Monday, February 26, 2007

Search Marketing - The Emperor's New Clothes Revisited

Recognizing The Reality (And Risks) Behind The Marketing Hype

By David Miranda

There is considerable hype regarding paid search. The hype is reinforced by the considerable amount of marketing dollars being committed to the channel. Google, the market leader, alone accounts for a reported $7.5 billion per year, but buyer beware.

The hype and the money demands, at least, a closer look at this robust phenomenon, particularly for major brands who have invested, collectively, billions of dollars in building brand awareness. For major brands, the question which should be posed is "is paid search a good offensive channel or defensive channel? In either case, are major brands contributing to driving up their costs of doing business in paid search? Are brands getting what they pay for? What risks are there to a brand in funding an environment where search results could give exposure to adjacent brand critics and negative information? Would a brand buy ad space in a medium adjacent to negative editorial? Highly doubtful.

The following screen shot, for example, illustrates the point. It shows the results page when the keyword, "Coke", was entered. Note that the results page generated over 31,000,000 results. The first selection on this first page of free results shows the first result, "Coke", with links to various web pages on The Coca-Cola Company web site. The second entry, however, shows a link to "Killer Coke" which alleges Coke bottling plant managers in Colombia "allowed and encouraged paramilitary death squads to murder...." Is it probable or possible that the second most relevant search result after "Coke" is "Killer Coke"? The sponsored link, My Coke Rewards, is, of course, paid for by Coke, but also look at the other sponsored links to the left which includes "Marijuana Defense Lawyer", the relevance of the latter is unexplainable.

This page illustrates the good and the bad of the search channel that brand managers must recognize. The good is that the site for The Coca-Cola Company ranked first in a free search. The bad is having a highly negative free search result, Killer Coke, appearing second out of 31 million - a result that puts the brand (and company) in an unfavorable light with consumers. This is not unique, the following screen shot shows a search result for Starbucks which includes a "I Hate Starbucks" site.

Regarding the issues of brands being a victim of their own success in paid search, consider this. The search engines charge only for consumers sent to the advertiser's site. Keywords are ranked by their popularity - the greater the popularity, the greater the potential demand from advertisers, and the higher the cost to the eventual "highest bidder". The question is "are brands paying premiums for their success?" Would major brands be highly ranked in the free results anyway? Wouldn't it be wiser to enjoy the brand benefits of free listings and let competitors pay for the privilege? Isn't that what a brand is supposed to do anyway, i.e. put your competitors at an economic disadvantage? In other words, brands should not being paying premium prices for business they would get anyway.

Are marketers getting what they paid for? There is the issue of click fraud which is defined as a person, automated script or computer program clicking on a paid search ad, adversely affecting the advertiser who received the click, often to the benefit of the publisher who receives a cut of the revenue from the search engine. The American Association Of Advertising Agencies (4As) has offered general recommendations for detecting click fraud. They have advised marketers to compare the data from their own analytics tools with their search engine bills. If there is a discrepancy greater than 10-15%, agencies should work with both the search engine and analytics provider to determine the cause. How serious is the problem? Yahoo and Google have both recently agreed to settle click-fraud lawsuits. In July, an Arkansas court approved Google's offer to settle a class-action suit for $90 million--$30 million in attorney's fees and up to $60 million in ad credits. Yahoo in June agreed to pay refunds to search marketers in a separate click-fraud lawsuit.

In summary, it would be wise for brands to take a pragmatic view of search. First, if you are a major brand, exploit the power and ubiquity of your brand before you decide to pay-to-play. Second, scrutinize the editorial environment. A brand can do little to affect the results of a free search, but a brand does not have to pay to place itself in a vulnerable position. Third, insure you have the controls in place to audit the placement and buy to avoid click fraud.

Most importantly, see through the hype.

Marketing Management - 5 Things To Get Right - From The Start

Minimizing Confusion, Frustration, And Second-Guessing

During a Q&A session after speaking to an Executive MBA class, I was asked a familiar question from one of the candidates. Of course, all of these bright men and women had day jobs, some in the marketing discipline. The question was asked with some obvious frustration stemming from his current work environment. He asked, "I find myself continually frustrated in working on various marketing initiatives. We can't seem to consistently get our act together. If it's not one thing, it's another. Sometimes we don't have enough funding. Sometimes we aren't provided the necessary support or access to company resources. Sometimes we don't have the right people on the project. Sometime we don't even know where we're going. Is there a better way or should I change careers?"

No, don't change careers.

It's a familiar question that I hear frequently. The problem is primarily due to management not appreciating the dynamic process that is involved and what must be done to enable people to be successful. It is not enough to say "Here is what we need to do. You people are smart. Let's get it done." Of course, I am simplying, but typically people are sent off on marketing quests assuming they will figure it out. That's what they get paid for. This is usually not the case. In the majority of cases when post mortems are conducted on unsuccessful marketing initiatives, the problem is identified with a bad beginning. The adage, "things that start badly, end badly" fits well here.

In order for a marketing initiative to be successfully executed for optimum results, five key elements need to be aligned and working in concert. These include a strong and clear vision, a team with strong and appropriate skill sets, performance incentives, the resources or funding necessary to implement the initiative, and a concise action plan specifying the who, how, when, and what to do including performance benchmarks and expected results.

The attached chart illustrates what can happen when one or more of these key elements is missing or lacking.

  • Without a clear vision, confusion is more than likely to percolate.
  • Without the proper skills, team anxiety can occur, i.e. "do we have the right talent?"
  • Without performance incentives, things progress with less gusto and more gradually
  • Without the necessary resources and funding, frustration will set in.
  • Without a clear action plan, there is likely to be many false starts.
In summary, it is critical for marketing initiatives to get off on the right foot. Understand the importance of the five elements working in concert or be prepared to deal with consequences.

And as for the Executive MBA candidate, I told him that marketing needs people like him who ask questions. Keep asking and don't let school interfere with your education.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Hello, Dave. Will You Be Searching For Anything Today?"

Binary Marketing - How Computers Are Influencing The Marketplace

By David Miranda

We all remember the most compelling character from Stanley Kubrick's film classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey - the HAL 9000 ( which stands for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer), the artificial intelligence on-board computer that runs the entire spacecraft, Discovery. Today, we have new HALs. They go by different names - names like Google, Yahoo, Lycos, and, for example. They are search engines - heuristically programmed algorithmic entities that determine what results we are given when we search the Internet. Like HAL, without the voice recognition enhancment, these search engines are a powerful force in the marketplace - a binary dynamo influencing choice.

Historically, the mission of marketers was to influence the potential buyer to prefer their brand over competitors using a myriad of marketing and sales tools and techniques. The landscape now has dramatically changed. Search engines have the power to put your brand in the top tier of a results screen. How? Heuristically programmed algorithms. Getting to the top of the list requires more than marketing. It requires sophisticated mathematics - trying to understand how the system works and how to beat the system. The formal term for it is "search engine optimization." Companies and agencies are adding computer scientists and mathematicians to their ranks in growing numbers - individuals who attempt to influence the artifical intelligence, not the consumer.

It is a binary marketing age where the language of success is ones and zeros.

The traditional marketing mission of influencing potential customers will still be the prime objective of any company, but smart firms must realize that this will not be enough anymore. As the Googles of the world gain even more market influencing power, companies will have to understand this cannot be ignored or do so at your own peril. Computers will have more and more influence on the information a person receives including what, when, where, and how.

As we move into a voice recognition marketplace, HAL becomes less fiction and more reality.

For example,

"Good morning, Google. I would like to search for a real estate attorney in the 31002 zip code"

"Good morning, Dave. I have found seven real estate attorneys for you in the 31002 zip code. May I recommend the firm of Jones, Powell, and Crawford? I'm showing they are the most popular choice of recent searches."

Far fetched? Think again.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Great Brands Are Like Great Friends (Or Friends You'd Like To Have)

Or As Dale Carnegie Put It - How To Win Friends And Influence People

By David Miranda

The photo on the upper left is sign language for the word "friend". As a consumer (or a client), there are many brands who want to be your best friend - and they try very, very hard. Today alone, hundreds of millions of dollars have been earmarked to befriend you and your wallet. The solicitations are everywhere - on TV, the radio, newspapers, outdoor signs, the internet, your mailbox, in elevators, washrooms, on buses, flyers, by paid spokespersons, grocery carts, salespeople, brochures, airports, your mobile device, movie theaters, infomercials, powerpoints, etc. etc. Think for a moment. How many of these solicitations worked? How many of these brand "friends" did you open your wallet to? Chances are none, zip, nada. But no need to worry. They'll be at it again tomorrow. There are ways, however, to make all this effort a bit more productive. It's winning friends and influencing people along the way.

How should brands win friends and influence people? Let's start with some simple basics.

1. Friends are good listeners.
Do you listen to your audience? What are the problems that you can solve? What are the things important to them? What is it that you can deliver that can make their lives easier, better, more satisfying, more rewarding?
2. Friends are there when you need them.
How is good is your customer relationship management? Do you respond quickly enough? Are you empathetic to their situation?
3. Friends appreciate friends.
Do you recognize loyal patronage? Do you know when they stopped coming and why? Do you make an effort to win them back?"
4. Friends look out for each other.
Are you proactive with your customers or clients? Do you alert them of upcoming events or trends that could affect them positively or negatively? Do you put their friendship over your economic gain to insure their long term business?
5. Friends communicate regularly.
Do you have a formal process of communicating with your customers and clients - soliciting feedback on their continued satisfaction or suggestions; providing updates on new products and services; or welcoming testimonials and recommendations to others?

Winning friends and influencing people is not a daunting task, but it is one that requires commitment and perseverance - and it must start from the top. It's time to take a good, hard look in the mirror and see the reflection of your company to others.

I'm only telling you this as a friend.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Marketers: Say Goodbye To "Think" And "Try" And Say Hello To "Know" And "Can"

Changing Verbs Can Influence Marketing Success

By David Miranda

There are two types of marketers-those that think and try and those that know and can.

Let's examine the former - the marketing majority.

When faced with a challenging task, they respond with "I think we can do a good job and we will try our very best. Sounds reasonable, but what if the person who made this comment was an airline pilot, brain surgeon, criminal defense lawyer, pharmacist, dentist, lifeguard, babysitter, or accountant, this statement surely might give you reason to find someone a little more sure of themselves.

We all remember the children's nursery rhyme of the little engine that could. As it pulled its cars up a steep incline it muttered to itself "I think I can, I think I can" and then there was that moment of truth. The little engine substituted the word "can" for "think". "I know I can. I know I can". And then - success. He could, indeed!

I can't tell you how many times I have been in business meetings with experienced and highly educated marketers and agencies who, when asked if their plans will work, have responded with "I think we have the right plan and the right people. Let's give it a try". Compare this to individuals who respond, "I know we have the right plan and the right people. We can do it." Which of these inspires the most confidence? The answer, of course, is rhetorical.

One might argue that there are no guarantees in life and it is better to hedge one's bets - underpromise, overdeliver. Problem is we are dealing with real money.

In business today, good marketers are expected to "know" what they're doing and "can" accomplish their mission. Just like we want pilots who know they can fly a plane; brain surgeons who know they can operate; and lifeguards who know they can save lives - we want marketers who know they can deliver the goods.

So start now. Change the verbs "think" and "try" in your vocabulary to "know" and "can" - and mean it! Then watch the difference in your own performance and the impact on those around you. Chances are you will have more people knowing you can get things done - beginning with yourself.

I know you can do it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Everyone Thinks They Are A Marketing Genius

Marketing Joins The Top Ten List Of Things We All Think We're Good At

By David Miranda

The human spirit is a wonderful thing. Long live the human spirit.

If you are one of the millions of Americans who watch American Idol, particularly the tryouts, you can't help but grimace, smile, chuckle, cringe at those contestants who think, not only that they can sing, but more audaciously, think they are the next American Idol. Like the title of Sen. Barack Obama's best seller, it is the "The Audacity Of Hope". It is what is great about America. We are a nation where anything and everything is possible. But let's be honest, hope is not substitute for talent

I have put together a Top Ten List of things we all think we're good at.

  1. Singing

  2. Minding other people's business

  3. Holding one's liquor

  4. Being a better driver than others on the road

  5. Selecting the ideal mate for others

  6. Being the boss

  7. Understanding the opposite sex

  8. Being a better contestant when watching those on game shows

  9. Being a good listener

  10. Marketing
Yes, marketing makes the Top Ten List.

I have been in countless marketing meetings attended by lawyers, accountants, technology experts, operations executives, research analysts, etc. etc. All, by their comments, feedback, and suggestions. claim to be marketers. "I think the logo should be blue", "The tag line doesn't do anything for me." "I think the music in the ad should be a little more upbeat". "The ad needs more copy." Etc. Etc. Etc. All marketing experts.

A friend of mine, Sergio Zyman, the former CMO of The Coca-Cola Company, shared with me an interesting story. He had just finished some television spots for Coke and reported this to Roberto Goizueta, the late and venerable Chairman and CEO of the company. Mr. Goizueta asked Sergio for tapes of the ads. Asked why, Mr. Goizueta said he wanted to show them to his wife who had a good feeling for choosing ads and her feedback would be invaluable. Sergio, not missing a beat, agreed, but with one condition. "What's that?", Mr. Goizueta responded. Sergio replied, "On the condition that she buy all the cases of Coke that I am supposed to sell." Sergio went on to explain that the advertising was targeted to consumers who were going to buy Coke and Mrs. Goizueta was not the target audience." Mr. Goizueta got the point.

Good marketing is that which is targeted at the people who will buy something. In most cases, the people sitting around marketing meetings, particularly the non-marketers, need to focus less on their personal tastes and opinions and more on those who actually buy the stuff.

I highly doubt that a female CMO of a men's fashion retailer wonders how she will look in the fashions marketed. Or does a 50-year old CMO of a children's toy company actually select a marketing campaign based on his own toy preferences?

For those non-marketers in the world of business, I have two solutions. Either leave marketing to the marketers or learn marketing. Unlike singing, marketing expertise can be an acquired talent.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Age Of Marketing Insurgents

Identity Crisis -Why Incumbents Lose Their Advantage

By David Miranda

The evidence is pervasive. Major incumbents, representing almost every business segment, have been losing their long-held competitive advantage in the marketplace. The perpetrators of this erosion have been insurgents-small, but keenly focused and aggressive competitors who have identified the bureaucratic Achilles Heels of the big guys - arrogance, ignorance, resistance to change, indifference, and resting on one's laurels. Take your pick of one of more.

Examples abound. Some old, some new, some soon to make their case.

Take the newspaper and magazine industries. Once the unchallenged incumbents of the fourth estate, both in circulation and advertising. Today, declining circulation with the resulting effect on revenue. The insurgents? Craig's List, eBay, Google, Yahoo, news sites, blogs, to name a few. The head of the New York Times said recently, he does not expect the Times to be printed within five years going all digital. Time Inc., the world's largest magazine publisher has recently undergone its second major round of employee cuts. Time magazine, the flagship brand, has recently reduced it advertising rate card circulation from 4 million to 3.25 million and announced more resources dedicated to its online efforts.

Take the real estate and travel industries. These once heavily intermediated industries have been disintermediated. On the travel side, agents are on the endangered species list driven out by both internet travel agents (Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc) as well as the web sites of the travel providers themselves. Real estate agents are being circumvented by the likes of, and with the ability to both buy and sell their homes on the Internet.

The music industry once tightly controlled and marketed by the large record labels have seen, what started with Napster, evolve into various and sundry distribution channels they never imagined a short decade ago. The internet has provided a channel for new talent to find an audience and distribute content. iTunes has become the most powerful music distribution channel in the world. As we witnessed the end of the LP, the 8-track, and the cassette. We are now witnessing the demise of the CD. A similar situation can be found in the movie industry.

These are just some examples of insurgents taking it to incumbents.

But what are incumbents to do? The answer lies in the brands they developed and nurtured - brands that they have taken for granted and underutilized in their battles with the insurgents.

The incumbent brands need to understand their underlying attributes, their real raison d'etre. The New York Times, for example, is not a newspaper. It is a news organization with a rich and storied tradition of award-winning journalism and commentary. It is a valued curator of the news. The newspaper has just been a means to distribute the content, just like film was a means to distribute photos. As long as newspapers see themselves as newspapers, insurgents will win.

The music labels are music discoverers, mentors, and distributors of talent to music audiences. They are not producers and distributors of CD's. Like newspapers, the CD is just a means to an end. It is the end that matters. Until they learn this, the insurgents will win.

Incumbent brands must understand and learn from the past. The railroads thought they were in the trains and tracks business. They were in the mass transportation business and if they had learned this sooner they might have recognized the opportunity and threat of the airlines. If the old movie moguls has realized they were in the entertainment business, not the movie business, they would have recognized the opportunity and threat of television.

Incumbent brands, instead of chasing insurgents, first need to look inwardly.

What business are you really in? Chances are an insurgent is lurking to take it?

Brand Preference - The Key Metric In Determining The Right Strategy

When To Protect, Preempt, Promote, Poach, And Probe For Consumers

By David Miranda

Many times in marketing various analogies are used to help make an important point. One of the most common themes are those that compare marketing to warfare, as in, " the battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of consumers." It is the relentless battle for brand preference. In today's marketplace, preference is perishable. Hyper-choice of products, services, media, and distribution channels have shifted market power to the consumer and the battle is fierce.

This requires a new marketing perspective for brands in the allocation and deployment of limited resources to achieve optimum results. The key question is how to do it effectively.

The answer lies in understanding brand preference - yours, your competitors, and the considerable number of consumers who have no preference - the brand agnostics.

A brand should develop and monitor a brand preference spectrum that identifies and measures those consumers with a strong preference for the brand over all other choices; those who have a soft preference (sometimes switch to competitors); those who are brand agnostics (no preference at all); those who have a soft preference for competitors; and finally those who have a strong preference for one or more of your competitors.

Each of these segments in the brand preference spectrum require a different marketing strategy as follows:

  • For those with a strong preference for your brand, it is important to implement a marketing strategy to "protect" these your best customers from defecting to competitors, since they represent the greatest R.O.M.I. and lifetime value for the brand.
  • For those with a soft preference, it is important to preempt competitive poaching. They may prefer your brand over others, but are vulnerable.
  • For the brand agnostics, it is important to continually use promotions. These consumers are constantly switching from one brand to the next primarily driven by promotional offers. All other things being equal, they will go with the best offer.
  • For those with a soft preference for your competitors, strategies should be employed to poach these consumers taking advantage of their vulnerability.
  • For those with strong preference for competitors, a marketing strategy to probe those consumers who may consider switching preferences has high returns. This cannot be accomplished effectively and efficiently with mass marketing. It requires market intelligence and precision.

In summary to get the best Return On Marketing Investment, allocate and invest marketing funds in strategies that protect, preempt, promote, poach, and probe for success.

The Superstitious Marketing Syndrome

If Things Aren't Working, It Could Be The Wrong Plan

By David Miranda

Insanity, as someone once described, is doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results. There is a similar insanity going on in marketing today. Even in this digital age of anytime, anywhere personal media consumption, there are those who cling to the old way of doing things hoping the results will be different despite clear evidence to the contrary. There is less viewership of network television, less readers of newspapers, more users of the Internet, more subscribers to mobile and so on and so on. So why the inertia of marketers to invest in new channels and the steady flow of marketing dollars supporting the broken status quo? One answer is superstitious marketing.

Supersititious marketing is continuing to employ the same methods regardless of whether there is a direct correlation between the executed plan and the result. A good example is the much-maligned :30 ad. Is it still as effective considering the growing popularity and penetration of the DVR or user-generated content sites like YouTube. Successful direct mail produces an industry average response rate of 1% to 3%. This is a 97% to 99% failure rate! And what about the new emerging channels, e.g. social networking sites, blogs, mobile, search, etc.? Is your brand prepared to effectively deploy these channels or will you stick with the "tried and true", the status quo? It is not about what a marketer does. It is about what a marketer does that works that counts.

Superstitious marketing is the enemy of success. Marketers must recognize this syndrome by looking in the proverbial mirror and asking some very key questions -How, when, and where is my target audience consuming media?-Does my marketing mix reflect this behavior?-What is my anticipated R.O.M.I. (return of marketing investment) versus actual? Why should a brand continue to fund a media property or channel that does not produce desired results, e.g. sales, market share? Exorcise superstitious marketing from your marketing organization.

Recognize the insanity and exorcise superstitious behavior from your marketing.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Age Of Stratactical Marketing - Recognizing The Impact Of Convergence, Compression, Choice

How To Succeed In Today's Dynamic Business Environment

My friend, Sergio Zyman, former CMO of The Coca-Cola Company, defines marketing in his book, The End Of Marketing As We Know It, as "selling more stuff to more people more often to make more money." Sounds a lot like accountability to me. Radical concept.

Marketing should "sell stuff". To "sell more stuff", however, marketers must understand the new landscape and adapt accordingly. There is little doubt that the landscape has changed and is changing at an incredible pace. This business environment requires a new approach to the marketing planning process - stratactical marketing - where strategy and tactics are developed in concert rather than in a linear approach as has been he case historically. The phenomena that demands a stratactical approach is defined by three C's - convergence, compression, and choice.

Convergence refers to the marketing vortex of media - what is described today as a multi-platform, integrated strategy of delivering content and marketing messages to consumers. Fox, for example, announced "Generation Fox", an initiative, targeted at the 12-24 year old demographic utilizing television, the Internet, and mobile - the latter deploying recently acquired MySpace. Marketing implication? A stratactical approach would be to make marketing and media plans as flexible as possible to allow "substitutions" on-the-fly as required and not have to wait until the next planning or budget cycle. Rigidity, here, is the enemy of success.

Compression refers to the compression of time in today's society creating an A.D.D. environment both on the business and personal sides of daily life. Time is today's most precious commodity and most of us today suffer from time poverty. To adapt, people have learned to multi-task with the assistance of technology which allows them to communicate and consume content at their discretion whenever they want and wherever they want. Marketing implication? A stratactical approach is understanding that competitive advantage lies in reducing the gaps between planning, executing, feedback, and tweaking "on-the-fly".

Choice refers to the hyper-options available to consumers and the resulting clutter of marketing messages to advise them of these choices. The sum total of choice and clutter is noise. Marketing implication?. Preference is perishable. A stratactical approach is understanding that the antidote for hyper-choice is brand preference based on the relentless mission of finding new reasons and ways for consumers to buy your brand.

In summary, it would be wise for marketers in this Darwinian business landscape to embrace a stratactical marketing philosophy because marketing, today, is a 24/7 contact sport.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Marketing Mediocrity - The Silent Killer Of An Enterprise

The Need To Recognize and Purge Mediocrity From The Marketing Organization

Mediocrity is the silent killer of an enterprise. It is easily transmitted from one person to another - one department to another - until it becomes a pandemic. It is a threat to every organization and most pronounced in the larger bureaucracies. The source of mediocrity is a person who performs to the minimum acceptable standards, i.e. performance that is just good enough to get by. These people could be young or old, male or female, executive or staff level, new to the company or one with a long tenure. Their impact on the enterprise is disruptive in a stealth way. Others witness this mediocrity and, if they do not see it challenged, begin to doubt a company's committment to excellence. Then the "if they don't care, then I don't care" syndrome rears its ugly head.

Mediocrity is a bigger problem in the marketing arena where a company communicates with the outside world. If mediocrity pervades products and services offered, fertile ground has been created for competitors to identify and exploit vulnerabilities. Here the repercussions can be catastrophic and the historical examples are many.

The American automobile industry for years were the world leaders with the likes of GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Over time, the quality of American cars eroded and new models no longer captured the excitement of the American consumer. Along comes the Japanese - where quality, new models, service, and performance are superior to their U.S. competitors. Mediocrity had infected the American car industry. Products were just okay, but no match for the Japanese. It is unlikely that the U.S. car industry will ever regain its former dominance. This year, Toyota, for the first time will be the Number One seller of cars in the United States. Mediocrity did the U.S. in. For every company that suffers from mediocrity, there is a competitor plotting its demise. There is no gentle way to deal with this problem. Mediocre people and their performance must be purged from the organization. Darwin's tenet still applies. Survival of the fittest. The title of Tom Peters' best selling book was not "In Search of Mediocrity".

What is the formula?
  1. Hire and encourage people who strive for excellence and will not settle for anything less.
  2. Set high standards of performance - make no compromises
  3. Encourage those that push the envelope, that think outside the box, that take personal initiative
  4. Don't compliment average work. No one ever inspired with "Keep up the fair work".
  5. Reward on merit, not on tenure. Promoting a mediocre performer exascerbates the problem.
  6. Encourage people to get out of their comfort zone which is a breeding ground for mediocrity.
  7. Celebrate the best

In summary, rid the marketing organization of the silent killer while there is still time.

Monday, February 12, 2007

It's About "Biz" Not "Buzz"!

Don't Confuse Brand Awareness With Brand Preference

By David Miranda

What do these "brands" have in common? - The Gap, GM, Ford, John Kerry, Dell, and Gateway. They rank high in brand awareness, but low in brand preference. Brand preference puts revenue in the register and votes in the ballot box.

One would argue that in order for a person to buy (or vote for) something or someone, one would first have to be aware of it. True, but that is only half the story. Awareness must be converted to preference or no sale, no vote.

In marketing today, creating "buzz" seems all the rage. Various and sundry marketing tactics are employed to do just that, e.g. social networking sites, blogs, guerrilla marketing. Typical response to buzz is "okay, now that you've got my attention, why should I buy what you're selling?" More often than not, there is no compelling reason. Ask The Gap, GM, Ford, or Mr. Kerry.

Better yet, ask The Cartoon Network. They recently employed a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote a new show by deploying electronic signs throughout some major markets. The campaign in Boston was a disaster as police and homeland security shut down major traffic arteries in the city because they thought these devices were dangerous. The result - bad publicity; apologies from Turner Broadcasting; a $2 million reimbursement to the city and the resignation of the CEO of the Cartoon Network.

Brand awareness? Yep. Brand preference? Nope.

It is high time that marketers put "buzz" into perspective. Will it create "biz"? Do we have a compelling reason for people to buy once they have been "buzzed"?

It's time to "get bizzy".

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Going Horizontal - Marketing's New Solution For The Vertically Challenged

Embracing A Panoramic View Of The New Marketing Landscape

Tom Friedman, in his best-selling book, "The World Is Flat", describes "flat" as being "connected", i.e. the lowering of trade and political barriers and the exponential technical advances of the digital revolution that have made it possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet.

For marketers, however, the world has become "horizontal" which also means "connected", but connected in a different perspective. Over time, marketing has become a host of vertical specialties - television, radio, print, direct mail, outdoor, point-of-sale, promotion, sponsorship and, most recently, online and mobile. This expansion of the marketing mix has led to the well-accepted practice of integrated marketing, referring to the need to coordinate these marketing "ingredients" into a compelling "formula" to acquire and retain customers. Integrating verticals, however, is not the answer.

As a matter of fact, it has created a vertically challenged corporate structure. The answer is going horizontal, i.e. marketers having panoramic perspective of the business landscape. Why? Because this is how media is consumed by audiences today. Consumers don't look at their personal media consumption as integrated. They watch, read, listen, and interact across a spectrum of media during any given day based on their own personal consumption whims. It is time, therefore, for marketers to think, plan, and execute in the same fashion - panoramically, or better said, horizontally.

To do this, determine how consumers wish to interact with your brand. They dictate the when, where, what, how, and why of the relationship. Take banking, for example. Consumers may wish to speak with a real person over the phone; or access a web site; or visit a branch location; or send an email, snail mail, or fax; or access via a mobile device (mobile internet, text message) etc. The consumer expects to be able to choose the medium of interaction based on his or her convenience. The bank, therefore, must think "horizontally" or risk losing business to a less "horizontally-challenged" competitor.

The horizontal approach enables historically vertical marketing organizations to be flatter putting fewer layers between the consumer and the brand - improving performance.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Smart Marketing = The "Some" And Its Parts

To Get To The Many, Influence Some

By David Miranda

For years marketing has embraced the power of mass marketing - one to many - the shotgun approach. It is indeed powerful, cost-efficient, but difficult to measure at the cash register. Mass marketing media vehicles like the major networks, terrestial radio, major newspapers, and national magazines have seen audiences erode over the years as the media landscape has exploded with many and varied media choices. The Internet, cable, mobile, satellite radio, DVR's, iPod's, and video games have enabled consumers to personalize their own media consumption - what they want, when they want, where they want. Mass marketing also assumes some level of audience homogenity in the marketplace.

Marketers also added one-to-one marketing to the mix, e.g. direct mail or search marketing using sophisticated mining techniques to identify desired consumers and communicate with them via direct mail or the internet. The reasoning is less waste, customized solicitations, and more measurable results albeit more expensive and like mass marketing, considerable waste.

But neither mass marketing nor 1 to 1 really addresses the changes we are seeing in the American marketplace. The old demographics don't work anymore, and, therefore, marketing targeted at consumers needs to adjust accordingly.

Here are some recently reported stats:
  • For the first time ever, there was a higher percentage of unmarried couples than married leading our nation's 111.1 million households [50.3 vs. 49.7]

  • In 2005, the nation's minority population totaled 98 million, or 33 percent, of the country's total population

  • There are over 150 million women online and they are now outpacing men in terms of internet, email and computer usage.

Just looking at individuals (1 to 1) or the mass market would miss what these stats are revealing. Households are dominated by unmarried couples. A third of the population are minorities and women outpace their male counterparts as internet, email, and computer users. Knowing this would a marketer approve an advertising campaign that portrayed the average American family as a Causcasian male and female with the husband hunched over the computer? Diversity can only be successfully marketed to if marketers understand the consumer mosaic that now exists in the marketplace.

Marketing now is understanding the need to embrace O2S2M or One 2 Some 2 Many. In other words, it is the Some that influences the Many in the marketplace. It's the "Mikey likes it" phenomenon except on steriods. The Some are the Influentials, those individuals who in their own business and social networking groups deem something good, bad, or indifferently. They represent the key drivers of word-of-mouth - the holy grail of marketing. In this age of networked communication via the Internet (email, blogs, chat rooms, social networking sites) and, most recently, the mobile channel, they wield even greater power in their speed and ability to virally influence their peers.

It is imperative for marketers to seek out, identify and court these opinion leaders. They have the ability to make or break any marketing initiative.

You don't have to go big to get big in this new marketplace. You have to woo "Some".

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Next Generation Of Search - Find

It's Time To Concentrate On The Real End Game

By David Miranda

Search has become one of most pervasively discussed subjects in marketing today. Seemingly overnight, an entire industry vertical has emerged with its own unique vernacular. Search engines, keyword search, advanced search, metatags, search algorithms, search engine optimization, behavioral search, paid search, etc. etc. etc. Specialized firms have been established on providing ways and means to "beat the system", the "system" typically being a mathematical "sudoku" created by search engines for participants to solve.

It's high time to concentrate on the real end game - find.

For both businesses and consumers, the real objective is finding, not searching. Take travel, for example. Travelers are only interested in travel as a means to an end - their destination. People don't hop on planes, trains, and automobiles to enjoy the ride. They are going to or from somewhere. It's the somewhere that drives the travel. If people have no where to go, they don't travel. Such is the case with search.

Consumer want to find the information, goods, or services they require. Business want to find consumers that will buy their information, goods, or services. If a consumer has a toothache, they want to find a dentist, not search for one. If a consumer is hungry, they want to find a place to eat, not search for one.

It is time for the word find be substituted for the word search. Google should be a find engine. Search optimization should be find optimation and paid search should be paid find, or better said, finder's fees, a more accurate description of providing finds to the advertiser.

Both consumers and advertisers should hold the search industry more accountable.

The new mandate should be: "Find me what I am looking for".

Brand Architecture Of Identity - A Disciplined Methodology For Success

At Story Of Eight Forces That Can Make Or Break A Brand

By David Miranda

I learned many years ago that the old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is not true. I had the pleasure some time ago to meet my friend, Bill Ryan, the founder of Mandala, a San-Francisco-based consulting firm. He is a fascinating individual whose bio, among other things, includes a stint as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation trained by the Maharashi Yogi, himself. Bill moved on to the business world and was a major architect in developing the Yahoo! brand. Bill believes that each company has a story to tell, but it must first follow vision and strategy. (I highly recommend anyone contact Bill for his unique perspectives and invaluable guidance of "getting your story right".)

As a brand marketer, I was curious about the techniques and methodology he employed. He shared with me what he calls, The Architecture of Identity (A of I). He taught this old dog "some new tricks". The A of I, a mandala of which was created by Bill's Mandala is included here, is a unique way to develop and nurture a brand. It is premised on the notion that a brand is the result of two dimensions of eight forces. The first dimension includes the three core forces - vision, positioning, and voice. This dimension can best be described as "How the brand is seen from the inside of the enterprise" by its internal stakeholders from grassroots to the boardroom.
The second dimension includes the five marketplace, or external forces including market relevance, product/service superiority, ecosystem integration, management and culture, and finally sustainability. In simple terms, this is how the marketplace perceives the brand.

The Architecture Of Identity is a discipline to ensure that these two dimensions are in sync and, if they are, provides the greatest opportunities for success. So with proper credit to my friend, Mr. Ryan, the following summarizes the Architecture Of Identity.

Core Forces - How The Brand Is Perceived Internally

Vision This is the brand's unique reason for existing – the core insights responsible for the brand's creation combined with new sparks of genius that continue driving it forward. Vision should be heroic, but simple. The vision statement for The Coca-Cola Company, for example, is "To have our products available within an arm's length of desire."

Positioning – The optimum desired brand position, both in people's minds and in the competitive landscape, that provides the best opportunity for success. As in racing, competitors continually vie for positions at the start and during the race that give them the best chances for winning. For brands, as in racing, people pay attention to the front runners. It should be noted that a brand should not confuse size (revenue, number of locations, etc) with brand positioning. The largest brands, for example, are not necessarily the most innovative or the most consumer-centric. Southwest Airlines is not the largest airline, but it is perceived by air travelers as having the best customer service by U.S. air travelers. Apple is not the largest technology company, but it is considered the most innovative brand.

Voice – The brand's personality, i.e., the attributes it desires to project in the marketplace. This is what marketers most often refer to as “brand attributes.” This is not just "what a brand says"; it is also "how a brand says it." Brands are like people. Each has its own unique personality traits. Think of Nike (Just Do It!); Gatorade (Is It In You?); MasterCard (There Are Some Things Money Can't Buy); and BMW (The Ultimate Driving Machine). These tag lines are synonymous with the personality of their brands. Now name their major competitors and their respective tag lines.

Marketplace Forces - How The Brand Is Perceived Externally (In The Marketplace)

Market Relevance – the market’s actual acknowledgement and recognition of the brand versus what was intended by the brand (vision, positioning, voice). Once a brand has lost its perceived relevance in the marketplace, it is all but impossible to regain it. The examples are many. Perrier was once the leading bottled water sold in the U.S. Pontiac and Taurus are being retired. Remember PanAm, TWA, and Atari?

Product/Service Superiority – the criteria for evaluation of the brand, e.g., leading in quality, performance, functionality, innovation, expertise, etc. In the marketplace, the advantage lies with those brands who consistently demonstrate their leadership in providing the best price/value; are the most innovative; and demonstrate their expertise supporting their brands with consumers and partners. To be perceived the best creates considerable and expensive barriers-to-entry for potential insurgents.

Ecosystem Integration – how the brand integrates into the marketplace with consumers, with partners, with distribution channels, with technology platforms, and with media channels. Successful brands must take a holistic view of the landscape. A leading brand, for example, is worthless if does not have distribution and "shelf space". A leading brand cannot achieve its potential if it does not extend itself to emerging media channels and technology platforms.

Management and Culture – the perception of the brand's leadership, innovation, competency, credibility, values, and integrity. Take Apple, for example. Apple was the creation of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Mr. Jobs, considered the company's visionary and creator of the brand's unique culture, was forced out of the company he founded. Without his leadership, Apple floundered. His return has marked one of the great turnarounds in American business. The iPod has created a business and pop culture phenonmenon that has changed, forever, how people consume music. Apple stock has soared since his return.

Sustainability – the brand's ability to successfully compete in spite of strong competition, economic conditions, or other potentially disruptive conditions. The ability to persevere and succeed is the characteristic of a strong brand. New insurgents are entering the marketplace every day threatening incumbents. Incumbents must agressively deal with these insurgents or risk becoming irrelevant. Microsoft, for example, was slow to respond to Google and Yahoo. AOL was slow to respond to MySpace and Facebook. Large media and entertainment companies were slow to respond to iPod and YouTube. Sustainability of brands demands proactively dealing with opportunities and threats of insurgents.

In summary, this is a dynamic process that requires relentless oversight in order to make adjustments as required by market conditions. What is your brand's story? If you need help, contact Bill.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing your story with me.

Mandala and Architecture Of Identity are used by permission of Mandala-VSS.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Dealing With WMC (Weapons Of Mass Connection)

Recognition of Why And How Companies Need To Be Prepared For The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

By David Miranda

Consumers (and employees) are armed today with powerful WMCs (weapons of mass connection) - blogs, digital cameras, picture phones, chat rooms, cell phones, and user-and generated-content sites are just a few of many ways that people can utilize to instantly unleash the power of the connected world. The recent examples of the power are many. Here's a couple.

Michael Richards, better known as "Kramer" on the hit TV show, Seinfeld, was caught on a camera phone during a gig at LA's Laugh Factory where, in response to hecklers, he spewed racial epithets like a mad man. (See Kramer video) Almost instantanously, the clip was released on the Internet to millions of consumers. Mr. Richards is in crisis mode to save his career. Sen. George Allen (R-VA) who was not only considered a shoe-in for re-election and a possible Presidential candidate for 2008, was narrowly defeated, in part due, to a video clip, released on YouTube, chronicling his denigration of a competitor's campaign worker called the "macaca" incident. (See George Allen video)

But it's not just those in politics or entertainment that are vulnerable. Companies and brands risk the same exposure. Take a recently-released Bank Of America video of an internal marketing event. Many user-generated-content sites hosted this clip viewed by millions generating thousands of comments, mostly expressing disdain. When the exposure is favorable, all is good; but when it is not, it can be bad, in fact, ugly. Are businesses prepared for the negative implications?

Let's face it. There's nothing new here. Internal stuff has always been fodder for the break room or water cooler and, more often than not, is shared with outside third parties - whether it be for harmless fun or for airing dirty laundry. The difference today is that it happens instantaneously and virally. Sanctioned and unsanctioned internal company events or communications, therefore, should be looked at from the perspective: "How will this play on YouTube?, on blogs? in chat rooms?

Top executives must be prepared for dealing proactively with the world beyond the auspices of the Ivory Tower. New policies must be developed. Awareness must be raised at every level of the company - from the cubicles to the grass roots. Rapid response mechanisms must be devised to determine the appropriate course of action.

Weapons of mass connection: A new caveat emptor for businesses.

The Apartheid Of Marketing In Business

Why Do We Continue To Segregate Marketing In Business?

By David Miranda

No, this is not about race, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference or gender. It is about the marketing discipline. The American Heritage Dictionary defines apartheid as "the condition of being separated from others". It is high time that marketing was formally integrated into and across all disciplines within an enterprise.

We have all been exposed to marketing that sets high expectations for a brand, more often than not, disappointed with the actual experience. We see smiling friendly faces in ads, but experience people who have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. We hear promises of friendly, prompt, and courteous service, only to call and hear recordings on how long the wait time is. We find out that brand promises are not promises at all, just marketing speak. Fast food isn't fast at all. Express aisles are not express. Query calls and emails are not responded to promptly. Too often, businesses hide behind too many "I'm sorrys", as in, "I'm sorry for the wait", "I'm sorry I'm not here to take your call", or "I'm sorry for the delay in getting back to you." But they want to remind you the care with "Your business is very important to us". Sure.

One might call this bad management or poor execution. The fact is that these are all examples of poor marketing. Yes, poor marketing. One cannot make a sale if consumers are dissatisfied with how they are treated by the brand. Consumers do not make a distinction that it was operations or accounting or the IT department.

This problem occurs countless times every day and will continue to occur until the enterprise eliminates the apartheid in the corporate structure. Marketing must be integrated throughout the culture of the enterprise.

Here are the arguments:

  • Everything inside a company is a cost. All sales are generated outside the company. In order to get someone to buy something, you first must get someone to want it. That's what marketing does and everyone in the company should understand and embrace this basic tenet from the CEO to those on the front line and everyone in between. A marketing-savvy culture creates a strategic competitive advantage.

  • Everyone in the enterprise is a marketing ambassador for the enterprise each with his or her own social network. Each represents a source of marketing intelligence, sales leads, engagement, suggestions, etc. Positive or negative word-of-mouth.

  • Everyone in the company, not just the marketing department, has a vested interest in being "keepers of the brand". Since everything in marketing communicates, everyone in the company should be disciplined to respect the integrity of the brand - in their demeanor, daily communications, and interactions with each other and with third parties.
In summary, stamp out marketing apartheid and make a committment to integrate marketing to everyone in the company.

It has top and bottom line benefits.

Marketing Today - Chess, Not Checkers

Same Game Board, Different Game

By David Miranda

The marketing game used to played like checkers - a high stakes game of checkers. In checkers, the rules of the game are simple and easy to understand. You make a move. Your competition counters. Good moves capture business. Bad moves lose business. Whoever has the most business at the end of the day (or fiscal period), wins. This, simply put, is how the game of marketing was played. Make the right moves and to the victor belongs the spoils.

In the traditional marketing model - the checkers model - the game was simple and easy to understand. If marketers "moved" to reach consumers, they could rely on mass marketing such as television, radio, newspapers, and magazines, for example, to market new products and services, brands, etc. In doing so, they could be confident that their campaign would reach the desired audience. Of course, competitors would counter with their own moves.

Today, marketing, like checkers, is played on the same game board, except the game has changed. The game is chess, three-dimensional chess. Now there are more and newer playing pieces each with more complexity than the simple checker - search, social networking, mobile, user-generated content, e-mail, digital display, etc. The dynamics and unique characteristics of the pieces require a more strategic approach that dictates a winning game plan. Why? The "moves" to reach customers via traditional media no longer deliver as they once did.

It is imperative, today, that marketers understand the new game including all the new "pieces" that are being introduced to the game. Understanding today's marketing chess game will allow a marketer to keep the competition "in check" to ultimately win in the marketplace.

It's your move!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Using Mr. Rogers To Help People "Get With The Program"

The Innovation Adoption Curve And Your Organization

We all know about the Innovation Adoption Curve developed by E.M. Rogers. His "Diffusion Of Innovations Theory", has permeated strategic thought and planning since its introduction creating various permutations such as Malcolm Gladwell's best seller, "The Tipping Point". The basic premise, of course, is that in the population there are five adopter categories: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Although the theory is meant to describe consumers, it can also be used to describe people with an organization with respect to their willingness to embrace change. Applying the Rogers curve to your organization can provide management insights than can help people within the organization "get with the program" based on their position on the curve.

  • The innovators are the first to embrace change, representing 2.5% of the organization. Innovators are considered to be venturesome people willing to take risks. These are the people you need to get on board from the outset.

  • Early adopters, who enjoy leadership, prestige, and who tend to be opinion leaders, represent 13.5% of the organization. These are the people who "evangelize" innovation and enjoy their role in doing so reinforcing their leadership role.

  • The early majority usually embrace change before the average person and they represent 34% of the organization. This group creates the needed momentum and critical mass for success.

  • The late majority also represents 34% of the organization. This group of people is usually skeptical of change and will embrace it only after a majority has. This group generally requires more time and effort as they take a "wait and see" attitude.

  • The laggards represent 16% of the organization and are the last to come on board. They are usually suspicious of change, tradition bound, and conservative. Some of this group will never accept new ways of doing things. The status quo has a strong gravitation influence on them.

The point here is not to stereotype people within the organization. Rather it is a tool to understand the underlying dynamics that effect an organization and its desire to impart innovation and change.

So let Mr. Rogers help people "get with the program".

Marketing Jeopardy - The Right Answer Is Asking The Right Question

Success In The New Marketing Landscape Is No Game

By David Miranda

Alex Trebek: "The Marketing Jeopardy categories are: Revenue, Market Share, Profits, Competitive Advantage, and RMOI (Return On Marketing Investment)."
Marketing Contestant: "Alex, I'll take 'RMOI" for $30 million."
Alex Trebek: "The answer is '30-sec spot' ".
Marketing Contestant: "What is advertising that is costing more but delivering less?"
Alex Trebek: "Correct. I could have also accepted newspaper ads, magazine ads, radio, and outdoor."

Every day this game of marketing jeopardy is being played out by marketers. They employ and deploy a mix of media solutions only to find the campaign has cost more but delivered less. Buy why? Simply put, the answer lie with today's consumer media consumption behavior. Today, the consumer dictates the when, where, and how media is consumed. Aided by the Internet, DVR's, and mobile, for example, consumers can now consume media on their terms, no longer, beholden to the programming of traditional content publishers and distributors. Consumers are driven by the four C's - context, content, convergence, and convenience.

Context refers to the relevance of information to the consumer based on their individual tastes and preferences, e.g lifestyle profile. Content refers to quality and quantity of the programming regardless whether it was created from traditional sources or other consumers, better known as user-generated content, e.g YouTube. Convergence refers to the blurring of lines between television, the personal computer, and mobile. Consumers expect and demand the ability to enjoy content on the channel of their choice. Convenience refers to the K.I.S.S. principle. Consumers will gravitate to simplicity, also known as user-friendliness.

The Final Jeopardy answer is change. The question is "What is the most important challenge for engaging consumers in today's dynamic marketing landscape?"

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Today's Marketing - Engaging Or Annoying The Consumer?

Cutting Through The Noise And Clutter With More Noise and Clutter

By David Miranda

The cartoon character Pogo said, "We have seen the enemy and it is us."

Most marketers, or their agencies, suggest that marketing success is the ability to "cut through the noise and clutter" that plagues the marketplace by engaging the consumer with a compelling brand message. To communicate this compelling brand message they then contribute to the ubiquitious noise and clutter. For consumers there appears no refuge from the barrage.

Television programming is rife with commercials. Terrestial radio is comprised of ads interrupted by programming. In print, journalistic content is losing ground to advertising. Mailboxes, both traditional and digital, are filled with unsolicited solicitations. Web pages are framed with online ads including the dreaded pop-up or ambush varieties. Out-of-home ads are pervasive - highways, trains, buses, airports, malls, sports venues, washrooms, and elevators. The mobile phone, blogs, and social networking sites represent new media targeted for ad dollars.

What's the result? Believe it or not, the consumer is harder-to-reach than ever, according to marketers. Consumers have retaliated to the onslaught with do-not-call lists, TIVO, spam filters, and ad blockers, and the like. They have immunized themselves from noise and clutter that surrounds them.

Is there a solution for marketers? Yes, how about starting by employing the marketing Golden Rule, i.e. market unto others as you would have them market unto you." A brand cannot successfully engage a consumer by annoying them, just like an individual cannot engage another by seemingly stalking them. In the latter example, the result will be unanswered calls or communication or in extreme cases, restraining orders, the equivalent of a do-not-call list.

Stamp out noise and clutter, engage.