget, experiment away. But don't expect check-ins to have a major impact on your business in 2011.

The idea of having a party without even having to pick out an outfit sounds great. And to more than 200,000 mommies, getting rewarded for being social while going to parties sounds even better.

The brand: Love it
Three hundred or more customers and prospects constantly tweeting about your brand, trending higher than a movie release on Twitter, paying someone to administrate the party, and attending in your pajamas -- sounds like a marketer's dream. The cost is minimal, and the benefit is great. The modern Tupperware party is underway, but the attendees feel less pressure to buy; they just chat.

It goes like this: An administrator (perhaps, a blogger) or even the brand notifies its customers or prospects of the upcoming Twitter party, or other social party. (There are other ways to do this off of Twitter, but it seems to have caught on there first.) Promises of female bonding, prizes, and great tips and tricks that will make the party-goers lives easier are made, and customers are told that it will only take an hour of their lives. Attendees RSVP and comment up to the big event. When it's time for the big event, the administrator kicks off a question related to the topic at hand. Attendees fire away at everything from random conversations, useful bits of information, and even begin to make friends. The hash tag is usually the brand name, so when you take all of those attendees, and their followers, you have a pretty powerful word-of-mouth campaign, all for a few thousand bucks.

Sounds like a pretty strong ROI to me, and it's good for the environment.

The agency: Leave it
This does sound like a marketer's dream. The problem: What happens when it's time to wake up and execute?

When people tweet to win stuff, it's transparent. Impressions might be made, but the folks on the other side are rolling their eyes.

And do impressions equal eyeballs on Twitter? I'd call it a good day if I saw one in every 10,000 tweets my followers blast out in a day -- and I tweet a lot.

Having a burst of social activity on Twitter sounds great and is obviously cost effective, but I don't think it's going to move the dial too far. If the name of the game is scale, Twitter parties sound more like play dates to me.

Web-enabled television will blur the lines between the web and TV more than ever. TV is finally coming into the web world and will never look back.

The brand: Love it
Since I have been in the online media business, it has always been the online vs. offline wars, and TV was always known as an offline, siloed marketing channel. Finally, what we have been waiting for is here: a world where web and TV are no longer two separate channels. In this world, brands know more than ever about their consumers and can help them in so many new ways.

Imagine a show that features a product the consumer is interested in, and they have the ability to store that product into a list of things to go back to later, or a wish list of sorts. In their free time, they review their list, and your product or service is sitting there, waiting to be purchased. Even better is a TV show watcher who can buy the sweater off their favorite celebrity's back, by using technology to allow them to order it right then and there. TV and web are no longer siloed, and brands will be able to take advantage of this in so many ways. Gone are the days of GRPs and brand awareness on TV. In their place are watch-to-purchase rates, watch-to-save rates, and many new forms of metrics that brand marketers can embrace.

The agency: Love it
I'm so excited about interactive TV-- I feel almost giddy about it. It's like we've been given a blank new canvas upon which we can design interactive experiences that stretch our imaginations to new limits.

The notion that we will be able to transform the passive act of watching television into immersive and interactive experiences is exciting for two reasons.

First, integrating content with apps will lead to all sorts of innovations that no one has even considered yet. When I got my first TiVo a few years ago, it transformed my lifelong relationship with my television overnight. Combine Google TV or Apple iTV with an app store full of possibilities, and I'm looking forward to that relationship being transformed all over again.

Second, the majority of advertising budgets are still focused on traditional channels because of the scale and ease of buying. Combining the power of digital experiences with the reach of television will cause complacent marketers to reconsider how they spend. The race to the future is being accelerated.

Why are children always so happy? Because they play. Everything in their lives is about playing and having fun. It's what drives them. As adults, we lose all sense of play; we take life too seriously, and we focus on the negative. Gamification has been defined as the application of game technology and game design outside of traditional "game spaces" and the acceptance of games in non-gaming sectors -- essentially turning work and everyday activities into games.

The brand: Love it
The human race is naturally competitive, so this is good for marketers. When someone is willing to compete and to be sponsored by your brand or to compete with your brand for an award, not only will they talk about it in social media outlets, but they will be immersed in your brand presence.

People love reasons to socialize, and turning everyday tasks into a game gives consumers something cool to talk about. Giving rewards or checkpoints for each purchase they make, or even rewarding them for walking into the store, will give them something to get excited about. With My Coke Rewards, Coca-Cola figured this out years ago, and so has the travel industry.

Gamification drives more engagement and loyalty to a brand and warrants a more natural word-of-mouth effect. Give your customers something to play, and it takes them back to childhood when things were fun.

The agency: Love it
When I was in college, I drank a lot. And when I drank a lot, I smoked. And when I smoked, I collected Camel Cash.

Camel Cash was a brilliant marketing ploy. You bought cigarettes and in the pack was a coupon for Camel Cash. You collected Camel Cash, and then you could trade them in for Camel stuff (I got a set of Joe Camel darts). People were going nuts over them. It was part loyalty program, part box of Cracker Jacks.

Then somebody realized that this game was killing people faster, so Camel had to stop. But it was fun while it lasted.

Today, 80 million people play FarmVille. That's an awful lot of people leveling up, topping off, growing crops, and feeding pigs (or whatever the hell it is they do in FarmVille).

Many brands love direct response marketing. It drives revenue because it appeals to the most obvious of human motivations: the desire for a deal. But there are other things that motivate people: the desire to help others, the desire to be recognized, and the desire to win.

Game designers have long recognized this and designed engaging experiences based on these motivators. Now, innovative companies like Bunchball make it easy for brands to "gamify" their own loyalty programs and create experiences that drive people to engage on deeper and deeper levels.

The brands that invest in gamification in 2011 will, well, win.

Katelyn Watson is online marketing manager for Shutterfly. Adam Kleinberg is CEO of Traction.

On Twitter? Follow Watson at @katelynwatson. Follow Kleinberg at @adamkleinberg. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

The demise of Politburo structures
Basically, China is run by 24 people: Members of the Central Politburo of the Communist Part of China, overseeing the Communist Party of China. Just like your agency is run by a few people -- creative directors, client services directors, media directors, head of IT, HR, CFO -- specific structures vary from agency to agency. Each department head has their own fiefdom that they own and rule. Gladly, these structures will disappear very soon.

As described above, the core group will be a small group of professionals without a big staff or fiefdom. Instead, they will be working with more freelancers and highly specialized professionals that are physically present and those that are virtually present. I've experienced this shift in thinking in many agencies: People in organizations are now mature enough for freelancers to become a valuable asset. Agencies of the future will follow the concept of dynamic work force, forcing management to keep an elastic mind and create an organization that can be scaled better. Decentralization is an inevitable path as technology advances and the necessity for all of us to be holed up in cubicles becomes, well, unnecessary. A distributed, decentralized workforce enables agencies to be more flexible due to shrinking overheard, allowing more face-to-face interaction and a more human workplace.

It's not about messages: It's about content -- and storytelling
It's become common knowledge that content (stories, blogs, videos, etc.) will be a cornerstone of any brand's marketing. Producing great content is something many companies are increasingly embracing. But that's only the beginning. Increasingly, brands will embrace the art of storytelling.

The idea of storytelling, as it applies to business, is not about fairy tales or a thrilling plot. Instead, it's about how your business lives in the real world -- how everyday people use your product, how it makes their lives easier, adds value to their lives, eases certain pain points, and, ultimately, intersects with their needs and desires. It's about telling a true story very well. Increasingly, agencies will have to dig up and spotlight stories how a business lives in the world. And use people as their inspiration.

Agencies have been too timid in transforming into content creators, leaving the lead to traditional publishing companies (Meredith, Time, etc.). Agencies already have the power players on their staff (art director, copywriter) to become a publishing power house. They just need to be put to work.

Integration was a Band-Aid: Rip it off and turn to collaboration
From the first meetings when digital marketing reared their geeky heads, nobody has stopped talking about integration. Traditional and digital. Earned and paid. PR and advertising. And, you know what? It never worked.

In a world of hyper-specialization, integration is an impossible task. By the time you have integrated one new discipline, two new disciplines have popped up. Multiple disciplines need to work well with each other and collaborate constantly. This is a bigger challenge than just collaboration within the agency: Future agencies will need to collaborate with all brand stakeholders without fear and jealousy.

Without collaboration, the agency of the future will not succeed. Today's marketing reality requires more custom thinking, more custom execution, more attention paid at every turn, more real-time interaction with people, and a seamless delivery of creative, media, and communication services. How can we expect agencies that tried to integrate unsuccessfully for the last decade to deliver, create, and earn deeply enriching engagements?

Well, they can't right now. The skill sets are often incompatible and counter-productive. To adapt and be flexible for the changing marketplace, agencies need to stop integrating and start collaborating.

Don't even bother with mobile or social departments
In case you didn't get the memo yet: Everything is digital. Having a social, mobile, brand, display ad, search strategy is just an expression of how broken the current agency model is. And that your agency is too focused on itself.

Focus on the consumers. They don't care about any of your strategies. They are constantly connected and expect a holistic expression of a brand, on mobile, on social, on display ad, on mobile social -- wherever. Everything is potentially the medium for your content. Structure your agency the way people look at a brand: holistic and channel-agnostic.

Insights are the new data analysis
Customer insights and analytics are the basis for improving experience in sales, marketing, and customer service. Most agencies just deliver data and weekly reports, not analytical insights that can lead to real innovation.

As the analytical capabilities of agencies mature so does the depth of insights they deliver. From customer/insights/marketing effectiveness studies over customer attrition modeling to real-time behavioral analytics and product/service innovation, the changing marketing landscape has increased the need for advanced analytics. Agencies of the future need to leverage a 360-degree view of marketing data in an integrated approach to stay competitive. This includes marketing financial planning, management and reconciliation, as well as campaign planning, marketing effectiveness reporting, asset management, and distribution. Tying all the data together into a consolidated view will require advancements in the underlying marketing capabilities. Most importantly, it's about delivering business value through continuous analytic capability development.
Small is beautiful
The transformation of consumers into producers has brought on the democratization of the big idea: Agencies are not anymore the sole generators of solutions. Increasingly, clients will look to their agencies as strategic consultants, not big idea factories. Real agency value comes from having a partner with a broad perspective and insight on your business, a team with peripheral vision, foresight, and hindsight, ensuring that the whole plan is greater than the sum of its parts.

Agencies are going out and creating small-scale experiments that demonstrate there might be gold in the hills. And, depending on success of the initiative, scale up or down. Implement successful small ideas in other channels, adjust to the desires and needs of that channel audience. This is not a new idea: Direct marketing has prospered by being people-centric and always guided by response analytics. It's just something new for big agencies with the desire to develop ideas: The era of putting all your money on one number on the roulette table is over. You need to spread your bets.

Merge creative and technology
The future agency is based around technology, because technology is the link to everything. If technology is not one of your core competencies, you won't be around by 2015.

We can no longer work in agencies where IT, technology, and marketing are not working together. We need to create a role within the agency that combines core skills in marketing and technology in one role; Call that position chief marketing technologist, call it chief technologist -- it doesn't matter. What matters is that to deliver valuable marketing programs, you need to live and breathe technology. Location-based apps can't be just a buzzword, it has to be experienced by anybody in marketing. This role has to work closely together with IT to find agreeable solutions regarding security, infrastructure, etc. This position has to be on par with the CMO, CIO, and CD.

While this is a mission-critical position, we need to be careful. We all have seen when technologists try to be marketers (boy, that is ugly) and marketers just push buzzwords without understanding technology (even uglier). Finding that right balance of technical savvy and marketing know-how in one person could prove to be a major challenge. A challenge you need to conquer as quickly as you can.

Uwe Hook is the CEO of BatesHook.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at

Making "opting out" of emails just a little more of a process

This tactic uses email as a constantly intrusive form of engagement. Companies that respect consumer choice allow you to hit a simple "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of emails. You click it, confirm the email that you want to unsubscribe from, and voila -- you are "unsubscribed." However, for a number of recent start-ups, this just isn't the case. You see, many of these start-ups do not yet have sustainable income and the one crucial thing that they do have are users. A substantial user pool allows start-ups to fuel their PR machine with talk about adoption of their app, website, or product -- which, in turn, gets these start-ups more investment and more users. So, in the case of the start-up, allowing users to opt-out easily isn't ideal.

What was once a link at the bottom of emails to "unsubscribe" or "remove" became "change email options." When I look at these links I say to myself:

"But I do not want to change my email options, I want to stop the email. All email. All the time. I do not care that Rich is listening to some band that I have never heard of. Why am I getting that via email? How is that relevant? Does merely receiving this email qualify me as an active user? Am I being counted like some numbered zombie clone? And damn it, why are all the defaults when you sign up to these sites set to spam overload?"

Spotify is one brand that uses this tactic well. Clicking the "change email options" lands you on the Spoitfy website where you are forced to log in to the site. (You can't not log in to stop the spam.) Once you log in, you end up in the "edit your profile" field which is not where you want to be.

Ironically, while there is no "opt-out" option on the first page, there are plenty of ways to get more email from Spotify with a couple checkboxes. Only after you scroll down below the fold do you come across the "opt-out" option.

Here is the second trick: There is no "opt-out of everything" button, and no "select all." 

If you want to get off an email list you should be able to hit one button, confirm, and then be done. Consumer friendly is what people want, but that is definitely not what is in the interest of most online products. I am sure that someone somewhere within the company argued for the customer and against this process. Then someone else showed an A/B test of how many users the brand retains if it commits to doing it this other way. Many times marketers will try and justify this by saying, "It's just one more step, and we are really giving them all of these other options. It's in their best interest." No it isn't, and in the back of their minds they know that.

Unfortunately, this is a brand tactic that not only works to retain users, it is a tactic that keeps the brand name top of mind and that, however shady, meets brand objectives.

The Obama campaign

This is a lesson on how to violate every rule of email frequency capping.

The Obama campaign has become that guy outside Starbucks who constantly asks you for change when you exit with your overpriced latté. The difference is that it's as if that guy is following you around all day in your office, outside the bathroom, and waking you up at night saying, "Change! Spare change?" You feel sad that the economic plight of our country forces people to beg, and you not only tolerate him because you feel guilty but occasionally toss some change in his cup. It is fine for someone down on their luck, but for the President of the United States? It's just icky.

The Obama campaign promised change, and I just got it in the form of them asking for it. Look, I'm a liberal whack job, but even Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the ACLU do not beg as much as Obama campaign does. And that, I am now realizing, is probably to all the detriment of all these aforementioned groups. And although I find the sheer voluminous nature of email a little annoying, I cannot deny its impact. While Romney is struggling for money that can be used directly by him, the Obama campaign is swimming in it.

Why does it work? Content. It may be shady to email someone every day, maybe twice a day, but every email has a single issue, single topic, and a single piece of pertinent information. Forget the newsletters and emails jam-packed with content -- if you want to win, simplicity works. You just have to violate what is commonly accepted and delve into the world of being criticized for breaking unwritten rules.

The campaign did eventually offer me a way to stem the tide to only important emails, which translated to an email every three days or so. Then it hit me. I have given less money because of it -- probably only once or twice. In allowing that option I'll bet the Obama campaign has actually lost some money. The daily (and sometimes twice daily) emails created this urgency for me. Like that guy outside Starbucks, it reminded me of the issue, and I would give a little more. If the purpose is to win, and your cause is one you believe in, then email away. The people you most want on your side -- the people who believe in your cause and will defend it -- are the people who will continually give their time and effort.

If Obama does win the election it will probably be because of the tireless email campaign reminding supporters of every issue. I may cringe at its tactics, it may seem a little shady to me, but I cannot deny its effectiveness. The digital strategists of the Obama campaign flaunted sacrosanct internet rules of conduct, and that is a lesson for us. Unwritten rules are made to be broken.

(Note that this does not work nearly as well for Republicans, as the Democratic party relies on individual supporters, and not corporate donors for the vast majority of financial support.)

So, for any cause-based program looking for money -- be it the ACLU, Greenpeace, or even Planned Parenthood -- swallow your pride, stop trying to be the nice conscientious online brand, and beg. Beg a lot, and develop an email program -- like the Obama campaign -- that grovels effectively with single issue email topics. Ignore the dissenters and the people who complain about too much email. Your most loyal followers will understand and support you in ways that will help your organization.

Buying online reviews

Why five stars on Yelp matters.

In 2009, The Wall Street Journal found that the average rating in a five-star system, (e.g., Amazon, Yelp, Hotels.com, etc.) internet-wide, was a 4.3, suggesting a world of uniformly awesome products, services, and experiences. News flash: You are not that great, your product is not that great, and your brand is not that great. Given that, how is it that there are so many completely highly rated products on the internet? It is either that people connected to the internet are universally undiscriminating, or that everything digitally connected is awesome. I for one am going with the former explanation; from what I have seen in the world of online dating we are definitely not choosy.

So why is this bad? Well, because so many of those reviews are fake and paid for by brands. Are we so addicted to the star rating system that nothing but five stars will do? Unfortunately, for the time-being that is an unequivocal yes. It can be seen in purchase patterns, book sales, and almost every other aspect that helps brands online -- from small restaurants, to authors, to consumer products. Unless there are positive reviews, you will not be able to sell online.

If you think about it, it makes sense. No one has the time to research every product and we tend to trust higher level peer reviews over product information.

Unlike crowd sourcing -- where the crowd can edit reviews that are inaccurate -- the issue with star reviews is that they become permanent. Unless there is a protest, or the brand is found out to have paid for them, they do not get removed. Even reviews that are patently false have a hard time getting removed from a site. Just ask anyone who has gotten a bad review on Yelp how easy it is to get something removed, even if the person has never tried your product.

And that is why brands routinely pay for reviews. They pay for them on Yelp, on Amazon, and on the iPhone App store.

And don't think that you'll be able to tell a fake review form a real one. That assertion was actually tested, and it turns out not only are those people wrong but they chose the fake reviews as real more than 56 percent of the time. Yes, that is right, the fake reviews were viewed as more real than the real ones. Maybe that is because the people who get paid to write them have made a business out of it, so they include things like the occasional purposeful spelling mistake to give the appearance of reality.

Sadly, all stats indicate that fake reviews work.

Personally I do not trust any reviews I read online unless they are from experts or are designed to be anonymous. Rotten Tomatoes and Zagat are the two most trusted sources in these categories.

Peer reviews are useless, and I'd advise not to trust them. Unfortunately people often do, so buying reviews really is a shady tactic that works.

Link buying and cloaking SEO

I am not advising, condoning, or otherwise sanctioning any black hat SEO tactic, but as Google has become the veritable zero-moment of truth for every brand that exists, brands are going to seek to turn that to their advantage. There are two techniques that definitely fall into the land of shady, so shady in fact that they can get you banned from Google. Unfortunately, these tactics work very well.

Link buying
Link buying can be defined as the purchasing of links to increase the relevancy of your site on Google. J.C. Penney was banned from Google's organic search results for 90 days, but there is absolutely no doubt that this technique works for brands, and there are plenty of brands that do it. I wonder how much J.C. Penney lost from that ban, and how much they made?

Cloaking is the act of serving a slightly different page when a search engine is crawling a page. Although brands can use this to clarify content and what their intent of the content of the page is, it is also used to bait and switch users.

To a lot of brands the penalties are worth the risk. But make no mistake, these are techniques that can get your site banned from Google.

Often, the "brand" is not aware that this tactic is being utilized. It is usually some small group of people with the digital department (or their agency) who know they are doing wrong and are just hoping not to get caught. And as long as the performance is strong, everyone within the brand tends to turn a blind eye to it. Because the rewards are increased (performance recognition, bonuses, etc.) these techniques often proliferate with no one the wiser. A senior executive dictates that the group has to increase performance, and it does.

Truly, that is the issue with any digital technique that gets results. Often senior brand leadership is so clueless as to how a majority of the income is coming in digitally that they do not even know the right questions to ask.

Of all the brand techniques that work, please do not do this. I am elucidating it here so you can all ask internally whether this is happening and make sure to stop it so you do not get digitally isolated to Elba for your ignorance.


There are a lot of shady techniques that give the appearance of helping. However, I am an idealist. I believe in the future and the ability to make our most optimistic ideas of the future a reality. Although I often inhabit what is best described as the lunatic fringe of marketing, and lament the demise of the hard version of the Giant SweeTart, I fundamentally believe that when we treat people with respect -- and hold true to corporate values -- that we produce a better future for us all. There are those techniques that break unwritten rules, and those should be explored. Avoid the techniques that can get you banned, and try to cultivate in your brand a promise to stand for something. Stand up for your product or your brand. When you can cut a corner here to shave off a few pennies, always ask yourself, "Is our brand or product somehow diminished by this?" Often that answer will be no -- but remember, your brand can suffer the death of a thousand cuts.

We all remember brands and products from our youth, and then we go back and try them again later only to find that they are different. This is not just wistful nostalgia playing tricks on us. Over the years many companies have slowly eroded their products and brands with 100 little changes that when added together produce a product that pales in comparison to the original.

So when a person stands up in a meeting and demands that the brand not follow through with a shady tactic -- listen to them. Otherwise, you may end up working at a brand you no longer respect. That is often what happens when companies are sold. There is no longer the person who will jump on that table, hold up that sign, and say "no!" Be that person.

Sean X is founder of SXC Marketing.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Sneaky businessman"  image via Shutterstock.

One of the most sought-after consultants, speakers and thought leaders on new marketing, Joseph Jaffe is President and Chief Interuptor of crayon, a new marketing company (www.crayonville.com) crayon is a mash-up of 5 key areas: strategic and...

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