Let's just admit it. In the world of broadband, we've become spoiled by how easy it has become to navigate online from one search item to the next in a matter of mere seconds. We've even gotten to simultaneously "Googleing" people we're speaking to on the phone for the first time while they introduce themselves and give us their pitch.
Has broadband-enabled search merely spoiled us, or has it actually created a new pre-requisite for functionality that we've simply come to expect from everything we power up? What we do know is this: when the coveted 18 to 34 year old consumer has to settle for less in one medium than they've become accustomed to elsewhere, they become easily frustrated and are inclined to simply leave the lesser medium behind.
Television has a long way to go. After it took roughly 30 years to go from tubes to solid state so we no longer had to wait for the TV to "warm up" to give us a picture, it seemed cable would change the world forever with infinite channel choice. By the late 1990s, when terrestrial cable begot digital cable, we suddenly had hundreds of channels to choose from. But today, we find ourselves dazed in a world of way too many remotes on the coffee table and arduous, scrolling electronic program guides that are more discouraging than encouraging.
Shouldn't searching and finding your favorite show, your channel, your game, your favorite actor, short film or even -- gasp -- your favorite commercial be as easy on TV as it is online?
The "Googleization" of TV should be here already!
In his insightful book, "The Paradox of Choice," author Barry Schwartz points out that for many consumers "more is less" because there's just too much to choose from and no simple means to navigate all the choices-- hence the brilliance of online recommendation engines like those pioneered by Amazon.com.
What we need from our cable, satellite and IPTV brethren are similar, smarter, video-based navigation guides that use our TV viewing data in much the same manner as we use IP click stream data. These guides should push us content choices that are more relevant and more personalized to our TV viewing habits, rather than making us continuously sit and click through yet another text-based program guide.
If searching and recommending choices becomes as easy to do from the couch as it is online, then, enter the re-invigorated television advertiser. Rather than obsess about ad skipping, I bet advertisers would actually line up to participate in serving contextual ads based not on traditional television demographics and ratings but on real viewing affinities (yes, engaged viewers!).
To date, the obstacles to achieving this that I have heard about include everything from Privacy regulations within the Cable Act of 1996, to limitations of legacy cable boxes, to regulatory issues preventing IPTV from scaling fast enough-- all of which amount to more reasons why figuring out what to watch when you're "just browsing" has become, well, just too painful.
The truth is that we already know what good looks like. The creativity and elegant simplicity built into user interfaces like Google, Apple's iPOD® and OSX, Motorola's RAZR, Visible World's MiTV, and TiVo's Favorites all demonstrate best practices in making it easy for the consumer to navigate choice. So much so that we've come to expect that same simplicity and elegance in everything we power up. And this is why we become so easily frustrated by everything from cable and satellite remotes, to digital cameras to printers whose manufacturers just don't get it.
All is not lost. HDTV looks great. Broadband video is generating new revenue. Reality TV is withering and scripted drama is back in a big way.
But what excites me as a creator of advertising messages is the opportunity to re-invigorate television advertising with new creative units and contextual placements-- if we can just re-invent TV's navigation.
Imagine an iTunes-like home page coming up on your television complete with everything from "most watched" to "recommendations for you" to "From the NBC archives." Then, imagine all the opportunities for advertisers to contextually match their brand attributes to your content attributes and serve appropriately.
Will we get there?
Just ask Google.
Alan Schulman is chief creative officer for Brand New World. Read full bio.
AccuQuote is a term-life insurance provider.
Site recommendations for the company to improve SEO, general optimization, layout, call to action and site stickiness include:
- Creating a unique selling proposition that sets it apart from the competition
- Posting helpful informational documents on the home page such as:
- Five things you MUST know before purchasing term life insurance
- Top 10 tips for first-time purchasers of life insurance
- Top five tips for purchasing life insurance online
- Implementing an internal search bar to enhance the visitors' overall experience with the website. It would enable them to quickly locate sought-after information and provide the company with website analytics by tracking visitors' keywords when they utilize this function. The information could tell AccuQuote if these terms have enough daily and monthly search volume to warrant building out additional pages optimized for these keyword phrases. Taking this course of action would enhance the overall SEO value of the website (enabling it to rank better naturally for industry-related terms) and help drive more qualified traffic to it, thereby resulting in more monthly conversions.
- Adding a link from the FAQ section of the site to the home page. Answering your most frequently asked questions would educate visitors and improves their chances of doing business with the company. Moreover, it would lessen the risk of them leaving the site.
- Optimizing unique individualized page titles with targeted keyword phrases that generate more monthly searches.
- Having new and updated meta-keywords and descriptions mirror one another.
- Enhancing meta-tags to target only one-two keyword phrases.
- Naming URLs so that they all contain primary keyword phrases for improved search engine visibility and user readability.
- Creating ALT tags that are SEO-friendly with searchable terms.
- Including primary keyword phrases in unlikely locations, such as image file names.
- e.g., the logo is named as "http://www.accuquote.com/images/b/logo-white.gif"
- To make this filename SEO-friendly, I'd suggest changing the name to "http://www.accuquote.com/images/term-life-insurance.gif"
- Implementing a canonical 301 redirect so that all traffic points to http://www.accuquote.com/ to avoid penalties from search engines for duplicate content.
The Execu-Search Group is a professional recruitment and temporary staffing company. Tracking visitors' entries, via web analytical software/tool Omniture, to and exits from the site reveals some interesting data. First, visitors are exiting the site extremely quickly, leading to the conclusion that it lacks enough viable content to maintain their interest. Also, nearly half of the visitors (47 percent) enter through the Job Detail page rather than the home page, and then exit at a rate that greatly exceeds the standard. Therefore, the following tactics are recommended to increase website stickiness, improve page views, navigation and overall website visibility:
- Add drop-down navigation to the home page to greatly increase ease of navigation to the popular Job Detail page.
- Enhance the home page by increasing relevant copy and internal linking.
- Optimize existing pages with under-utilized, highly searched relevant keywords to generate more traffic and leads.
- Launch a PR campaign based on Execu-Search poll results to drive more traffic and get industry-related websites with a high Google Page Rank to link back to the site, since it has been indexed by Google but lacks external links.
- Move the "Contact Us" link, which performs well, to the header on every page to increase accessibility, creating a better experience for customers to prompt their return.
- Implement a canonical 301 re-direct so that all traffic points to http://www.execu-search.com/ to avoid penalties for duplicate content.
- Repair broken links
- Update the dated flash animation on the home page on a regular basis to improve website credibility.
iMedia Connection is a trade publisher and event producer serving the interactive media and the marketing industries.
Site recommendations to address areas of concern to improve SEO, general optimization and overall website experience include:
- Determining top relevant keywords to be targeted in the optimization process through keyword research.*
- Creating and implementing new unique page titles selected through extensive keyword research and targeting one-two relating terms per page.*
- Implementing new and updated Meta keywords/descriptions that mirror one another, so that every page containing unique Meta tags specifically targets the chosen keyword phrases there.*
- Ensuring that all article pages have URLs with keyword phrases.
- Revising H1 current tags to target the primary chosen keywords, using them only once on each page rather than multiple times.
- Updating pages to include H2 tags for each article represented.
- Having SEO copywriters create additional keyword-rich optimized content to further improve the consistency among the page title, meta-description, meta-keywords and Header tags (H1, H2).
- Configuring redirect from the following: http://imediaconnection.com/ to http://www.imediaconnection.com/ using a 301 permanent redirect. The value from both internal and inbound links would thus be credited to a single URL: http://www.imediaconnection.com/
- Generating an XML sitemap, since sitemaps provide a way for websites to specify what pages within the site should be indexed and what new content has been added. Once created, the site would be submitted to Google and Yahoo. The XML sitemap allows webmasters to include additional information about each URL: when it was last updated, how often it changes and how important it is in relation to other URLs on the site. This allows search engines to crawl the site more intelligently.*
*Editor's note: These recommended enhancements to iMedia have recently been made or were already in progress as of the publication date.
All of these techniques make websites user-friendly with effective navigation, clear visual design, proper search functionality, hyperlinks, page titles and headings. And that spells increased, qualified traffic.
It's growing like a weed -- a new type of weed
OK -- we'll start with an easy one. Marketing as a practice is one of the few job sectors that is continuing to grow at the moment. And, the fundamental changes in the practice of marketing are changing the job description -- and creating expansive opportunities for career skills we didn't even know we'd need.
The top-growing job categories for 2011 didn't even exist in 2004 when our newest employees were thinking about going to college. The number of social media jobs has gone up by 600 percent over the past five years. The astronomical growth of social marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, and other practices has created all new positions on our team.
Additionally, with all the talk about jobs and the economy, it should be noted that the entire marketing category is growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry is expected to increase by 13 percent per year through 2018.
We're becoming the storytellers we always wanted to be
OK, let's be honest -- today's marketer probably doesn't have a marketing degree. If you do, then you're the exception, not the rule. In fact, according to some studies, 10 percent of us are English majors that -- well -- didn't make it with that novel or screenplay in our desk.
The shift of marketing into developing "stories" is a big one -- and it's one many of us wanted to explore in our careers. For many of us, we're now the writers that we wanted to be. Seth Godin even changed the name of his book from "All Marketers Are Liars" to "All Marketers Tell Stories." He summed it up well when he said in a blog post:
"Go tell a story. If it doesn't resonate, tell a different one. When you find a story that works, live that story, make it true, authentic and subject to scrutiny. All marketers are storytellers, only the losers are liars."
We're making it up as we go
The bad news for marketers is there's no map, template, or formula for success. The good news? There's no map, template, or formula for success. As marketers today, we get to MacGyver stuff together in all new, innovative ways to achieve marketing success.
There was no template for the Wieden + Kennedy folks who put together the Old Spice "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign. No one knew that taking a traditional print and television campaign and integrating a social video and social media "conversation" angle focused on internet influencers would result in the success it did. That was pure creativity and innovation.
Now, I don't want to go all "years-ago-I-used-to-walk-to-my-cube" on you -- but I can't help but point out how hard it was to get video produced only 10 years ago. Today we can take HD quality video with our phones! Remember how hard it was to create and manage websites? Now we can have a blog up and running in less than half a dozen clicks -- and for $0. Thanks to new, free digital tools that help us manage campaigns, monitor social conversations, create video, and measure success, we have the ability, as very few before us, to wire things together in innovative ways.
Now is the time when we will be as successful as we can be innovative -- and where we will define the future of marketing. You can't ask for more excitement than that.
It's not about advertising any more
Marketing has changed. Past tense. In the days of "Mad Men," marketing was about advertising. Whether or not there was an emotional connection, it's hard to imagine Don Draper trying to figure out how he'd develop an ongoing relationship with customers -- and turn them into "brand evangelists."
Now, the separation between "advertising" and "marketing" has never been more distinct. In fact, just last week David Meerman Scott wrote on his blog about how "marketing is not advertising http://www.webinknow.com/2011/08/marketing-is-not-advertising.html." In it, he appropriately points out:
"Prior to the web, organizations had only two significant choices to attract attention: Buy expensive advertising or get third-party ink from the media. But the web has changed the rules. The web is not TV. Organizations that understand the New Rules of Marketing & PR develop relationships directly with consumers like you and me. That costs zero (unless you count the human resources cost)."
Certainly we can debate the "zero cost" -- but the change couldn't be clearer, and it represents the most exciting and important shift to our jobs since they started. As marketers, we are now so much more than just the people who come up with something "clever," buy some space to display it, and then hope that it resonates with people.
We're now "builders of relationships." We are "storytellers" (see page 2), and our entire function within the business has changed from advertiser to marketer -- or even communicator.
Everybody has two jobs -- and yours is one of them
The old cliché is true. Everybody has two jobs, and marketing is one of them. But guess what -- the reverse is now also true. Marketers now have every job, and one of them is marketing.
Today, our role within the organization has expanded. In many cases, we're working on customer relationships, we're responsible for building evangelists, for building corporate communications, for feeding back information into product development, and for making sure that our CEO doesn't stick his foot in his mouth. In many ways, content (and ultimately communication) today is one of the single most important determinants of our company's success. We can have a great product or a crappy product, but if we don't have a good story to tell, tell it well, and build relationships with our consumers, we will fail.
Zappos is a great example of this. CEO Tony Hsieh has focused his entire company on building relationships with customers -- and thus transformed customer service into the marketing organization. As he said on his blog in 2009:
"With the Internet connecting everyone together, companies are becoming more and more transparent whether they like it or not. An unhappy customer or a disgruntled employee can blog about bad experience with a company, and the story can spread like wildfire."
As such, the skill of marketing is one that is pervasive through the entire organization. As Peter Drucker said, "Leadership is a marketing job." He believed that an organization's leader is ultimately responsible for its success or failure. And, to that end, the leader has to be able to communicate a believable and desired story to those who he's leading. An effective leader must never stop developing and working on promoting a compelling and effective story that creates the demand within the organization.
So, in short, as marketing changes (and we change), so does effective leadership.
The best job we can create
Of course, our ability to create and maintain the best jobs in the world assumes we take our opportunity and run with it. As much as marketing is changing everything we know, it's changing little that we do. It's still about the fundamentals -- content, conversation, differentiation, persuasion, and ultimately relationships.
This is what really makes marketing in this time the best job in the world. Your ultimate value as a marketer in whatever organization you work for isn't producing 10 more leads per month, 35 percent more traffic, or a 25 percent reduction in cost-per-acquisition.
No, your ultimate value is in the unique you that you bring to the marketing organization. Today, as marketers, you create value through the human connections you forge through personal relationships. Your value is the compelling content you create while telling the story of the organization. Your value is the "big idea" that makes the brand immersive and experiential -- in short, a belief.
And that value isn't measured in a dashboard or by bullet points on a resume. It's measured in your experience. Your story. Your beliefs.
It's our time to make them remarkable.
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Homepage image sourced from: Search Engine People Blog
Our visitors can't stop watching videos
Can't stop? Won't stop? Or never started watching the videos in the first place?
OK, everyone knows that video is a big deal. People love video -- because why read when you can watch? So advertisers are following consumers and dedicating more ad dollars to video, especially mobile video. That's great!
But let's hit the pause button for a second. Tucked inside the larger truth that says video is the future is a smaller lie called autoplay. You know those videos that just play when you load a page, accidently mouse over content, or just scroll down? They aren't videos you intended to play, they just played automatically because the publisher and the advertiser know that they only thing consumers love more than video are videos that are force fed to them. And no, it's not just content farms that use autoplay -- it's publishers like CNN.
That's a problem because autoplay pads the stats. (It's also annoying, but that's a separate issue.) Remember, we're in the middle of a video revolution, where content is shifting from linear distribution to on-demand. Autoplay represents a step backward because a video set to autoplay isn't on-demand. Nobody expressed an interest in that content; it just played, like an old-fashioned linear television show!
Video is a big deal. But let's not spoil it with dishonest tactics like autoplay. Consumers didn't ask for it, advertisers don't want to be associated with linear noise, and publishers should know better.
Great content will rise to the top
No, it won't. Not without help, anyway. That's not to say that you necessarily need paid media all the time, but you do need to promote your content. And by promote, I don't just mean tweeting out a link and waiting for the traffic gods to shower you with viral internet glory.
Consider the entertainment business, where content is king. Hollywood marketing budgets are soaring, especially when compared to production budgets. Yes, a lot of that cost is associated with media buying in an ever-fragmenting world. But put the cost aside for a second, and ask yourself this: would Hollywood ever release a film without any marketing at all? A studio might do that, but they certainly wouldn't expect audiences to go see it; they'd just be dumping the product and cutting their losses on the marketing. The point is, even if you're making great content that people want to see, you need to tell them about it, and given the challenge of grabbing someone's attention for more than a second, you need to put as much effort into telling them about your content as you do making it.
We make viral videos
No, you don't. You have a track record of making videos that (sometimes) go viral. In other words, you are a good bet. But you are not a sure thing to go viral. Nothing is. Even BuzzFeed, a publisher built entirely on the idea of viral content, misses more than it hits. That's why they publish so many damn listicles -- because they don't know what will go viral, because they can't predict the future, because nobody can.
People love our brand
Supposedly, people love Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube. But love is a strong word. Don't we really mean like? Or maybe we really mean affinity. Perhaps we just mean preference, or if you're really good, strong preference. Honestly, sometimes we probably say consumers love [insert your brand here] when what we're really trying to say it that consumers choose our brand.
The problem with perpetuating the idea of loving a brand is that it's just not true; but more than that, believing this lie causes us to buy into a false narrative about our brand. We overlook our flaws and areas where we can improve because we think love conquers all. And if our brand isn't loved, we misplace our energy and effort into achieving a goal that probably doesn't exists and may not do you much good anyway.
Consider the following things that I've probably said, but certainly didn't mean:
I love Thrifty's ice cream.
I love my Toyota Corolla.
I love Target.
I've said I love all of those brands, but I wouldn't shed a single tear if any of those brand vanished. That's brand love for you, I guess.
But what about brands that are impossible to love? Does anyone really love a bank? What about your car insurance company? How about your laundry detergent? Consumers don't really love these things, and marketers really don't need them to.
Love is an overrated concept in marketing, and marketers who spend seriously time worrying if their brand is getting that consumer love are lying to themselves about their job. Ultimately, you don't need people to love your brand, you need people to buy it; that's the only key performance indicator that matters.
It was bad marketing
It's easy to blame the marketing. If only our campaign creative had been better. If only our media buy had been smarter. If only we had done something on Snapchat. There are dozens of ways for the marketing to fail, but even when marketing knocks it out of the park, it can't save a bad product.
Not that marketers should look upon that fact with glee and say, see it wasn't our fault! The fact is, that in a time of Big Data, when marketers have dozens of listening tools at their disposal, and unprecedented insights into the consumer, marketers have a duty to sound the alarm about a bad product. More importantly, they have a duty to roll up their sleeves and offer some ideas about how to make it better.
That's not to say that every company will listen to its marketing department on this point -- the smart ones will, and the rest will suffer the consequences. But the larger point, the lie that needs to die, is that one department in a company can make progress at the expense of another. Today, the competition is just too fierce. It's all hands on deck, and if the ship sinks because the product was bad, or the marketing sucked, it really doesn't matter. In the long-run, a crew that can't, or won't, work together without playing the blame game, will end up at the bottom of the ocean, where business school students will pick over the wreck in a post-mortem.
Michael Estrin is a freelance writer.
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"Business decisions" image via iStock.