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Blog Rolling

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(Ed. Note: To make this feel like a real blog, pretend you’re reading it from the bottom up. Otherwise, this stream-of-consciousness approach will just seem weird. This is just as I wrote it during the 4-hour Boot Camp, although we corrected spelling, since I have dyslexic fingers.)

BERKELEY, CA -- And so it begins.


I’m at the BlogOn boot camp. A whole bunch of people (30ish) in “business casual” (read: Dockers and polo shirts -- but not me, I'm allergic) are trying to figure out what the hell social networking is -- or social media are. We actually started on time. First up is Susan Mernit from 5ive (full disclosure: she’s my old boss and a good friend, and iMedia sponsored part of this event). Sounds like this will be very hands on. I’ve been wanting to blog, but even I was clueless. I’m going to try to keep up here, so you get the full flavor of what this is.


What are audience’s questions, Susan wants to know. First one is about incorporating video -- pretty high level stuff for an opener. I ask if there’s a business model here. How does this intersect with traditional media? Are large companies in this for research? How do I use a corporate blog to communicate our message? Best practices, of course, come up. How does this work as a tool for social change?


Oh, yeah, BTW, we’re all on wireless -- gotta love those heavily endowed MBA schools (we’re at UC Berkeley’s Haas).


It’s not a business yet, and we all know that, Susan says. But, it’s on the verge. And that’s why we’re all here. Interesting factoid: Craigslist  has taken away 13 percent of the San Francisco Chronicle’s classified business, she says.


Halley’s a real comet


A few folks are still having trouble getting online. Moving on, first presenter is blogger Halley Suitt of Halley’s Comment on Blog Basics. My god, these people are mega-focused on staying on schedule.


She blames David Weinberger for getting her started two years ago. Describes her blog as sexy and obnoxious, despite its start as a chronicle of her dad’s death.


When you have a corporate blog, how personal can you get? What are you liable for? HS says any time you have a way of having a strong, interesting voice talking about your product, go for it. Human resources and legal won’t agree, but it’s all about the intimacy. PR and advertising cannot do this. She’s checking the time again. She wrote an article for Harvard Business Review on this corporate conundrum, but it’s not available online.


HS says her blog is a prototyping tool. Throw an idea up there, to see what you or others want to do with it.


She’s shifting to what is a good blog post? Blog often -- a lot, all day. Bob Scoble at Microsoft does 50 a day. It’s like fresh rolls. Funny is great. Let’s kick publishing’s ass here. Somebody called her on the 50 thing. There are people with good stuff to say who blog weekly. Key is the audience. Back to tips -- make them short, quick, link to others. She loves to be over loaded … me, not so much. Other styles -- op/ed, word of mouth. You, as an editor, can become a brand. Be something you can’t get anywhere else -- that’s No. 1. Be original or die. And be faster than anyone else. Someone called it reverse voyeurism. Narcissism watch. Be daring and blunt. And of course, it’s a community.


She says she gets mean when she doesn’t blog -- I believe it. There’s a certain addictive nature you have to have to be a top blogger.


Now we’re blogging. Or surfing -- do you surf blogs? It’s an insomniac’s medium, she says. You can blog and save for later posting. She’s walking us through a typical blog. Time stamps, permalinks (I assume she’ll explain those). Comments about other people’s stuff. She says her blog hosting is free, someone asked how much you would pay -- no one has an answer.


Spam posts are a problem, apparently. None for HS, more for others.


Her blog is built on Blogger  (Google’s tool). Mentions a new blog called Worthwhile. Misbehaving.net about women and technology. Those are group blogs. So there are individual and group blogs.


This is odd, IMing, blogging and sipping green tea -- all at the same time. Look Ma, no hands!


She’s getting ready to blog – HS, not Ma. We’re all breathless, especially since she sounds pre-orgasmic about it.


Going into Blogger.com. Dashboard opens with all your blogs. Simple enough interface. Type and publish, watch the nerdling doodad, and there it is.


How’s this for old-school -- they’re passing around paper to get email addresses.


Hold onto your hats, now she’s adding a link to the post. My sarcastic tone aside, this really is easy. No reason to be afraid of it, folks.


Now we’re at Movable Type, a different tool for blogging. Now it’s our turn.


While we’ve been listening, they emailed us an invite to a practice blog on TypePad, so it’s our turn. Have to register… and I’m in. Posted a bit of philosophy -- “You get what you settle for…. Not more and no less.” Life’s good.


So, you can allow comments or not. And you can ask it to tell you when someone else posts or links to you. Halley previews. I didn’t and sure enough, there’s a typo. Proofreading is good. Otherwise it’s seat-of-your-pants. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Things to remember -- these things post fast, and Google and others will grab them fast. Don’t blog anything you don’t want on the front page of the NY Times. Good rule in general.


There’s some odd stuff out there. We Quit Drinking, a blog started by someone who thinks Japan drinks too much. WTF? Some of these blogs remind me of student films. Blogging just because you can. But “is that so wrong?” as Harvey Fierstein would growl.


Trackbacks actually lets your blog know someone else wrote about yours. Somebody in the room just photoblogged her -- but it can’t be her, since she’s standing still.


Comments live on my blog; trackbacks live on others’ blogs. Why are we still talking about this? Ahhh … people who comment may get nasty, but if they comment on their own blog, they’ll be more polite. You want trackbacks, especially if your product sucks (hmmm … I just realized I’m getting snarky, must be a blog thing).


Blogs can be effective as a one-way thing, without comments. Or as a two-way with comments, which can be entertaining and can build the community you want and need around your products. Just don’t be scared of giving up control.


Why are people still confused about trackbacks? It’s the T&Cs of blogging.


RSS? Huh?


Next speaker. I’m tired -- this is moving at a hellish pace . Time to open another window. Browser window that is.


JD Lasica, king of RSS, and from Open Media, is next up. More tools -- woohoo! Newmediamusings.com is his blog. Journalist, consultant, author, blogger -- sounds familiar -- or will, when I start my blog.


Time to talk RSS and syndication. Half know what RSS is, half have used it, half are clueless. Bloglines -- good place to start. Web interface, so you get it all no matter where you are.


RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. Short version of his talk -- RSS is his friend and should be yours. Which ones? FeedDemon NetNewswire lite


RSS lets you snag disparate feeds from many places, then you can comment and play. Every major blog tool has RSS built into it. You don’t have to know how to code. Other things can be RSS syndicated, too. Newspapers use them, various publishers and news and health sites, stock quotes.


RSS allows users to reduce the clutter and focus on the info. You just get what you want.


The gang’s confused -- what’s RSS, what’s a feed? It’s the new XML, which was the new black, which was the new brown last year in Paris.


Buzzwords: RSS, Atom, feed, XML, newsreader, aggregator, subscription, syndication. Is this stuff sexy, or what?


RSS and Atom are two different formats. XML is the underlying stuff. They allow you to “roll” your own newspaper (whoa! '70s flashback, but I never rolled anything in newspaper). Get only what you want.


Newsreaders and aggregators are how you read that stuff. They go to a URL that points to a feed file, grabs it, and presents it to you at your convenience. But you don’t have to worry about it, because the blog sites will do it for you.


Now we’re walking through Bloglines. NewsGator. Also have plug-ins for your Outlook or for browsers. NetNewswire lite is free. The paid version has more tools built in and you can publish with it.


They’re putting more buzzwords up, but you don’t need to worry about them. That’s why there are blogging tools. And if you have a tech department, guy or whatever, he, she or it can set it up for you. I need an aggregator -- note to self.


Good analogy coming up. Back in the day, if you weren’t on the Web you were missing a level of societal conversation. Now that you’re on the Web, RSS is it. It’s a way for you to tap into what your customers are saying in real time (or close to it).


RSS is TiVo for the Web. Perfect. OK, now can we move on?


Not yet. This is interesting. Only one RSS feed requires registration. But they don’t all put all the content up. And RSS ensures that your content is actually being seen. NYTimes.com visitors go three times a month, feeders see it every day.


Again, feeds are your friend.


And write sexy, cool headlines. It’s all about the clicks, baby.


Link me, baby


Next up -- linking with Mary Potter? Related to Harry? Oh, my bad, it’s Hodder, and she’s from Technorati. OK, I’m getting punchy -- I need tea and a biology break. BTW, if you want to see what XML looks like, go to any blog and click on the XML button.


Back to linking. She’s been in this for four years -- that’s 100 years in blog time. She’s talking about what happens when you create something and the RSS info goes out.


Second-order tools? That means Technorati, Feedster and other aggregation system. They spider or collect RSS information.


Sorry, went away for a minute to enter a Boot Camp blog contest to make Susan Mernit laugh with a link. Let’s hope Wavy Gravy’s Web site  does the trick.


We’re back with Pub Sub. It finds new content as it appears on the Internet. I have to investigate this. The home page says they match new sites to user subscriptions, pretty much in real time. You can tell it to search for a specific word or phrase, and it’ll keep you alerted until you cry “Uncle!” It also has interesting stats on who’s linking to whom. This is a cool tool, but…


OK, to be honest, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this. Do I want to be connected in real-time to everything? I recognize this feeling from the launch of CNN. Just have to learn to shut it off, I guess.


Now we’re looking at Feedster. They have 800,000 RSS feeds. Technocratic has 3.2 million -- how do that many people have time to blog?!? There are 264,000 links from 19,000 sources alone to the New York Times at this moment. I’m fascinated by people’s fascination with linking.


Even if you don’t have a blog, use these two and search for your company to find out what folks are saying about you.


This all is the realization, to some extent, of push technology. Remember how much that sucked when it first came out? This time it works, if you understand the rules.


BTW, these tools are free for now. And so are we -- for the next 30 minutes, anyway.


Read part two

Identify yourself 
Depending on how many resources you need to manage your corporate Twitter presence, it might be worthwhile to identify each person by their initials or name. This will mitigate any discords in tone or content. It also humanizes your company, especially if you are a conglomerate that tends to broadcast its marketing messages.


By calling upon a few individuals to represent your company, your Twitter channel can lend a human feel to an otherwise "corporate" brand. Intuit, Dell, and The Home Depot are just a few examples of large brands that employ this kind of tactic on their Twitter channels to interact with consumers. The Home Depot's Twitter account, @HomeDepot, sums up this sentiment best: "I moonlight on Twitter to offer another way for customers to ask about their projects and our stores."


The overarching idea here is to make sure that the structure of your Twitter account addresses how your consumers want to be communicated with. If they want home improvement tips and tricks, have someone search for frustrated users to offer help and advice. In contrast, if your Twitter constituency wants deals on their computers, like the followers of @DellOutlet, then tout low prices on refurbished computers. 


Develop a succession plan
If your Twitter situation calls for one manager, make sure you have a plan to transfer responsibility to another employee in case he or she leaves.


We know that social media, Twitter in particular, calls for timely and frequent updates. While you are developing your Twitter marketing plan, draft a strategy document that outlines the high-level goals and objectives. Also include Twitter vernacular, research sources, and sample tweets; this way a new manager will not break stride when taking over the Twitter account.


One way to accomplish this is to personify your brand. If your brand was a person, what would it read? What blogs would it visit? How often would it tweet? Combining these details with consumer expectations establishes a framework for your Twitter managers -- whoever they may be. 


Conclusion
Most Twitter accounts were created on a whim or brought up as an agenda item in a marketing meeting. The common question is, "What are we supposed to do with this thing?" Adding value to the conversation without blatant self promotion is tricky, but the companies who are doing it well are reaping the benefits. Dell claimed in mid-June that it saw $2 billion in revenue from its @DellOutlet channel alone.


There is now a risk of not being a part of the Twittersphere. So many companies are active that consumers are noticing the companies that are not a part of the conversation. No matter how you choose to manage your account, the most important thing is to be present. Consumers want interaction that other forums do not account for. While tweets are broadcast to a certain extent -- in that messages are shared with your entire followership -- the goal needs to be as close to one-on-one communication as possible. Twitter affords marketers the chance to develop deeper interactions with their consumers and elicit real time, unfiltered feedback.


These are two very important assets when making plans for the future, when marketing budgets are not constrained by the recession. The best piece of advice I have to marketers fine tuning their Twitter strategies is to listen. Chime in when appropriate. Interact whenever possible, but above all, pay attention to your consumers and what they expect of your brand.


Andreas Roell is the president and CEO of Geary Interactive.


On Twitter? Follow Roell at @andreasceo. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Overstock.com becomes O.co (2011)



In June 2011, internet retailer Overstock.com completed its transition to the name O.co. Only three months later, the company returned to Overstock.com -- but not before spending millions of dollars on a six-year naming rights deal with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.


Oops.



A decade of brand equity was not enough to get customers to greet this particular rebranding warmly. Customers swarmed the company with questions regarding the name change. They accused the company of moving far too quickly in terms of changing the name of a brand that customers were still getting to know. Some marketing executives went so far as to question the use of the beloved letter O, which had long been associated with Queen Oprah herself. Overstock.com president Jonathon Johnson buckled under the pressure weeks later and admitted that the company had been too aggressive with its initial rebranding strategy.


Although O.co can still be used as a shortcut to reach the deal-finding website, the still-planned switch to O.co doesn't seem to be taking hold as much as the brand's internal team might have hoped. At the beginning of March, the O.co Travel portion of the Overstock.com website was closed. The O.co Cars, O.biz B2B, and O.info sections remain on the site -- for now, at least.


RadioShack becomes The Shack (2009)


Sometime between the iPod and the iPad, RadioShack decided to get all hip on us. In August 2009, the iconic electronics retailer swiftly dropped the "Radio" from its name and chose to be known forevermore as "The Shack."



(Source: Gizmodo)


Come to find out that the word the company's marketing execs were sure was their greatest liability (i.e., radio) was instead one of their greatest assets. Of course, this realization came a bit too late. The 92-year-old electronics store had already spent nearly all of its $200-million-dollar budget in 2009 on new television and digital ads to proclaim to the world that "The Shack" was here to stay. While the change was made initially to attract savvy shoppers in search of a wider range of electronic products, the retailer quickly discovered that it's never fun to play with an iconic American legacy brand or its loyal customer base.


Although "The Shack" ads now find themselves at the bottom of some digital dump somewhere, the term is far from dead. Brand copy referring to "The Shack" remains evident within RadioShack.com these days. Yet, the brand itself continues to find itself dealing with a long list of business challenges; the decision to focus on sales of popular (yet lower profit margin) items, such as tablet computers and smartphones, to help offset declining sales of consumer electronics is still hurting earnings in the long run.

Pizza Hut becomes The Hut (2009)


In 2009, hearsay became news when the public got wind of Pizza Hut's plans to forever be known as "The Hut." Attributing the change to the need to better fit within 2009's texting generation, Pizza Hut officials spent many weeks claiming that this brand name change was never set in stone.



(Source: idsgn)


"Pizza Hut is not changing its name," said Brian Niccol, CMO of Pizza Hut, in a 2009 press release. "We are proud of our name and heritage and will continue to be Pizza Hut. We do use 'The Hut' in some of our marketing efforts. To the loyal fans of Pizza Hut and pizza lovers around the world, we're happy to tell you that nothing is changing, we're still Pizza Hut, America's Favorite Pizza."


Only problem?


The college junior who likes his pizza at 3 a.m. rarely reads press releases from marketing heads. And in turn, the damage was already done. Yet the days of the "Hut" still sneak into the marketing plans of Pizza Hut in 2013. This past January, Pizza Hut made news with its "Hut Hut Hut" campaign, which helped introduce the new pizza sliders menu item during the must-watch Super Bowl.

Tropicana's new packaging (2009)


Who would have thought an orange would stir up so much controversy? Yet it did in 2009, when PepsiCo partnered with design and branding company The Arnell Group to launch a new look for the iconic beverage company. Yet their innocent intentions to simply repackage the Tropicana offerings became dangerously close to a rebranding disaster. Mothers with babies and men with girlfriends left their grocery store aisles perplexed and downright shaken by the change in the look of their orange juice -- and a public outcry ensued.



(Source: Reprise Media)


Sales fell nearly 20 percent. The repackaging was compared to changing the Mona Lisa. The universe shifted -- or so it seemed for those few weeks before PepsiCo executives retreated back to the original logo.


These days, the brand treads lightly. Moves to new bottle sizes and certain containers are made with caution -- with many still trying to get that bad taste out of their mouths.

Dr Pepper Ten (2011)


OK. I get it. The picture of a hot guy holding a cold diet anything is a tad odd. But in 2011, the No. 3 soft drink company Dr Pepper, was called a sexist when it attempted to bash the stereotype of diet soda. Sure, its intentions were good. It was looking to create and promote a better-tasting alternative for men who disliked the image and taste of diet soda.


Boldly declaring that its new 10-calorie soft drink, Dr Pepper Ten, was "not for women," the beverage maker essentially pissed off a majority of its female customers. One television ad went so far as to promote a faux action movie in which men jumped off cliffs while proclaiming that women should stick with their girly diet sodas.



(Source: TheBlaze)


So yes, the marketing surrounding the Ten platform did not get off to a great start. But here's to Dr Pepper Snapple Group for not giving up on the entire Ten concept. The company actually learned from its misstep. Rather than one of the worst rebrands of all time, this is the story of a rebrand that saved a terrible launch.


Earlier this year, the group rolled out 10-calorie versions of five of its biggest soda brands: 7Up Ten, A&W Ten, Sunkist Ten, Canada Dry Ten, and RC Ten, in addition to its existing Dr Pepper Ten.


And guess what? The new 10-calorie sodas are being marketed to both men and women rather successfully. Being cited as one of the company's biggest-ever national ad campaigns, the ads for the new drinks will target both sexes and play off the theme of "Get Both." and learning to compromise via their shared love for the 10 calorie beverages.



Tricia Despres is a freelance writer.


On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

The thing that strikes me about what wearables are bringing to the table -- apart from another screen to send a message to, or some more segmentation to our consumer buckets, or even the sheer volume of data we now have to create a look-alike of our consumer -- is the amount of data points the consumer now needs to interpret. Vast amounts of biometric data sent to mobile apps, desktop dashboards, and via daily emails are all there to offer a deeper understanding of how they are doing at any particular point in time.


I pose the question: is this new world of data-overload affecting the consumer's ability to make a purchase decision?


I encourage everyone in the marketing world to read a paper put out by researchers at Stanford and Princeton called, "On the Pursuit and Misuse of Useless Information," by Anthony Bastardi and Eldar Shafir. It theorizes that a decision-maker will delay a decision in order to pursue additional information that ordinarily would not be instrumental in making a decision, but now that they have pursued and found that information, ultimately make it an instrumental part of their final decision.


This is quite something. Think about all of the information that wearables -- packed with sensors -- are providing the consumer. Boat loads of it, constantly and consistently. Consumers are becoming so consumed by the pursuit of information, they are being "trained" to seek even more of it out before taking another step.


Will all that exposure to this granular data change the way a consumer responds to messaging? Will it change the way we need to verbalize our messaging? Will the consumer be in perpetual "analysis paralysis," making our jobs that much harder, as the consumer seeks out even more information before making a buying decision? Before, being thirsty was by itself enough to make a consumer seek out a drink with thirst-quenching capabilities. Now, knowing everything from heart rate and blood pressure, to temperature and distance walked, drink brands may need to be a little more specific in what they are offering and how they are offering it.


Another interesting read, "'Too Close for Comfort': The Negative Effects of Location-Based Advertising" theorizes that, although location-based advertising seems like a no-brainer for advertising, there often tends to be a decrease in ad effectiveness due to feelings of vulnerability developing in the consumer.


These two lines of thinking are only the tip of the iceberg in the psychological effects on consumers that wearables may bring to the advertising table, and are as important for marketers to consider as they embark on their planning and testing in these murky wearables waters as message length, screen size, timing, and data analysis. 


Marketers will need to become the interpretive glue to the data overload that consumers are experiencing. To sell a product, we are going to need to connect the dots for the confused consumer, enabling them to understand what all of this information means and how our brand can help. Brands -- and their agencies -- are going to need to figure out what the granular value proposition is to the consumer, and verbalize it in a way that helps the consumer fill in the missing pieces of information and ultimately make the sale. In this goal-driven wearables world, brands will need to find a way to help their consumers cross their preset finish lines -- "200 more steps to your weekly goal… our shoes can get you there!"-- all while ensuring we're not being too intrusive and making them feel vulnerable.


We are going to need to tap in, analyze, interpret, and deliver a message at the optimal time on the right device using the right vernacular with the perfect call-to-action, in the perfectly subtle way. Get ready marketers…it's about to get really specific.


Evan Lazarus is CEO at LazBro, Inc.


On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet. 

Organizational lack of respect for personal lives


Digital marketing is a young industry. Our world has excellent room for career growth and plenty of opportunities at the entry level. As such, marketing attracts new college graduates and otherwise young people. Therefore it's easy for companies to neglect the very large subset of marketing professionals with families. "Work all day / work all night" seems to be the motto of many startups. But the obvious problem with this mentality is that it doesn't leave time for anything else. We all need breaks from the grind. And for me, just like many others, these mental breaks come in the form of spending time with my family. When I'm running around the block alongside my 3-year-old son while pretending that I'm part of a giant, elaborate Hot Wheels track, I'm not spending a moment of time or energy thinking about work. I need those breaks.


How to combat: If you are a policy maker at your company, don't maintain your organization in a way that makes people a slave to the 9 to 5. Encourage flexible hours, customizable schedules, etc. And for goodness sake, make your employees take their vacations. Another simple way to encourage family time is to allow employees a +1 to company functions, etc. Yes, I know it's more expensive. But even though your company party has "party" right there in the name, believe me, without a +1 it's just another meeting.


Lack of inspiring projects


Sometimes the most lucrative clients and brands are also the stodgiest ones. The ones who are happy with standard banner ads, like to count clicks, and heaven forbid they infuse too much "voice" into their messaging. While these clients can keep the lights on, they're a drain on creativity in an industry where creativity is brain food. Over time, it becomes hard to care anymore, even though your paycheck continues to get signed.


How to combat: Seek a creative release elsewhere. If you're in the agency game, hopefully there's a client or two with which you can keep the creative wheels turning, even if only briefly. But you might not even have that. If you're working in-house at a brand that doesn't inspire you, there might not be many options for that creative release in your day-to-day. So you're going to have to look somewhere else and make time to stretch your brain. In that respect, you might be the person who raises his hand when it comes time to redecorate the office or redesign signage. Hell, you could even take on the task of bringing in the office birthday cakes, knowing that you'll get the opportunity to write something amazingly witty and humorous in the icing. Or, look outside your office walls and make time for a painting, design, or fiction writing class. But no matter what you do, find a way to create something that makes you proud.

Seeming lack of purpose


We're marketers. We spin messaging in order to move product for a living. There's no getting around this fact. And though it can be fun and -- yes -- sometimes we even get the opportunity to do something uplifting, there are definitely those moments where you can't help but feel like a worthless shill who isn't bettering society in any way. Feeling that way for very long is a sure path to burnout. We are, after all, not curing cancer. (With the exception of the few of us who might be marketing cancer non-profits -- hats off to you folks.)


How to combat: Take on passion projects around causes that inspire you. Hell, be the marketer who does try to cure cancer by founding or joining a cause that you believe in. And while you're at it, try to get your agency or brand in on the process. Work to create a culture of charity in your organization, whether that's the occasional pro bono campaign for the local food bank or a day out of the office working with Habitat for Humanity. It'll be good for the soul and for business.


Insane deadlines and approval processes


Look, I know insane deadlines and overly elaborate approval processes are the nature of this beast called Marketing. To some extent, you can't get around it. But one of the reasons you can't get around it is that we've all accepted this to be the case. We strive to work faster and faster, and layer on approval after approval, and rarely do we stop to say, "Why in the hell are we doing this to ourselves?" It's stressful. And over time, it burns us out.


How to combat: Admittedly, this is a hard one to get around. And often change has to come from the top. But even the simple acknowledgement -- again, from management if possible -- that every dang thing doesn't have to be a four-alarm fire can go a long way. Streamline processes where possible, minimize needed sign-offs, and try to involve as few people as possible in after-hours freak-outs. Save your all-hands-on-deck emergencies for the last-minute RFPs that really matter. Don't stress people out over the fact that the sandwiches might be 10 minutes late for today's lunch meeting.

Measuring the journey, not just the channel


When it comes to measuring marketing's influence on today's consumers, it's time to get away from thinking about performance in channel-specific terms. Instead, we need to look at the right metric on a case-by-case basis, in a way that corresponds to the consumer's place in the purchase journey.


Each channel plays a role in influencing consumers towards conversion, and it's not enough anymore to know how they each work on their own, or which one drives the first click, last click, or highest click-through-rate (CTR). We need to understand how each of the channels work together to create an experience for the consumer, beyond click-based activity, and how that experience influences behavior -- whether that experience ends in conversion or not. The resulting insights can be used to create a more strategic alignment of marketing strategies to move consumers forward through all stages of the funnel.


With this in mind, it's important to look at metrics that make sense for where the consumer is in the funnel. Campaigns that are early in the consumer journey shouldn't be measured by, or optimized for, the same metrics as direct response marketing. Early funnel measurement needs to reflect factors that indicate exposure.


Previously, I wrote about outdated modes of measurement for display marketing, such as impression, post-impression attribution, and click-through rate (CTR). It's not that these metrics are wholly irrelevant. Along with metrics that demonstrate viewability and brand engagement, they still hold relevance as good indicators of intent and progression in the consumer journey. They are not, however, in any case, the metrics that should determine how performance is measured or how campaigns are optimized.


After spending lots of time observing, testing, and implementing measurement methods, I've identified some best practice guidelines for measuring performance at each stage of the journey, based on the metrics that are available for each channel. Drilling down into each stage of the funnel allows us to then take a holistic view of the entire omni journey.


Measuring high-funnel strategies


Branding and prospecting campaigns need to be measured based on factors that indicate exposure -- a measurement traditionally dominated by impressions for everything from print to TV, radio, and online. The problem is that impressions on their own don't give enough information to know if we're really reaching consumers, or if the consumers we're reaching are the right consumers.


With the technology we have today, we should be taking a more granular look at how those impressions are working to increase exposure, drive awareness, and influence consumers to progress through the marketing funnel and interact with other channels.


Today, we talk a lot about viewable impressions. This is a step up from impressions, but what's really valuable is understanding different levels of exposure and engagement a consumer has with an ad, and how that indicates how likely they are to respond to additional marketing. Engagement can span everything from a mouseover, which proves an impression was viewed, to time spent interacting with an ad, which demonstrates intent.


Evaluating these factors that indicate how engaged a consumer is with your marketing also allows you to more strategically optimize that consumer's journey. For example, if a consumer who was reached through your brand campaign uses the in-ad search tool or watches a video, you'll want to target them more aggressively with complementary marketing strategies than someone you reached with an ad who didn't engage. This kind of measurement also opens the door to do more programmatic advertising for branding, whether it's on a desktop or a mobile device, and whether it's a display or a video ad. Additionally, the data can be used to more strategically optimize campaigns for conversion.


Engaged impressions, or ads that have tracked in-ad actions, across devices perform better than impressions that haven't been engaged. This insight allows marketers to assign value to investing in quality ad inventory where impressions are viewable and to target consumers who didn't engage with an ad differently than those who did, so we're empowered to create the most impactful journey for each individual's level of engagement.

Lack of recognition for work


Almost every good marketing idea or piece of creative comes from the collective efforts of a number of people. So it's rare that everyone's individual roles are acknowledged in a successful campaign. Not everyone gets to attend the Cannes Lions festival. Even fewer get to walk on stage to accept awards (and those that do tend to have the most expensive suits). If you're more of a cog in the wheel than a face of a company, odds are you've felt underappreciated in some of your organization's big wins, even if you secretly know it was your offhand comment during a brainstorm that kicked the whole thing off.


How to combat: Again, this is one that best comes from the top. However, marketers at any level within an organization can recommend programs and initiatives to better highlight stellar work and ideas. Your company might consider its own monthly awards programs, with categories ranging from "Best Client Web Design" to "Most Hilarious Internal Email." Likewise, consider formalizing a plan for touting campaign success outside of your own walls. You might have a PR company on hand for this. But anyone can raise their hand to offer to pen a case study or collect testimonials regarding a job well done. By being the person to ignite recognition efforts, you can actively call attention to the lesser known heroes of a given initiative -- and in doing so, you call attention to your own role within it as well. It might seem forced or even corny at first, but there's nothing wrong with creating a culture of high-fives and job-well-dones.


Drew Hubbard is a social media and content marketing strategist and owner of Foodie Content Studios


On Twitter? Follow Hubbard at @LAFoodie. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


"Overworked burnout business man standing headless with smoke instead of his head" image via Shutterstock.

Measuring funnel progression


Seeing engagement data not only tells a story about the efficacy of the campaign, or the quality of the ad buying, but it also gives more granular detail that can be used to understand how ads are driving consumers down the funnel via touchpoints with other channels. For example, an investment in display should influence a rise in your branded key search terms.


Evaluating the impact each touchpoint has on the performance of other marketing strategies expands the relevance of channels that are typically reserved for low-funnel marketing and traditionally only evaluated in terms of clicks, like search, affiliate, and retargeting.


For example, an effective non-branded search campaign will fuel new prospects into your retargeting campaign as you drive first-time visitors to your site. Seeing that impact in your attribution data provides an understanding of which non-branded terms are performing best -- not just to drive traffic to the site, but preceding a higher propensity to engage with retargeted ads, or to visit an affiliate site to get a coupon code or more information from thought leaders.


As another example, while affiliate is primarily considered a low-funnel strategy, there are many publishers that act as influencers early in the funnel, sometimes being the first introduction to your brand for its readers. That introduction can lead to subsequent actions like a branded search, a direct site visit, or an app installation. While these touchpoints aren't always the last click preceding a conversion, they do impact the success of a campaign. Understanding this impact can affect the way you develop relationships with influential publishers.


Measuring low funnel strategies


While the objectives of high-level strategies are often less tangible concepts, like driving awareness and finding new site visitors, the objective of lower funnel strategies is really focused on conversion. This makes consumer behaviors that indicate intent, like a click, more relevant; however, limiting your view just to clicks is a mistake. An even bigger mistake is optimizing your campaigns to deliver clicks.


Across all channels, devices, and platforms, it's important to understand how those intent-driven actions are influencing conversions and factors like average order value (AOV) and retention, which have meaningful value for your business. In an industry fraught with fraud, not assigning a key performance indicator to the clicks you track in a campaign makes you vulnerable to wasting money on clicks that add no value to your bottom line.


Lift is another useful method of measuring marketing performance. By doing controlled A/B testing, it's possible to get a view of a single channel's performance independent of any overlap by other channels. While this doesn't provide the deep-level insights provided by an end-to-end attribution tool that demonstrates channel synergies across the customer journey, it does provide a clear view of the unique impact a marketing campaign has on performance. This brings accountability to invest in ad strategies that drive conversions.


Actionable insights


At the end of the day, collecting data has limited value without the ability to take action on it to improve your marketing performance and ROI. When we talk about an "omni experience," we talk about tying all these channels and the insights they offer together into a seamless approach for the end-user. Taking a strategic look at the streamlined cross-device data you're collecting, using it to optimize programmatic cross-device media buying, comparing converting journeys against non-converting journeys, and using that information to make your marketing work better is the future of online marketing measurement. This is the key to driving the omni experience.


Tony Zito is CEO of Rakuten Marketing.


On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


"Social media formula on speech bubble" image via Shutterstock.

I'm iMediaConnection's content guy. My stellar team compiles, edits and writes all of the editorial content you see on our site.  Best part of the gig is getting to work with all you fine folks, and commenting on the wacky world of brand...

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