Is advertising an option?

There is a tremendous amount of focus on social and digital media – relative to pushing a brand forward in these turbulent times. Many books have been, and will be, written about this topic – from Seth Godin to Mitch Joel. Including relative newcomers with such lofty titles for their books like Social Media is Bullshit.

It would be great if all the hurdles of marketing could be solved by applying just digital and social media (d&sm). It would be. But ultimately impossible.

There are a lot of positive stories associated with d&sm – kickstarter, warby parker and many more. But the biggest companies are still the biggest companies – Starbucks, McDonalds, Nike – you know the rest of the list. You know the list because they never stop advertising. I’m sure there are people in this world that do not know the companies I’ve listed. There has to be. Surely, somewhere – people don’t know what Nike is, or what they make.

But for the other 98.4%* of this water-based sphere – those companies are ubiquitous. And one of the main reasons – advertising. Sure they are getting busy in the d&sm space – but their world-wide presence is cemented by hard-core advertising.

It’s not just that they advertise – they Advertise. All the time.

And I think the take away on this for all is – whatever your channel of promotion – fill it all the time. The areas of d&sm are like children – and what I clearly remember the judge saying is that children need (read are legally required) to be feed.

*this stat may, or more likely may not be accurate.

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Fresh brewed social

A curious thing has happened to the coffee shop – whether it be Starbucks, Tim Hortons (if american insert Dunkin Donuts) or a local place like Planet Coffee in Ottawa.

The shift in social has been amazing, on a couple of levels. The fact that some of these places (like Starbucks) that have their own apps and/or are piggybacking on outside technology (like passbook from Apple) is astounding. On top of the fact that they offer free wi-fi. Free, of course, being relative to the fact that you tend to be making a purchase. But those are the shifts in offerings that coffee shops have to present to play level with others’ offering the same product (whom are offering free wi-fi as well).

This presents coffee shops with the other social change – the systematic overall haul of what it means to be social in a coffee shop.

At one point in time they were the location people gravitated to be social – as in having a face-to-face conversation. More and more people are forgoing the arduous task of verbally communicating and letting their fingers converse with the fingers of others. Soon maybe the apps will even allow us to order our drinks before we arrive – again saving us from certain eye contact.

Social media, as I and myriad others have spouted about, is a lot of good, interesting things. But it can’t replace real conversation. Because real conversations are where we see and feel the words – which give the message it’s context. Because without context, is communicating social at all?

The artifact battle

Right now the world is being filled with gadgets that are in two camps – Design and Engineering. All of these devices are affected by both – it’s just which one was first. Was it designed, then engineered – or was it engineered then designed. Subtle, but important.

Design-first

Companies following this syntax are setting the standard in terms of the experience. Their goals are experiential in nature. There may be an objective like getting from A to B – but the experience of getting there is as important. There are many companies that abide by this approach – Apple, Starbucks, BMW – to name just a few. To understand the depth of this commitment try to catch a business documentary on BMW – I’ve seen it on CNBC (couldn’t tell you the name of the thing – sorry). BMW’s attention to detail – in something as fleeting as the sound when you leave the lights on is nothing short of amazing. Not only do they have a team of sound designers (yes, Team). They work tirelessly to create an experience that matches up with the car’s persona. Therefore the sound to indicate the same function is distinctive for each of the brands – Mini, BMW and Rolls Royce. That is designing a product.

Engineer-first

We have all used products that fall into this category. Products can range from non-functional to very functional. But even the very functional devices can feel, well, detached. There’s something about them that just dosen’t seem finished. I find that engineered-first products are mostly concerned with a functional result. No connection has been made above and beyond. Again – it’s not that the engineer-first cars, for example, are not getting you to your destination – they are. They’re just not making that connection. Think about how many automobile enthusiasts have a K-Car in their collection. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say – none – unless someone has a K-Car, Pinto, Pacer, Aztec, Element, Cube (you heard me!) kind of collection.

A good way to know if a product has been designed or engineered – how do you feel using it – how do you feel unpacking it – how do you feel when someone else is using it. More importantly, is the new version of a product you already have even more desirable? If it is – chances are, it was designed.

What’s your example of a design- or engineer-first product?

Playing hard to get

Coffee.

Is something I don’t drink. I can’t even stand the smell. But I do find myself going into coffee shops – because hot chocolate dosen’t drink itself!

That said I’m turing into quite the Starbucks fan – for a number of reasons – but today I’m going to expand on just one. Their hours of operation.

In this day and age of fully-connected, completely converged, always-on, text-me-whenever – it’s nice to know that there is a time-frame to their offering. A specific window of opportunity. Contrasted by our (Canada) beloved Tim Hortons – with most stores open 24 hours. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes at four in the morning – you want something (whether you work shift, heading home from a night of studying – read drinking – or are starting a walk of shame!).

Having a time-frame puts your product in the mind of your audience as I have to get this thing before it closes, just after they opens. This makes your product a sought-after entity – which in the world of marketing – is where you want to be – isn’t it?

Wow – be the turtle!

The Science and Art of Social Business — this is part two of five related to my post on the 1-day conference on Thursday June 23, 2011.

Time – intangible, moving, fleeting.

When it comes to the current offerings for digital marketing and strategies – time is only considered in delivery. An e-mail blast, tweet, facebook ad have the potential to get to people almost instantly. Web site changes or updates can happen relatively quickly when compared to print, getting a commercial broadcast on YouTube takes the media buying prowess of uploading.

Unfortunately people and corporations are looking for results just as quickly. And in every step along the way – I used to deal with a client that would, on average, call 21 minutes after sending an e-mail if no response was forthcoming (we seriously timed it after a while – comparing e-mail time versus the time displayed on the phones). If that client is looking for prompt feedback on an e-mail, can you imagine what that client is looking for once the banner ad his the internet!

Speed and results makes its way even to client/agency relationships. How many clients are sticking with and agency for the long haul any more? So often campaigns are looked as the war and not just a battle along the way. There was a time when that relationship was allowed to foster and grow over time. It still happens, just not as much as it should.

How does this relate to digital and social marketing – directly. But, of course, with the added twist of instant analytics.

Turtle power (not the ninjas, or the teenagers)

What I got out of the conference in relationship to time is dual-layered – have the ability to act quickly, have the patience to wait for the results. Vida Killian, head of the digital marketing efforts at Starbucks (a tony coffee shop that is starting to open up some franchises) talked about the time and the support staff it takes to be in the digital marketing area. She was great in discussing the results, even some that were not great, showing that Starbucks was willing to get past the humps of minor failures to get to the bigger successes summit.

Too often clients are looking for the golden bullet. They see the success of Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) in getting over 7 million twitter followers – but not understanding the years of creating a persona, being in the limelight. Corporations are not people, as much as people might want to follow companies on twitter, they’re more likely to follow people. Mainly because they’re are no shows like TMZ and Entertainment Tonight about Businesses!

And by the way – Ashton is 7th on the top followers list – in the top 25 are only 3 companies (two are twitter itself) including CNN, but it’s only the breaking news, it’s not CNN per se.

In the end companies have to temper their desires to be the next big thing digitally. And as marketers we have to be more up-front and honest about where each digital delivery channel will take them – both in terms of time and audience expectations.