Online advertising has been sold for a decade now. Rich media is even newer. It’s always a headliner at industry conferences. It’s constantly preached, debated and argued.
Whether you are a brand marketer, advertiser, sales rep, statistician or a vendor in the space, you have to admit rich media is hot. However, it seems as if there is a lot of banter going back and forth. Sometimes it’s all talk and no action.
So I decided to seek out some of the top vendors, to scratch below the surface of issues facing the online advertising space today. Let me just tell you, these guys are busy, busy, busy (see the list at the end of this article)! Here’s the topline of what they had to say:
Is broadband critical to the adoption and acceptance of rich media?
I was surprised that not many of these leaders said it was critical. While the stats vary, broadband is reaching more and more homes, and is currently at about 40 percent penetration. All agree it’s the best way to view ads.
But Gal Trifon of Eyeblaster cautioned, “Do not ignore narrowband users. Design ads and content around both broad and narrowband in order to obtain an effective reach.”
What’s hot and why?
Across the board, everyone said video is hot.
Bob Rice of Viewpoint says, “Clearly video has gotten everyone’s attention. I have never witnessed more advertiser interest in a graphic type in my career until now. Flash ads never created a firestorm in the industry. People liked the format because it yielded results for them. People are comfortable with video; it’s the format they’ve been working in for all these years.
“We need to do more than repurpose commercials. I think we are going to start to see a demand for a higher caliber of creative people, more branding opportunities, comfort with the medium, and a perfect bridge from most any offline medium to online in the next year.”
Is interactivity important?
Interactivity is what makes rich media and online media great. Advertisers need to push the edges of the envelope here.
James O’Brien of Pointroll says, “Interactivity is what separates the Web from other mediums. Take a look at the surge of time spent and popularity in online gaming. These players are spending a tremendous amount of time interacting with an advertiser’s brand. Dynamic content is also a key element to interactivity. The ability to give users the opportunity to upload real-time market information in financial services ads, or viewing cars in 360-degree angles while picking out your color is the power of the medium.”
Why is rich media only 17 percent of all online ads today?
Most agree that it’s because online advertising is new and rich media is even newer. They all see explosive growth in the space. No one really thinks adoption is slow. Many mention video and advergaming as entrees into the medium.
Byron Biggins of Commflash had a lot to say about this issue: “I see it as an opportunity. However, we must recognize that there are a few obstacles toward gaining advertisers. First, many brand marketers haven’t yet grasped the fact that rich media ads can provide a large brand awareness level and uplift. They think of online as a place to merely collect data. Secondly, many direct response advertisers shy away due to the price. However, they may be paying two to three times the CPM but the ads are often five to 10 times more effective. Rich media needs to make sense for ROI-driven advertisers as well as brand advertisers alike.”
What’s the secret to an effective rich media campaign?
Ivan Intel echoes that. He says, “Creative relevancy is key. The secret of rich media is the same as with any other media: To say the right thing, the right way, at the right time, to the right person. This all boils down to engaging the user. Rich media must be innovative by its core definition or it simply loses its richness.”
Do we have the right standards in place -- and who should set them?
Most think we do not know enough about the industry and what users are responsive to in order to properly create standards. Sixty-five percent of all sites are now compliant with the new Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) rich media guidelines. Guidelines seem to be good at this time, but standards could hinder creativity.
I played devil’s advocate as a media person and voiced my gripes about multiple sizes and specs. I got an overwhelming bunch of nodding heads. These firms do not want advertisers to have to incur additional fees to reproduce units. Many will help if you ask (*wink*).
“At DoubleClick, we work with the IAB on establishing standards. Keep in mind that standards are valuable and restricting at the same time,” says Scott Spencer. “The only standards that will persist are ones that provide more value than the alternative of not following them. The benefit of standards is that they make the purchasing process easier. In advertising, however, agencies and advertisers want to stand out and use novel approaches. Standards can only take hold when the value in terms of facilitating the transaction is greater than the value of breaking the standard for a new creative.”
What's the bottomline of the topline?
I am so happy I tapped into these folks. They all, in their own way, possess a true passion for the industry. Most were accessible and thankful for the opportunity. The bottom line is, rich media is still hot and will continue to be.
It’s up to us to make it sizzle.
I’d like to thank the executives from seven companies who spent a great amount of time emailing and chatting with me for this article. They were: Eric Picard, director of product management, Bluestreak; Byron Biggins, VP of sales and marketing, Commflash; Scott Spencer, VP of DART Product Management, DoubleClick DART Motif; Gal Trifon, president and CEO, and Corey Kronengold, manager of corporate communications, Eyeblaster; Michael Q. Griffin, EVP of sales and marketing, Eyewonder; Charles Ruderman, Klipmart; James O’Brien, director of marketing, Pointroll; Jason Griswold, VP of Sales, Unicast; Mookie Tenembaum, founde,r and Ivan Entel, chief of staff, United Virtualities; Bob Rice, executive chairman, Viewpoint.
Seana Mulcahy is president of Brand Truth. She formerly held posts on both the client and agency side of the fence and has been creating online brands since before the first banner was sold. Her expertise includes online and traditional media planning and buying, email marketing, viral marketing, click-stream analysis, customer tracking, promotions, search engine marketing and launching brands online for both agencies and clients. Prior to Mullen, Seana was vice president of media services at Carat Interactive. She's launched and promoted brands including VW, Ocean Spray, McDonald's, British Airways, Symantec, CMGi, Four Seasons, LendingTree.com, Nextel, SmithKline Beecham, Pfizer, Titleist/FootJoy/Pinnacle, 3M, AT&T, Sprint, and Radio Shack. She's built online media services divisions for three companies and has worked with clients spanning financial, telecom, high-tech, automotive, healthcare and retail. She has taught, lectured and written about the industry for numerous trade associations and publications.
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Faster = better, better = faster, faster + better = the new standard
For a lot of big brands today, a well-considered web marketing campaign can take six weeks just to tune the messaging. Sample messages are sent, results are analyzed, and messages are tweaked. Then the process repeats. What emerges is pretty solid messaging -- assuming the market hasn't moved on in the meantime. More resources won't make it go faster because the serial process is the constraint.
Think of this as the static model of advertising.
The static model can't keep up with today's fast-moving trends. Fortunately, within reach is a new approach that can accomplish in days or hours what used to take weeks. Welcome to real-time advertising. Where more money can't compress the static model schedule, the real-time model inherently compresses both time and money.
Putting this level of capability into action takes more than new technology and tools; it takes new thinking regarding risk, objectives, and measurement.
The static model is carefully and methodically tuned to minimize downside risk because few brands can afford a big failure. At the same time, there is little upside in overachieving to those supporting the brand. (Not really a recipe for game-changing behavior.)
If you want to change the game, you have to change the rules. Near real-time development combined with real-time data encourages lots of short experiments rather than fewer big ones. Managing the downside risk need not be a function of cautiousness. Real-time data and control means a campaign can be terminated at any time. Brands can now do and try things they would never have dreamed off before. The economics also are changing to reward upside performance as well. The combination is going to rock the advertising world from top to bottom and everywhere in-between. But you have to play by the new rules.
The new rules are going to drive new thinking throughout the planning and execution process. This extends beyond the how to the why. With new ways to engage customers with fast-acting, interactive campaigns, everyone from the brand manager, to the creative director, to the media buyer must be re-aligned in how they work together.
Traditional metrics only tell us that we've touched someone. The new standard of engagement calls for new measures as well. New types of engagement measures allow us to differentiate between eyeballs and true engagement.
Better data ultimately drives better decisions. To leverage the new data, however, we need to re-think the overall process of how campaigns are developed and deployed.
There is also a qualitative component to good decisions. Social media expert Tara Hunt likes to point out that social capital is what makes online communities flourish, not money. Those that help you strum the social graph are very conscious that their tweet or stream of your content needs to build their social capital or they won't engage with you. Use data to understand when and how people are engaging with your content in ways that continues the conversation. If you are getting eyeballs, but not this type of engagement, it's time to shut it down and try something else.
Anatomy of a successful social media campaign
Since the goal of social media campaigns is to engage with people in ways that benefit a particular brand, traditional metrics like impressions and conversion rates fall short. If we want to encourage viral conversations, we need to find better metrics. The better you can measure what people actually do after the initial contact, the more you know about what actually works in the social graph. The better you know what actually works, the better direction you can provide to the creative director in terms of target audience, preferred media, and actionable campaigns.
With knowledge of the campaign's objectives, the next stop for the brand owner ought to be the media buyer. The data-driven media buyer is a tremendous resource that should be engaged early in the process and long before the creative is spec'd out. Since what works for a print ad is very different from what works for a social media campaign, engaging the media buyer and/or publisher early in the process lets the creative director work within a tighter focus.
Gartner echoes this but from the perspective of media companies, advising them to build core disciplines around understanding and predicting consumer trends by mining social media.
The media buyer knows what works and how much it costs. If social media is included, the media buyer can select the appropriate platform and set requirements and expectations. Platform capabilities are constantly evolving, so the media buyer is likely to loop the platform into the process. Since the media buyer is going to need metrics around the specific activities the campaign targets, these will get baked into the requirements as well. Requirements and expectations developed this way allow the creative process to serve the practical goals of the campaign.
One of the interesting developments is that a few (soon to be many) media buyers are demanding performance guarantees… and getting agreement.
Here's how it works and why it makes sense:
Big Brand is running a campaign to where users create a customized ensemble using a Flash application. They are willing to pay $250,000, but only if they are assured that they will get 75,000 people to engage with the application, or $3.33 per user. They drive a hard bargain. They want people who take the time to complete an ensemble.
These days, it makes sense to say OK. My company, for example, drives traffic to the application with paid placements, paying distributors per user. This is pretty traditional except for the development savings -- but that savings already puts us ahead. Where we win big is that many of the initial users will recommend the campaign to friends, either by forwarding a personalized widget, or posting it in activity feeds for friends to see. Not only is this a deeper level of engagement -- so Big Brand is happy -- but we don’t pay to recruit these additional users. Our profit increases because Big Brand pays for additional completes that we source for "free." The greater the viral leverage, the bigger the upside is for both Big Brand and us.
Making your own serendipity: increasing the odds that your campaign goes viral
No one can predict the next viral campaign. Historically, viral campaigns generally turn on a fluke of some sort. A campaign planned over six months that serendipitously reflects a breaking news event is great, but can you increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time? Have you ever had a great idea for a campaign, but it would only work if you could do it now?
Real-time advertising capabilities won't necessarily make your ideas successful, but for the first time it makes them actionable -- and at little cost or risk. A hypothetical example will make the point.
In October 2008, a disgruntled Iraqi legislator threw his shoes at President Bush during a visit to Baghdad. The story made news worldwide, largely because the quirkiness of the "attack."
Image yourself as a brand manager for specialty shoe maker Shoe Co. Within hours of waking up to the news, you use the Sprout Platform to deploy an interactive, Flash-based widget, and an engaging social media application that allows users to "throw" shoes at a world leader of their choice. Users get to:
- Choose from a selection of world leaders
- Upload their own face as the thrower
- Choose from a selection of shoes to throw
Users make their selections, throw a few shoes at their preferred target, and then are encouraged to forward it to their friends. The level of interactivity drives viral adoption, and within hours the news coverage shifts from the original incident to how your campaign is sweeping the internet.
For a very small investment, the brand manager succeeded in:
- Getting tons of free publicity for Shoe Co.
- Subtly exposing enormous numbers of people to the Shoe Co. brand for an average of 5-8 minutes. Reports tell how many people engaged, for how long, and how many forwarded it to friends or added it to their Facebook stream. The brand manager can also see demographic data on participants (via Google analytics and from social networks) so they know who the key influencers are on social networks.
- Reinforcing the quirky, non-conformist personality of Shoe Co. in ways millions of dollars in advertising couldn't match.
- Gaining real-time insights into user reactions by monitoring campaign reporting, Twitter, and similar services. The brand manager can even update the campaign in real-time in response to the buzz.
- Managing their risk because if it didn't take off -- or worse yet, created a negative reaction – the brand manager could have pulled the campaign before it got wide awareness.
While this story is hypothetical, the premise is completely plausible and all the required services and tools are commercially available today. Even if Shoe Co. had to buy paid placements to initiate the campaign, the viral leverage makes the overall cost extremely attractive.
How the new thinking trumps the old ways
A leading movie studio came to us to create an engagement campaign to reward the 500,000 fans of the film on Facebook. The community had been building since the release of the first movie of the series in 2001. But there was low activity in the group and little evidence they were doing more than just becoming fans of the movie and then leaving the page. There was no way to harness this group and help them spread their love of the movie online.
The studio didn't have a clear idea of what it wanted. The studio reps knew they wanted to give their fans a fun, branded experience but didn't assign goals for the campaign since they saw it as a loyalty versus awareness campaign. They didn't do a marketing spend against the campaign since it wasn’t meant to drive awareness or do more than give existing fans something fun to do.
At the same time, they were spending 25-50 percent of their marketing dollars on social media sites, but with traditional online ads and takeover ads. They used the static model to reach and engage fans, even though they had the tools to do more.
The campaign we rolled out allowed fans to customize their favorite car, add music, videos and photos from the film, or the fan’s collection, and share the personalized widget with friends to see and share on leading social networks.
The results impressed the studio’s creative team. By the time the movie launched, about 60,000 people visited the campaign. There was a 26 percent conversion rate, meaning that more than a quarter of the people who entered the campaign portal published a personalized widget on either their Facebook or MySpace page for their friends to see. What’s more, the average engagement time for the 38,000 people that entered the campaign was almost two minutes.
The other online media that the studio placed performed at a far more "industry standard" rate. There’s no doubt that more money spent driving traffic to the engagement campaign would have made it even more effective, since each activity spurs more friend activity when the widget is posted. Traditional media can’t come close to a 25 percent response, and it can’t spur viral activity.
Economics are changing for both brands and agencies. Brands need to do more with less because recessions are no time to go dark and let your customers stray. In fact, recessions are a great opportunity to build share and awareness, so smart brands are looking to do more -- even if they don't have a bigger overall budget to work with. In practical terms, more with less means that agencies get squeezed, and media buyers have to show concrete results rather the soft metrics such as CPM or page views. Activities are a flexible and extremely useful metric for measuring social media engagement.
With clear objectives from the brand, savvy media buyers are ascending in dominance because they are best positioned to help agencies design focused and effective social media campaigns that guarantee results.
Guaranteeing results is all about leverage and data. Actually making money with a guarantee is about driving engagement and leveraging the interconnectedness of the social graph -- and then being able to measure the results.
Below are eight best practices that will help ensure you get the most from your social media campaigns. These are above and beyond the basic rules of working with social media, such as don't talk down at people, be honest, tell a story, etc.
- Use the right metrics by measuring the activities that represent the type(s) of engagement you seek. If you want people to spread the word, then good metrics are posts to social networks, forwards, streams and activity feeds, tweets, etc. If the goal is brand affinity, use metrics that measure length of engagement and number of activities.
- Bake data and metrics into the early planning stages. If you can't define the metrics, you shouldn't be talking creative yet.
- Leverage the media buyer to help define the creative.
- Guaranteed engagement pricing models align the interests of brand and agency. Alignment is a prerequisite for doing more with less.
- Plan for quicker and more frequent campaigns. Social media users are fickle, trend-driven, and shift focus faster than static model planning cycles can follow.
- Be prepared to turn on a dime. The technology available today allows you to develop and manage campaigns in real-time. But can you keep up?
- If it's not working, cut your losses rather than waiting for overwhelming or "final" data.
- Be viral-ready. No one can guarantee a viral campaign, but it's your job to be ready when serendipity strikes, or better yet, manufacture your own serendipity.
The effectiveness of social media campaigns are changing dramatically as new technologies and thinking empower brand managers, media buyers, and creative directors to do more with less, compared to traditional campaigns. In addition, they engage in ways that traditional campaigns simply can't. The know-how, tools, and program design is within reach to regularly "strum" the social graph to maintain nearly continuous engagement with the target audience.
Carnet Williams is the founder and CEO of Sprout.
BMW thought it could outsmart search engines by cloaking keyword-heavy content behind user-friendly pages. It recognized the importance of keyword- and content-rich pages, but it did not want to sacrifice functionality and aesthetics. Unfortunately, Google doesn't like being served different content than users. This tactic is looked down upon to protect users from being served pages that are topically irrelevant to a given search term but show up in the results because the search engines have been tricked into thinking a page is much different than what the user sees when he or she arrives.
For this tactic, BMW's German website was de-indexed until it ditched the cloaking and Google approved a request for re-inclusion. This incident illuminates several things that SEOs can take back to their organizations. The most important is that tactics employed solely to manipulate organic rankings, that disregard the core element of providing value to the user, can result in penalties. De-indexation is a severe penalty, and it's one that BMW will never want to navigate through again.
A second lesson here is that there is a balance between site usability and search engine optimization. While SEOs might want to target every keyword under the sun, SEOs are better off defining a niche and excelling in a narrow space. Even if one manipulates better rankings through heavy content and keyword stuffing, these sites quickly become sloppy and difficult for users to navigate. A focused approach on a reasonably sized list of core terms and modifiers promotes a better user experience and more scalable SEO campaigns. At the point when key rankings are achieved, additional terms can be targeted to expand the campaign in a natural way that broadens a site's topical relevance and still provides value to users. While this practice might require a bit more patience, it encourages the development of great content and builds a strong foundation from which social signals and link equity can be brought in and subsequently distributed through the site as it expands.
One of the more recent SEO incidents with J.C. Penney illuminates how some brands are not highly informed about how their rankings are being achieved. J.C. Penney was accumulating low-relevance links at an extremely rapid pace, and the retail giant did not seem to question where the links were coming from because they were working. Its website enjoyed strong rankings, and when the site was exposed for buying thousands of irrelevant links, J.C. Penney claimed it was not aware of the questionable tactics. Whether it was or not, it is important to remember that marketers must keep a vigilant eye on their SEO rankings, links, search engine visibility, and the means by which these are achieved.
This is especially true when evaluating the value of your back-link profile. By most accounts, the quality, relevance, and authority of links pointing to your domain is still a dominant indicator of your site's general authority on topics, which is usually rewarded with high rankings. However, search engine algorithms are not blind to black-hat tactics of farming links from networks or bulk-buying links from irrelevant sites with an overemphasis on commercially viable keywords. J.C. Penney had frivolous links from random pages across the internet, and while it took a while for it to assess a penalty, Google eventually took action. This was a shock to most SEOs, as the ill-advised link buying had been going on for at least two holiday seasons.
Your back-link profile should reflect naturally acquired links that relate to your industry and the content that populates your website. Links should provide value to users on other websites, and if you are working with a provider to build links, it's important that you retain a provider that is as transparent as possible about the links it's facilitating and the criteria by which it qualifies your potential linking partners.
Overstock.com was also recently penalized for questionable link-building tactics. In this case, the retail site was trading discounts for premium link placements on .edu domains. Google viewed this as an infringement of its standards even though Overstock was not technically paying for link placements. It was, however, asking for links and providing recompense for their placement in a very public and overt manner.
Looking at the link placements that Overstock was dinged for, it becomes apparent that the company had another problem beyond its public bartering for links; the sheer number of links it acquired from a limited number of domains -- and a single top-level domain (TLD) -- was unnaturally high. A high volume of links from a handful of domains isn't necessarily a problem; plenty of examples of site-wide links exist. And it's also known that links from .edu domains are considered very authoritative. But it's also understood that domain variance is critical when actively building a back-link profile. If you prefer to avoid sabotage from competitors and manual scrutiny or potential penalties from search engines, it's important to limit high-volume acquisition of links from one particular place (i.e., a specific domain, IP, or -- in this case -- a TLD that doesn't commonly link to retail sites).
The tactics Overstock used to acquire links were construed to be against Google's guidelines, but SEOs can appreciate the importance of domain and anchor text variance for back-link profiles. Overkill of certain keywords or linked pages does not make much SEO sense from the perspective of naturally building relevance and authority. Revenue-driving pages and keywords should still be given priority, but healthy anchor text and URL variance will help ensure your SEO practices mirror natural link acquisition behavior.
Variance can also apply to a balance between long-tail and short-tail keyword targeting. As we saw with the Mayday update last year, Google made it harder for less-relevant websites to employ a strategy geared to rank only for long-tail keywords. This largely affected websites that were targeting obscure, long-tail queries as a primary means of driving traffic. This led to sites with irrelevant content and the creation of pages (or entire sections) that garnered very few links from external sources. However, targeting longer-tail keywords can be successful for marketers who cannot hope to rank for top category phrases. It's important that a strategy incorporates a well-rounded mix of long- and short-tail terms. In this way, marketers can make quicker inroads with longer queries while slowly inching up dominance for shorter-tail keywords.
In general, the recent black-hat SEO mishaps prove that search engine optimization is not a one-time task. It takes constant and strategic implementation that adapts to the hundreds of annual algorithm updates and the competition. SEOs need to keep tabs on the wide spectrum of ranking factors and do their best to keep up. However, this should never be at the sacrifice of the user experience or hinder the ability of searchers to get to desired content. Search engine optimization plans should stem from creating a crawlable structure and quality content.
If you want to see your brand name in SERPs -- but not in unflattering headlines -- make sure your SEO is well thought out and doesn't rely on questionable tactics (or any single tactic, for that matter). The true value of SEO is realized when brands can help users find and interact with quality, relevant content.
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Have a plan, man
I've heard this more than once, and while seemingly obvious, the idea of planning must be more comprehensive than the time before digital marketing. Don't think of planning as your annual plan, or your launch plan, but rather your brand plan that takes into consideration the expected as well as the unexpected. The best example of a brand that seemingly had its act together but was completely blindsided as a result of ill-preparation in the digital (social specifically) marketing arena is Toyota. We all remember the recall fiasco. Toyota is a formidable marketer that is no stranger to digital marketing, but it was not prepared for things that were out of its control. You may say that none of us can control the uncontrollable, and you would be right. But we can PLAN for the unforeseen.
Fail fast forward: Don't be afraid to fail
Ah, the fear (there is that word again!) of failure. It drives us, it haunts us, it stifles us. The fact is that if Apple had quit after the failed launches in the late 80s, we would be sad campers today. Those who fail, more often than not, are those who end up winning through perseverance and adjustment. Counterintuitive to some, but really, it makes perfect sense. You have to know how far and where to push in order to find that differentiation and really make an impact. So my advice? Fail fast forward. And if that is not specific enough, then take the word of the brilliant Seth Godin, who offers some advice. "Here are six random ideas that will help you fail better, more often, and with an inevitably positive upside:
- Whenever possible, take on specific projects.
- Make detailed promises about what success looks like and when it will occur.
- Engage others in your projects. If you fail, they should be involved and know that they will fail with you.
- Be really clear about what the true risks are. Ignore the vivid, unlikely, and ultimately non-fatal risks that take so much of our focus away.
- Concentrate your energy and will on the elements of the project that you have influence on, ignore external events that you can't avoid or change.
- When you fail (and you will) be clear about it, call it by name and outline specifically what you learned so you won't make the same mistake twice. People who blame others for failure will never be good at failing, because they've never done it.
While most things change, not everything does. Businesses are still in the business of making money, and marketing still has to deliver its part in that equation. Digital is supposed to make it easier, but our customers are changing, and the way we measure and correlate the marketing activities of our customers and our media, digital and otherwise, sometimes makes it more complex. To be successful, we must constantly evolve and not be afraid to change our thinking to adapt, but we must never change our adherence to generating results. At the end of the day, if you are not happy with the results you are getting then you should change what you are doing. So while our pathways to the customer, their behavior and interests, and our approaches and thinking should be ever-changing, just remember that the bottom line is not.
No one likes a know-it-all
Being a digital marketer is uber-cool these days. You can't open up a news link without reading about the huge demand for them along with the signing bonuses and other perks they are getting. Just remember that arrogance is the enemy. Digital marketing is enticing with its promise of short-term results and sexy applications. Still, there is much to be learned from the "old guys." I don't write this because I am old (40 is the new 30, right?), but because I remember being considered cool and hip when I was younger and more than once opening my mouth when I would have been better served to shut-up and listen. As I mentioned before, in the midst of this constant change, the song does remain the same. Knowing the latest and perhaps even best way to get things done is most effective when done in concert with the other teams, and when the efforts can be delivered through the connection of other marketing elements and mediums that can best be learned from those who were there before you.
Don't put your eggs in one basket
Digital is cool. Social is hot. Mobile is the future. We get it. Still, this does not mean that "TV is dead," or that print is ineffective. It is human nature to want to do more of the kinds of things that you are naturally good at. People with a good sense of balance tend to like participating in sports. People without a good sense of balance shy away from participating in sports like surfing and snow boarding. Yet, sometimes when all the cool kids are doing it, we decide that we must become good and therefore spend all of our time practicing until we are as good as our friends. The same is true in the work arena. But this can be highly problematic. Take for instance Pepsi's latest Refresh campaign. I recently wrote a blog on this and the overall point was that social media worked really well for their brand. The problem was that the campaign itself was about Pepsi's philanthropic efforts, not the product itself. The medium was great for generating "likes" and attention for their charitable good works, but it didn't get people to drink more Pepsi.
Their quest to show dominance in the social marketplace led them away from their past media formula that has worked so well. Pepsi seemingly (though it suggests otherwise) put all, or at least too many, eggs in that one, philanthropic, socially delivered message. Now, the brand is going back to the formula that helped make it the powerful "challenger" brand we know it to be...one that includes digital media, social media, and traditional media, with a message that includes the actual product. Digital marketers, while obviously biased to their discipline, need to be good overall strategists as well. They are as responsible, if not more responsible, for ensuring that the overall plan will work. Winning the budget allocation, or the attention, or the bragging rights for delivering the whole plan is not worth it when that plan fails simply because one group was greedy.
Overall, I would venture to say that there are few career paths as exciting or burgeoning than those in the digital marketing arena. In fact, when I asked colleagues for their ideas on the best survival tips, most said, "Survival? These guys are hot right now." But it is one thing to be hot and another to stay hot. And because there are so many people entering this space, they need to not only be digitally savvy but also business-minded to truly succeed. A hot market breeds competition, so resting on your digital laurels will not be enough in the long term.
At the end of the day, while we are all living a digital life, it is not the only life we live. To be a good marketer you have to know that. To be a great marketer, you have to act that way.
Julie Roehm is a CMO for Hire Marketing Strategy Consultant serving companies in all industries, of all sizes.
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